Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner, 1779-1851

Written by Franny Moyle
Review by Jeanne Greene

Moyle’s latest biography (after Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde, 2014) brings one of the most important British painters to brilliant life. Born in 1779, Joseph Mallord William Turner was at the height of his powers at a time of great social change in England. As concepts of ownership changed, art became less an aristocratic preserve than a good investment. Turner encouraged and profited from the trend—he made a very good living—and he acknowledged public interest in his work. Best known for his landscapes, and the blazing colors of fire and sea, Turner experimented with different subjects and media all his life. Moyle carefully documents Turner’s impact on European art, and she includes a selection of color plates to illustrate the evolution of his work. Turner’s unconventional life also makes fascinating reading. He was an eccentric genius, but also a businessman, a “husband” with a secret life, and a visionary who left the nation a priceless legacy. This biography is highly recommended.