JMW Turner is arguably our greatest landscape artist. Turner was born on 23 April 1775 at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. When he was 10, he lived briefly in Brentford with his uncle and started selling his first drawings there.
In about 1805 he rented Syon Ferry House close to Isleworth church, which he appears to have retained until about 1812, probably for his sketching expeditions as the house was by the water. Turner only painted a few large oil paintings of this area, such as Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (Tate Britain) – his largest oil painting. However, he made extensive sketches particularly of this area, while sailing on the Thames. The Rev. Trimmer’s son wrote:
‘[Turner] had a boat at Richmond, but we
never went further than the water’s edge,
as my father had insured his life; but I have
seen him start on his sketching expeditions.
From the boat he painted on a large canvas direct from nature. Till you have seen these,
you know nothing of Turner’s powers.’
In 1812 he started building a small villa in Twickenham, which he first called Solus Lodge and then Sandycombe Lodge, and he started living there the following year. While Turner appears to have designed and built the villa himself, he may have received help from his close friend, John Soane, a leading architect of the day, as the designs of the interiors are very similar to Soane’s interiors, such as Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing and the Sir John Soane Museum.
Turner did not seem very happy with Sandycombe Lodge as he was trying to sell it within two years of completion, but he only sold it in 1826.
However, he still continued to work in this area, painting two famous views of Mortlake Terrace, but sadly, both these two paintings are now in the USA. Turner always had a house with a gallery in London, first in Harley Street and then in nearby Queen Anne Street. He died on 19 December 1851, in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.
Turner’s villa, Sandycombe Lodge, is now open to the public, having been beautifully restored with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant. This would never have happened without the determination of local resident, Catherine Parry-Wingfield, who has worked tirelessly over almost 20 years to have this house restored and it is now owned by the Turner House Trust.
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