Brentford to Oxford:


J.M.W.Turner’s Early Career under the Guardianship of his Uncle, J.M.W.Marshall


By Selby Whittingham



Publication date:                   October 2009

ISBN  1 874564 18 3        130 pages approx.,  illustrated,   A4,  slide binding.


This is a sequel to J.M.W.Turner’s Tonbridge & District, dealing to some extent with the same years, but focused on the Thames rather than the Medway.  It is based on the extensive researches of Tim Marshall of Oxford Brookes University, the author and others made over a decade.


It shows how Turner, so far from being a deprived child from a wholly poor background, had the advantage of family support, leading to the backing of more educated families, such as the Trimmers and Hardwicks of Brentford, on whom it includes new detailed information, and then to an entrée into the world of Oxford University and so to patronage beyond it.  


The outlines of this story may have been known since the time of Turner’s much derided, but still not fully utilised, first biographer, Walter Thornbury.  However some errors have been perpetuated, and the connections, context and implications have been largely ignored.


Themes which were to be important in his work were introduced through friendships with families which he met at Brentford and later.   These involved interests in the rural landscape and economy, rivers, the Wye and the Picturesque, the coasts and sea, the old masters, architecture (both Gothic and classical), classical literature, poetry, music, politics, religion, and so to other matters, such as charity, almshouses, collegiate institutions, museums, which occupied a major, but largely neglected, side of his career.


Much contemporary writing about Turner carries the implication that he was unfortunate in having a poor education. However part of his luck was that he, like Shakespeare, escaped a university education.  Yet his encounter with Oxford University probably helped foster an appreciation of intellectual matters and a passion for enquiry, a trait not always evident in successful artists, and which led to his ever increasing artistic innovations.



J.M.W.Turner, R.A., Publications, Turner House, 153 Cromwell Road, London SW5 OTQ.

 £20.00.  (If the payment is not in Sterling, add £8 to cover conversion costs).  Make cheques payable to “J.S.Whittingham (Turner Account)”.



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