Few painters have a more capacious and disorienting reputation than Joseph Mallord William Turner. The son of an English barber father and a mentally unstable mother, the precocious Turner (1775-1851) first showed his work at the Royal Academy when he was 15, and began his professional career doing precise architectural drawings. He wound up creating some of the most astonishing nature paintings in the history of Western art, swirling effusions of light and color that flirted with abstraction, sharply divided the critics of his era and have been cited as strong influences on the Impressionists, Mark Rothko and contemporary light sculptor James Turrell. Such is the staying power of a painter who died more than 160 years ago.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle