The most original landscape artist of his day, he is one of England's greatest painters. His landscapes became increasingly Romantic, with the subject often transformed in scale and flooded with brilliant, hazy light. Many later works anticipate Impressionism, for example Rain, Steam and Speed 1844 (National Gallery, London).
Turner travelled extensively in France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Rhineland as well as in Britain, constantly recording the effects of sea, sky, mountain, and plain in watercolour. He continued to produce series of watercolour studies, which were issued as engravings, throughout his life
By the 1800s he had begun to paint landscapes in the `Grand Manner´, and having mastered a range of styles, Turner evolved one distinctively his own in which his highly individual use of colour and his increasingly free brushwork allow him to capture both the subtlest effects of light and atmosphere and also the most violent forces of nature.
Examples of his major works include Shipwreck 1805, Snowstorm: Hannibal Crossing the Alps 1812, and Destruction of Sodom 1805 (all Tate Gallery, London); Rain, Steam and Speed; and The Slave Ship 1839 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts).
Turner was born in London. His general education was limited, but early experience as a copyist in the house of the art collector Thomas Monro enlarged his view of painting and drawing. In 1789 he entered the Royal Academy schools. He began as a topographical watercolourist, and first exhibited in oils 1796. He became professor of perspective at the Royal Academy from 1807 and deputy president 1845.
In his old age he lived as a recluse in Chelsea, London, under an assumed name. He died there, leaving to the nation more than 300 paintings, nearly 20,000 watercolours, and over 19,000 drawings.