Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Vast Internet catalog of Turner’s works created

June 15, 2003


— The Tate Gallery has created the world's first comprehensive online catalog of the oil paintings, watercolors and sketches of British artist J.M.W. Turner.

"It is a wonderful collaboration between a range of public collections and private owners to create something that is a really valuable public resource," Tate spokesman Oliver Vicars-Harris said Wednesday.

The vast Internet resource, at, includes color images and descriptions of more than 2,000 works by Turner, held in private and public collections in countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Greece. The catalog also has 30,000 works bequeathed to the British nation on the artist's death in 1851.

The last comprehensive catalog of Turner's work was Andrew Wilton's 1979 book, "The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner." The Internet catalog contains 500 more works, which were not considered significant in 1979, or were not previously attributed to Turner and have since been uncovered by scholarly research.

Vicars-Harris said the Tate was still trying to trace some 400 works, which were listed in the previous catalog but whose whereabouts are now unknown. A list is included on the site.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in 1775. He worked as an architect's assistant before studying at London's Royal Academy, at 14.

He was 21 when he exhibited his first oil painting there, "Fishermen at Sea," in 1796. He remained involved with the academy throughout his career. When he was 29, he opened a private gallery. He shrewdly invested in bonds and property, and amassed considerable wealth.

Turner wanted to leave all his money to destitute landscape painters. But his family contested the will. Under a compromise settlement, the money went to the family, but all works remaining in the artist's possession became the property of the National Gallery, now the Tate.

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