1. How did Turner demonstrate artistic talent at an early age?
b) By drawing with his finger in milk spilt on a tea tray
…and by the time he was twelve, Turner’s father was putting up his drawings for sale in the window of his barber’s shop.
2. Which of the following did Turner dislike throughout his life?
a) His own appearance
Self-Portrait 1798 is one of very few as Turner usually tried to avoid being portrayed. The artist Clarkson Stanfield said that Turner ‘would not suffer any portrait to be taken of him because nobody would believe such an ugly fellow made such beautiful things’.
3. Turner was known for his terrible rages and boorish behaviour. Often mistrusting his clients, what did Turner do?
b) Spy on visitors to his gallery through a peephole
Turner also once threw out a visitor whom he saw there secretly making sketches.
4. What did Tate find in one of Turner’s sketchbooks?
b) A remedy for dodgy bowels
5. Which of the following was one of Turner’s hobbies?
Throughout his life, Turner’s favourite hobby was fishing. When he was travelling, he carried a large shabby umbrella, which usually contained a long two-foot dagger but had also been known to hold a fishing rod.
6. Keen to immerse himself in nature, what did Turner claim to do?
a) Have sailors tie him to the mast of a boat during a major winter storm.
Though there is no evidence of this, visitors can experience the drama of this potential happening in his masterpiece Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, exhibited 1842.
7. While hugely prolific in his lifetime, producing more than 30,000 sketches, drawings and watercolours, what was Turner not successful at?
b) Dressing well
Turner was a terrible dresser. It was reported that upon a visit to his friend Louis-Phillipe, the king of France, he had to borrow a women’s stocking to use as a bowtie.
8. In the later years of his career, Turner’s art became more radical and experimental. Which unusual material(s) did he introduce to his paint?
a) Honey and milk
He would also spit on and rub snuff on his work. When too many of these mixtures are applied on top of another, they soon crack. Cracks are very visible in Turner’s late paintings. He was described as applying paint ‘like a tiger’, and he was more interested in the immediate pleasing effect, than the long-term survival of his paintings.
9. From 1805 to 1811, Turner lived along the Thames at Isleworth and Hammersmith and had his own sailing boat. What did the fellow boatmen nickname him?
Turner spent much of his life living close to water and was not averse to being mistaken for a sailor himself! According to Ruskin, Turner loved ‘anything fishy and muddy, like Billingsgate or Hungerford Market…; black barges, patched sails, and every possible condition of fog’.
10. What did Turner have health issues with?
a) His teeth
By 1847 he had lost all of his teeth and wore dentures made of wood. Not surprisingly, this was so uncomfortable for his painful gums that he rarely used them, preferring to suck the sustenance out of meat.
11. What is Turner rumoured to have done every day?
c) Drink up to eight pints of rum and milk
In later life Turner had a round stomach, was red-faced and wore a hat, even indoors. His red face might have been due to his enjoyment of drink.
12. JMW Turner never married. Which of the following did he keep for company?
a) Tail-less cats
Turner was thought to own 7 of them and the work Fishing upon the Blythe-Sand, Tide Setting In 1809 was apparently even used in Turner’s house as a cat flap.
13. Turner died in 1851, aged 76. At his request he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, where he lies next to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Which of the following are rumoured to be his last words?
c) The Sun is God
Turner made no secret of his love of what he called the ‘prime cheerer’ and the ‘fairest of beings’. Whether this worship was truly religious is debatable. As a painter, Turner depended on the sun to reveal colour and the beauty of nature.
How did you do? Are you a Turner master or a mere apprentice?