In July 2008, a Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) show at the Metropolitan in NYC was insured to the tune of $1.2 billion. This 149-work show was the first -- and last -- serious attempt ever mounted outside of Great Britain to present the full scope of the works of William Turner. It was fantastic.
Turner was a magician and poet of color and light and atmosphere who transforms grim reality into a surreal, dreamy land which is both intimate and universal at the same time. As Constable used to say "Turner has airy visions painted with tinted steam".
He was born in London in 1775 and his father was a barber. His mother died when he was very young. The boy received little schooling. His father taught him how to read, but this was the extent of his education except for the study of art. By the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father's shop window for sale. He started as a watercolorist and was the preminent watercolorist of his time. He quickly achieved a fine reputation and was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. In 1802, when he was only 27, Turner became a full member. He then began traveling widely in Europe.
Turner left a large fortune that he hoped would be used to support what he called "decaying artists." His collection of paintings was bequeathed to his country. At his request he was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral in 1851 when he died.
This picture The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius restored was sold for £ 2,100 in 1876 and fetched £ 324,000 ($ 518,400) in 1981. Today part of the Richard L.Feigen gallery in Chicago, Ill.