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Joseph Mallord William Turner, together with Constable, was one of the two greatest English landscape painters and one of the greatest romantic artists of all time. He was also a major precursor of impressionism. Steam, breaking waves, fire, the luminosity of the air, and above all light itself, were his subject matter. The son of a London barber, Turner showed a precocious talent and made an early success of his career, which enabled him to travel to France, Switzerland, and Italy. The Swiss Alps and the beauty of Venice nourished his vision. His enormous originality attracted criticism, but he found a powerful supporter in John Ruskin (see Vol. 1), who considered him the greatest of the "modern painters." He was freer in his composition than Constable, as he was in his impressionist technique and in his subject matter, which included such dramatic scenes as the famous Shipwreck, Steam and Speed and The Snowstorm. He worked extensively for engravers and published a Liber Studiorum (1807--19) of his own landscape engravings, in defense, as it were, of his art. The variety, spontaneity, and beauty of Turner's drawings and watercolor sketches are almost unequaled. There are no less than 20,000 of them. Personally, Turner was a hardheaded and taciturn man who became a recluse in his later years.