Cover image for Standing in the sun : a life of J.M.W. Turner
Standing in the sun : a life of J.M.W. Turner
Bailey, Anthony, 1933-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
[New York?] : HarperCollins, 1998.

Physical Description:
xxii, 478 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
"Michael Di Capua books."

First published: London : Sinclair-Stevenson, 1997.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ND497.T8 B25 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Joseph Mallord William Turner, Britain's greatest and most mysterious artist, was the son of a Convent Garden barber and a woman who died in Bethlehem mental hospital. During his lifetime (1775-1851), Turner achieved fame and fortune for a range of work encompassing seascape and landscape, immensely powerful oil paintings and intimate watercolors. His friend and colleague C. R. Leslie remembered him thus: "Turner was short and stout, and had a sturdy, sailor-like walk. He might be taken for the captain of a steamboat at first glance; but a second would find more in his face than belongs in any ordinary mind. There was the peculiar keenness of expression in his eye that is only seen in men of constant habits of observation."

For this new biography, the first comprehensive narrative of Turner's life in a generation, Anthony Bailey has searched through the archives, studied the scholarly literature, made use of much research done in the last thirty years, and looked at almost all of Turner's sketchbooks as well as many of his paintings and watercolors. He has uncovered fresh material and put together other facts, previously known, to shed new light on those complicated and secretive man.

Anthony Bailey has set out to write a biography of the man, not a book about his paintings, and J.M.W. Turner comes vividly to life in theses pages. Both reclusive and gregarious, private and vainglorious, tough and vulnerable, a long-tern bachelor who fathered two daughters, Turner was full of contradictions, and Anthony Bailey rises masterfully to the challenge of describing them here.

Author Notes

Anthony Bailey, has been a writer for The New Yorker for a quarter century. His twenty-one books include the novel "Major Andre", two acclaimed memoirs, two books on Rembrandt, & most recently, "Standing in the Sun", a biography of J. M. W. Turner.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Bailey displays all the assurance one would expect from a longtime New Yorker staff writer and author of 20 books in this brisk and enlightening biography of the great English painter of sky, sea, and storm. So energized is Bailey's portrait, the first in 30 years, that the extraordinary research and feats of interpretation upon which it is based are as invisible and taken for granted as the infrastructure of a metropolis. Bailey clearly relishes his subject's contradictoriness and penchants for "causing confusion" and keeping secrets, and he is intrigued with Turner's habit of writing inchoate verse, but most of all he is delighted by Turner's unrelenting artistic passion and commitment to hard work. As Bailey tracks Turner's steady rise from his modest home turf, the streets of a red-light district in late-eighteenth-century London, to art's highest echelon, he incisively describes his social circle and historical context, then grows expansive as he chronicles the journeys that so inspired this "child of the sea." Bailey has brought the feisty genius (who looked like a sea captain) out from behind the extraordinarily dramatic seascapes he is revered for, and sure enough, Turner himself is a force of nature. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

This is a remarkably balanced look at one of the most contradictory personalities in British art. By keenly appraising primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, New Yorker writer Bailey has painted a vivid image of a man who could be generous or mean, outgoing or withdrawn, flamboyant or precise, but always a keen observer of the world around him. The book is a delight to read, combining meticulous scholarship, vibrant description, and a wonderful sense of place and person. From the opening's splendid evocation of the London of Turner's birth through the trips to later descriptions of the harbors and ports of his inspiration, his secretive domestic arrangements, and the final days of his life, this work well serves the artist and the reader. Highly recommended.‘Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.