William TURNER ‘of Oxford’ (1789–1862)
16 St John Street, Oxford
William Turner spent almost all of his life in Oxfordshire. He was born at Black Bourton. On the death of his parents he went to live with his uncle, also William Turner, at first at Burford and then, from 1804, in the Manor House, Shipton-on-Cherwell. His interest in drawing led to his joining the household of John Varley in London and to his first exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1807. In 1808 he was elected to full membership of the Watercolour Society and contributed to their exhibitions every year for the rest of his life.
Many of his paintings were of the countryside around Oxford, one of the best known being the view of the city from Hinksey Hill. He characteristically depicts broad landscapes with dramatic cloud effects and frequently with sheep. His work was neglected by the art establishment in the later part of his life and this called forth the indignation of Ruskin. Sir Thomas Jackson, the architect, was given instruction by Turner 1857–8 while he was an undergraduate at Wadham. He records him as dressed in black with white tie, like a parson of the old school, ‘a modest and unassuming man and an artist of rare conscientiousness who had never been accorded the consideration he deserved’. He grew plants in the garden of 16 St John Street so that he could refer to nature for the foregrounds of his pictures.
Turner returned to Oxfordshire in 1810, first living in Woodstock (1810–11) and then at various addresses in and around Oxford (1812–24). From 1824 when he married Elizabeth Ilott, he was at London Place, St Clement’s, but from 1833 until his death he lived at 16 St John Street. He is buried and commemorated in the churchyard at Shipton.
A memorial exhibition of his work (mainly watercolours) was put on by the Ashmolean Museum (as it now is) in 1895 and in 1984 a major exhibition was mounted by the Oxfordshire County Council in the museum at Woodstock.
- Sources: Baldry, William Turner of Oxford (no.11 Walker’s Quarterly 1923); Luke Herrman, William Turner of Oxford (1789–1862), Oxoniensia XXVI/XXVII, 1961–2; Hibbert, The Encyclopaedia of Oxford, 1988
- Picture: Turner’s former home
The plaque was unveiled at 16 St John Street, Oxford on 29 October 2002 by Hugo Brunner, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire. Jon Whiteley of the Ashmolean Museum spoke in celebration of William Turner.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
Oxford Civic Society