Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turner, Charles (1774-1857)

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TURNER, CHARLES (1774–1857), engraver, son of Charles and Jane Turner of Old Woodstock, Oxfordshire, was born there on 31 Aug. 1774. His father, who was a collector of excise, was ruined by the temporary loss of some valuable documents, and his mother then obtained from the Duchess of Marlborough, in whose service she had lived, a residence at Blenheim with the charge of the china closet. Young Turner came about 1795 to London, where he was employed by Boydell and studied in the schools of the Royal Academy. He worked successfully in stipple and also aquatint, but practised mainly in mezzotint, and became a very distinguished artist in that style. He produced more than six hundred plates, of which about two-thirds are portraits. Of these the most noteworthy are the Marlborough family and a group of the Dilettanti Society, after Reynolds; George IV, Charles X of France, the Marquis Wellesley, and Mrs. Stratton, after Lawrence; Prince Blücher on horseback, after C. Back; Napoleon on board the Bellerophon, after Eastlake; Lord Nelson, after Hoppner; Sir Walter Scott and Lord Newton, after Raeburn; Henry Grattan, after Ramsay; and Edmund Kean as Richard III, after John James Halls; also some fine copies of early prints published by Woodburn. His subject-plates comprise ‘Surrender of the Children of Tippoo Sultaun,’ after Stothard; ‘Age of Innocence,’ after Reynolds; ‘Hebe,’ after H. Villiers; ‘The Beggars,’ after William Owen; ‘Water Mill,’ after Callcott; ‘A Famous Newfoundland Dog,’ after Henry Bernard Chalon; and an admirable rendering of J. M. W. Turner's ‘Shipwreck,’ now in the National Gallery. Among his aquatint plates are eight views of the field of Waterloo, after George Jones; a view of the interior of Westminster Abbey during the coronation of George IV, after Frederick Nash; and some sporting subjects. Turner was a good original draughtsman, and engraved from his own drawings portraits of J. M. W. Turner, Michael Faraday, William Kitchiner, Joseph Constantine Carpue the surgeon, and John Jackson the pugilist. When J. M. W. Turner projected his ‘Liber Studiorum’ he entrusted the work to Charles Turner, by whom the first twenty plates were both engraved and published between 1807 and 1809. A difference then arose between them on the financial question, and this led to the employment of other engravers; but later Charles Turner executed three more of the plates, and also several for the ‘Rivers of England,’ and became a close friend of the great painter, who appointed him one of the trustees under his will. In 1812 Turner was appointed engraver in ordinary to the king, and in 1828 became an associate of the Royal Academy. He exhibited largely at the academy from 1810 to 1857. For about fifty years he resided at 50 Warren Street, Fitzroy Square, where many of his plates were published. There he died on 1 Aug. 1857, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. By his wife, Ann Maria Blake, he had a son, who became a surgeon, and two daughters. The British Museum possesses a complete collection of Turner's works.

[A. Whitman's Charles Turner, 1907; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1893; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy; Nagler's Künstler-Lexicon; Rawlinson's Turner's Liber Studiorum; private information.]

F. M. O'D.