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J. M. W. Turner
by [?]

The elder Turner considered that the proper use of a brush was to lather chins. But the boy thought differently, and once surreptitiously took one of his father’s brushes to paint a picture; the brush on being returned to its cup was used the next day upon a worthy haberdasher, whose cheeks were shortly colored a vermilion that matched his nose. This lost the barber a customer and secured the boy a thrashing.

Young Turner did not always wash his father’s shop-windows well, nor sweep off the sidewalk properly. Like all boys he would rather work for some one else than for “his folks.”

He used to run errands for an engraver by the name of Smith–John Raphael Smith. Once, when Smith sent the barber’s boy with a letter to a certain art-gallery with orders to “get the answer and hurry back, mind you!” the boy forgot to get the answer and to hurry back. Then another boy was dispatched after the first, and boy Number Two found boy Number One sitting, with staring eyes and open mouth, in the art-gallery before a painting of Claude Lorraine’s. When boy Number One was at last forcibly dragged away, and reached the shop of his master, he got his ears well cuffed for his forgetfulness. But from that day forth he was not the same being that he had been before his eyes fell on that Claude Lorraine.

He was transformed, as much so as was Lazarus after he was called from beyond the portals of death and had come back to earth, bearing in his heart the secrets of the grave.

From that time Turner thought of Claude Lorraine during the day and dreamed of him at night, and he stole his way into every exhibition where a Claude was to be seen. And now I wish that Claude Lorraine was the subject of this sketch, as well as Turner, for his life is a picture full of sweetest poetry, framed in a world of dullest prose.

The eyes of this boy, whom they had thought dreamy, dull and listless, now shone with a different light. He thirsted to achieve, to do, to become–yes, to become a greater painter than Claude Lorraine. His employer saw the change and smiled at it, but he allowed the lad to put in backgrounds and add the skies to cheap prints, just because the youngster teased to do it.

Then one day a certain patron of the shop came and looked over the shoulder of the Turner boy, and he said, “He has skill–perhaps talent.”

And I think the recording angel should give this man a separate page in the Book of Remembrance and write his name in illuminated colors, for he gave young Turner access to his own collection and to his library, and he never cuffed him nor kicked him nor called him dunce–whereat the boy was much surprised. But he encouraged the youth to sketch a picture in water-colors and then he bought the picture and paid him ten shillings for it; and the name of this man was Doctor Munro.

The next year, when young Turner was fourteen, Doctor Munro had him admitted to the Royal Academy as a student, and in Seventeen Hundred Ninety he exhibited a water-color of the Archbishop’s palace at Lambeth.

The picture took no prize, and doubtless was not worthy of one, but from now on Joseph M.W. Turner was an artist, and other hands had to sweep the barber-shop.

But he sold few pictures–they were not popular. Other artists scorned him, possibly intuitively fearing him, for mediocrity always fears when the ghost of genius does not down at its bidding.

Then Turner was accounted unsociable; besides, he was ragged, uncouth, independent, and did not conform to the ways of society; so the select circle cast him out–more properly speaking, did not let him in.

Still he worked on, and exhibited at every Academy Exhibition, yet he was often hungry, and the London fog crept cold and damp through his threadbare clothes. But he toiled on, for Claude Lorraine was ever before him.