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Extended Audio Sample J.M.W. Turner: Ackroyds Brief Lives Audiobook, by Peter Ackroyd Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Ackroyd Narrator: Nicholas Guy Smith Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The Ackroyd’s Brief Lives Series Release Date: October 2014 ISBN: 9781101912799
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In this second volume in the Ackroyd’s Brief Lives series, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd brings us a man of humble beginnings, crude manners, and prodigious talents, the nineteenth-century painter J. M. W. Turner.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London in 1775. His father was a barber, and his mother came from a family of London butchers. “His speech was recognizably that of a Cockney, and his language was the language of the streets.” As his finest paintings show, his language was also the language of light. Turner’s landscapes—extraordinary studies in light, color, and texture—caused an uproar during his lifetime and earned him a place as one of the greatest artists in history.

Displaying his artistic abilities as a young child, Turner entered the Royal Academy of Arts when he was just fourteen years old. A year later his paintings appeared in an important public exhibition, and he rapidly achieved prominence, becoming a Royal Academician in 1802 and professor of perspective at the Academy from 1807 to 1837. His private life, however, was less orderly. Never married, he spent much time living in taverns, where he was well known for his truculence and his stinginess with money.

Peter Ackroyd deftly follows Turner’s first loves of architecture, engraving, and watercolors and the country houses, cathedrals, and landscapes of England. While his passion for Italy led him to oil painting, Turner’s love for London remained central to his heart and soul, and it was within sight of his beloved Thames that he died in 1851. His dying words were: “The sun is God.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In straightforward fashion, Ackroyd outlines the career of this remarkable man, who progressed rapidly from his early years as a student at the Royal Academy to prominence as one of England’s foremost painters, creating dramatic works in which he explored the glowing effects of light fused with air, water, fire, and steam…This is a short but intriguing introduction to the life and output of an artist who claimed that he knew of “no genius but the genius of hard work.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Ackroyd…conveys with knowledge and panache the temperament and achievements of the great English painter J. M. W. Turner…Ultimately, Ackroyd’s pleasure in Turner’s story becomes our own.”


  • “An acutely limned miniature of J. M. W. Turner, whose watercolors, engravings and spectacular oils mark him as England’s greatest painter of air, earth and water…Ackroyd comments smartly on the art but focuses on the man, a genius peculiar to London, comparable to Blake, Hogarth, and Dickens…Today the shipwrecks, fires, storms and atmospheric chaos Turner so brilliantly captured constitute the chief ornament of London’s Tate Gallery. A short biography, but one no less satisfying for the wide-ranging erudition Ackroyd brings to the task.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “British narrator Nicholas Guy Smith gives the visionary Cockney painter Turner a voice of his own, distinct but not exaggerated, in this cursory but informative biography. In reading quotations, Smith takes the occasional opportunity to act and to provide other voices as well. His narrator’s voice is more restrained but still cordial and energetic. He renders the text with clarity and skill…A few of his pronunciations, oddly British or simply idiosyncratic, may give listeners, especially Americans, pause. But, overall, this is a bright and spirited treatment of a unique figure in the history of art.”


  • “Ackroyd’s series of short lives bodes well: handy, attractive, well-illustrated, useful.”

    Times London), praise for the series

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About the Author
Author Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd has written acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, and Sir Thomas More, as well as several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the Royal Society of Literature’s W. H. Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the South Bank Show Award for Literature.

About the Narrator

Nicholas Guy Smith, an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator, is a highly rated and diverse voice-over actor who has been heard in feature films, television commercials, and video games. He has voiced characters for Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, and the Cartoon Network.