How Turner Painted

Joyce Townsend, Tony Smibert

A detailed examination of the painting techniques J. M. W. Turner used to create his masterpieces.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was a prolific master of landscape and marine painting in nineteenth-century Britain. His attention to color and atmosphere produced breathtaking images of nature, now immortalized in oil paintings, exquisite watercolors, and works on paper.

How Turner Painted guides readers through the artist’s groundbreaking techniques, including experiments with modified paint media, innovative uses of watercolor, and painstaking processes for creating a composition. Author of the acclaimed Turner’s Painting Techniques, Turner expert Dr. Joyce Townsend returns to the subject with two hundred high-quality color reproductions and cutting-edge X-ray photography. Tasmania-based artist, writer, and teacher Tony Smibert also contributes a chapter about Turner from a contemporary painter’s perspective.

Gallerygoers, artists, museum educators, curators, art historians, and conservation professionals are sure to treasure this authoritative guide to one of Britain’s most important painters.


Illuminates a key dimension of [Turner's] art… One learns about the painter's materials…and the paints that existed in Turner's time… An authoritative picture of Turner's methods, leaving the reader to concur that 'one can only marvel at the results.' … A valuable addition to the literature on Turner.

— Choice


Joyce Townsend


Dr. Joyce Townsend has for over twenty-five years been a senior conservation scientist at Tate, which houses the majority of Turner's oil paintings and watercolors and is a center of expertise on the artist. She has written and edited a number of books on artists' techniques and materials to enhance understanding and appreciation of their work.

Tony Smibert

Contributions By

Tony Smibert is visiting artist researcher at Tate Britain, where he explores and demonstrates Turner's technique. As an artist, he has had over fifty solo exhibitions around the world. His books include Tate Watercolour Manual: Lessons from the Great Masters.