He lived at The Bank House, Great Yarmouth, with his wife Mary and their eight daughters. The children were exceptionally gifted and received a thorough classical education, with their father encouraging them to study ancient and modern languages, music, dancing and above all painting. Initially he employed the artist John Crome to act as their drawings-master, but in 1812 John Sell Cotman was given the position and he was to remain in the role until 1823. The atmosphere in the Turner household appears to have been scholarly and yet agreeable and the barrister Henry Crabb Robinson noted in October 1826 that ‘no visit could be unpleasantly long here… the moment breakfast was over Mr Turner went to the bank, Mrs Turner to her writing desk, and every one of the young Ladies to drawing or some other tasteful occupation.1
An index at the back of the album indicates that it was created over a period of ten years between January 1828 and December 1838, with contributions from three of Dawson Turner’s daughters as well as two watercolours by John Berney Crome (1794-1842) and one by a M*** Shepperson. The most prolific of the daughters was Hannah Sarah (1808-1883) who painted thirty-eight watercolours, followed by Mary Anne (1797-1875) with seven works and lastly Elizabeth (1799-1852), who signed herself EP, as in 1823 she had married Francis Palgrave.
Dawson Turner began collecting pictures in the 1820s and within a short time, as this album illustrates, he had acquired works by many great masters of the British and European schools. Towards the end of his life, he was forced to sell his paintings. The sale at Christie’s on the 14 May 1852 was a great success, raising £2,058. However, it meant inevitably that the collection was forever scattered. This album, which has always remained in the possession of Dawson Turner’s descendants, is not only an invaluable record of the efforts of one of the most eminent of British collectors in the first half of the 19th century, but is also an object of great family intimacy.
1. Dawson Turner, A Norfolk Antiquary and his Remarkable Family, Chichester 2007, p. 1
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