William Turnbull

Scotland / 1922 - 2012
William Turnbull (11 January 1922 – 15 November 2012); Scottish artist.

William Turnbull was born in 1922 in Dundee, to John Turnbull and Anne Turnbull. Fascinated by art from an early age, Turnbull initially learned to draw by copying illustrations from magazines.

When his father lost his job as a shipyard engineer during the Great Depression, 15-year-old Turnbull was forced to leave school and find part-time work, first as a laborer and then painting film posters. He began attending an evening drawing class at Dundee University where he was taught by landscape artist James Macintosh Patrick and illustrator Fred Mould.

In 1939, he obtained a position at DC Thomson, where he had his first real exposure to commercial illustration. Through his colleagues, many of whom had attended art school, he had his first introduction to contemporary European art and literature; Cézanne and Monet were particularly important to him.

In 1941, during World War II, Turnbull was enlisted in the RAF. After training in Canada, he served as a pilot in Canada, India and Sri Lanka.

After the end of the war, Turnbull enrolled at The Slade School of Fine Art in London in the painting department, but he found the limited view of art and the narrow approach to technical matters not to his liking. At the time The Slade championed a nostalgic and naturalistic neo-Romanticism and was suspicious of the European Impressionist and post-Impressionist that Turnbull had come to regard as valid and direct. Being older and more experienced than the rest of the students, he was not impressed or overawed by his tutors and did not change his opinions. He became disillusioned with the painting course and transferred to the sculpture department.

It was in the sculpture department that he met Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson, who shared his interest in contemporary Continental modernist art. As he became increasingly disillusioned by the...
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


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print leaf lithograph on paper black white