John Doman Turner 1873-1938

 

 

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The first recorded information about John Doman Turner is a copy of his will written in his own hand and dated 1900. He was then just 27 and living with his wife at 120 Barcombe Avenue Streatham Hill. In 1912 he moved to Bracondale, 63, Downton Avenue Streatham and remained there until his death from pneumonia in 1938.Apart from these fragmentary records much of the artists life remains a mystery. There can be little doubt that his deafness affected his decision to remain a stockbrokers clerk and not to adopt the insecurity of life as a full-time artist.

 

Frank Rutters book Art in my Time published in 1933 noted that”: John Doman Turner was an amateur with a remarkable gift for watercolour whom I had introduced to Gore as a pupil”. One of the artist’s earliest works, a nude drawing, has notes written in Sickert’s hand suggesting that Turner was mixing with the Camden town circle as early as 1908. It was from 1908-1913 that Spencer Gore gave Doman turner tutorship by letter. As he was deaf, he would send his drawings to be commented on, paying five shillings per lesson for Gore’s thoughtful instruction.

 

Gore would encourage Turner to “draw for a purpose and trust your eyes”. He emphasized that; “drawing is an explanation of an observation. If you observe nothing special then your drawings will have nothing to them. Painting has to be learnt by observation…”It is clear that Turner was not always the model pupil and in one letter Gore admitted that he occasionally felt that the teacher was putting in more effort than the student.

 

During 1911 Turner showed many works in various exhibitions including the new English Art Club and the first Camden town Group exhibition at the Carfax Gallery in Bury Street, St. James held in the basement of that building. Turner showed the allotted four works at the first Camden Town show including In the Grand Circle-most probably the painting exhibited here review in The Sunday times (18 June 1911) remarked “We may possibly find a future recruit to classicism in Mr. J Doman Turner, whose watercolours show a tendency to ascetic composition through his drawing In the Grand Circle” reveals a touch of Sickertian romanticism.”Turner exhibited at the following two Camden Town shows –in December 1911 he showed St.Valery-sur-Somme which is also likely to be the work exhibited here.

 

At a meeting of the Camden Town Group on 2 December 1911 the question of enlarging the group was discussed. Although most of the members were in favour of expansion, Sickert Manson, and Doman Turner agreed that the membership should be kept down, preferring a more exclusive society. Following the formation of the larger London Group. Rutter recalled” Doman Turner retired to a private life” despite the fact that Turner exhibited nothing after 1918 he continued drawing and painting into the 1930’s.

 

A number of Doman Turner’s works are in public collections including the Courtauld Institute and the Southampton Art Gallery. During his short and elusive exhibiting career Turner showed at the London Salon, the New English Art Club, the Camden Town Group, The London group and the the Redfern Gallery. As one of the very few founder members of the historic Camden Tow group this exhibition presents an important to re-assesss this hitherto forgotten painter.

 

James.W.Robertson 1996.

 

 

 

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