William ralph turner 1920 - 2013

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William Ralph Turner was born in 1920 in the inner Manchester City area called Gorton, a very working class area of Manchester. His mother (which in later life William discovered was of Jewish decent) died when he was five years old. His Aunt Clara nurtured him from there on in, encouraging him towards becoming an artist with (unproven) stories of how their whole family was related to that most incredible of artists, Joseph Mallord William Turner.

The young William Ralph Turner however, had ambitions to become a motor cycle racer, especially after his teacher at school had advised against him attending the Manchester School of Art, judging that William was incapable of drawing straight lines. Unable to afford to buy a motorcycle William settled for a push bike. This passion for bicycling remained with him for the rest of his life. Painting, on the other hand, was something he ‘just did’ - He is quoted as saying that... “I don’t enjoy painting really, I just get these visions in my mind and I have to get them out.” If that was the truth, then the visions must have been continuous because William was a prodigious painter.

Turner enjoyed some success in this early period with local exhibitions in Manchester City centre, Stockport and Knutsford (Cheshire) all arranged by Peter Burdett. By 1971 Burdett had opened a fine art gallery in Knutsford (Pitcairn Gallery), which later was run by Wendy Levy, another well known gallerist in Manchester. William exhibited here from 1971 to 1983. He also persuaded L S. Lowry to sit for a portrait, perhaps the only portrait that has ever been created from a ‘Lowry’ live sitting (painted in 1974 only two years before Lowry passed away). At that, it appears to many that William Ralph Turner seems to have passed away himself, or at best his work was ignored by most of the major Northern art galleries and certainly by the established London based galleries. The attitude in the Capital it seems was, “..we have one of those Northern painters in L.S. Lowry, why should we bother with another?..” How wrong they were.

It was to be two decades before Turner’s work would be resurrected by a charming and insightful art dealer from a gallery in the heart of the Northern English Pennies, Todmorden Fine Art run by Mr David Gunning. And it was 22 years before a retrospective was finally organised at a Lancashire provincial town’s council gallery (Gallery Oldham,

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