John Doman Turner (1871 – 1938) was a deaf British painter, born in Brixton, Lambeth and worked as a stockbroker’s clerk in London.
After being introduced by art critic Frank Rutter, he received artistic training from Spencer Gore (1878 – 1914), who described Turner as ‘an amateur with a remarkable gift for watercolour’. Doman Turner would send Gore his drawings, and in return for 5 shillings, Gore would respond with letters critiquing Turner’s work. This correspondence took place between 1908 – 1913.
Doman Turner was also tutored by Walter Sickert (1860 – 1942) after Gore recommended he attend his evening classes at Westminster School of Art in 1908.
First exhibited at The London Salon of the Allied Artists Association in 1911. Doman Turner became a founder member of the Camden Town Group, sixteen prolific artists that held just three exhibitions in 1911 – 1912. They aimed to reflect the realities of modern urban life in their work. This proved to be a distinctive period in the history of British art before the First World War.
Doman Turner’s works were also exhibited with The New English Art Club, The International Society of Sculptors, Painters & Gravers, The London Group and the Streatham Art Society.
He may have been shy and unsure of his abilities, which probably led him to resign his membership of the London Group soon after it was formed on 27 November 1913. Still, he travelled around Britain’s many coastal towns, including Ilfracombe, Tenby, Eastbourne and Folkestone, sketching and painting watercolours of whatever he saw.
His most adventurous works include four scrolls, each around 120 feet long, including the ‘Walberswick Scroll‘ – a dioramic view of this Suffolk village painted in 1931.
A year before his death, Doman Turner wrote to James Bolivar Manson (then Director of the Tate Gallery) to reunite the letters from Spencer Gore with his early sketches. This was for an exhibition as prompted by both Walter Sickert & Frank Rutter, as they all felt it would be of great interest to others. “It would seem that Manson did not encourage Turner in his wish that these annotated drawings of his should be exhibited, and they have since disappeared.”
Doman Turner died from bronchopneumonia at his Streatham home on 3 January 1938.
Turner is not widely recognised for his work and has been referred to as ‘The Forgotten Camden Towner’. In the 1979 book, ‘The Camden Town Group‘, Wendy Baron writes that ‘only two drawings by Doman Turner are known’.
In 2008 the Tate held an exhibition titled ‘Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group‘ billed as ‘the most comprehensive critical survey of the group’s work in Britain for over 50 years. This didn’t include any work from Doman Turner.
A recent online project created in 2012 by the Tate titled ‘The Camden Town Group in Context‘ brings together a wealth of materials drawn from Tate’s Archive, but no biography on John Doman Turner on its artists’ biography pages.
Doman Turner’s works were exhibited at the Michael Parkin Gallery in 1997.
Biography written by James W. Robertson. 2022.