J.M.W. Joseph Mallord William
When he was 12, his wigmaker/barber father exhibited
and sold his son's works in his shop's window.
His mother, a schizophrenic, was
locked up in Bedlam,
the notorious madhouse.
He sometimes wiped tobacco juice
and stale beer on his paintings. He also spit
on them and rubbed snuff on them.
He did this to make them look better.
He wore wooden dentures.
And drank up to eight pints of rum a day.
He liked to paint shipwrecks and fires
and other catastrophes such as storms.
He would have nothing to do with his two illegitimate
daughters and their mother.
People thought he was mean and miserly.
He thought he was ugly.
The British people in 2006 voted his
"The Fighting Temeraire" (above) their favorite painting.
The ship played a role in Nelson's victory
at Trafalgar, defeating the French and
Spanish fleets and confirming Britain's naval supremacy.
His father lived with him for 30 years,
serving as his assistant, mixing paints.
"Painting," he said, "is a strange business."
He kept his address secret, sometimes telling people
his name was "Admiral Booth."
Towards the end, he lived in squalor.
His last words were
"The sun is God."