ALTHOUGH Joseph Mallord William Turner lived in London, Yorkshire was like a magnet which drew him for several years of his life.

He appreciated its beauty, which inspired much of the celebrated artist’s work, and the health giving qualities of the Dales. The Lascelles at Harewood House were Turner’s patron, as they had been for Thomas Chippendale, the cabinet maker, born in nearby Otley. Edward Lascelles bought some of the artist’s works, and Turner sketched and painted at Harewood House. They accumulated a fine collection, including water colours of Harewood Castle, and Kirkstall Abbey.

Turner had been working on illustrations for Dr Thomas Whitaker’s books on the history of Yorkshire when he met Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall near Otley. He became his patron and good friend. Turner was a guest there many times between 1808 and 1824, and the Fawkes’s had a room prepared for him whenever he should arrive.

Walter and William had interests in history, poetry, and ornithology, and enjoyed conversations together. One of Fawkes’s ancestors was Thomas Fairfax of Menston, one of Cromwell’s generals, and he gathered relics from the Civil War and exhibited them at the Hall. He was also distantly related to Guy Fawkes.

Walter was interested in Turner’s tours of the North of England and the Continent. He became part of the family, hunting, fishing, shooting and walking with them. He painted Farnley Hall, the Wharfe, the Chevin, the Washburn and the moors. He was fond of the Yorkshire Dales and whilst staying at Farnley, his artistic output was prolific.

When Walter first met him he ordered 10 watercolours of the Alps, an area of the world for which the two men were enthusiastic, and 10 of Yorkshire. He also bought six oils which included three views of Nelson’s ship; Victory, coming up the Channel, and a misty London seen from Greenwich.

Turner was an hypochondriac and suffered from dyspepsia. The tension he felt in London seemed to disappear when he stayed in Yorkshire. People commented how his personality changed from being churlish and introverted to more extrovert, merry and playful. He enjoyed the company of Fawkes’s 11 children. He often went on rambles and picnics with them. Walter Fawkes had been the Whig MP for Yorkshire,1802-1807. He ran the family estate, bred short horn cattle, and was a key figure in the local agricultural society. As well as being a keen collector of art, he painted and drew, and published works on history and politics.

Farnley Hall was set in wooded parkland with views to the River Wharfe. From upstairs, one could see Ilkley Moor. This was the ideal location to inspire Turner. He drew interiors of the Hall and its grounds, the carriage drive, woodlands, the old dairy and summer house. He sketched grouse shooting on Hawksworth Moor and designed a pair of neo-classical lodges at the hall gate and painted watercolours of them. He was often seen in all weather, walking the grounds and along the Wharfe, always with his sketchbook.

There’s a story from 1810 that Turner called one of Fawkes’s sons, to the door to observe a violent thunderstorm over the Chevin which he considered to be wonderful. He made notes then told the boy he would see it again in a future painting. This was to be Hannibal Crossing the Alps, one of Turner’s most admired paintings. Sketches he made in Yorkshire often formed the basis of paintings of the Alps and the sea.

In 1816 he went with the Fawkes family on holiday to the Pennines. Although it rained heavily he’d go off on his own, sketching and exploring. He trekked across peat bogs, visited caves, waterfalls, castles, the Lake District, Morecambe Bay and the Yorkshire moors. He did 450 sketches, to use in future watercolours. His passion for grouse shooting which he recorded in sketchbooks, led to Grouse Shooting, Beamsley Beacon, and Shooting Party on the Moors.

He often claimed his reputation as an artist was due to his visits to Yorkshire. He thought fondly of the county. He loved the food at Farnley Hall, prepared by cook Hannah Holmes. His last visit to Farnley was late 1824. Walter died on October 25, 1825, and Turner was devastated. In later years, Margate replaced Yorkshire, but every Christmas Turner received a Yorkshire goose pie from Farnley Hall. His Christmas pie was in preparation when news arrived that he had died from cholera on December 19, 1851. For his last five years he was a recluse, living in a hovel in Chelsea. He became a controversial eccentric, with few close friends. He lived for art, and considered his paintings his children. He was the father of two daughters to his housekeeper, Sarah Danby, and an habitual snuff taker. In 1838 Louise Philippe of France presented him with a gold snuff box. He was acclaimed worldwide. Some regarded him a genius, others thought he was mad. But he was a Romantic painter who influenced the Impressionist Movement, particularly Claude Monet. He left behind 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 other works, including sketches, most of which were bequethed to the National Gallery. He was moved by natural phenomenon such as storms, fires, sunlight, rain and the power of the sea. The impact of Yorkshire stayed with him, translated into atmospheric paintings such as Rain, Steam and Speed: the Great Western Railway and Dawn After the Wreck. In 2005 a BBC poll voted The Fighting Temeraire (1838) the greatest painting of all time. In 1984 the Tate’s Art Prize was named in his honour. Turner appears on a £20 note.

He was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Today he’s regarded as one of the most influential artists. His time in Yorkshire had a profound influence on his success, and his happiest times.