Julius C. Turner Biography

Julius C. Turner




Painter, printmaker, and teacher Julius C. Turner was born Julius Collen on August 20, 1881, in Świden, Poland, and was raised as a German citizen in Berlin. Though he showed an early aptitude for drawing, he majored in physical education at the University of Berlin, going on to teach gymnastics and fencing. An injury to his arm put this career on hold and he returned to drawing, which would soon become his primary interest. He returned to school, now at the College of Fine Arts, Berlin. There he studied under Hans Meyer, Woldemar Friedrich, and Hanke. During this time he traveled to France and the Netherlands to expand his studies. He was given the nickname "der Turner" - referring to the German word for "gymnast" - by his cohort, and soon began signing his work "Julius C. Turner". 

With the onset of World War I he was sent to serve in the German Army on the Eastern Front. After a dispute with his superior he transferred from the combat unit to the liason troops, which allowed some time for him to draw his observations of the battlefield and elsewhere during the conflict. These he would later turn into etchings. After serving his tour of duty he returned to Berlin in 1918. 

In 1924 he married Aine Höche, and they had a son in 1929. By now Turner had established a name for himself as an illustrator and draftsman, and was hired to create promotional works for the department of transportation and tourism, as well as posters for the opera and theater. As well, he was commissioned to paint portraits of various notable people, including Albert Einstein and the painter Paul Hermanns. However, as the rise of Nazi Germany took hold, he feared retribution for his socialist views and relocated with his family to Ostend, Belgium. An ongoing interest in religious works led him to take several pilgrimages to Lourdes, France, to study the paintings, frescoes, sculpture, and other artworks found in the cathedrals. He was given his first major show along with Karel Demuynck of etching, pen and ink drawings, pastels, and portraits at the Galerie Studio, Ostend, in 1938.

Having never formally emigrated, Turner was still a German citizen when World War II broke out, and when Germany invaded France Turner, seen as a traitor, was sent to the Saint-Cyprien internment camp and then Gurs. He was able to capture many of his experiences and observations in these camps in drawings and watercolors. Many of his works and those of other artists sent to the camp were collected by Elsbeth Kassner, a nurse who tended the prisoners. These would be shown several decades later in Denmark and Germany. 

Though he was released in 1943 he didn't leave the region until 1946, when he could safely travel to reconnect with his family, who were living in Bruges. Just two years later he died of poor health due to the conditions of the internment camps. He is buried in the Stuiversraat cemetary in Ostend.

Turner's work, sometimes signed JC Turner, JCT, or simply "T", can be found in the collection of the Berlin Museum of Fine Arts; the Dortmund Museum of Fine Arts; the German Museum, Munich; the City Museum, Ostend; and the Cultural History Museum of Osnabruck, among others. 

Posthumous exhibitions:
2019: Julius Collen Turner: Ostend Period, City Museum, Ostend
2003: East West, Home is Best: Julius Collen Turner and the Sea, De Panne Town Hall, Belgium
1994: Retrospective, Museum of Fine Arts, Ostend