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 Ezekial Ashley Turner  (1854 - 1899)

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Lived/Active: Michigan      Known for: portrait painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ezekiel Ashley Turner was born in Branch County, Michigan, January 4, 1854.  He grew up on his parents’ farm on the north side of Matteson Lake.  

Almost from the time he could hold a pencil or a piece of charcoal, Turner loved to draw.  He drew on barn doors, wagons and other farm equipment.  While attending Matteson country school, he drew caricatures of his classmates and teachers.  Although showing obvious talent, the boy received no formal art training while growing up.  As a young man, Turner moved to Paw Paw, Michigan, where he taught art classes.

Around 1880, Turner moved to Muskegon and found work in the lumber business.  He also continued his interest in art and opened a portrait studio in the Torrent Block.  

Turner’s work came to the attention of Charles Hackley.  When the new library was ready to open, Hackley asked Turner to paint the dedication ceremonies.  Turner accepted the commission and took photographs at the dedication.  Hackley paid Turner $5000 for the project and advanced the full amount at once so Turner could go to Paris to study art.  Turner spent three years in Paris under the guidance of noted French artist William Adolphe Bouguereau, painting French scenes and characters.

In 1893, Turner returned to Muskegon, Michigan and began work on the portrait of the library dedication.  Turner intended to picture as many of Muskegon’s prominent citizens as possible in the scene.  The finished work measured over 10 feet wide and 6 feet high, and included the likenesses of 114 Muskegon personalities.  In February of 1897, the painting was formally unveiled in the upstairs room of the Hackley Library.  It now hangs in the main reading room of the library.  

Turner also painted several portraits of Charles Hackley and of Julia Hackley, his wife.  Portraits of each are currently displayed in the Hackley House.  A later portrait of Julia hangs in the Hackley Library.

E. A. Turner died suddenly June 19, 1899, at just 45 years of age. He was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the time of his death. 

Written and submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Historian, Lansing, Michigan

Muskegon Museum archives.  Taken from an article by Mr. Tom Carlson:  “Three Local Artists.”  

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