Paintings You Should Know: J. M. W. Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway’

Here’s a new series of posts, based on the book ’50 Paintings You Should Know’ by K. Lowis and T. Pickeral (2009).

300px-Turner_-_Rain,_Steam_and_Speed_-_National_Gallery_file
Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway. J. M. W. Turner, 1844

I’ve started with this painting by William Turner both because it’s one of my favourites and because Turner was an English painter and, as I’ve mentioned before, I am unashamedly partisan when it comes to the culture of my country of birth.

‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ is an oil painting, first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1844 and now in the collection of the National Gallery in London. It is believed that the setting of the painting is the Maidenhead railway bridge over the River Thames between Taplow and Maidenhead, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1838.

Much has been said about the tiny hare running in the bottom right of the painting. Does it depict the natural world fleeing before the wonders of technology? The destructive potential of industry and the threat it poses to the past and ordinary flesh and blood mortals? Is the fleet-footed hare intended to be a partner to the speeding train? Did Turner just feel like painting a damn hare? The world may never know.

What do you think of Turner’s painting?

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2 thoughts on “Paintings You Should Know: J. M. W. Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway’

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