It’s a romantic painting, all about feeling. And it feels monumental.
The painting is filled with massy shapes. Clouds massed in the sky, mountains in the background, crags around the water. Lights and darks seem shaped and molded into land and sky. Within these masses both vegetation and people appear small, immaterial.
Light illuminates the background; the foreground is dark and shadowed. Cutting through the surrounding darkness the rainbow looks like an arc of light, catching the gleams of the sun behind the looming mountains, and bringing its rays closer, down to earth.
There is rain in the dark clouds and dark shadows. A shower, Turner says, and it adds a misty feel as you peer through it. Yet he makes it feel like more, like something important, something that mirrors the movement of sun and shadow through our lives. Those caught in it, like the two in their small boat, can only wait for the shower to pass, and for the sun to reach where they are; meantime the rainbow brings the promise of the sun closer.
Joseph Mallord William Turner began quite differently: with drawings, engravings and detailed watercolors of specific places. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools in England, embarked on frequent sketching trips around Britain, worked as an illustrator. He first became known for his watercolor landscapes, landscapes which would change as his ideas and techniques changed.
Travel in Europe allowed him to study great artists, learn from them, and find ways to integrate what he learned into his own paintings. Almost from the beginning his work was saturated with light and color, and he showed a love of atmospheric effects – clouds, mist, fog, showers, spray, storms, fire, smoke. In his later work, both in oil and watercolor, his unique voice became stronger and stronger, and his paintings were more and more an expression of his own feelings, of his own imagination, more and more designed to evoke feelings in the viewer.
It’s interesting that in his later years, as he became more reclusive, he preferred exhibiting his paintings to selling them.
Perhaps because it was the communication, the feelings, the ideas that became the most important.
More of Turner’s work (with thanks to vatobel534):