Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Thames from Tower Bridge

click photo to enlarge
The evening that I took this photograph of the Thames from Tower Bridge I was thinking about the following day's visit to the Tate Gallery, or Tate Britain as it now styles itself. We were going to see an exhibition called "Gothic Nightmares", which featured the paintings of, amongst others, Henry Fuseli and William Blake. Now a little Fuseli isn't a bad thing (though a lot is), and Blake's original genius is always stimulating. However, it wasn't these artists that I was thinking about: it was Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Joseph (or J.M.W.) Turner (1775-1851) is widely regarded as the finest painter that England has produced. Principally, though not exclusively, a landscape artist working in the Romantic style, he is seen as someone who laid the foundations for Impressionism. However, that accolade detracts from his particular genius, which, in his most developed style, involved using oil paint in the manner of a water colourist - "painting with light". Works such as "Interior at Petworth", "Rain, Steam and Speed" or "Venice Quay" show scenes, as if glimpsed through half-closed eyes, with the forms indistinctly outlined through shimmering light. Tate Britain holds the largest collection of his paintings, including those that he bequeathed to the nation, and I made sure I saw some on my visit.

Turner painted a number of Thames scenes, though never this view, since Tower Bridge was built forty years after his death. But, as I stood looking at the sunset glow, the brightly-edged clouds, and the light reflected on the river, it was Turner's work that came to mind. I composed this shot so that the sun was behind a building and so not too overpowering. I also made sure that the silhouettes of the barges against the cold blue of the Thames gave some foreground interest and led the eye into the composition. The outlines of the City, that glorious sky, and thoughts of Turner did the rest.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen