Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Exhibited 1798. Oil on canvas, 889 x 1194 mm. Courtesy of Tate Britain (Accession no. NO0460. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856) Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from Tate Britain Online (2010)

First exhibited with the following verses, a conflation of Thomson's ‘Spring’:

Till in the western sky the downward sun
Looks out effulgent—the rapid radiance instantaneous strikes
Th'illumin'd mountains—in a yellow mist
Bestriding earth—The grand ethereal bow
Shoots up immense, and every hue unfolds. [ll. 189–205]

This Lake District scene was shown at the Royal Academy in 1798 along with several other North of England subjects, following Turner’s first tour of the region the previous year. It is based on a sketchbook study (Tate) worked up in watercolour to show the stormy conditions he presumably witnessed, writing ‘Black’ on the surface of the lake. This was his cue for the mood of this dramatic painting, enlivened by the rainbow which would become a frequent motif. Turner is making a consciously ‘Sublime’ statement, intended to evoke the viewer’s awe at the grandeur of Nature.

See Tate Britain Online for full catalogue entry, including provenance, exhibition history, critical reception, and bibliography.

Some other Turnerian paintings of the Sublime

Last modified 15 May 2016