Friday, July 22, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 4 - Death on a Pale Horse

Title: Death on a Pale Horse
Artist: J. M. W. Turner
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 59.7 x75.6 cm
Date: c. 1825-30
Location: Tate Gallery, London.


Revelation 6:7-9 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Although possibly incomplete, the subject can be identified as Death, the last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who announce the Day of Judgment in the Book of Revelation. The choice may have been in response to the death of Turner’s father in 1829, suggested by the unusual treatment which is both tender and menacing. Death appears, not as a triumphant, upright figure astride his horse, but as a phantom emerging from a turbulent mist: his skeletal form, arms outstretched, and draped submissively over the horse’s pale back. Such disturbing visions were considered to embody the very concept of the Sublime.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (April 1775 – December 1851) was an English Romantic landscape painter, water colorist and print maker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivaling history painting. Although renowned for his oil paintings, Turner is also one of the greatest masters of British watercolor landscape painting. As he grew older, Turner became more eccentric. He had few close friends except for his father, who lived with him for 30 years, eventually working as his studio assistant. His father's death in 1829 had a profound effect on him, and thereafter he was subject to bouts of depression.

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