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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.

February 2010