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A steam engine comes towards us as it crosses the Maidenhead Railway Bridge in the rain. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the bridge was completed in 1838. We are looking east towards London as the train heads to the west. The exaggeratedly abrupt foreshortening of the viaduct, which our eye follows to the horizon, suggests the speed with which the train bursts into view through the rain. Turner lightly brushed in a hare roughly midway along the rail track to represent the speed of the natural world in contrast to the mechanised speed of the engine. The animal is now invisible as the paint has become transparent with age, but it can be seen in an 1859 engraving of the painting.
The National Gallery, London
Rain, Steam, and Speed - The Great Western Railway
Oil on canvas
H 91 x W 121.8 cm
Turner Bequest, 1856