The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness, Preceded by the Pillar of Light

Image credit: Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

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The departure of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is told in the Old Testament book of Exodus. God guided them at night with the light from a pillar of fire. West painted a dramatic night scene, with the light streaming down on tiny figures of Moses and the Israelites. By 1845, such an epic treatment of a biblical subject was old-fashioned and it is the last of the Bristol School's imaginary, Romantic landscapes. It would be twentieth-century film-makers who were to reinvent the epic dramatisation of history with casts of thousands.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery



The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness, Preceded by the Pillar of Light




oil on canvas


H 111.7 x W 167.6 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased with the assistance of the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, 1974

Work type



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