Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cranes, London sky, Samuel Palmer

From the train on the way up to London, I see two cranes side by side on a building site. So much construction work is going on that the whole scene might be described as a crane-scape. But there is a companionship between these two cranes which look like fishermen enjoying each other's company.

From the train leaving London, the sky, for a moment, contains every aspect of silver and pewter shades and highlights. Then spaces between the buildings reveal the source of light in the last pink streaks of the setting sun with a glowing coal at the centre.

Samuel Palmer's magical watercolour, Cornfield by Moonlight wuth Evening Star, stands out in my memory of the exhibition, Vision and Landscape, at the British Museum, which I visited yesterday. It was painted at Shorham in north west Kent, where the painter lived between 1826 -1830, and manages to capture the mysterious beauty of the countryside by moonlight. There are stooks of corn, a shepherd and his dog, and wooded hills in the background; and never for a moment has the painting anything of the chocolate box about it. It is infused with a golden glow, and the figure of the shepherd succinctily suggests the end of a long day's labour in the fields.

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