Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The parting of Hero and Leander

Joseph William Turner (1775-1851)

A work of probably my favourite artist, Turner paints a scene in which the story of Hero and Leander is portrayed. Based upon a Greek Myth, Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite who dwelt in a tower in Sestos, with Leander being a young man living on the opposite side of the shore from her. Leander fell in love with Hero, and would swim across the sea to be with her every night. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to light his way. However one night the sea was particularly rough and the wind blew out the lamp which was guiding Leander, and he was drowned. Hero, stricken with grief cast herself into the sea after him and also died.

Turner is perhaps the best loved of the English Romantic artists (he's definitely my favourite) and he is best known as 'the painter of light' due to his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent of his paintings and his development in the free flowing quality of his brush strokes. This is another painting I couldn't tear my eyes away from, on loan from the national gallery to the Tate Britain for their exhibition on the Romantics.


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