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The Storm

George Morland

(1763 - 1804) | 923.9

Date : Circa 1790 | Medium : Oil on canvas

An artistic child prodigy who exhibited from the age of twelve at the Free Society of Artists in London, George Morland’s early work focussed on representing scenes of everyday life and domesticity. Later, around 1790, taking advantage of the prevailing fashion, he began to paint picturesque scenes of the English countryside and landscapes that soon enjoyed great success (more than 250 engravings would be taken from these paintings).

George Morland was a surprising character. Contemporary biographers describe his alcoholism, how he rarely changed his clothes, how he disguised himself as a jockey or a groom and how he kept a menagerie in his London garden that included dogs, goats, foxes and guinea pigs which he used as subjects for his works.

Despite his life in the city, it is amazing the extent to which his paintings breathe the simplicity and freshness of the countryside. With a lightness of touch and a very spiritual use of colour, he has created such touching little scenes, each capturing a particular moment, as the one depicted in this painting in Rouen. Are the figures fleeing the impending storm or does the picture portray the fortuitous encounter of a mother and child who have lost their way with a local peasant? The subject is uncertain, but the interest in the painting lies in the skill of a great colourist: he renders the strength of the storm with subtle gradations of tone around an imposing white cloud in the centre and the approaching threat with the patch of red that is the woman’s coat, lost in the middle of the dark countryside that is made almost monochrome by the elemental fury that is about to be unleashed upon it.