Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bite 126: J.M.W. Turner - Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus, 1829

Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus, 1829, oil on canvas, 132 x 203 cm, National Gallery, London
Ulysses, aboard his ship, is triumphant in victory following escape from the lair of the cannibal cyclops, Polyphemus (seen in the mountains to the left), having blinded and deceived him. The sky before them is alive with golden early rays of light as Apollo's horses pull the Sun above the horizon. Similarly, transparent sea-nymphs appear to be dragging the ship toward the rising Sun.

The detailing of the vessel betrays Turner's figurative skill, while the landscape behind - with the mountains and sky blending together emphasising the mythology of the Romanticised scene - evidencing his move toward abstraction. The clouds are thick on the canvas, the grand sunrise appearing to glow, emanating light to the whole image and into the room.