|Beyond Man's Footsteps, exhibited 1894, oil on canvas, 119 x 185 cm, Tate Britain|
A lone polar bear peers toward the setting or rising sun. The tone, to me, indicates the end of a long day, the final rays of the sun illuminating a monolith of ice in deepest blue. The weary animal, beyond man's footsteps, seems almost human in pulling himself over the ice and reaching out to the western sky.
A romantic gesture on the sublime dominance of nature appears, through modern eyes, rather to hint at the fragility of the polar landscape and the environment in general. That even at the farthest reaches of the planet the impact of 'man's footsteps' is beginning to make itself felt.