Sunset on Rouen William Turner Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Though William Turner was best known for his more muted colours and layered light, there were times when he brought out the brighter hues.

One such painting is the eye-catching 'Sunset on Rouen', where Turner uses bright primary colours in contrast with one another to create a stunning scene.

Rouen itself is a city in the north of France, famous for its impressive cathedral whose spires tower above the rest of the skyline both in modern times and in the earlier period of this painting.

It was once one of the most important, prosperous cities in France during the medieval period, and is still today an interesting place to visit.

It is no wonder, then, that Turner took this beautiful city to the canvas, though his unusual choice in colour makes this more fascinating than most artwork depicting the city.

Painted in a mixture of watercolour and gouache, 'Sunset of Rouen' lets the fluid medium of these paints blend the bright colours without making it garish.

The impressionistic swirl of yellow depicting the sun on the Seine draws the eye and creates drama on an already busy scene, but it does not take away from the gentle lines of the city skyline and the line of the bridge below.

In the foreground Turner brings some life to the painting with a small scene depicting horses and people standing on the bank of the Seine.

These dark figures are reflected in the water, showing his talent for these small details, yet despite being in the foreground these people appear only as an afterthought compared to the eye-catching sky and the smooth city below.

William Turner was known for his ability to use light in interesting ways, and 'Sunset on Rouen' shows this in a slightly different way. It is probably that Monet's sunsets would have been inspired by works such as these.

As well as using light in his subtle, layered ways, he also took the bright circle of the sun and used it in a more blatant way, contrasting with the rest of the painting just as strongly as the bright colours themselves.

Sunset on Rouen may appear to be a simple, bright painting at first, but as with all of Turner's paintings it is simple to see how many layers of meaning and colour he used to create the long-lasting impression he left behind.