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The origin of Turner's Rain, Steam and Speed

Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway is one ofthe best-known works by J M W Turner (1775-1851). It was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1844 and can now be seen in London’s National Gallery.

There is an interesting story about how it came to be painted.

Lady Simon was travelling by train from Exeter to London and shared her compartment with an elderly gentleman who was unknown to her. It was a wet day, and as the train passed through a large town the weather became even worse. 

This greatly interested the gentleman passenger, who asked Lady Simon if she would object to him opening the window. She could not see why anyone would want to have the window open under such circumstances, but her curiosity got the better of her and she agreed.

The gentleman then stuck his head and shoulders out of the window and was drenched by the rain for several minutes. When he sank back down in his seat he closed his eyes with a highly satisfied-looking expression on his face.

Lady Simon thought little more about this strange behaviour until, some months later, she visited the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. There on the wall was a painting that she knew immediately had been inspired by the eccentricity she had witnessed on the Exeter to Paddington train.

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  1. I do like this painting. I studied some art history in my college humanities classes. I remember a Turner that we compared to Constable- I think I have the correct spelling on the other artist.

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