Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

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J.M.W. Turner,  Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, 1812

Turner’s works have always been an experience to look at. Yes, I said experience, because of the daring colorist he was, the raw, emotional depiction of nature, and the brilliant handling of light, as well as the historical importance he raised through artall summed up on one single canvas. Although the use of light and color might be compared to the more vibrant and innovative Impressionist style, we must keep in mind that Turner came before the salon de refuses, some may even argue that Turner’s works inspired the Impressionists. The emotional approach to painting, choosing colors based on intuitive feelings rather than direct transcription of actual colors, is undoubtedly unprecedented in Turner’s years.

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps serves as a great example of Turner’s emotional take on nature. Romanticism, in every aspect of the arts, painting, music, literature, and poetry, all stressed the glory and beauty of nature. Rather than John Constable’s idyllic pictures of the British country side, Turner chose to capture the awe-inspiring power of the natural world. In Snow Storm, our eyes are fixated upon the swirling vortex of snow and wind. The storm is so strong that the figures of Hannibal’s soldiers fighting in the foreground seem fairly insignificant. We can barely spot Hannibal, the title figure of the painting, riding an elephant in the far center. The heart of the picture is the black curving storm that threatens to swallow not only Hannibal and his troopers, but even the sun itself. 

So that’s why I find dauntingly beautiful about Turner’s oceans. We rarely find such intense light shining through pure, dominating dark colors and such powerful water splashing through the sky. Was it his spit, or even sharp fingernails? Perhaps. It was more, maybe, of Turner’s keen eye and intuitive sense towards nature.

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