Following yesterday’s article looking at the clues which can tell you whether a painting shows sunrise or sunset, here are ten paintings, some of them very well-known, with their titles removed from their captions. Can you decide whether each shows dawn or dusk? The answers are at the end.
Painting 1, by John Linnell.
Painting 2, by Alphonse Osbert.
Painting 3, by Henri Le Sidaner.
Painting 4, by Samuel Palmer.
Painting 5, by Claude Monet.
Painting 6, by Claude Monet again.
Painting 7, by Henri Harpignies.
Painting 8, by Ivan/Hovhannes Aivazovsky.
Painting 9, by Jules Breton.
Painting 10, by Caspar David Friedrich.
Painting 1: John Linnell (1792–1882), Harvest Home, Sunset: The Last Load (1853) shows dusk.
This shows the final wagonload of cut grain leaving the fields at the end of the working day, as the harvest is completed.
Painting 2: Alphonse Osbert (1857–1939), The Muse at Sunrise (1918) shows dawn.
There are no useful clues at all in the painting, only its title. Score one point no matter what your answer is!
Painting 3: Henri Le Sidaner (1862–1939), Golden Morning (1920) shows dawn.
The only rather unreliable clue is that there are no figures seen at all, making dawn more probable. But many of this artist’s paintings were similarly devoid of people. Score one point no matter what you answered.
Painting 4: Samuel Palmer (1805–1881), Old England’s Sunday Evening (1874) shows dusk.
You need to know a little about Church of England worship patterns to realise that these country people who are making their way to the small church tucked away in the valley here could only be doing so at dusk. Although some parish churches hold early morning services, the stands of ripe cereal in the fields show that, at this time of year, a dawn service would have to start well before 0600.
Painting 5: Claude Monet (1840–1926), Impression, Sunrise (1872) shows dawn.
Even if you didn’t identify this painting, you may know that it shows the port of Le Havre, on the north coast of France, whose mouth opens to the west. This view therefore looks slightly south of east, into the dawn sun.
Painting 6: Claude Monet (1840–1926), The Houses of Parliament, Sunset (1903) shows dusk.
Considerable research has been undertaken into this series of paintings made by Monet on the River Thames in London. These were all started from the second floor of the Administrative Block at the northern end of the old Saint Thomas’s Hospital on the ‘south’ bank (marked by ④ in the map below), and completed in the studio over the following three or four years. Monet was therefore looking slightly south of west at the setting sun, as confirmed in the title.
Painting 7: Henri Harpignies (1819–1916), View of the Seine at Rouen (date not known) shows dusk.
This, what must be Harpignies’ finest painting, shows the city of Rouen from the higher land at Bonsecours, which is to the south-east. It therefore shows a summer sunset.
Painting 8: Ivan/Hovhannes Aivazovsky (1817–1900), View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus (1856) shows dawn.
This is a geographical challenge, as the Bosphorus runs from the Black Sea in the north, on a roughly southerly course, to what is now Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara at the south. Yet Aivazovsky shows the sun only slightly to the left of centre. The clue comes in the low islands under the sun, which are the Prince Islands, to the south-east of Istanbul. So this view is into the rising sun, which is also consistent with the morning activities seen.
Painting 9: Jules Breton (1827–1906), Song of the Lark (1884) shows dawn.
Another famous painting, the clues here are subtle. This young farmworker is singing, and although her feet and clothes are quite grubby, she’s bolt upright and ready for the day ahead, rather than worn out after a hard day’s work.
Painting 10: Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840), Tree of Crows (c 1822) shows dusk.
Friedrich’s painting of an unidentified possibly even composite location has one substantial clue: the crows here are flying towards the tree, to roost at dusk in the winter.
If you got any points at all, you’re doing well. It really isn’t easy to tell dawn from dusk, and I’m sure that someone is going to take a different view for at least some of the paintings above. And they may well be right.