Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

Nature’s Clues & Signs – The National Gallery

During a break from recording an audiobook, I visited the National Gallery, a major art museum in Trafalgar Square, London.

It has been a long-running fascination of mine to spot nature’s signs in artworks. Here are some of my favourites from that visit.


The Northern Drawbridge by Christen Kobke

In this 1837 painting by the Danish artist, Christen Kobke, we can just make out the water below the drawbridge.

But the artist has been faithful to the plant life and we could tell we were near water anywhere in the area, because the plants shout about it. There are reeds and willow trees, a combination that leaves no doubt.


The Avenue at Middleharnis, 1689, by Meindert Hobbema

The towering cloud to the right of the picture instantly grabbed my attention. This cloud has grown so much taller than the other cumulus clouds in the scene that there must be an interesting trigger. High ground, a dark forest or a town are some the most likely suspects. It is a low-lying area, so hills were not the most likely cause.

I did a little homework and it turns out that this cloud looks like it is positioned over one of the most built up areas of the time, the Hague.

Did you spot: It looks like some strong SW winds have bent the tree tops from left to right.


The Thames Below Westminster by Monet, about 1871

In the online course (Land chapter) we learned to gauge distance in a relative sense using the fading colour effect caused by light scattering.

The colours in this photo confirm the obvious, the pier and boats are much closer to us than the bridge. But also something a bit subtler, Big Ben is closer to us than the Houses of Parliament, that sit just behind it.

MEMBER’S CONTENT: Clues 2 & 1, plus a Question and Answer and a Quirky Clue.

Available to members of the online course as part of The Collection.

To learn more about the online course or to sign up please see this page.