British painter John Constable’s 1832 The Opening of Waterloo Bridge seen from Whitehall Stairs is of commemoration, that is it is a reportage of the opening of Waterloo Bridge on the 18th of June in 1817, the second anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.
Again Constable affords a great expanse of the painting to the sky in flux. Yet the foreground is peopled by the functionaries of the state and their barges. This foreground is opulently colored in reds and golds, highlighting the theatrics of power – its flags, ensigns, and clothing.
But our eye is not held in the foreground, despite its heaving with activity. It is drawn toward the distant bridge and the famous dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and finally upwards to the active sky that would seem to respond to the momentousness of the occasion.
John Constable’s The Opening of Waterloo Bridge seen from Whitehall Stairs is in the Tate Museum in London, United Kingdom.