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Turner has out-prodiged almost all former prodigies He has made a picture with real rain behind which is real sunshine and you expect a rainbow every minute Meanwhile there comes a train down upon you really moving at the rate of fifty miles a hour and which the reader had best make haste to see lest it should dash out of the pictureas for the manner in which Speed is done of that the less is said the better -only it is a positive fact that there is a steam coach going fifty miles and hour The world has never seen anything like this picture This was Thackerays response to Turners Rain Steam and Speed upon seeing it at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1844 A large canvas displayed in the place of honour on the back wall of the East room of the exhibition the painting was at the time and important and provocative comment on modern technology in general and more specifically on the steam locomotive and the Great Western Railway that was featured so prominently in the title This painting was significant because although this was not the first time railways had been the depicted in art it was the first time for this kind of subject matter to be taken up on such a large scale and for public display Both Ian Carter and Gerald Finley assert that despite the criticism already written about this complex work it remains engaging and still retains layers of meaning that have not been brought to light Rain Steam and Speed can be read as a celebration of new technology and the new Britain that was forming in its wake a lament for a passing golden age or as Carter suggests as a combination of the two it is about loss but also about progress To be more precise it is about the casualties
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