On the evening October 16th 1834, the home of the Parliament of the United Kingdom--the Palace of Westminster accidentally caught a big fire and was almost destroyed in that conflagration. The fire first started from overheated chimney flues and quickly spread through, becoming the biggest fire occurred in London since the Great Fire in 1666 which swept through the central parts of the city of London. The fire lasted for many hours and attracted massive crowds, including J.M.W Turner.
The Burning of the Houses of Parliament is a series of oil paintings created by J.M.W. Turner after he witnessed the big fire. He stood oppose the Westminster on the south bank of the Thames River. On the site he made many sketches by pencil and watercolor from different points. The painting below is one of the series, showing the scene from further downstream of the river. It is separated by the middle line into two parts: the boundless sky and water surface of the Thames. The flames and smoke are blown over the water. The parliament is nearly swallowed by the raging fire, and only part of the outlines of the buildings can be seen.
Turner mainly focused on the fire rather than buildings. The fire and the reflection on water are shown in the middle of the painting. It’s red in the center of fire and fade to yellowing spreading outside. The fire’s warm colors make a sharp contrast to the blue and white color around, showing Turner’s great skills in the treatment of colors and lights. The painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1835 and is now in the Cleveland Museum of art.