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Spectacular skies: dawns and dusks in the collections we care for

Oil painting on canvas, View of Dordercht (from the Maas) by Aelbert Cuyp
Oil painting on canvas, View of Dordercht (from the Maas) by Aelbert Cuyp | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

The extravagant spectacle of a sunrise or a sunset is one of nature’s most dramatic displays, with the sun’s rays transforming the sky in a kaleidoscope of colours. Many artists have tried to capture these fleeting moments. Discover how this wonder is reflected in notable works of art from our collections that portray some aspect of the beauty, magnificence and tranquillity of dawn and dusk.

Golden dawns

A River Landscape with a Castle at Sunrise by Sebastian Pether

This imaginary landscape by English artist Sebastian Pether (1790–1844) hangs on the walls of The Vyne, Hampshire. It is full of intricate details, including a herdsman crossing the bridge with his cows and a pair of figures by the water’s edge.

SUNRISE, (1842) a painting by Sebastian Pether (c1790-1844) in the Dining Parlour at The Vyne, Basingstoke, Hampshire
Oil painting on canvas, A River Landscape with a Castle at Sunrise by Sebastian Pether in the Dining Parlour at The Vyne, Basingstoke, Hampshire | © National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witt

A Morning Landscape with a Triumphal Arch by William Ashford

Another fantasy landscape, this time by William Ashford (1746–1824) that depicts the romantic ruin of a triumphal arch silhouetted against a golden morning sky. Painted in 1777, it's now part of the collection at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire.

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Seascapes and sunlight

See how artists have used seascapes and sunlight to bring to life peaceful scenes and industrial backdrops alike.

Oil painting on panel, Off the Coast near Flamborough Head, by Thomas Miles Richardson the elder (Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1784 ? Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1848), 1840. A coastal scene at sunset with fishing boats.
Oil painting on panel, Off the Coast near Flamborough Head, by Thomas Miles Richardson the elder. A coastal scene at sunset with fishing boats. | © National Trust Images

Off the Coast near Flamborough Head by Thomas Richardson

Thomas Miles Richardson was one of the most prominent artists in Newcastle in the first half of the 19th century. This portrayal of the sea off the Yorkshire coast is suffused with the warm tones of the setting sun. It's part of the collection at Cragside, Northumberland.

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Landmarks in half-light

Windsor from the River by George Cole

The distinctive shape of Windsor Castle can be seen against the golden glow of the early morning sun low in the sky in this oil painting by George Cole (1810–83) in the collection at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. The barge and horses in the foreground add to the tranquillity of this river scene.

Oil painting on canvas, Windsor from the River by George Cole (London 1810 ? London 1883), signed lower left. Windsor from the river, barge and barge horses in foreground, Castle at right, evening or early morning scene with rising mist. Exhibited Royal Academy 1878.
Oil painting on canvas, Windsor from the River by George Cole | © National Trust

The New Houses of Parliament and the Thames by Henry Dawson

Also known as ‘Sunset on the Thames near Westminster with the New Houses of Parliament’, this painting by Henry Dawson (1811–78) hangs in the Drawing Room of Tyntesfield. J.M.W. Turner was a big influence on Dawson, as can be seen from the atmospheric style of this painting.

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Caernarvon Castle at Sunset by James Francis Danby

The imposing structure of Caernarvon Castle, Gwynedd, is the subject of this oil painting by James Francis Dalby (1816–75). The castle is perched on the banks of the River Seiont and Dalby beautifully captures the delicate colours of the setting sun reflected in the water. It's part of the collection at Cragside, Northumberland.

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Landscapes at sunset

Discover everyday life and calm countryside scenes at sunset in the collections we care for.

Oil painting on canvas, The Woodcutters by Thomas Gainsborough RA (Sudbury 1727 - London 1788), 1787. An evening landscape with a dead tree at the right. A woodman is bending down to gather a bundle of sticks, which he is about to load onto a donkey, held by his companion. A dog is lying beside the donkey.
Oil painting on canvas, The Woodcutters by Thomas Gainsborough RA (Sudbury 1727 - London 1788), 1787 | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Woodcutters by Thomas Gainsborough

Part of the collection at Dunster Castle, Somerset, this oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88) shows an evening landscape. In the half-light two woodcutters can be seen loading their bundles of sticks onto the back of a donkey.

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Landscape mural of Italian seaport showing a harbour scene in the dining room by Rex Whistler at Plas Newydd House & Gardens, Anglesey

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