Tame the Thames Torment

Runner-up: Brianna Dragunoff

The painting Frost on the Thames, by Samuel Collings, is an unexpected favorite of mine. The art was created in 1788–1789 with the medium oil on canvas. In the foreground, the people are going through the city trying to get through their day even in the frost. The background is hazy, and you can just barely make out buildings and flags. 

The reason I chose this painting is because I can feel the bitter cold and struggle just by looking at the people with their hands in their pockets. The donkey in the image looks like he is bracing himself against the frigid wind. The painting was so powerful with the use of paints fading into each other to create a dark but orange sky. I personally was impacted by the way the flag looks to be in motion. The flag in the foreground is wrapped over itself, while the flag in the background is flying more outwardly so we can see and recognize the wind blowing. The ground is a gloomy gray and white, showing the freezing conditions and reflecting the dismal day. I admire how the people still plow through to get their food and lives through even before there were cars and they had to walk in the arctic winds.  

Everyone in the painting is wearing dreary colors or red. There is only one woman with a blue hat, in the center of the painting with a gentleman by her side. She is seemingly wealthier because it looks like she has a fur wrap for her hands. The entire painting gives a glimpse at life during this time. In a way it is a screenshot of history, and I could look on and on, finding more fascinating images hidden in the crowd. 

When I look at this painting I am reminded of the cold New England winters we experience in Connecticut. I am transported into the picture. Walking through the streets heading to school I remember feeling the stinging on my cheeks. The painting is not in Connecticut, but I can connect with the memories I have in the winters. It is reminiscent of the world we grew up learning about. The Revolutionary War was taught to us our whole lives and this painting is around the same time that the United States was formed. That image of England at the time is not very different from the pictures we grew up seeing of the new America. All these memories are comforting and remind me of when I was young. 

In conclusion, Frost on the Thames is an impactful piece of art for the New Englander I am. The artwork shows the harsh winter along the Thames and the unpleasant weather it brings. The people are resilient and are still pushing through the natural elements to keep calm and carry on. I personally related to this painting because in New England we grew up learning about this period. It was interesting that in 2021 I can feel the biting cold the same way they did in the Revolutionary time. The struggle of pushing through the chill to go about your day is something most of us can relate to in Connecticut. I found this painting to be inspiring and a true snapshot of life on the Thames.

About the author

Brianna Dragunoff is majoring in the liberal arts and looks forward to continuing her education after graduating from Gateway Community College. In addition to her studies, she works full-time at the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society as a senior specialist for Walk MS and Emerging Events. Dragunoff also volunteers for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as the 2022 Connecticut Ambassador and a member of the national convention board. In her free time, she enjoys classic movies and concerts.

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Top image
Samuel Collings, Frost on the Thames (detail), 1788 to 1789, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection