These are lenticular clouds that I was watching in awe a few days ago over the French Alps.
They form on the downwind side of mountains. Wind blows most types of clouds across the sky, but lenticular clouds seem to stay in one place. Air moves up and over a mountain, and at the point where the air goes past the mountaintop the lenticular cloud forms, and then the air evaporates on the side farther away from the mountains. These clouds are not born to be carried away to end their life as rain or snow. They get born and die each and every second, tethered to a single spot.
Were these clouds painted, spectators would say the artist needs to spend more time outdoors instead of watching Si-Fi channel.
That’s one point going to photography over painting: the former can do what the latter can not. A photograph can present the unusual in a way no one doubts its existence dismissing it as a product of the painter’s imagination.
Artists love towering clouds that somehow foretell a coming storm (like in the painting by Constable) or symbolise the merry-go-round of life through their careless game of tag (like in the painting by Gerhard Richter).
Please note: Richter’s painting is 4 metres high to exclude collectors who are short of a palace.
Artists also like clouds for their ability to add emotion to almost any landscape:
Without the cloud, it would be an expressionless flat piece of land. With the cloud, it becomes a home to people who can rise high, stand firm, and do daring things (often seen as crazy by outside visitors) for the absence of anything else to do. In short, this cloud adds inspiration, pride, challenge and a sense of purpose.
While some artists use clouds to send across a foreboding or reassuring message, many painters use clouds as natural wrinkles on the face of nature that are meant to add or enhance emotion to their portrayal of a landscape. Being asked directly, artists often say they are uncertain about the link between their emotions and their painterly actions: “it just got drawn that way” is a very common reply.
Likewise, some people are unsure about the relationship between the day&night change and the Earth’s rotation: for them the natural fade-ins and fade-outs just “happen” (fortunately, on a regular basis) – and they don’t care about the mechanism.
But the mechanism is there, go ask Van Gogh.
Troubled Vincent, same year: