Famous for his biblical paintings, Henry Ossawa Tanner painted Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah after two trips to Palestine. The distinctive greenish-blue color dominating the sky was Tanner’s favorite hue, which he used here to portray the smoky conflagration engulfing the two cities.
The painting’s abstraction and simplicity of form and color evoke a sense of the interaction between the physical and spiritual worlds. Tanner plays down the presence of Lot and his daughters, who are barely visible in the lower, righthand corner. Tanner’s blend of tempera and oil unifies the composition and emphasizes the picture’s surface—adding an almost unearthly luminosity to the scene.