Dienstag, 10. Juni 2008

Climate Change in Art

Geological Musings in the Taconic Mountains is hosting Accretionary Wedge #10 on the subject of Geology in Art.

Classic art can be a source of inspiration to search for a different kind of "scientific data" and plays an important role in reconstructions of glacier extent or climate in the historic past.

There are a lot of pictures rappresenting different landscapes with views of glaciers - and surely I will dedicate them an apposite post in future times - showing how men was inspired by them, or what men think(ed) about glaciers (other imagines show what glaciers think about our behaviour on them...)

Cartoon by Reschreiter 1911

But even in a more indirect and not scientific view on nature, artists have provided valuable data for todays researchers. Climate, more precisely the daily weather, influenced the paintings of different artists. I will briefly present two pictures, that simbolize the beginning and the end of an important climate change in historic times.

A first example I chose, is maybe rappresented by the work of Caspar David Friedrich (September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840). Friedrich was a landscape painter of the nineteenth-century German Romantic movement, of which he is now considered the most important painter. As painter Friedrich is best known for his later allegorical landscapes, which feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees, and Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey the spiritual experiences of life.

A ice related picture is the "The Sea of Ice" or "Polar Sea" (mistakenly confused with "The Wreck of Hope", "The Wreck of the North Pole Expedition"), painted 1823-25.
The picture appears by itself cold and lost, seems frozen for all eternity in time. It was maybe inspired of the pronounced shift to a more humid and cold climate seen between 1500 and 1850 (the so called Little Ice Age), with glacier advances and for long periods frozen (North)sea and rivers.

An artist, where most researches will agree that the climate played an important role in the subject (of at least some pictures) he painted, is Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525 - September 9, 1569). He was a Netherlandish Renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes and peasant scenes.

A known masterpiece of Bruegel shows a Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (painted 1565). This picture is climate related for the fact, that it´s shows a frozen river, with people enjoying skating on it. Today only in the most severe winter this could be possible in the Netherlands. But between 1500 to 1600 it happened regularly, so that the rivers where used in the winter like streets.


Silver Fox hat gesagt…

It's very interesting to go to paintings and other art (drawings, lithographs) to check out overall climate change. Neat post!

John Van Hoesen hat gesagt…

David -

How did I miss the fact that you're in the Tyrol?! ARGH! I was looking at a few journal articles of rock glaciers in the region, but too early to visit them while I was there. I would have loved to meet up while I was in Meran!

I visited Innsbruck as well, but wasn't able to see that particular Brueghel because the museum had either lent it out or it was being cleaned. :(

Wish I had realized you were so close!


coconino hat gesagt…

Have you checked out the rock glaciers in Iran, near Alam-Kuh? They are quite fascinating.