Monday 1 November 2010

Volcanoes, eruptions and art

Visited a fascinating exhibition at Compton Verney Museum, near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, examining the way in which artists have portrayed volcanic eruptions. Vesuvius figures prominently, with a number of imaginative recreations of its devastation of Pompeii in AD79.

The 19th century British artist John Martin, some of whose wonderfully demented pictures of the Last Judgment are exhibited in the Tate Britain, has a suitably fiery painting included. While Andy Warhol has a typically Warholesque picture of Vesuvius going up in smoke in lurid primary colours.

Also featured are a series of paintings by another 19th century British artist, William Ascroft, who painted sketches of the psychedelic sunsets that we experienced in our skies after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, across the world in Indonesia. Volcanic eruptions made perfect subjects for perhaps the greatest of all British painters, J M W Turner, but like a number of artists represented in the show, he never saw one, and relied instead on written accounts and other people’s pictures.

Unfortunately, the exhibition is now over. I caught it on its last day.

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