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Eyjafjallajökull ash victims strike back with eruption of creativity 4 May 2010

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Matt McArthur's vision of an angry and ashy EyjafjallajokullAmong the thousands of people who ended up grounded involuntarily far from home when Eyjafjallajökull’s ash cloud closed down European airspace last month was Andrew Losowsky, a writer and editor (‘marooned magazine fanatic’ – Belfast Telegraph) who found himself stranded in Dublin. He decided to make a travel disaster into a creative opportunity, and put out an online appeal to other writers, editors, artists, designers and illustrators to make something of their situation and contribute to a collaborative magazine project. Each collaborator was invited to take a photograph of the bed they were currently sleeping in, head to the nearest bar and ask for a cocktail called a ‘Volcano’ (and note down the recipe), and provide additional contributions according to their own particular skills: a story, an artwork, whatever. Thus, on the left we have illustrator Matt McCarthy’s vision of an angry and ashy Eyjafjallajökull, while below is a poster by Defeat Chaos urging us, vainly, to Defeat Volcano, and below that Paul Khera’s Volcano cocktail. Some more samples of the kind of work that has been coming in can be seen in this post on Andrew’s blog.

stranded2.jpgThe final outcome of this collaboration, through print-on-demand technology, will be a physical magazine (although there will be a digital version as well). Explaining his decision to go for a traditional bound-paper format rather than some here today, gone tomorrow website, Andrew says, ‘To create a website would be something continually updated for a while but eventually it would wither away and die in a corner of the internet. To make a physical product means that it exists on your bookshelf that you can pick up and read and remember. It happens in a more serendipitous way in your life; it brings back the emotional resonance again’.

Although most victims of the travel disruption have now made it home again, there are still people stranded out there – and there are many others who have found themselves, for whatever reason, stranded away from their homes on a rather more permanent basis. To help them out proceeds from the magazine are going to the International Rescue Committee.

People who are still stranded, or who were stranded but are now back home, are still welcome to participate in the magazine: follow this link to a simple survey form as the first step. And given that Eyjafjallajökull is not finished with us yet, there may be scope for a second issue.

Volcano cocktail by Paul Khera

News
Barriers to publishing being broken down by the internetBelfast Telegraph, 27 April 2010
Ash cloud passengers unite to publish magazine – BBC News, 29 April 2010

For all our Eyjafjallajökull coverage: Eyjafjöll « The Volcanism Blog.

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Eyjafjallajökull: the art of Claire Iris Schencke 1 May 2010

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'Monotype of the Krossá River' (copyright Claire Iris Schencke)

A little while ago we linked to the Eyjafjallajökull Art Project, a collection of artworks inspired by the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. There’s some very good stuff there (along with some that is, er, not so good), but Claire Iris Schencke‘s work really stands out. The artist has been in touch since I posted that link, and I’m very happy to say that some of her Eyjafjallajökull works will soon be showcased in a Saturday Volcano Art article, when  that feature resumes publication later this month. Much more (and a nice link back to us) can be found on Claire Iris Schencke’s art blog.

For the moment, and as a taster, here (with the permission of the artist) is Claire Iris Schencke’s ‘Monotype of the Krossá River’. The braided glacial river Krossá drains Eyjafjallajökull and Myrdalsjökull, feeding the Markarfljót which runs southward from the glaciers and which flooded during the eruption last month. More information about this picture can be found in a posting on the artist’s blog.

[‘Monotype of the Krossá River’, copyright Claire Iris Schencke.]

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The vanishing views of Fuji 13 October 2009

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Mt Fuji from Nippori Fujimi slope on 18 November 2000 (photo by Mr Naofumi Nakajima).
Mt Fuji from Nippori Fujimi slope on 18 November 2000 (photo by Mr Naofumi Nakajima).

Among the many ways in which human beings interact with volcanoes, one of the most important but also least tangible and hardest to quantify is the simplest of all: looking.

Volcanoes are beautiful, often dramatic elements of the landscape, and people like to look at them. But views are fragile things, particularly where volcanoes are close to constantly-changing urban areas in which the construction of buildings and the effects of pollution mean the obstruction of once-valued views. Perhaps the most notable such case is Mount Fuji, and the New York Times‘s ‘Tokyo Journal’ has a report on the efforts of some Tokyo residents to fight back against the loss of treasured views of Fuji:

Protecting a building or a park may be one thing, but how do you protect a view? Saving the view from Nippori’s Fujimizaka would require capping building heights within an elongated fan-shaped corridor three miles long and up to 1,000 feet wide across densely populated neighborhoods. So far, the society has met stiff resistance from city officials and developers in Tokyo, whose properties rose rapidly from the postwar ashes thanks in part to unrestrained construction.

For centuries, the views of Mount Fuji offered by many parts of the Tokyo region have been a celebrated part of Japanese culture: but as Tokyo’s skyscrapers have climbed into the sky, the views have disappeared. Of the sixteen areas of central Tokyo called Fujimizaka, ‘the slope for seeing Mount Fuji’, there is now only one, in Nippori, from which the volcano can still be seen – just. The threat to this last remaining view of Fuji provoked the establishment of the Citizens’ Alliance to save the Fuji-view (CASF): the picture at the top of this post, from the CASF website, shows what they are up against.

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Saturday Volcano Art: Auguste Desperret, ‘Troisième éruption du volcan de 1789’ (1833) 5 September 2009

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Auguste Desperret (1804-65) was a French artist who produced political cartoons and caricatures for the republican satirical weekly La Caricature, edited by Charles Philipon, which flourished briefly in France following the relaxation of press censorship brought by the July Revolution of 1830. That revolution brought an end to the authoritarian rule of King Charles X, who was forced into exile and replaced by the ‘July Monarchy’ of Louis-Philippe I (who would in turn be overthrown in the revolution of 1848). The first issue of La Caricature appeared in November 1830, and the last in August 1835; the ‘September Laws’ of the latter year, passed in response to an attempted assassination of the king, reimposed political censorship of the press and ended publication. In those few years, however, La Caricature had drawn on the skills of some very talented artists – most notably perhaps Honoré Daumier – to create some of the most memorable and effective political caricature in the history of the genre.

The lithograph reproduced here was published in issue no. 135 of La Caricature, 6 June 1833. Its full title is ‘troisième éruption du volcan de 1789, qui doit avoir lieu avant la fin du monde, qui fera trembler tous les trônes, et renversera une foule de monarchies’: ‘third eruption of the volcano of 1789, to take place before the end of the world, which will shake all thrones, and overturn a horde of monarchies’. The first eruption of this volcano of liberty was of course in 1789 itself, the outbreak of the French Revolution. The second was the July Revolution of 1830. In this image, Desperret warns, as the July Monarchy increasingly turns against the principles of French republicanism, that the third such eruption is yet to come.

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Fireballs flung to commemorate Salvadorean volcanic eruption 3 September 2009

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Bolas de fuego (image by Mario Pleitez, Creative Commons licensed)

In the town of Nejapa in El Salvador, to the north-east of San Salvador volcano, 31 August sees the festival of Bolas de Fuego – balls of fire. Local people paint their faces, take to the streets and joyously fling burning balls of petrol-soaked rags at each other. The BBC reports that the festival commemorates a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1922, but there was no eruption of San Salvador that year. The festival seems to have started in 1922, and perhaps marks the eruption of 1917; or it might be the 1658 eruption, which forced the evacuation of the town, that is being recalled. Local religious tradition has it that the event celebrates the refusal of the town’s patron saint San Gerónimo to be distracted from good works by the Devil, in the form of the volcano, throwing fireballs at him. Anyway, it all looks like good dangerous fun. Everybody has a good time and no-one has, as yet, been seriously hurt.

[Image of the Bolas de Fuego festival 2008 by Mario Pleitez at Flickr, reproduced here under a Creative Commons license.]

News
Nejapa ardió entre las bolas de fuego – elsalvador.com, 31 August 2009
Una batalla de luces enciende el cielo nejapenseDiario CoLatino, 1 September 2009
Fireballs hurled in El Salvador – BBC News, 2 September 2009 (with video)

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Saturday volcano art: Christen Købke, ‘The Forum, Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the distance’ (1841) 22 August 2009

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Christen Købke, 'The Forum, Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the Distance' (1841)

The Danish painter Christen Købke (1810-1848) died young at 38, but in his short career he produced some of the most innovative and distinctive European landscape painting of the first half of the nineteenth century. He was a pupil of the celebrated landscape painter C. W. Eckersberg (1783-1853), one of the leading figures of Golden Age Danish art. Most of Købke’s landscape studies were of places near his home in Copenhagen – his father was a master baker who leased the army bakery in the city’s Citadel, and the family made their home within the fortress. Kobke produced numerous studies of scenes in and around the Citadel in which deceptively free brushwork and almost impressionistic atmospheric effects are constrained by unusual, highly structured compositions and restrained but lucid colour schemes.

Købke journeyed to Italy in 1838, visiting Venice, Florence and Naples, and upon returning to Denmark in September 1840 devoted himself largely to painting Italian subjects derived from studies he had made while Italy. The scenery around Naples proved particularly inspiring for Købke, and he painted a number of pictures of the Bay of Naples and scenes around Vesuvius. The picture illustrated here, ‘The Forum, Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the Distance’ (1841) is one of the paintings dating from this period.

In this painting Købke has chosen a typically unusual viewpoint: relatively low down, so that Vesuvius is glimpsed through a screen of classical columns and ruined walls. The long shadows being cast from the right – the east – show that the time is early morning, and the atmosphere of the still morning, with mist just rolling away from the slopes of the volcano and a flawless blue sky holding promise of heat to come, is powerfully conveyed. Although the volcano is partially obscured its low contours and dark, scored flanks dominate the scene. The simplicity of its brooding shape contrasts with the litter of ancient remnants in the foreground: shattered columns, overgrown carvings, the empty roadway leading away into a landscape of ruins. The painting is a meditation on the spirit of place, the passing of time, the transience of all man-made things.

Christen Købke’s ‘The Forum at Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the Distance’ is in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum. If you’re in London next spring you can take in the exhibition Christen Købke: Danish Master of Light at the National Gallery (17 March-10 June 2010).

Further reading
Christen Købke, 1810-1848 (exhibition catalogue, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen)
Torsten Gunnarsson, Nordic Landscape Painting in the Nineteenth Century (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998)
Catherine Johnston et al, Baltic Light: Early Open-Air Painting in Denmark and North Germany (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999)
Sanford Schwartz, Christen Købke (New York: Timken, 1992)

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Saturday Volcano Art: Giovanni Battista Lusieri, ‘Vesuvius from Posillipo by Night’ (1797) 18 July 2009

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Giovanni Battista Lusieri, 'Vesuvius from Posillipo by Night, during the Eruption of 1787' (1797)

Although this picture was painted in 1797, it depicts an eruption that took place some ten years earlier, in the summer of 1787. The painter was Giovanni Battista Lusieri, who was born in Rome around 1755 and from around 1782 worked as a painter of local views in Naples, producing pictures of the city and its picturesque surroundings – including Mount Vesuvius, then very active – for travellers visiting Naples on the ‘Grand Tour’. Demand for Lusieri’s work was such that he produced multiple copies of some of his most popular images by printing outline etchings of them which he then coloured by hand.

This view of Vesuvius in eruption was painted using Lusieri’s characteristic technique of watercolour washes, with ink used for outlines and some detailed modelling, producing an image of precision and delicacy. He was dedicated to accuracy, spending long hours perfecting his images, and insisted on the primacy of nature over the artist’s imagination in art: ‘one should faithfully imitate nature’. This view of the volcano erupting in the moonlight, its orange lava contrasting with the silver sky and the tranquil waters of the bay, nonetheless has a powerfully romantic atmosphere.

Giovanni Battista Lusieri, 'Vesuvius from Posillipo by Night, during the Eruption of 1787' (1797) - detail

From 1799 Lusieri worked as an agent for Lord Elgin, overseeing Elgin’s programme of acquisitions of art and antiquities in Greece from 1801 onwards, including the removal of the Parthenon sculptures now known as the Elgin Marbles. Lusieri died in Athens in 1821, lamenting that his work for Elgin had prevented him from devoting himself to his art. Further disappointment was in store, had he lived to see it: a ship carrying the majority of his watercolours sank in 1828, leaving little of his work for the appreciation of posterity.

For all ‘Saturday volcano art’ articles: Saturday volcano art « The Volcanism Blog.

Further reading

Giovanni Battista Lusieri – biography from the Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Giovanni Battista Lusieri – another biography, from the National Galleries of Scotland.
Vedutismo e Grand Tour – complete text in Italian of Fabrizia Lucilla Spirito, Vedutismo e Grand Tour: Giovan Battista Lusieri e i suoi contemporanei (doctoral thesis, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, 2006); link is to a page from which the PDF can be downloaded.
Vesuvius on the Grand Tour – volcanic tourism in the eighteenth century, from the Georgian Index.

[Thanks to the Volcanism Blog reader who sent in this picture and suggested it as a subject for ‘Saturday Volcano Art’.]

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Saturday Volcano Art: John Martin, ‘The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum’ (c.1821) 6 June 2009

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John Martin, The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (c.1821), detailFrom the moment of their recovery in the mid-eighteenth century, the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum became the centre not only of an archaeological but a moral narrative. These flourishing centres of Roman life – exemplars of a great civilization at the height of its power – could do nothing to protect themselves against the natural calamity that destroyed them. Johann Joachim Winckelmann reflected in his Critical Account of the Situation and Destruction by the First Eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabia (1764) that the remains of these cities ‘afford the most striking moral reflections’, showing ‘that Empires, however firmly founded, and that cities, however embellished, are like man, subject to mortality, and liable to dissolution’ (pp. iv-v).

For some the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum afforded matter not only for moral reflection, but for moral judgement: these ancient centres of luxury, decadence, arrogance, paganism and vice had been swept away, and perhaps it was a case of serve them right. Such views became particularly prominent during the nineteenth century, when Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s phenomenally popular novel The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) described the city as ‘the miniature of the civilization of that age’, containing within its walls ‘a specimen which every gift which luxury offered to power … in the energy yet corruption, in the refinement yet the vice, of its people, you beheld a model of the whole empire’ (p. 17). The destruction of the Roman cities, argued the American writer Nathaniel Hazeltine Carter in 1827, was not merely a fluke of nature but an act of well-deserved divine retribution: ‘Sodom and Gomorrah, when like Herculaneum and Pompeii, they were deluged in fire and overwhelmed in ruin, could not have sunk to greater depths of depravity, or have presented vice under more brutal and disgusting forms’ (Letters From Europe, vol. II, p. 232). Both Pompeii and Herculaneum, observed John Kennedy in his Volcanoes: Their History, Phenomena, and Causes (1852), ‘were prosperous and luxurious. The excavations of Pompeii reveal Roman life in all its grandeur and meanness, and, alas! in all its frivolity and licentiousness’ (p. 66). Kennedy’s book, it should be pointed out, was published by the Religious Tract Society, and for some religious writers the lesson taught by the fate of the Roman cities was clear. In 1872 the British Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon, perhaps the most celebrated and influential Christian preacher of modern times, paid a visit to Pompeii and referred to it in a subsequent sermon, ‘Voices from Pompeii’, as ‘that fair abode of luxury and vice’. Pompeii is held up, not only as an instance of the vulnerability of man to natural catastrophe but of the inevitability of divine judgement upon immorality, luxury and vice.

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Art, forensic astronomy, and Edvard Munch’s Krakatoa sky 12 May 2009

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Texas State University astrophysicist Donald Olson practices what he calls ‘forensic astronomy’ – using science to investigate artistic, literary and historical puzzles. An article in Smithsonian Magazine looks at his work and some of the puzzles he has investigated, including where on the English coast Julius Caesar’s invasion fleet landed in 44BC, why the United States Marines ran aground offshore during their amphibous landing on Tarawa in 1943, when Ansel Adams took some of his most celebrated photographs, and why Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893) has that anguished blood-red sky (a memory of the effects of the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, Olson suggests).

Interesting and controversial stuff from the art/science frontier zone: Jennifer Drapkin and Sarah Zielinski, ‘Forensic astronomer solves fine arts puzzles’, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2009 (via SciTech Daily Review).

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Craig Arnold, poet and lover of volcanoes, now presumed dead 12 May 2009

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Sad news from Japan: Craig Arnold, poet, professor, and lover of volcanoes, is now presumed dead. He is believed to have died in a fall while hiking on the volcanic island of Kuchinoerabu-jima.

News
UW poet and professor believed to have died after a fall – University of Wyoming news release, 8 May 2009
School: family of missing poet believes he died – Associated Press, 8 May 2009
Missing poet Craig Arnold presumed deadLos Angeles Times, 9 May 2009

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