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Call to Artists from Nature...Why? Krakatoa's explosion in 1883 put a new spark in art!

Watching the PBS Newshour last night, I was struck by a follow-up interview after coverage of Iceland’s volcano eruption where Jeffrey Brown spoke with Simon Winchester, author of “Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded.” (view the video here) Among other interesting facts about the many ways that massive eruption in 1883 affected mankind, he said the intense and lovely sunsets it created resulted in some very interesting art.  William Ashcroft of England sat by the River Thames and painted one sunset after another, one every 10 minutes, until he had about 500 of them!  Almost like creating animation cells or time-lapse photography, the sequence, now on display at the Natural History Museum in London, shows the incredible colors and their movement across the sky at that time.

Volcanic Skies over Brielle, Netherlands, captured by Dennis Put, Apr. 14, 2010

Volcanic Skies over Brielle, Netherlands, captured by Dennis Put, Apr. 14, 2010

As it turns out, Edvard Munch said “The Scream” was also inspired by the volcano’s effect on the colors in the sky.  Though painted 10 years later, his memory of the intense purples and oranges in the sunsets hadn’t faded.  In addition, American artists such as Frederic Church, who painted beautifully many, many Hudson River School paintings of the 1880s dominated by the extraordinary post-Krakatoa sunsets, were also influenced by this major event.

Later in the interview, Winchester brought up the rarely mentioned but awesome Tambora, saying, “After the Tambora eruption, which was even bigger, in 1815, there was snowfall in Washington in July. Crops were terribly late all over the world. Mary Shelley, so miserable was the weather in Europe, wrote, apparently, according to many people, “Frankenstein,” because she was so bored with the awful weather post-Tambora.”

Volcanic Skies over England, with Crescent moon and Venus, by Pete Lawrence, 4/15/2010

Volcanic Skies over England, with Crescent moon and Venus, by Pete Lawrence, 4/15/2010

I’m relaying all this to you because I went to Spaceweather.com yesterday and found photos of the sky in Iceland that were so sublime, with golden orange and lavender hues, all I could think was how lovely they would be if painted by some of the incredible talent we have in Southern Oregon. Some included breathtaking compositions which included auroras (we just had a major solar storm which is creating the best aurora display in decades) and the alignment of the crescent Moon with Mercury and Venus two nights ago. Another boon for artists and photographers is that the abrupt halt in air traffic has resulted in images sans-jet trails. So if you’re into some spectacular beauty to inspire your new creations, be sure to keep an eye on the sky! A high-powered coronal mass ejection from the Sun is expected to hit our atmosphere today, which should brighten things up even further, though the surface of the Sun is quiet now, so this blast might be the last one for a little while.

And if you visit Spaceweather.com yourself to see what I mean, be sure to check the archives from the last couple of days (April 15, 16, 2010) for links to more pictures than you’ll see from today’s page.

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