Posts Tagged ‘jmw turner’

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Volcano in Indonesia, Turner sunsets for years.

OK, I made that last part up. But there really is a connection between volcanoes and sunsets half a world away.

Writes Sindya Bhanoo at the NY Times, “Sunsets painted by the great masters are now providing a type of information their creators could never have imagined: important clues about air pollution.

“Polluted skies result in redder sunsets, and artists captured this redness on the canvas, said Andreas Kazantzidis, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Patras in Greece who was involved in the research.

“He and his colleagues analyzed hundreds of high-quality digital photographs of paintings done between 1500 and 2000. The period included more than 50 large volcanic eruptions around the globe.

“In each painting, they looked at the red-to-green ratio along the horizon of each sunset to estimate the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere at the time.

“When the Tambora volcano in Indonesia erupted in 1815, ash and gas spewed into the atmosphere, producing bright red and orange sunsets in Europe for several years. This is evident in the paintings of the British master J. M. W. Turner.” More.

 At the NY Times, an 1829 landscape by J. M. W. Turner that researchers analyzed for its sunset.

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There is always so much to share from Andrew Sullivan’s site.  In a recent entry he pointed to a book called The Art Instinct, by Denis Dutton.

“Micah Mattix reviews

“The first feature of our inclination toward art is that we seem to have a universal love of landscape paintings — and not just any landscape, but landscapes similar to those our ancestors would have encountered on the African savanna. A central pillar of evidence for his argument is a 1993 study commissioned by Russian painters Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid that surveyed people from ten diverse countries and found a surprising number of consistent aesthetic preferences. …

“Dutton suggests that this seemingly universal preference for paintings depicting open spaces, trees, water, and animals is related to our ancestors’ search for food and safety. Such landscapes would have presented opportunities for cultivation; and the presence of water and climbable clusters of trees — which could have served as lodgings for game and provided safety from predators — would have been preferred by hunter-gatherers to either a dark forest or desolate plains.” More.

Evolutionary psychology often seems like a stretch, but it’s fun to think about. I do like landscapes.  I also like abstraction. In any case, I’m sure my ancient Picts and Celts ancestors, if such they were, would have liked the 19th century painting Andrew picked to go with his entry.

Who can resist a Turner?

Image: Petworth Park: Tillington Church in the Distance, J. M. W. Turner, c. 1830, via Wikimedia Commons


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