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Earth of fire

Actualité volcanique, Articles de fond sur étude de volcan, tectonique, récits et photos de voyage

This Ecuadorian stratovolcano was painted several times by Church , based on his travels in South America by the Andes mountains and volcanoes.

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) was a pupil of Thomas Cole, considered as the founder of the Hudson River School , an American art movement grouping landscape painters in the aesthetic vision of romance imprint .

Inspired by the works of Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist and explorer who visited the American continent from 1799 to 1804, Church went to explore the magnificent scenery twice, in 1853 and 1857.
 Cotopaxi 1855     
Cotopaxi - by Frederic Edwin Church - Oil on canvas - 1855 - Museum of Fine Arts / Houston

Cotopaxi, described by von Humboldt as the most aesthetic volcano in the region and one of the busiest , became a favorite subject of the painter.
He made a first work in 1855 , where he portrayed a perfect cone , covered with snow and quietly dominate a tropical landscape ( above) . The volcano smoke slightly , providing a living and not aggressive note to this painting .

Frederic Edwin Church - Cotopaxi 1855 - Smithsonian america
                    Cotopaxi - another work by Frederic Edwin Church - Oil on canvas - 1855
                                                 Smithsonian American Art Museum

His work from 1861 to 1862 has a different atmosphere: Cotopaxi is in violent eruption . Church takes the volcano as a demonstration of the power of nature and will intensify each characteristic to suggest a conflict between the forces of darkness and those of light .

Cotopaxi 1862
         Cotopaxi - by Frederic Edwin Church - Oil on canvas - 1862 - Detroit Institute of Arts
                                                Enlarge by clicking here                                             

The roaring volcano, the low sun veiled by fumes ash, the large waterfall plunging into a rocky canyon whose sides reveal a tormented geological history ... all highlights incredible forces.
These are tempered by the green color of the foliage in the foreground , with the sunlight penetrating the volcanic cloud and its reflection on a lake with calm waters ... signs that this burst of energy remains under the control of a welfare benefit . The volcano is a source of destruction, but also of creation and rebirth.
The high point of view, which puts the viewer in levitation, accentuates the contrasts .

This style of landscape painting also ranked in the " Luminist " current, considered an offshoot of the Hudson River School ( between 1850 and 1870). It is characterized by attention to the effects of light, the use of aerial perspective, and concealing visible brush cops .

2012.03 - Coto - JLEN
                     The snow-capped Cotopaxi - Photo José Luis Espinosa - Naranjo 03.2012

Cotopaxi has a violent volcanic history , marked by frequent explosions generated pyroclastic flows and lahars .

Between 1803 and 1895 , more than thirty of these eruptions occurred , the most important in 1877, of VEI 4 , which produced devastating lahars in the adjacent valleys, destroying part of the city of Latacunga , causing many casualties there before reaching the Pacific Ocean , 270 km . east of the volcano. His last event is dated from 1940.



Sources :

- From Alexander von Humboldt to Frederic Edwin Church : voyages of scientific exploration and artistic creativity - By Frank Baron 2005

- The worlds of Frederic Edwin Church - By William Gerdts 2008 - link

- Global Volcanism Program - Cotopaxi


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