Artists as chroniclers of climate

11/12/2012 - From thick snow flurry in snow-covered villages to the white rooftops of Paris – the Arp Museum in Remagen, Rhineland-Palatinate, is currently showing distinguished winter landscapes of impressionism in the exhibition “Lichtgestöber”. Scientific advisers to the exhibition are, among others, Friedrich-Wilhelm Gerstengarbe und Peter C. Werner from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. In the show that will be on display until April 14th 2013 about 55 works by artists like Courbet, Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Pissarro, Liebermann, Slevogt or Corinth focus on winter in all its facets.
Artists as chroniclers of climate
Claude Monet, Le train dans la neige. La Locomotive, 1875 © Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet

“It is not possible to picture climate in only one painting”, Werner says. “In contrast to weather, which we are able to experience every day, science defines climate as a condition of several decades or even centuries. “ Nonetheless, regional climate can be made visible by comparing several pictures that were painted in succession. In the works of Dutch painters of the 17th Century for instance one finds frozen water surfaces in winter landscapes time and again. “The conclusion of there being very cold winters over a long time can be documented by several other sources; climatologists refer to this period as the Little Ice Age, which lasted until approximately 1850 ”, Gerstengarbe explains.

Warmer temperatures in Central Europe brought with them mild winters and lots of snow from the middle of the 19th century on. “The impressionists can rightly be called chroniclers of the transition from the Little Ice Age to the beginning of global warming at the beginning of the 20th century”, Gerstengarbe says. Light and colour were restaged in a new way by the impressionists. Next to colourful scenes, sunflowers and water lilies, they were as well fascinated by the varieties of snow in white winter landscapes. The impressionists therefore also responded to the weather conditions of their time.

The exhibition "Lichtgestöber. Der Winter im Impressionismus" is on display from Nov 11th 2012 to April 14th 2013.

Weblink to the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck