Sunset and afterglow, November, 1883
November 9, 1883
Sunset, May 10, 1884
Sunset, May 10, 1884
Amber afterglow with crepuscular rays, September, 1885
Sustained light after sunset, July 12, 1886
Sunset and noctilucent cloud, July 6, 1885

I mentioned the British artist William Ascroft (1832-1914) at the end of the last post about volcanoes. I thought his remarkable, almost eerie series of sketches documenting the atmospheric effects of Krakatoa's eruption upon London's sunsets warranted a bit more attention. In the years after the 1883 explosion, Ascroft's rapidly drawn sketches recorded details that would have been otherwise ephemeral or merely described before the invention of color photography.
In a thoughtful April 15th New York Times Op Ed piece that I only just now saw, Simon Winchester, author of “Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded,” creates a wonderful image of Ascroft laboring to capture the "magic" in the sky:
An obscure Londoner named William Ascroft, astonished by the nightly light show along the Thames, turned out a watercolor [sic, they appear to all be pastels, not watercolors] every 10 minutes, night after night, working like a human camera. More than 500 Krakatoa paintings survive him. “Blood afterglow,” he jotted down on one canvas, noting the magic done by refractive crystals of dust; “Amber afterglow,” on another.
When The Eruption of Krakatoa, and Subsequent Phenomena, Report of the Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society was printed in 1888, several chromolithographic prints of Ascroft's sunsets were painstakingly reproduced and included, having been deemed to have exceptional scientific import. Printed to the artist’s directions by the Lithographic Department of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, the job required ten different 'stones' or printing plates.

As an aside, I found this photograph of "noctilucent clouds" over Hungary taken in 2006. Originally recognized as a polar atmospheric occurance, the clouds have now been spotted in much lower latitudes in recent years. It is thought that global climate change may be the cause.

1 comment:

Sophie Munns said...

Fascinating to view this work Angela and read your notes... the last three sketches are so eerie and the photo below it comes with an interesting comment.
!885...these sketches seem quite contemporary!


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