Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stormy Weather...18th century storm chasers

Harbor View from Cette, Claude-Joseph Vernet, mid 1700s
The volatile spring weather made itself boisterously apparent this past week in eastern North Carolina with severe thunderstorms and even devastating tornadoes striking within four miles of this author's home. It drove home the realization that storms during the 18th century were at least as damaging and our ancestors had no early warning system to batten down the hatches. Of course because, here along the shore, we have few basements since the foundations of our homes are so close to the water table, finding a safe haven in the case of an impending tornado is, at best, problematical even today.

A fairly recent phenomena is that of storm chasers. These people jump into vehicles of all description, cameras in hand, to catch the drama of a powerful storm, most often a tornado, as it descends from
Portrait of Claude-Joseph Vernet, Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, 1778
Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1775

the heavens.

Looking over the Internet, I found many versions of storm chasers, 18th century style: painters who recreated the awesome, terrible beauty of storms, not just of tornadoes but of other severe weather that touched the lives of those around them. What they lacked in immediacy, they more than made up for in portraying the spirit of the storms. It appears to me, however, that Frenchman Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1714-1789, was the king of stormy paintings and so I present several of his works here for your perusal.
Mid-Day, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1757

A Shipwreck on a Rocky Coast, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1775
(This one is for sale by Whitfield Fine Art, London)

Soldiers in a Mountain Gorge with a Storm, Claude-Joseph Vernet,1789 
The Tempest, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1762

And, of course, there is the calm before the storm... 
Seaport by Moonlight, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1771

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now...
and as Colonel Benjamin Hawkins of the late 18th century so famously wrote to 
President George Washington when asked to return to the nation's capital,
"God willing and the Creek don't rise!"
('Course he was probably referring to the Creek Indians, but we won't split hairs here.)


No comments: