Monday, August 22, 2011

Arctic Sketches




These watercolors are by turn-of-the-century Arctic explorer Russell W. Porter, mostly done during the last two of his six journeys to the north. Considering the hardships surrounding any kind of polar expedition at the time, the dexterity and clarity of his work is even more impressive. From Prologue Magazine:
His watercolors froze; snowblindness from the intense summer glare was a real danger; and the low light during winter made painting impossible. Pastels were often the only medium possible when the temperature was thirty to fifty degrees below zero. Frostbite was an ever-present danger... Even with all these physical hardships, Porter declared that the hardest thing for him to bear was watching the Aurora during the dark winter months, "knowing I was absolutely helpless and unable to paint it."(8) He tried to work by candlelight, but the yellow light distorted all the colors, and he decided it was better to put off any color work rather than use artificial light.
You learn more about Porter's work and expeditions here.

From the top: Cape Opposite Lodge (1902); Man on Summer Ice (1907); Walruses in Pool (1901); Terra Nova, Tromsö, Norway, 1905 (1905); Summer -- Red Cliff (1901); Salt water leads and fresh water pools (1901).

All from the Papers of Russell W. Porter, 1893-1949 (XRWP). Discovered through Prologue Magazine (Winter 1997, Vol. 29, No. 4), a National Archives and Records Administration publication.

2 comments:

andrea despot said...

that quote about him being helplessly unable to paint the aurora is amazing. so profound... geeze, what an artist!

Liza said...

That part kills me, too! Can you imagine?

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