Mike and I are on the way to Kentucky, where we’ll be observing Monday’s total eclipse. As an artist, that got me thinking about how other artists have depicted eclipses throughout the course of history.
Are you a fan of Mark Twain? If so, perhaps you’ve read his novel A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. In the book, Twain’s protagonist, Hank Morgan, finds himself back in medieval England, where he is sentenced to be burned at the stake. Filled with Yankee ingenuity, he puts to good use the knowledge that a solar eclipse will occur that very day. (What are the odds?) He threatens the crowd that’s gathered that he will blot out the sun. And sure enough it happens. They start begging him to restore it, and when he obliges, they make him “the Boss” – second in command only after the king.
The most astonishing depiction of an eclipse in a painting by a German artist by the name of Cosmas Damian Asam. In 1735, he did a painting of St. Benedict experiencing a vision of the whole world “gathered together under a sunbeam.” The composition is remarkable. Asam doesn’t just capture an eclipse and the solar corona, but the so-called “diamond ring effect” which occurs when sunlight streams through lunar mountains. Here it falls right on the saint’s head.
Asam may have witnessed not one, but three solar eclipses during his lifetime – in 1706, 1724 and 1733.
In 1878, a French artist by the name of Etienne Trouvelot was in Wyoming when an eclipse took place. He created this beautiful, interpretative lithograph.
And of course early Christian art portrayed eclipses in scenes of the crucifixion. That’s straight out of the Gospels. For example, Luke writes in 23: 44-45 “It was now about the sixth hour and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”
I don’t know how I will depict the total eclipse that takes place on Monday. As an impressionist/expressionist artist, my paintings are based not so much on the objective reality of what I see, but rather on my subjective experience of the event – on the way in which I emotionally respond to the total event. I hope you’re as interested to see the results as I am. I can’t wait for August 21st to arrive!