WEBINAR: Pollution Pittoresque. Representation of Smoke in Frits Thaulow’s fin de siècle Landscapes. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion.

Frits Thaulow (1847-1906) was in his own time often referred to as the painter of "the Stream, the Snow and the Night." To this one can add "Smoke". In many of his most captivating landscapes, Thaulow captured signs of modern industry such as smoke from factory chimneys, and steam from trains. Øystein Sjåstad, associate professor in art history at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas offers his perspectives on the beautification of pollution.

Image may contain: Landscape, Bank, Watercolor paint, Paint, Art.

Frits Thaulow: Smoke (Les Fumées), (1898), oil on canvas, 73x92 cm. Photo: Grev Wedel Plass Auksjoner

Pollution often creates spectacular color effects in the sky. Red sunsets can result from volcanic ash in the air, while dust, fog, and factory smoke can create many beautiful color combinations. Clearly, the look of cities, with new buildings and altered landscapes, is not the only thing that has changed in the modern world; the sky has changed as well. This is exemplified in famous paintings such as Jospeh Mallord William Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway (1844) and Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (1874). These artists were deft at making pollution look beautiful. What was once seen as aesthetically exciting is now — from today’s perspective — a sign of the human destruction of our planet. Modern art emerged at a turning point in the history of the Industrial Revolution — when industry went from being viewed as progress and futuristic development to a movement toward negative health issues and the destruction of nature. In this talk I will take a closer look at Norwegian painter Frits Thaulow's smoke filled cityscapes from Oslo, Paris, and Pittsburgh.

About the speaker

Øystein Sjåstad is associate professor in art history, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo. Sjåstad has published widely on European nineteenth-century painting including the monographs A Theory of the Tache in Nineteenth-Century Painting (2014) and Christian Krohg's Naturalism (2017). He is now working on an exhibition about Frits Thaulow in collaboration with KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes (Bergen). 

About the event series

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 15 minute presentations by invited guests, followed by a discussion. We invite speakers from a wide variety of fields, both academic and beyond. The presentations are accessible and are aimed at anyone with an interest in environmental issues. All are welcome.

Tags: Environmental Humanities, OSEH, HF, IKOS, Art History, Pollution
Published Dec. 7, 2020 12:40 PM - Last modified Jan. 18, 2021 10:54 AM