Voyage to Alpine Peaks
Art & Science/ Mountaineering & Tourism/ Environmental Preservation
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a passion for alpine landscapes spread throughout Europe and later into North America. Artists, scientists, and writers introduced the sublime beauty and natural history of these regions, which were once fearfully regarded as the home of demons and dragons.
Artists’ depictions of alpine landscapes helped popularize the revolutionary idea of an Ice Age governed by the movement of glaciers and ice sheets over vast stretches of time. Their work contributed to an expanded vision of the planet’s age and dynamics of formation.
Artworks appeared in scientific publications, travelogues, popular magazines, and exhibitions. A vogue for mountain climbing and tourism to alpine terrain rapidly developed.The integration of the arts and sciences stimulated a closer connection to the natural world. This led to the foundation of organizations such as the Sierra Club (1892) and the movement for environmental preservation.
Artists were commissioned to create mural-size landscape paintings for natural history museums and schools of higher learning. These works helped students and visitors visualize the movement of glaciers, which was key to understanding the process of ice age formation and retreat.
COOL FACT: Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus (1818), which was written after a trip to Mont Blanc’s glaciers, takes place in the Alps (and the Arctic).