About a painting and arctic expedition

Yesterday, the Louvre just gave me a new wildnart topic.
I was wandering in XIX’s century painting department of the Louvre, when I saw this marvelous painting of an aurora borealis.

The XIX’s century painting is known to have concede a higher place to landscape as painting subjects, with famous names like Whistler, Turner, Friedrich, Monet or Corot.
Painters where discovering new regions, and choosing interesting points of views like the top of a cliff, weather charms like blizzard to innovate in this field.

What I did not know, is that some painters actually went in an actual expedition in the Arctic.

In 1839, French painter François Biard (1798-1882) went on a scientific expedition in the Arctic. At his return he made many landscape paintings and drawings. This Painting called, Magdalena-Bay, View from the Peninsula of the Tombs, Northern Spitsbergen, Aurora Borealis, was introduced at a Salon in 1841 and acclaimed.


Why is this worth being noted?

Arctic expedition were extremely dangerous and tough at the time. Forget technological clothing, energy bars and other innovative material. Engineers were barely   working out a ship that would resist the pression of icebergs. Floe is continually breaking. Temperature are extremely low and the blizzard very strong. Our civilization had few exchanges with the Eskimos, who survived for centuries in this landscape.

Here is a detail of the painting, where a man is freezing siting, covered by snow, watching his fellows lying down dead in the snow, and almost covered by it.
Behind them, pieces of a wreck are floating between iceberg. There were always many losses during those expeditions.

In the rooms of the Louvre there is a testimony of painters bravery to seek new subjects, new images for their art. If many artists break social codes, others defy nature and confort. It is a beautiful image of the human drama of these expeditions among this scenic and great landscape. Maybe it is the illustration of human sacrifice for the exploration of new summits, new lands whether there are deep in the water or at the top of a mountain. Or maybe, it shows our own limits against the greatness of nature.