ART! - The Art of Catastrophe

We’re all aware of famous renditions of natural disasters and human catastrophes in the works of several famed and celebrated artists. In fact, it would seem that periods of civil unrest have always had a tendency to lead to great works of art. One theory is that because art tends to reflect, amplify, or (in some cases) dictate what goes on in society it is only natural that these occurrences would appear in the artwork of the period. Here are some possibly overly famous examples (hyperbolized as they may be) of artists who have one way or another painted catastrophes.

Goya, who you probably should know, looked upon the horrors of the Bourbon reign Spain and painted his classic painting el 3 de Mayo. The painting is as politically motivated as anything else this master painted, but it goes a long way into describing the human cost of catastrophe, albeit political and not natural.


Any Art History student will quickly point out the obvious connection of the central figure to Christ crucified. There’s also the innocent white shirt he’s wearing and they way he stands in front of the other villagers in defiance, as if to beg the question "why are the innocents being murdered?" The French army stands in formation like a machine, bunched together as if they are on force, one nation, one idea. There is no individual here, but an act of violence by one people on another, innocent and unarmed people (represented by one crucial figure).

Picasso is another artist who points out the absolute catastrophe of war. His painting, Guernica, like Goya’s points out what seems to be the senselessness of human massacre. He includes all types of human made objects,a broken statue, an exploding lightbulb (a play on words, for "bombilla" in Spanish means lightbulb) and contrasts them with the pain that the natural objects (ie. people/horse) seem to be feeling.


In this painting things are out of order, the world has gone mad and catastrophe abounds.

This majestic work, The Polar Sea [Caspar David Friedrich] (dating from 1823-4) features in an exhibition that has just moved from Berlin to Hamburg, where it hangs opposite one of Friedrich’s grandest canvases, the depiction of the vast snow-capped mountain, The Watzmann. The iceberg painting shows nature rejecting man’s intrusion - the ship having been destroyed by the immense force that has pushed the blocks of ice upwards into a striking pyramidal composition. The mountain, another pyramid, seems to lie beyond human intervention. The large canvas is quite without signs of human or other animal life. [link]

This ART DAY! is obviously partially focused on disasters. I was inspired by the foto av dagen that was posted on green.mnp and that is featured below. The point of this ART DAY! is not to depress you, but rather to force you to think critically thabout how artists depict things that are going on around them that they love, hate, and are awed by.AA Keep these paintings in mind as you maneuver through today’s features.


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Posted: November 9th, 2007
at 12:00pm by Black Ock

Categories: art,art fridays

Comments: 1 comment


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  1. […] -the myninjaplease mainsite brings us another solid installment of ‘Art Day’, featuring art depicting natural disasters/catastrophes [interesting stuff] – amongst other ridiculousness to help you procrastinate all day. […]



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