For years, tourists have trekked across cracked rock at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano to witness the awe-inspiring sight of creeping lava and its devastating effects on the landscape. In 2010, Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland, stranding travellers as a cloud of ash covered western and northern Europe, causing the largest disruption of air travel since the Second World War. And just a few months later, Mount Merapi blew in Indonesia, killing over 350 people and displacing over 350,000 others, awakening people once more to the dangerous potential of these sleeping giants.
Though today largely dormant, volcanoes continue to erupt across the world, reminding us of their sheer physical power. In Volcano, James Hamilton explores the cultural history generated by the violence and terrifying beauty of volcanoes. He describes the reverberations of early eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna in Greek and Roman myth. Volcanoes have long been subjects in art – the earliest known wall painting of an erupting volcano was painted in 6200 BCE – and Hamilton shows that volcanoes continue to influence the artistic imagination, as seen, for example, in the distinctive colours of Andy Warhol and Michael Sandle's exploding mountains.
Including works by famous artists, such as Salvator Rosa, Wright of Derby, Hokusai and Hiroshige, as well as previously little-known paintings, prints, drawings and photographs, this richly illustrated book will appeal to anyone interested in the science as well as the artistic impact of these spectacular natural phenomena.
"An arresting collage of mythology, philosophy, literature and spectacular works of visual art inspired by nature's most exuberant phenomenon--Hamilton's unique and imaginative miscellany and cultural geography of volcanoes and volcanology is a veritable treasure trove."
- Clive Oppenheimer, volcanologist and author of Eruptions That Shook the World
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James Hamilton is an art historian and curator. His books include Turner – A Life (1997), Turner and the Scientists (1998), Faraday – The Life (2002) and London Lights – The Minds that Moved the City that Shook the World 1805-51 (2007). He is University Curator and Honorary Reader at the University of Birmingham.