Art for art’s sake, and for science’s; “Crimson Sunset” by J.M.W. Turner
Art is important for many reasons. It has proven therapeutic applications, provides an endless source of inspiration and conversation-starters, and, as a team of Greek and German researchers have recently discovered, can be used as a scientifically sound research method.
Lead by Christos Zerefos, professor of atmospheric physics at the Academy of Athens, a team of researchers studied hundreds of sunset paintings made between the years 1500 and 2000, searching for evidence of the effects of volcanic eruptions on past air quality. For up to three years following a major eruption, airborne volcanic ash scatters a greater amount of sunlight and causes sunsets to appear a more vivid red.
By comparing confirmed data with the paintings of trained eyes such as J.M.W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, and Edgar Degas, the team was able to conclude that not only was their hypothesis correct, but also that visual art is a suitable stand-in when scientific measurements aren’t available.
Find the full study, Further evidence of important environmental information content in
red-to-green ratios as depicted in paintings by great masters, as published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, here