Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art: 1775-2012

  • Lawren Harris, Isolation Peak, Rocky Mountains, 1930.

    Courtesy Whatcom Museum
  • Rockwell Kent, Resurrection Bay, Alaska.

    Courtesy Whatcom Museum

Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012
Barbara C. Matilsky,
144 pages, paperback:
Whatcom Museum, 2013

When intrepid artists first ventured to the poles two centuries ago, they returned with paintings and sketches that made the region's otherworldly starkness seem elegant and timeless. More recently, artists portray a landscape that is running out of time – melting, cracking and crumbling as climate change rearranges its icy geography.

Barbara C. Matilsky's Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012 shares 75 carefully curated images of sea ice and polar and alpine glaciers through history, highlighting how the features have changed and even vanished in places. A timeline illustrates the parallel transformation of these frozen landscapes and the art that depicts them, evoking enchantment that gradually shifts to alarm as it becomes clear that a place once described as "a far-off dream from another world" may eventually survive only in the images we've created. An accompanying exhibit at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., where Matilsky is curator, is open through March 16, 2014.

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