If a Sunrise or Sunset Could Speak

“The English landscape painter JMW Turner said his work was not to be understood but ‘to show what such a scene was like’. Now global warming experts are taking advantage of his prosaic nature to improve their predictions of the consequences of climate change. The scientists are analyzing the striking sunsets painted by Turner and dozens of other artists to work out the cooling effects of huge volcanic eruptions. By working out how the climate varied naturally in the past they hope to improve the computer models used to simulate global warming.”

“The team found 181 artists who had painted sunsets between 1500 and 1900. The 554 pictures included works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough and Hogarth. They used a computer to work out the relative amounts of red and green in each picture, along the horizon. Sunlight scattered by airborne particles appears more red than green, so the reddest sunsets indicate the dirtiest skies. The researchers found most pictures with the highest red/green ratios were painted in the three years following a documented eruption. There were 54 of these ‘volcanic sunset’ pictures.
Prof Zerefos said five artists had lived at the right time to paint sunsets before, during and after eruptions. Turner witnessed the effects of three: Tambora in 1815; Babuyan, Philippines in 1831, and Cosiguina, Nicaragua, in 1835. In each case the scientists found a sharp change in the red/green ratio of the sunsets he painted up to three years afterwards.
Writing in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the scientists say the redder sunsets seen in paintings ‘can be tentatively attributed to the volcanic events, and not to abnormalities in the colour degradation due to age, or other random factors affecting each painter’s colour perception’.” The Guardian UK

Turner Sunset c. 1833
Download image source document.

Sunrise Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein
The article inspired me to look through some of my old unscanned slides of sunrises. This one was a sunrise photographed from my balcony in smoggy San Carlos, California. The left portion of the image strongly suggested the shape of the Middle East and Africa to me. I plan to work on the image and develop its theme.
Evocative clouds

Then I began to reflect on various meanings and metaphors of sunrise.

Verily, these servants are turning to Thee, supplicating Thy kingdom of mercy. Verily, they are attracted by Thy holiness and set aglow with the fire of Thy love, seeking confirmation from Thy wondrous kingdom, and hoping for attainment in Thy heavenly realm. Verily, they long for the descent of Thy bestowal, desiring illumination from the Sun of Reality. O Lord! Make them radiant lamps, merciful signs, fruitful trees and shining stars. May they come forth in Thy service and be connected with Thee by the bonds and ties of Thy love, longing for the lights of Thy favor.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Compilations, Baha’i Prayers, p. 111

A cabinet in the great hallway of the Mansion of Bahjí near Akká suggested another sort of sunrise — one in the heart which comes about from inspiration of the creative word. The cabinet contained illuminated pages of Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words. I painted this image from memory. My only photograph of it had been badly damaged in a flood and was unrecoverable.
The Hidden Words - Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

Image Detail. Image detail

My final thought brought me back to this image of my Bahá’í ring. Midway through development I exposed the film to a very short burst of yellow light to produce a solarized (fogged) effect.
Ringstone - Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

The significance of the symbol on my ring is here.

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