Russ’s Art Blog: Achenbach – “Caught In A Squall”

I’m in the middle of moving this month to a new house (yay me!), complete with an office (and a door), so these posts are a little spotty.  But I’ll try and keep up with them.

The above work is Andreas Achenbach’s A Fishing Boat Caught In A Squall Off A Jetty (1865, oil on canvas, 38″ x 55″), a piece that caught my attention when I was looking for the last art blog piece.  It’s a very dramatic piece, something I’m always apt to appreciate.

I think this piece grabs me for a few reasons.  First off, the color palette.  With photography, I’m a big fan of sepia tones.  It gives you an older, almost worn look that smacks of age.  I think the sepia palette here definitely works in its favor, giving not only a sense of age but that this was an entirely different era.  You get the sense that Achenbach captured a real moment, a real-life drama played out right in front of the artist.

There’s a strong sense in the work of nature vs. humanity, and it gives it a sharp dramatic sense.  The smooth lines of the man-made structures give way to the randomness of the waves and the sky. Each side seems almost to be taunting the other, and we’re not sure if man will have his dock or if it will all be swept away.

For me, that’s the strongest point of the work.  This isn’t just a wave coming in, or the rising tide.  The water is alive, and is fighting everything in its path. Not just the boat, but the people and maybe even the dock itself don’t seem to stand a chance against the violent waves.

Some of my favorite artists and works offer a glimpse of a different world, or different time.  Some of them make nature seem alive, and in some cases threatening.  I think this piece captures all of that.  Nature is rushing ashore with unstoppable power, and pity anything that stands in its way.


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Russell Dickerson has been a lot of things over many years. Author, artist, designer, winner of awards and recognition, pursuer of the truth, leader of the earth after armageddon.