Even before photography, astronomy yielded beautiful images. At the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, I popped into the library to see the universe. The exhibition is titled Radiant Beauty: E.L. Trouvelot’s Astronomical Drawings. They were published in 1881 and 1882.
The title is from Trouvelot’s own words: “No human skill can reproduce upon paper the majestic beauty and radiance of the celestial objects.”
“Mare Humorum,” above, shows the surface of the moon, both in sunlight and the darkness of the lunar night.
Trouvelot was a self-taught astronomer. He immigrated from France to Massachusetts as a young man and established a silk-producing farm. He made astronomical drawings, often in pastel, with the aid of telescopes at Harvard and the U.S. Naval Observatory, the latter the world’s largest telescope at twenty-six inches.
He travelled to see total eclipses of the sun, one in Wyoming Territory (shown above, with solar storms), and another in the South Pacific.
There is a lunar eclipse this week! This is one drawn by Trouvelot.
I love his drawing of Jupiter, above. Two white moons on the left cast shadows, one on the Great Red Spot.
These are from a published set of fifteen lithographs of his drawings. The Huntington displayed their complete set. There’s a reason it is very rare, and that’s only one thing covered in the following four-minute video, also available on YouTube:
Click here to see all fifteen lithographs in the set.
That’s the New York Public Library website. Click on each image to enlarge.
The lunar eclipse is July 27-28, 2018. Tell us about it, if you like.
I travelled halfway across the country to see the Great American Eclipse of 2017. It was amazing! I wrote a description of what I saw and heard on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PastAndPresentWithPamela/
6 thoughts on “The Heavenly Scientific Art of Astronomer E. L. Trouvelot”
Pamela: So glad you “popped into the library to see the universe.” I’ve always viewed artists as being creative, imaginative, a tad fanciful. How refreshing to learn about an artist who booked time at prestigious astronomical observatories to record heavenly bodies long before photography provided much faster but not as intriguing pictures. You do find the most extraordinary shows.
Actually, Harvard Observatory hired him. I “popped in” to see this as an afterthought—I had gone to see the lotuses in bloom. Glad I popped in!
Thanks for posting this. I’m sorry I missed it at the Huntington.
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