Silent designers

This link allows you to watch live recordings from cameras attached to the ISS space station. I keep coming back, primarily because it’s possible and I think it’s pretty crazy. Sometimes I get lucky and see a spectacular sunrise. But most of the time you see clouds clouds clouds clouds in various shapes and constellations. Depending on the weather, they appear from the ground as rain, thunderstorm, cirrus, fair weather and feather clouds. They form fronts and walls, towers and fields, dress with veils, ceilings and ribbons. And there are also benches, which I particularly like, because although we know that it doesn’t work, the thought that you can first walk around on the fluffy structures (or “walk like on clouds”) and then sit down on such a bench is simply too beautiful. And of course the most beautiful thing would be to sit in pairs on the coveted cloud 7.

In painting, clouds have already played many different roles

They all have one thing in common: where they are, they are on top! And above is heaven. According to a long-standing tradition, God lives there with all kinds of other beings, and that’s where you get to if you behave well during your lifetime. For really important inhabitants of the earth there are spectacular ascensions, as countless ceiling paintings in churches show. It’s a good thing that there are clouds on which the many angels can hold on, sit and do gymnastics. Those artists who didn’t have the space for a whole sky (we’ve already talked about the topic of space problems before) were using the minimal variant “cloud with legs”, plus people who look up.

During the Romantic period (very late 18th century to 1848) clouds had their big appearance. Generally, in this short epoch, one turned strongly to landscape representation, because one wanted to illustrate the human soul life in the image of nature. And clouds in their various manifestations could be used for this purpose in many ways.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), painter of German Romanticism par excellence, used clouds specifically for scene and light design. His painting “Coast by Moonlight” (1836) is a real force. One forgets immediately where one actually is, so much one is sucked into this picture. Although it is mentioned in the title and is the only light source of the picture, there is hardly anything to see of the moon. The clouds cover it almost completely, so that only a small shred of it looks out at the center of the upper edge of the picture. What we see of him, however, is the reflection of his light: it makes the surface of the sea shine brightly, lying there calm and smooth. On the horizon, which divides the picture into almost two equally sized halves, she separates this optical silence from the cloud cover above in a luminous strip, which is dramatically moved by countless levels of brightness.

Monk by the Sea

In one of his probably most famous paintings “Monk by the Sea” (1808-10), CDF makes the clouds completely the main protagonists of the painting, leaving almost the entire picture surface to them. The title-giving little monk, who stands on the beach like a small black semicolon with a bright dot/hair, makes the cloud spectacle in the sky appear even more impressive.

Perhaps it is due to the weather there, but the English painters seem to have had a special affinity for clouds. One of them was the Englishman John Constable (1776-1837). He made numerous cloud studies. Rain clouds, storm clouds, fair weather clouds – a whole cloud atlas. For him these pictures were much more than wall decorations, they were science. He spent two whole summers (1821 and 22) observing clouds closely and putting them on paper to learn more about their nature. What happened among them, on Earth, was of no interest to Constable as a pictorial motif.

Even more consistently than CD Friedrich, William Turner (1775-1851) dissolved the boundaries between heaven and earth, sea spray and clouds. If manĀ“s didn’t know better, one could easily think of him as an abstract painter of the 20th century, because many of his paintings contain hardly anything representational. Let’s see what the clouds will bring from the sky to us in the near future. Snowflakes, white skirts, perhaps.