02 November 2008

The colours of London weather

An early autumn afternoon on Waterloo bridge, looking upstream -

and downstream -

Now the arty, weathery blast from the past. A famous view by Monet, one of a series he painted from his hotel room, just to the left of those trees beside the boats -

"Where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas-lamps and changing the houses into monstrous shadows? To whom, if not to them and their master, do we owe the lovely silver mists that brood over our river, and turn to faint forms of fading grace curved bridge and swaying barge? The extraordinary change that has taken place in the climate of London during the last ten years is entirely due to this particular school of Art…at present people see fogs, not becuase there are fogs, but because poets and painters havae taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fog for centuries in London, I dare say there were. But no one saaw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist until Art invented them." - Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Living” 1889

This is the classic image of London fog -

all rather "pretty" these days, but a serious problem until the Clean Air Act of 1956 banned coal fires and ended those pea-souper smogs.

Murk came in several types, says Peter Ackroyd in his book "London: A Biography" - a black species described as "simply darkness complete at midday"; bottle green; as yellow as pea soup; and "a rich lurid brown". He didn't mention "fuchsine", as in this view by Monet:

Fuchsine was a synthetic dye used between 1875 and 1925 - it wasn't very lightfast.

3 comments:

Ann said...

I remember London fogs, we lived at Woodside Park on the Northern Line, and had to travel from Hampstead Garden Suburb in the fog, probably in 1948/9 with the passenger door open to see where the curb was! Spooky times!

Ann (Clare)

Margaret, you're on my Google reader now, so I get all your new stuff!

margaret said...

We had those kind of fogs in Vancouver too, in the 1950s -- sawdust burning by the lumber mills was the cause. Going to pick up Mom from work could take 2 hours or more, travelling in convoy along the familiar roads.

Judy Alexander said...

We lived outside of London for a year and loved it. Your pictures remind me of what a great time we had.