The Crater of Kilauea, Island of Hawaii

The Crater of Kilauea, Island of Hawaii, 1885
Jules Tavernier (1844-1889)
Oil on canvas
BORGM 02088
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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The Crater of Kilauea, Island of Hawaii

On the evening of 21 July 1885, Merton and Annie set out with two local guides to explore the Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. Merton wrote in his autobiography Home and Abroad: An Autobiography of an Octogenarian:

‘We were speechless with awe and wonder at its indescribable terrible sublimity, for there was a surging, rolling, splashing, tossing sea of molten fire of gold in every hue and shade, from the darkest richest colour to a brilliant light yellow’.

This artwork was painted on the spot for Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes. Jules Tavernier was a French painter, illustrator, and an important member of Hawaii’s Volcano School. The Volcano School refers to a group of artists who came to Hawaii to paint dramatic nocturnal scenes of Hawaii’s erupting volcanoes. Two volcanoes on the Island of Hawaii, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, were intermittently active during the 1880s and 1890s, when interest in Volcano School paintings peaked. Getting to Kilauea, the more frequently painted volcano, required an arduous two or three-day roundtrip journey on horseback.

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