In June 2018, 164 years after Ruskin created the iconic ‘Mer de Glace’ daguerreotype, Emma Stibbon RA captured the same view using another early photographic process, cyanotype. Stibbon’s image documents the extent of glacier retreat, demonstrating the impact of human activity on the glaciated landscape. Her works on paper dramatise the effects of human intervention and natural phenomena on monumental structures, exploring the fragility of existence.
A cyanotype is a photographic process that involves applying a chemical process to a receptive surface such as paper or cloth. This can then be exposed to the sun, and a contact print develops. As the name implies, cyanotypes are usually blueprints, although bleach and toner can be applied to change this.
Stibbon writes, ‘Ruskin’s recognition that he was living through a time of unprecedented climate change now appears like a premonition of what was to come. His fascination with glacier morphology informed his writing and drawing in equal measure. Ruskin’s appreciated the tactile qualities of drawing, and the ‘unfinished’ quality of many of his drawings, where the margins of the sheet are left unworked and open, speaks to contemporary approaches in drawing practice.’
The cyanotype was produced for Ruskin, Turner and the Storm Cloud, an exhibition and publication marking Ruskin’s 200th birthday. The exhibition explored Ruskin's response to Turner's vision, together with his own experience of close looking at weather patterns, mountains and the built environment.
Emma Stibbon is an artist who works primarily on paper. Drawing is at the heart of Emma’s practice and she has travelled widely, recording her responses to the physical appearance and psychological impact of natural and built environments. Emma was elected Royal Academician in 2013.