Total Eclipse of the ART

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According to National Geographic, on May 20th, an annular solar eclipse occurred in the skies of Asia and the US West. An annular solar eclipse is like a total eclipse in that the moon passes between the sun and Earth. Unlike a total eclipse, the diameter of the moon is smaller than that of the visible sun, creating a “ring of fire” around the edges of the eclipse. “Annular” refers to this “annulus,” or ring-like figure.

Rockwell Kent (American, 1882–1971).
Twilight of Man, 1926.
Wood engraving on paper.

One of our new installations, Rockwell Kent’s wood engraving on paper Twilight of Man, 1926, is based on a 1922 watercolor depicting an eclipse.  In ancient times, eclipses were attributed to supernatural phenomena, leading people to believe they were bad omens. Though the composition in our collection is reinterpreted here as a nightfall, the symbolism is not lessened, but strengthened, as the sun has “set” on man and civilization. Apocalyptic symbols such as the temple ruins, desolate landscape, and fallen figure in this engraving allude to this.

Much of Kent’s work had strong symbolic connotations. A solitary human figure, for example, may represent deep metaphysical concepts, such as man’s place within the universe. As Kent said,
“I believe in Man as the supreme consciousness; and in the arts as the supreme expression of his spirit.”

This print will be on view in the first floor Gallery of the Art of the Western World through June.

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If you missed the annular eclipse, fear not! June 5th and 6th has an even more unusual eclipse taking place as the planet Venus will pass between the Earth and the sun. Observers in North America will be able to view the eclipse at sunset on June 5th. During this event, Venus will travel as a small, dark dot across the solar disk. This will be the LAST transit of Venus of this century, the next one projected for December 11, 2117…so let’s not miss it!