There’s more beauty and awe to be found in the pioneering German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt’s infographics, and in British painter William Ashcroft’s watercolor series depicting blood red skies over Chelsea in 1883, following the eruption of Krakatoa, in Indonesia. Ashcroft’s compositions are spectacular, conveying a powerful, emotive human response to a natural phenomenon, though they were intended as informative records.
A few items from Pyle’s personal collection are also on view, showing the ongoing mythologization of volcanoes in popular culture. A poster for filmmaker Rossellini’s 1950 Stromboli, starring Ingrid Bergman, decries “Raging Island! Raging Passion!”, approximating the internal fire of the volcano with the paroxysms of love. Next to it is an equally dramatic poster for a film of the same year, Vulcano, directed by William Dieterle and starting Italian actress Anna Magnani.