Wednesday, December 2, 2020

First Paintings of Underwater Landscapes

Eugen Ransonnet-Villez (1838-1926) was the first artist to record underwater views from direct observation.


From his specially constructed diving bell, he drew with a soft pencil on green-colored varnished paper. He put his drawings in a tin box to send up to the surface, and he later overpainted them with oil.


According to the Public Domain Review, the submersible measured three feet high by two and a half wide and deep, and was made:
"of sheet iron and inch-thick glass, had the user's legs sticking out of the bottom so that he could propel himself along the seabed at a depth of five meters or so. It was weighed down by cannonballs, and with air pumped in, the diving bell allowed him to descend for sessions of up to three hours."
Thanks, Ron


 

8 comments:

Zoungy said...

This is one of the coolest things you've posted. I had no idea anyone had ever done anything like this

Bill Marshall said...

I want one!

Charlie Sharpe said...

This seems a bit unreal. The air would have of course needed to be compressed, and it seems that the compression would have been lost as it entered the chamber since it wasn't going directly into his lungs. Also, the representation doesn't show air escaping anywhere out of the chamber. It would be nice to hear a diver weigh in on this.

James Gurney said...

Charlie, I have actually tried a diving helmet, and they're pretty simple and work quite well. Someone above with a basic pump pushes air down the tube and it fills the chamber. Fresh air mixes with stale air, and extra air is pushed out out from the bottom. Can't go very deep with them, but they do the job.

N C Freeman said...

The inclusion of what appears to be a human skull in the painting adds an unsettling twist!

debraji said...

There are wonderful descriptions of an early 19th century diving bell in use in the Patrick O'Brian novel, Treason's Harbour.

Mark Martel said...

I do underwater plein air, would that be plein aqua? Right after snorkeling I paint what I can remember, usually the light quality in the water on the coral and sand, or sometimes a fish that grabbed me, uh, caught my attention.

Unknown said...

At 3' x 2.5' x 2.5' that's 18.75 cubic feet of displacement. So it would take 1,162 pounds of weight to sink it in fresh water and a little more in salt water. Thus the sheet iron and cannonballs. Even with 200 pounds of artist and gear you'll still need 960 pounds of ballast.