This review appeared in the Times Literary Supplement on 1 October 2010
Volcano: Turner to Warhol, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, until October 31
James Hamilton, Volcano: The Volcano in Western Art, 48pp., Compton Verney, £7.95.
Alwyn Scarth, Vesuvius: A Biography, 342pp. Princeton University Press, $29.95
Three months before this exhibition opened, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, throwing millions of tonnes of volcanic particulates into the earth’s upper atmosphere. “A genius stroke of publicity”, as the show’s curator, James Hamilton, wryly described it, but the week-long eruption proved to be more than merely well-timed, for it served to change the focus of the entire exhibition, transforming it from a richly detailed survey of volcanism in art to a topical reflection on the ungovernability of nature.