15 August 2012

Landslides in Art Part 14: A Victorian railway painting

Posted by Dave Petley

The previous edition of Landslides in Art Part 13 is here – this is an occasional series of images depicting the ways in which landslides appear in art works.

In this edition I have chosen to feature a colour lithograph dating from 1852 or 1853:

The image, for which I do not have the author, is entitled “South Devon Railway: Landslip near the Parson and Clerk Rock, Dec. 29th 1852”.  The image appears to show a significant landslide on a coastal cliff in South Devon on the UK.  The failure appears to consist primarily of large boulders, and the form of the scarp suggests perhaps a collapse defined by an existing defect, such as a sub-vertical joint.

The South Devon Railway is not the same as the tourist line that now carries the same name.  This was the line between Exeter and Plymouth and Torquay in southern England, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  The line was opened in stages in the period from 1846 to 1849.  It remains in use today.  Thus the collapse appears to have occurred only a few years after construction, with the trigger being a large storm according to newspaper reports of the time.  Think this is the site as it is today, based on a Google Earth perspective view.  What appears to be the scar of the landslide in 1852 is still visible: