Louis Apol on Nova Zembla

19 October 2019–1 March 2020

Exhibition Overview

Image: Louis Apol, An abandoned ship, frozen in ice, 1880, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In 1880, the artist Louis Apol (1850–1936) of The Hague undertook the journey of a lifetime. He joined a team of scientists on an expedition to Nova Zembla, spending four months on board the polar schooner Willem Barents. As a specialist in painting winter landscapes, this trip offered him the ideal opportunity, during a treacherous journey, to study the most remarkable ice formations and desolate, snow-covered landscapes from close by and to depict them.

'Apol draws and sketches everywhere; he won’t even leave his sketchbook behind when we go out hunting.'

The exhibition displays a selection of the 200 pencil drawings, sketches, and watercolours that Apol produced in the course of the trip. In looking through the eyes of this unusual crew member, we ourselves experience the adventurous expedition to Nova Zembla: we gain unique insight into life on board the polar schooner and the artist’s working method, and are introduced to the many remarkable creatures, human beings, and natural phenomena that he encountered during the journey.

The exhibition also reflects on the panoramic painting that Apol created in 1896 on the basis of his Nova Zembla sketches. It was a popular attraction in the Panorama building in Amsterdam for many years, until it suddenly fell off the radar around 1930. What happened to this enormous painting?

Source: Captain’s logbook, Nova Zembla expedition

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