The Ocean Seminars

Presented by William Warmus

Autumn 2001

Alfred University, Alfred New York



Detail of glass octopus study model, made circa 1885 by the Blaschkas and in the collection of Cornell University.


Seminar outline


"The visions of the earth were gone and fled--                   

He saw the giant sea above his head."

Keats (Endymion)



Part 1: The Ocean in Art


Poetry of the ocean: Homer, Shelley, Keats, Valery, Eliot, Jeffers

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

The late 19th century "aquarium" style: Jules Verne and Marcel Proust

Blaschka Marine Invertebrates: Scientifically accurate glass models from the 1880s

Emile Gallé: Symbolism in glass and the ocean realm (1900)

Zahr Pritchard and the first paintings made underwater (1905)

The Earliest Movies Beneath the Sea: The Williamsons and Jean Painlevé

John Steinbeck and The Sea of Cortez (1941)



Part 2: We Explore the Ocean


Philip Gosse on the Devonshire Coast (1853)

William Beebe: Beneath Tropic Seas (1920s and 1930s)

Jacques Cousteau and the invention of the Aqualung: The Silent World (1940s to 1950s)

The Classic Era of Undersea Architecture and Design: 1960s and 1970s

Recording the Depths: Blue Water, White Death (video), Corals of the World, the Reef Book  (1970s to present)


For additional ocean material on this web site, click on the jellyfish above.

Part 3: The Ocean as a medium for the artist


What can the artist contribute to the study of the oceans?

The scale of the ocean and the idea of the Oceanic.

Teamwork and professionalism: the study of the ocean suggests an intensive and long term global approach that is at variance with the current methods of the art world. 


Part 4: Art projects and exhibition

The seminars will conclude with an exhibition of student work 

(Object images above in this column are from the Cornell University collection of Blaschka glass Marine Invertebrate teaching models, created in the 1880s. Some images have been digitally corrected)

William Warmus: resume link






Diver installing Rahn Sea Stars off Wakaya Island, Fiji in 1998. Photo: Cat Holloway





Above: Peggy Lucas inside the Tektite Habitat observes diver Sylvia Earle (c.1970). From Exploring The Deep Frontier by Sylvia Earle and Al Giddings





Thaumantias Corynetes. Illustrated in Philip Gosse, A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, 1853. "The following facts may be considered as established. Marine animals and plants may be kept in health in vases of sea-water...provided they be exposed to the influences of light."



Captain Nemo in a 1956 edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  

"Under elegant glass cases, fixed by copper rivets, were classed and labeled the most precious productions of the sea which had ever been presented to the eye of the naturalist." p.61

"Two crystal plates separated us from the sea....What a spectacle! What pen can describe it? Who could paint the effects of the light through those transparent sheets of water....It was no longer luminous water, but liquid light." p.77



Jen Veron's extraordinary 3 volume survey of the corals of the oceans was published in 2000. Coral reefs are the earth's largest creature-made structures, but despite their massive scale, they are as fragile as glass. Veron brings together images of most of the known corals. Paging through these volumes is mesmerizing, as if viewing a vast art exhibition of color field and abstract sculpture.



Jacques Cousteau (enjoying a cigarette) and crew (one smoking a pipe) inside the Starfish House in 1963, 11 meters below the Red Sea off the coast of Sudan. Conshelf Two, as the project was called, was the first "seabottom colony ." Conshelf One, establsihed in 1962 by Cousteau in the Mediterranean near Marseilles, was the first "manned plant" on the ocean floor. The chart on the right of the image above diagrams the three buildings that made up Conshelf Two.



The Blaschka Octopus at Cornell University. Ocean Realm magazine, Summer 2001 (cover photo by William Warmus)



William Warmus, Pat Driscoll, Gray Reef shark 

Near Namena island, Fiji, South Pacific

Depth: 90 feet

Date: January, 2002