Wind Turbines at Aachen

Wind Turbines at Aachen. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Traveling across Western Germany recently I was amazed at the number of wind turbines they’ve put up. When I was a kid I remember seeing a farm of them outside of Los Angeles and thinking they were spectacularly ugly. These new ones are much larger, and more spread out, and they’ve started to grow on me. I’m also aware that we probably need to be looking for alternative sources of energy, preferably clean ones.

Often I’ve wondered why we are attracted to beauty. Is there an evolutionary reason for it? Are we biologically hardwired to feel the direction our lives should take based, even if only a little bit, on individual aesthetics? Can there be a collective human aesthetic? And can it change over time? Is it controlled in some way by a rational understanding of the direction we should be taking as a society?

I was thinking about these turbines driving past. I once saw them as blights on the landscape, now I find them fascinating in a way. Is it possible that our sense of beauty can be changed in a subtle way by the rational part of our brains?

And what is the artist’s purpose in this? To reflect society or guide it?

I was back in Holland for a day to pack up the house, so I went over to the German border at Aachen to paint the wind turbines and think about it all.


  1. Marc,
    They are definitely not Dutch windmills. Maybe the Dutch weren’t so adamant about their politics. Maybe there is a connection between function, familiarity, acceptance and aesthetics. You give us something to ponder.

    Whatever the case, you have made them an acceptable motif and have made them appear less intrusive to the environment.

  2. Marc,
    I love the honesty in this. It is an odd thing what we find attractive and inspired to paint. For myself, I have lived in a variety of places over the years and it is the associations I make with certain elements around me whether palm trees in Florida, farm country in New York, or perhaps windmills Aachen in your case that connect with a particular time in my life/experience and people that I loved that drive me to paint this or that.

    It is a very good question and one I think any painter should ponder.



  3. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts lately, on exactly this subject. We have a couple of wind farms down here in southern Western Australia and for a long time I’ve found them to be a distraction rather than an attraction. But a few weeks ago I went to one of them and walked around for a few hours, taking photos from a distance and close up. Suddenly I began to see artistic potential in the giant turbines.

    I sometimes think that new things are just a bit too “perfect”, compared to old things – they feel less “human” somehow. I love rustic.

  4. The turbines situated around Manchester tend to be on the Pennine hills or on flat open areas of farmland. Their installation arouses great controversy in the UK (there again so does any form of development or change – it’s a VERY conservative country).

    I, however, actually find them to be generally quite attractive additions to the landscape. I think the contrast they provide, in terms of colour, form and scale, with the organic elements of the countryside is interesting. I’m sure that once people get used to them there will be further great controversy when it is proposed to remove them (again that resistance to change).

    They are, after all, only temporary features. Technology will soon change and their presence in images will perhaps in future be recognised as a distinctive characteristic of this period in landscape terms (not that many painters seem keen to include such contemporary features in their work).

    Again, impressive work Marc.

  5. probably your changed response to the wind turbines has to do with familiarity. when something completely different enters our familiar world, we naturally react to it with suspicion and dislike. but ugly is ugly, and the first wind turbines you saw were probably raw, chunky, and placed without aesthetics in mind. maybe the new turbines have new contours, and their placements appealed to your aesthetics. in upstate pennsylvania, there is a row of wind turbines on a mountain ridge, and they looked very unappealingly cramp together.

  6. Often wondered the same. I’ve played little head games with me own head by looking at things that are considered ugly but by layering on the most positive associations with them find that I start to find them more attractive. I experience the same when I look at the wind turbines and try to focus on what negatives that they are eliminating and what good they are doing. (MIght take a bit more work to think of them as beautiful).
    Perhaps there is some genetic survival mechanism in there somewhere.

  7. Here in Ontario, Canada we have an on going dispute between the provincial government wanting to put up many wind turbines in the rural areas and the people living in these areas who are dead set against it. I’ve always thought wind turbines as quite beautiful not only in their graceful aesthetics but in that they give me hope about the future and how we have to seriously look to new means of clean, renewable energy. They can put one up in my backyard any day.

    I really enjoy your posts and paintings, keep ’em coming.

  8. I live in Aldenhoven, between Aachen and Cologne. The fields around here were all battlefields in the autumn of 1944. Little villages like Puffendorf, Siersdorf and Merzenhausen were the scenes of horrendous fighting. When I cycled through these fields, at first I felt the turbines were irreverent monstrosities. But then I began to see them as ‘plowshares’ where ‘swords’ had been.

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