Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861. Image and original data provided by the Dallas Museum of Art

The search for the Northwest passage, an arctic maritime route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, drove European exploration of the North for hundreds of years. The search was exceedingly treacherous–pack ice, the floating ice covering the sea, made arctic waters impassable throughout most of the year and explorers perished in harsh conditions–but the danger and beauty of the unknown North enchanted an adventure-hungry public. Artists were similarly enamored, creating resplendent paintings that represented a sublime view of an Arctic that has gradually crumbled (or more accurately, melted) over the past century as global warming wreaks havoc on the icy seas.