Gordon M Scott

The Lost Labyrinth

Fine Art

How We See

By gordonmscott, Oct 25 2015 02:25PM

Before electric light there was countless centuries of fires, dim oil lamps and candlelight to welcome us after the sun went down.

For the poor there was the rush light and many more ways of gathering round a glow to banish the dark.

What of artists? Perhaps it was always daylight. Yet the seasonal changes soon shortened the output. Patrons must have been extra weiry of the wait once the Autumn set in.

Yet candles and as many as possible was greatly desired.

Are we to wonder then at the beautiful soft glow to fleshy portraits and figure groups. Painters like Shalken, George De La Tour and many others, revelled in the candle in the hands of their sitters. These works are exquisite.

It may be hard to quantify the indelible impact on the human psyche of the half-light of evening and nightime. Without lumination one might as well go to bed after sundown. The rythmn of life back then was different. This may well have meant that life experience was a subtler affair, and sensitivity to light and its varying qualities the general rule with everyone.

The intimacy of partnerships attained ethereal atmosphere. The slightest blemish invisible; the sagging figure barely seen.

In Nature for artists, landscape may have looked softer and the glow of light attained such magnificence because of eyesight attenuated by candlelight.

Switch now first to gaslamps and then the electric light and within some few years candles are forgotten. A way of life that had been relatively unchanged for very many long centuries was gone forever.

Can we be surprised at the contemporary appearance of art now and back through the last hundred or so years. Our way of seeing became crisper, harsh even. Portraiture today tends to show sitters white and pale, almost bleached in its clarity of realism. Seen in a new light, literally. The kind of light one might see in an operating theatre, specimens under the spotlight for us to marvel at.

The gloomy evening in the studio still annoys artists and it seems ironic searching for lightbulbs with rectified balanced blends of light that mimic sunlight.

Are we to wonder then that there may be a rise in a nameless yearning for mystery. Things barely seen, things implied; the half-light again; atmospheric and full of fantasy. Too much artificial light is not good for us. There is much research on this matter and even truly dark skies are the holy grail for astronomers. What artist would not love a large cavernous studio with two metre high windows in the north wall and windows in the roof?

They used to speak of Sunlight for Work; Candlight for Worship and for those that worship at an easel, there is much to explore in a newly enriched creativity.

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