Two hundred years ago there was less artificial light generated and most homes were candle-lit, with oil lamps providing more intense light when required. These lighting methods, along with coal fires created a dirty atmosphere which quickly discoloured and obscured paintings. Generally street lighting was absent and the moon was valued as a light source at night.
The effect on art and artists was considerable. Gainsborough, even when the outside light was good, reportedly preferred to paint by candlelight. Unless an artist could afford a studio with an ideal north light, they made the best of the arrangements they had.
Constable was one of the first to take to the open air for more than a quick sketch and Crome is recorded as painting outdoors.
Crome and Constable were both masters of the effects achieved by painting in light and shade – as were the 17th Century Dutch artists who influenced them. Also from Holland came the vogue for moonlit paintings, East Anglia was the ideal location with the moon reflecting off the water when looking East.
Today we tend to overlight objects, there should be a degree of mystery about the things we live with, and modern LED lighting has compounded this trait. Historic houses use a more gentle perimeter illumination, with wall lights and table lamps. To these can be added well placed picture lights and the overall effect will be far more restful then a single strong centre light.
Paintings will respond well and the contrast between the light and dark areas of paint will give a great atmospheric effect.
“Chiaroscuro”, (From Italian: chiaro, “light” and scuro, “dark”) Technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three dimensional objects.
On the evening of Friday November 15th an illustrated talk will be given by Mr John Day, a specialist and historian in the Norwich School and suffolk artists to mark the opening of an Exhibition devoted to East Anglian antiques, including furniture, clocks and pictures. The Exhibition will start with a preview day on 16th November between 10am and 3.30pm.