Verdex
Verdex
30 October 2022, 09:22

Playing with Light: Three Paintings by Joseph Wright

Playing with Light: Three Paintings by Joseph Wright
The ability of artists to convey bright light on canvas with the help of paints is surprising. The 18th-century British painter Joseph Wright experimented repeatedly, demonstrating his ability to depict lighting effects. Let's dwell on a few pictures, their main characters are researchers who comprehend the secrets of the universe.
The first work is called The Philosopher by Lamplight (1769). The central figure is an old thinker examining human bones by the light of a lamp. Bones can symbolize the transience of human existence, since the old man is clearly not engaged in a serious study of anatomy, but rather reflects on life and death. There are two sources of light here: the moon breaks through the clouds in the distance, and the lamp illuminates the cave. On the wall you can see the shadow cast by the figure of the philosopher.
A stronger contrast between darkness and light can be seen in the next painting entitled "Philosopher Explaining the Model of the Solar System" (1766). Unlike other works, here the light source is hidden behind human figures and invisible to the viewer. The picture aroused public interest, since earlier such scenes were associated with religious themes. Now, the delight of the characters is not a miracle, but science. The play of light and shadow makes the image more voluminous and alive.
In the third picture, the contents of the vessel not only dispel the darkness, it almost blinds. The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus (1771) is a scene with an alchemist who, as the title expands, tries to discover the Philosopher's Stone, only to discover a different substance instead. Here we see references to religious themes: a kneeling researcher is in his office, which is similar to a church building - Gothic arches and high windows give such a resemblance. And again, the play of light and shadow, but not in the center of the composition, but behind the old alchemist, where a small tongue of flame illuminates two young faces.

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