chapter  5
17 Pages

Aesthetics and economics of daylight

In the year 2000 the art historian T. J. Clark spent six months at the Getty Research Institute and Museum in Los Angeles. During those months he spent many, many hours studying just two paintings by the French seventeenthcentury painter Nicolas Poussin. He returned day after day to the gallery to look closely and carefully at details of form, brush stroke, composition, colour, etc. The accumulation of these observations constitutes the basis of The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing (2006). Very early on in his account he records his response to the gallery’s lighting conditions:

The light in the small room was extraordinarily beautiful – most often unmixed daylight coming through a louvered ceiling. (Readers not familiar with the climate of Los Angeles basin should think away the cliché of unvarying surfside glare. The Getty is perched on a hill at the edge of that part of the city where the Pacific is dominant, bringing daily fogs and high hazes and morning glooms and sudden, improbable glittering afternoons.) There would never be a better opportunity to look at a Poussin time after time and think about what it had to offer.