Night time has been described as the time when reality disappears and imaginings begin. People somehow seem less sane at night, according to Mark Twain. Shakespeare described night as the witching time and the night seems to have been a particularly productive time for many artists, particularly those interested in images of drama, mystery and perhaps even madness.
“If you are trying to image things rather than look at them, to see them with your mind’s eye, then darkness comes into its own, and the night becomes your ally. The dark brought drama to our divine imaginings and made them feel real.” WALDEMAR jANUSZCZAK
Italian artist Ippolito Caffi (1809-1866) seems to have had a particularly intense relationship with the night. His daytime scenes of Venice are superb but it’s his night time scenes that are relevant here, and he is a difficult artist to find any substantial information on.
At an exhibition of his work, held at the Museo Correr in Venice in 2016, (what I would have given to see it) the catalogue describes Caffi as a restless observer of society and a convinced patriot. “Venice was the city that Caffi loved most, whose freedom he fought for and whose spectacular beauty he translated into painting, employing a capacity for synthesis unequaled during the entire nineteenth century.”
His patriotism drove him to become the first painter to record an Italian naval engagement, but his efforts came to nothing. The Re d' Italia, on which he traveled was destroyed on July 20, 1866, by the Austro-Venetian fleet at the Battle of Lissa, drowning him along with his comrades.
Caffi was also a fine chronicler of unusual events. Here is his depiction of a solar eclipse. One wonders how many of these people lost their sight whilst witnessing this event.
There’s a gorgeous serenity in Johann Christian Dahl’s moonlit scenes of Dresden. They take me to another level of consciousness, whereas I suspect a daytime view would not have the same effect. The candle lit rooms across the river and the flares on the river bank contrast beautifully with the cold light of the moon.
Film directors love the paintings of American artist Edward Hopper. There are so many questions being posed here. What is the relationship between the couple on the right? What about the menacing figure of the guy with the powerful shoulders who has his back to us? No one has been able to precisely locate where this scene is, perhaps a deliberate ploy by Hopper to increase the mystery of the scene.
Roxby Downs is located in outback South Australia and this painting was inspired by a photo I saw of a lightning strike in the area, and I was particularly interested in the sheen on the water created by the lightning fork. So I decided to turn the scene into a moonlit night time image, partly because of the challenge it presented and partly to highlight the isolation of the scene. And yet, the cold moonlight perhaps gives the scene a softness and harmony that may not be present during the daytime when you could image the appalling heat during the summer months.