Sometimes the sun is a round ball in the sky, shining weakly, pale against a smokey sky. Other times it’s too bright to look at, blindingly bright, at which times you can’t see it as a round ball as your retina is blasted out by the photons of luminousity. TIP : don’t stare at the sun, but keep it just out of vision by keeping it hidden behind the brim of your hat.
Plein-Air Paintings of the Sun by Monet, Turner & Levitan
Claude Monet ‘Impression Sunrise’ 1873 48 x 63 cm – Musee Marmottan, Paris (photo :Wiki Commons)
Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise
WebExhibits.org Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise has a rather natty little button where you can strip the colour (hue in PS) out of the entire painting (note that the green tints in Monet’s orginal painting have already been stripped out on the repro at WebExhibts) & another button where you can diminsh the tonality of only the sun & not the sky. (select colour >levels in PS).
“The sun is set against the dawn, the orange color against the gray and the vibrant force of the sun against its motionless surroundings. To many spectators, the sun undulates or pulsates slightly. Why is this so? The sun is nearly the same luminance as the grayish clouds. Notice how the sun nearly disappears if you remove the color. (Click painting to reset.) This lack of contrast explains the painting’s eerie quality. “
Adam says : OK that’s true but this sensation is heightened by the fact that red is the one colour that really ‘disappears’ when you strip the chroma out of it. Red is tonally ‘weak’, somewhere around a lowish mid-tone. Vagrant, the tonal value red is difficult to judge as the fire’ in it’s chroma is so vibrant. Try the above exercise with a yellow sun & it’s less startling. Anyone tried it with a green sun? 😉
JMW Turner – The Scarlet Sunset
The Scarlet Sunset circa 1830-40 Watercolour and gouache on paper 134 x 189 mm The Turner Collection. Tate Britain
Here’s the above painting desaturated in Photoshop via greycale (does anyone know why this should give a different result than desaturation via contrast (diminished to zero)?). The sun doesn’t disappear into the sky. This makes sense as yellow suns happen before red suns in a sun set & thus are higher in the sky & brighter than red suns … Maybe Turner’s yellow sun on red sky is an impossibilty, a construct of the Master of Spectacular Metrology? But then the sky is sometimes so spectacular that I have difficulty beleiving it myself, and don’t expect anybody looking at a painting to belive it either Actaully there’s fault here: most peple haven’t spent as much ime observing the skies as I have… this tends to be a countryside things, and most people live in urban settings, where the sky is difficult to see well & unobstructed. Another example of the human race becoming removed from the non human natural enviroment..
Or , more simply, Turner found a source of very good & very opaque cadmium yellow gouache whilst on the Continent & wanted to use it to fullest effect? 😉
An example of paint what you want & not what you see?
Issak Levitan – Haystacks. Twilight.
1899. Oil on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
There’s another Levitan sunset which I can’t find on the web. It’s a weak red sun against a steely blue sky over a marsh. I don’t trust the colour repro in the above photo but I like the how the sun is just about to sink below the the bar of stratus clouds & hence is just about to loose it’s perfect roundness.
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