Flaneur’s Gallery: The River of Light

Frederick Edwin Church. El Rio de Luz (The River of Light). 1877. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Frederick Edwin Church. El Rio de Luz (The River of Light). 1877. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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2 Responses to Flaneur’s Gallery: The River of Light

  1. odilean says:

    This painting is breathtaking. I had to look it up to make sure it wasn’t a photograph. You know, I’ve realized how attracted I am to luminosity in paintings. My two favorites, Moreau and Roerich, both use such a brilliant white that the canvas looks illuminated from within. But the experience of the light only happens when you look at the painting in person, never through a photograph. I only came to that conclusion after I walked through the small townhouses of Moreau and Roerich, which they donated to the cities of Paris and New York, respectively. So, how amazing is this Church painting, to beam so brightly at me from the computer screen. I’m putting on my sunglasses right now.

  2. Mark Willis says:

    For many years I’ve turned to oil paintings by Monet and Cézanne to try to explain the optics of my remaining eyesight. Opportunities are limited to stand before such paintings, and in my case, to get close enough to see the canvases makes museum guards nervous. Recently I’ve been thinking about photography, and playing with it on the web, to try to understand how I see what I can still see. Photographs are everywhere, and they can be adapted for my needs in ways that oil paintings cannot. Odilean, your observation about the photographic quality of Church’s painting resonates for me. I remember now that when I saw his monumental painting of Niagara, it appeared photographic in its precise rendering of swiftly moving water. It was the play of light that suggested movement, and it must have been the bright white pigment that you describe.

    The dazzling wash of light in El Rio de Luz resembles what my field of vision looks like most of the time. My particular eye disease results in a surfeit of unabsorbed light streaming through my retinas. Unlike the blind servant in Milton’s famous sonnet, I am not light-denied, but light-drowned.

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