The sub-genre nocturnal pictures, including both paintings and photography, refers to night-time scenes. They CAN be very calming and relaxing to do and to look at. But also they MIGHT NOT!!!
Personally, I absolutely love nocturnal pictures. I have created a good few night-time paintings and photos myself already. In this blog post I am showcasing a nocturnal picture by a fellow artist:
Featuring: still 1
by Mary McIntyre, 2006
I came across Mary McIntyre and the above picture, a street corner at night, a few years ago looking through an art book by R. O’Byrne on present artists and photographers in Ireland (Dictionary of Living Irish Artists, Dublin 2010).
The first time I set eyes on this nocturnal picture, I thought it was a painting. When I read it was a photo I couldn’t believe it. I even was a bit disappointed. (Because it was “only” a photo! Right?) A mistake? No! Sometimes photos simply look like paintings whether they are on a canvas or not. And vice versa lots of paintings look like photos, too!! Like in Photo-Realism!
But I sooooo liked Mary McIntyre’s picture, painting or not. It exudes a sort of late night mystery: Where is the light coming from? At first I simply assumed it was coming from a street light. However, there is no street light!!! But there MUST be something as it is a photo. Right? And photos are always right! Because they are realistic! Right?
And it is such a still scene, with really friendly, warm and cosy colours. The still before the storm?
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Mary McIntyre’s photo reminds me somewhat of another nocturnal picture. It is Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, painted in 1941 or 1942.
Here you find a night-time bar with a few people inside. The inside light is spilling out onto the street corner through very big windows and brightens the area a bit. In short: It is a dimly lit, deserted street corner by night just like in Mary McIntyre’s photo.
I know Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks from a book by José M. Parramon (Effects and Tricks – Painting Nightscapes with Artificial Light, Barcelona 2000, p.6). On the same page Parramon quotes the famous French poet Baudelaire (1821-1867) on the subject of nocturnal painting:
“It was not in vain that Baudelaire said the following in a poem called Windows in his collection Spleen of Paris: ‘There is nothing more profound, more mysterious, more fruitful, more shadowed, more shining than an illuminated window … What I was able to see under the sun is always less interesting …’.”
According to this, nocturnal pictures are more interesting because you cannot see things clearly. Lots of things are hidden. This makes the pictures more mysterious. I can agree with that.
Regarding Mary McIntyre’s picture, I – again! – simply assumed it showed a street corner in a city like in Hopper’s painting. Why? It could be in a village in the country. That’s what the brain does. It just jumps to conclusion. But really, you never know until you really know, do you?
Both pictures, by Mary McIntyre and Edward Hopper, somehow transpire mysteriousness. I prefer Mary McIntyre’s. I just find it fascinating.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) and
Caspar D. Friedrich (1774-1840)
According to R. O’Byrne in the Dictionary of Living Irish Artists, Mary McIntyre is into Alfred Hitchcock, the famous thriller and psycho film producer. Think of Dial M for Murder with Grace Kelly or The Birds with Tippi Hedren. Mary McIntyre is also inspired by Caspar David Friedrich, an artist who painted deserted places in the mountains or at the seaside.
If this information does not get your imagination going regarding Mary McIntyre’s photo still 1, then I don’t know what would. But, if YOU are easily scared, maybe you shouldn’t look at it for too long. Some little or not so little GHOSTS might jump out of it and before you know it …
… SOMETHING is observing YOU!!! – You never know, do you?
More about night-time mystery in my blog post Moonlight Mystery: