The play between light and shadow has historically been one of the essences of good art in the West. Pliny’s story of the origin of art involves light and shadow: the maid of Corinth traces her lover’s shadow on a wall and thereby giving birth to painting. Leonardo Da Vinci ‘s revolutionary use of blended light and shade to model three-dimensional objects in painting gave rise to the term sfumato, meaning ‘seen as if through smoke’. Since the Renaissance shadow was used not only to give a sense of space and volume but was also used symbolically. Light and shadow in art are imbued with significance beyond their visual actuality.
Light and Shade presents British artists and designers who have masterfully harnessed the effects of light and shadow in their work. In romantic landscapes the tension between the deep shadows and areas of luminosity suggests a spiritual presence in nature. To late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists a truthful employment of light and shadow was important in achieving a new naturalism. In portraiture light is often used to animate the sitter and in painting, as in literature, light itself can be a metaphor for the soul or subjectivity.
This exhibition comprises of 80 works including paintings, sculpture, prints and decorative arts, displayed across the two main floors of the gallery.