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Picturing a World

Paris at Night

On New Year’s Eve, temperatures are going to drop 12° F where I live; I’m staying indoors! But for those of you who attend First Night celebrations or go night-clubbing, just think what a difference artificial light in cities makes in our lives. While I was researching Where the Light Falls, I heard art historian S. Hollis Clayson speak on American painters’ fascination with artificial light in Paris. It alerted me to images of street lamps and lit store windows in paintings like this one by Curran and, more important for the novel, made it clear how lighting contributed to Americans’ sense of safety on Parisian streets. Not that Jeanette can wandering around at night alone, but she and Effie work do not hesitate to go on foot to their friends’ studios or walk home after dark.

In 2013, Prof. Clayson curated an exhibition on the topic at the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute. For its informative website, click here.

To hear a complete hour’s talk by Prof. Clayson’s talk on Paris and artificial light, click here.
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