Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Willa Cather on light and shade

The sky for the past few days has been grey or white. This morning it’s blue, with sharp low sun, as if a desk lamp were shining on the streets. The only grey and white today are faint clouds on the horizon, the prairie version of mountains. Out on a walk, I thought of Willa Cather:

Nobody can paint the sun, or sunlight. He can only paint the tricks that shadows play with it, or what it does to forms. He cannot even paint those relations of light and shade — he can only paint some emotion they give him, some man-made arrangement of them that happens to give him personal delight — a conception of clouds over distant mesas (or over the towers of St. Sulpice) that makes one nerve in him thrill and tremble. At bottom all he can give you is the thrill of his own poor little nerve — the projection in paint of a fleeting pleasure in a certain combination of form and colour, as temporary and almost as physical as a taste on the tongue.

“Light on Adobe Walls,” in Willa Cather on Writing: Critical Studies of Writing as an Art . 1920. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988. First published 1920.
Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)

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