Art Reviews

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby (1768)


        Enter the Chiaroscuro and the Cangiante! This composition is a zealous example of the passion of light sculpting darkness into intense emotion and colorized expression. Light moves mercilessly out of the darkness to convey the importance of an astonishing discovery. The young adults’ faces are lit with fascination and excitement that has slightly melted into doubt; the children are full of bright confidence and regulated energy pulsated both by fear and obstinate anticipation.

        The confident scientist is like a magician displaying his mystical skill before a restless audience; his stare is a passionate indication that the extraordinary is about to take place. The fate of the bird is uncertain; he can barely be seen between the eerie exchange of light and darkness. The collective exhibit of his audience reactions is kept in a clandestine folder of color and shadow. Phantasmal analogies are running and licking the darkness from the walls in the back of the scenery to create an insensate of foggy imagery and mischievous locutions; a pellucid explanation would vanquish the subject of the curiosity of the obvious. Fate has sealed the deal. Unreadiness and complexity have checkmated determination and choice. The final conflict of light, shadow, and the result is eternally preserved in the imagery of the viewer.

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