Sunday, March 2, 2008

How Far the Sun?

The Sun is far away. Unlike those of a spotlight in a theatre, its rays are parallel.

This is a truth not known, apparently, to Elioth Gruner, who painted this otherwise wonderful evocation of frost on grass (1919) -- Gruner was an Australian, and this painting hangs in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.

Gruner's Sun is just behind the trees; the shadows radiate from there. In fact, sunbeams fan out in different directions from behind the tree. From left to right over the farmhouse, and right to left over the fence behind the cowherd. Optically impossible. (And exactly how does the fence in front of cowherd, which is itself in shadow, cast a shadow?)

The beams recall those that emanate from God in Christian paintings. Here's an example:

Is this the real meaning of Gruner's painting? Holy Spirit behind the tree; Joseph tending his herd; immaculate conception under way within the house?

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