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Q & A: Special light in Cape Ann?

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Most recent answer: 05/10/2011
Q:
Art historians and artists continually refer to the special quality of "light" on Cape Ann accounting for its attraction to artists. The region is known for its two major art colonies, Rocky Neck in Gloucester and the Rockport Art Colony, but great numbers of artists from elsewhere came to Cape Ann in the summers to paint, including, but not limited to American Impressionists (Duveneck and his Cincinnati colleagues, John Sloan and Stuart Davis at the Red Cottage; William Morris Hunt at Magnolia, Child Hassam, etc. etc.). I think it's bunk. Obviously, any place surrounded by water is going to have light reflecting off the water, which is especially fairly important to impressionists using a broken color technique. But a "special" quality? Is the light on Cape Ann any different from the light on Maui, Monhegan, or anyplace else surrounded by water?
- Larry Vincent (age 59)
Manchester, MA USA
A:
Hey Larry- That's a great question, to which I don't really know the answer. But here's some thoughts. The power of suggestion is enormous. People are absolutely convinced that they prefer their own brand of soda, even after blind taste tests show they actually like a cheap store brand better. Just reading the start of your question, I was eager to go to the wonderful Cape Ann. So it's very plausible to say that the high-tone set have formed a pleasant collective delusion about how special their place is.

On the other hand, the color of the sky does depend some on what sorts of particles (dust, little water droplets,...) are around. There's nothing physically impossible about having the typical lighting at one place differ from that at another. It's to be expected.  Lots of us have the feeling that Tuscan light is special, although then we often feel that the light somewhere else is just like Tuscany at times. How much of this is self-delusion?

Maybe some more knowledgeable readers will help us find out.

Mike W.

(published on 05/10/2011)

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