The stroke of midnight holds an enchanting quality for most. Conceivably it is because this time of night has been long influenced by our most beloved fairytales, or perhaps it is the notion of secret moments that take place while so many of us are dreaming in our beds. Many artists too are captivated by the night.
In Edward Hopper’s classic, “Nighthawks”, the contrast of the three customers in the downtown diner with a still and vacant city street outside creates the illusion that these individuals have the entire city to themselves. It belongs to them. In a setting that would otherwise be filled with the daily hustle and bustle, it is a desirable yet dreamlike fantasy that we might ever have it to ourselves.
There is a similar sentiment reflected in Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night”. The still blanket of the night that has covered the street and terrace has transformed their entire mood into one that is intimate and solitary. It has become special for the lone few who are there at this time.
Stephen Wilkes has an incredible photography series that illustrates this magic titled “Day to Night”. His shots depict panoramic views transitioning from day to night. They allow the viewer to actually visualize the transformation. While of course we have all seen a sunset and sunrise, it is an entirely different experience to be able to view both day and night occurring simultaneously. One almost feels as though they are traveling through time while taking in these dramatic transformations.
In 1882, Russian painter Arkhip Kuindzhi completed his oil painting titled “Night on the Dnieper River”. In its intense realism, the scene depicts the stillness and quietness of the night to a degree that makes us so long to be there in its serenity. Moonlight is reflected over the river and quaint homes beside it, with nothing but darkness surrounding them. It should feel dark, bare, and disquieting, yet the warm lights emerging from the windows from a fire, lantern, or candle possess the inviting spirit we associate with the night.
Why all of the excitement? There is a delightful thought process fulfilled when viewing artwork of the night. We feel as though we have glimpsed into a private world; a world that we may never have know as we were meant to be fast asleep.