The white coats in dark corners say that light travels at 186,000 miles per second, even faster in new money probably, and the light takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach earth from the sun, and when it arrives it comes to Corfu first I reckon; we have dibs on the fresh stuff before anyone’s had a chance to fiddle with it.
It’s just the kind of light that usually attracts those who enjoy beach holidays, but you don’t have to be red and prostrate to appreciate it, as the artists who arrive in Corfu have discovered.
Edward Lear lived in Corfu for many years during the 19th century, known for his nonsensepoem ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and for the illustrations which accompanied Tennyson’s work, he was enchanted by Corfu, exclaiming in a letter ‘I wish I could give you any idea of the beauty of this island – it really is a paradise. I have not drawn very much because I have been looking at it so often.’
John Singer Sargent was considered the leading portrait painter of his generation during the Fin de Siécle period, but at the height of his fame he gave it up for the tranquil life of a landscape artist and produced much of this work in Corfu.
There’s good reasons the artists come here, and light quality’s among them, appreciated by painters and photographers alike. The word photography literally means ‘writing with light’, and the light’s good because there’s no pollution to speak of, though I was stuck behind an old Fiat once and all I saw was pollution, luckily most of it was inside the car, but that’s another blog perhaps.
The winter rain and abundance of foliage is another reason for good light as it means there’s very little dust, and together they account for the good light and clear and vibrant colours. Who’d have thought that ‘Greece’ and ‘minimal pollution’ would ever appear on the same page?
Humidity isn’t always good for the artist, it gets in the bones and there’s nothing worse than artists elbow, except perhaps a downpour in the middle of a water colour, but the humidity level is cyclic here and typically a couple of days of strong, cool and exceptionally dry days are usually followed by several days of calm with gradually increasing levels of humidity and so it goes. If you’re here for a week or more you’ll experience the gamut.
The good news is you probably won’t have to come as far as the sunlight, the downside is it might take you longer than 8 minutes to get here, but hey, we’ll save some photons just for you.