October 18, 2017
Julian Alden Weir, In the Sun, 1899, oil on canvas, 34 x 26 15/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
On this day in the year 320, the Greek philosopher Pappus of Alexandria observed an eclipse of the sun. Earlier this year, millions of people witnessed the same astronomical spectacle as the moon passed in front of the sun, temporarily casting a dramatic shadow on the Earth. In those few moments, many people became aware of something that is often taken for granted, the presence and power of the sun in our daily lives.
In this sparkling outdoor painting of the artist’s daughter Dorothy, J. Alden Weir does not take the sun for granted—he celebrates it. In an impressionistic exploration of the effect of light and atmosphere on form, the flower in Dorothy’s hand, along with her white dress and the white blanket on which she is seated, is absorbed by the brilliant sunlight. As the title suggests, Weir did not consider this a portrait—Dorothy’s head is bowed and her features are further obscured by the artist’s brushstrokes—but rather a meditation on the beauty of sunlight unrestrained.