Tenth Approach to Rubens ‘Het Steen’, 1636
Paintings change according to the light that falls upon them, in some cases this is merely a matter of it becoming more or less visible. Het Steen perhaps because it is so obviously an internally lit landscape, changes tone completely. The National Gallery lighting system is unsubtle, to put it mildly, but there is diffuse neutral top light. This set up can move the landscape from warm to cold, from fertile and misty to grim and frosty within moments.
Which begs a question, well a series of questions, based around the autonomy of the text. We have a tendency to give agency to figures in art, the Pygmalion complex. If the tone of the view is changing, is that change:
1: Analogous with the state of mind of the viewer in a form of pathetic fallacy, Horses eating themselves. Foul and fair weather etc.
2. Is this scene and its changing weather, independent of human action? The clock maker winds up his clock and walks away, or more likely those mini landscapes within a huge glass bottle that I remember being fashionable in my youth, it was a sealed ecosystem, is this?
3. Solely a matter of subjective over interpretation, changing external light can have no bearing on our approach to the painting; it is fixed and immutable. All this composition of paint can do is decay from the moment that Rubens laid down his brush.