Art: An Analytical Stillness

A candle flame, streaming upward from its stubby pillar of wax, was one of the favorite images in 17th century European art. Vulnerable to a breath, shedding its modest light and resolving the threats of darkness into rational form, it became a metaphor of human consciousness itself. Indeed, a tradition of the "night piece" runs back to the late 15th century, when Leonardo set down his precepts for painting dramatic firelit groups. Rembrandt in Holland and Caravaggio in Rome produced unforgettable examples of the genre. But the artist whose work is most intimately...

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