The Last of the Light is a meditation on twilight in the Western arts and imagination, in thought, painting and literature. It takes us across the threshold of day into dusk, an uncertain world haunted by Romantic poets and painters and the twilight lives of minority and 'overshadowed' communities. The melancholy of smoky English autumn evenings is balanced by the midnight sun of summers in northern latitudes, and the darkly oppressive heat of August in mid-twentieth-century Spain is ranged against the spectral grandeur of winter in London. Peter Davidson touches on diverse literary and artistic traditions as he considers the borderlands of the light and the dark: the 'invention of evening' in Rome by the ancients; the science of the Victorian evening sky; the urban sunsets of Whistler, Hammershøi and Tiepolo; the twilit modernities of Sebald, Eliot and Baudelaire. He reflects on the sense of longing, decay and loss that motivates so many of these works as well as the particular luminosity and brilliance generated by shadow, penumbra and half-light. This ambitious account of the arts of the evening by the author of The Idea of North deftly combines prose-poetry, memoir, philosophy and art history. Combining personal, cultural and artistic histories, it is a richly rewarding book written in a unique voice.
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