THE GOLDEN HOUR
The awakening majesty of the early dawn. The resplendent glory of the dusk. Twice per day, the sky is suffused with golden light, bringing an essence of regal wonder and timeless beauty to each and every thing that it touches. Shadows lengthen, colours deepen, and reflections on water shimmer with a striking and luxuriant glow. The golden hour, as this ephemeral period of twilight beauty is known, is perhaps the most evocative of regularly-occurring natural phenomena, providing inspiration to artists across the ages.
As the warmth and splendour of the golden hour falls, this trick of the light speaks to our cultural and innate adoration of gold in all its forms, and calls out to our attraction towards this most paradisiacal of colours. Gold is precious, a rare element which serves as an unmissable signifier of nature’s beauty, with the potential to enhance its surroundings in myriad ways.
As befits the often unpredictable behaviour of natural phenomena, the golden hour can fall for a fleeting few minutes, or can stretch out beautifully for well over an hour. However, no matter how long it lasts, this period of warm and fiery light never fails to ignite the imagination and bring a unique sense of tranquillity and calm. The golden glow is brought about via a process of light dispersion and refraction, with the blue light of the sun being scattered through our atmosphere as the sunlight moves closer to the Earth. This dispersion of blue light, and the slowing effect our atmospheric conditions create, results in a warm, visually dimensional radiance, deepening the beauty of the natural world, highlighting the skin, and rendering all it touches with a gilded flourish.
It should come as no surprise to discover evidence of the golden hour’s influence throughout the canon of art history, as the world’s greatest artistic minds have been captivated by the impact and beauty of gold since time immemorial. The earliest, and perhaps most visually impactive presence of the golden hour can be seen in the figurative paintings of Renaissance masters, with Caravaggio’s dramatic portraits bathed in beautifying golden light, at once a natural phenomena and an expression of the metaphysical. The artists of the Baroque period, likewise, were transfixed by the power of golden light upon human subjects, and Velazquez and Rembrandt made gold-hued portraiture a defining aspect of their signature painting style.
However, it was with the emergence of plein air painting, and the skyscapes and pastoral images of the late 18th and 19th centuries, when the golden hour as a landscape motif truly came to the fore. JMW Turner, with his awe-inspiring and filmic scenes of vast horizons, deep valleys, and stormy seas truly understood the beauty of glowing gold, capturing it time after time on his celebrated naturalist canvases. John Constable, another esteemed British artist, depicted idyllic English pastoral scenes often highlighted by the unique radiance of the golden hour, masterfully expressing the effect of the long shadows and the depth of colour this transient moment brings forth as its essence.
Perhaps part of the endless appeal of the golden hour is its timeless quality which unfailingly evokes a deeply emotional response. The golden hour puts the unfettered glory of gold within reach of all, translating the warmth of pure sunlight into the emotional warmth of a moment in time, an adoration of natural beauty and its impact upon our senses. The hazy backlight of the golden hour transmutes the mundane into the dreamy and nostalgic, and imbues a sense of the dramatic and theatrical to everyday life, at once enlivening and soothing, terrestrial and sublime.
Little wonder, then, that the innovations of photography and video art elevated the creative possibilities of the golden hour to wondrous new heights of expression and mastery, furthering its inspirational reach and bringing its impact into the modern day. The qualities of the golden hour remain a significant draw for contemporary artists and photographers, perhaps most notably Frans Lanting, whose wildlife photography utilises the dusk light to inject an almost surreal and deeply theatrical quality to his work. Bill Schwab, whose work encapsulates the otherworldly beauty of the golden hour, albeit often in soft and nebulous black and white, is another principal example of an artist with a keen understanding of how dusk and dawn light transforms the everyday into the remarkable.
It isn’t just natural landscapes, pastoral idylls, and sweeping valley sides or mist-strewn lakes that are touched and perfected by the majestic glow of the golden hour, either. There is an impressive array of contemporary photographers capturing this natural phenomenon in urban environments, too, and juxtaposing the angular and artificial against the softness of the evening sun. Kang Hee Kim achieves this with playfully nostalgic impact, recreating iconic cityscapes by presenting them bathed in the golden hour, and Marilyn Mugot’s sci-fi sensibilities achieve a striking oxymoron of retro-futurism in a similar vein. Despite the array of disparate styles, techniques, visions, and approaches in the art world’s capturing of the golden hour, there is an unending attraction to this most compelling of colours. Timeless, beautiful, and endlessly transformative, the precious nature of gold endures day in, day out.
Inspired by the fleeting moment of the golden hour in the crown of the Swiss Alps, La Prairie seeks to recreate its unique radiance and impart it to the skin with the new Pure Gold Collection. La Prairie has developed a new and exclusive Pure Gold Diffusion System, designed to provide immediate radiance and sustained delivery of key replenishing ingredients to help compensate for the loss of receptiveness of the skin. The Pure Gold ritual provides both an immediate glow and long-term skin benefits, with three distinctive formulas designed to infuse the grace of the golden hour. The skin is instantly imbued with the look of healthy youthful resplendence, as if lit from within.