The Claude glass or black mirror was popular with landscape artists in the 18th century as a way of framing a scene and simplifying the tonal range of an image. It was a small mirror, slightly convex in shape, which was held in the hand to reflect the view behind the viewer.
“backed with silver (for cloudy days) or black (for sunny days.) The darkness of the mirror reduced the color of the landscape to an even, monochromatic tone, allowing the viewer to focus on the basic landscape forms and the relationship of foreground, middle ground, and background”
Chip Sullivan in Drawing the Landscape
At Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire until 30th October 2016, you can enjoy nine large ‘easels’ positioned around the property, which make you stop and consider the view as an artist would.
Conceived by NEON they are a clever, if somewhat safe, way of making you look and re-look at the traditional English country landscape. I am forced to make comparisons with Eva Rothschild’s pyramidal sculpture This and This and This, which framed the traditional gardens of Jesus College in a very different way last year. And this is when I wish that the National Trust had been just a little bit braver. The Capability Brown landscape would have been honoured, celebrated and reenvisioned by some new and exciting sculpture in situ.
I had not heard of the Claude glass before visiting this installation; it is well worth a look.