Window at Night makes use of a similar strategy as Stained Glass Window in terms of the position of the large expanse of glass subdivided into a systematic arrangement of individual panes, shown as if brightly illuminated from within and viewed as if from street level below. The visual language is now even more pared down. This time a single ellipse of bright yellow artificial light, passing through a suspended red lampshade, floods a schematically rendered empty room with a warm orange glow evenly dispersed across walls and ceiling as an uninflected flat coat of colour. The implication of a convivial shelter, though called into question by its barren emptiness, is brought into sharp focus by the inky blackness that surrounds it and that is locked into position by the metal framework of the window panes. As viewers we are left in no doubt that we are standing outside at night, probably in the cold, banished even from what might well be a grimly empty interior and left to speculate on what we might be missing out on. Though making sly allusion to the Minimalist grids and monochromatic canvases then in the ascendancy, the extreme simplicity is marshalled here to more human and emotionally resonant ends. The bittersweet atmosphere of solitude recalls and reshapes two of Caulfield’s prime points of reference, the paintings of Edward Hopper and the poems of the French Symbolist writer Jules Laforgue, a selection of which he was soon to illustrate in the form of a limited edition book of 22 screenprints published in 1973. In one of the poems chosen by Caulfield in translations by Patricia Terry, ‘Complaint about a certain Sunday’, the narrator finds himself ‘Oh, alone! alone! and so cold!’ In another, ‘Solo by Moonlight’, he experiences ‘Only the night,/So many clean, deep chambers!’ He responds by ‘peopling’ these rooms glimpsed from afar, imagining himself inside in the presence of a lover, before being reminded that ‘No one waits for me, I’m going to no one’s home./I’ve only the friendship of hotel rooms.’
Caulfield, exceptionally, made two nearly identical versions of this subject, on the same size of canvas, with the same colour scheme and derived from a single cartoon transferred to the primed ground with the aid of a linear drawing made in felt-tip pen on a polythene sheet. The other work, Lit Window (Berardo Collection, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon), was painted in the same year. All that distinguishes one painting from the other are details of the foliage poking into the lowest of the window panes; even the single central pane of the top register is shown pushed open at precisely the same angle, wittily linking the ‘inside’ to the ‘outside’ of a scene rendered resolutely flat and letting imaginary air flow through a scene of intense and permanent stillness.
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