|Rembrandt self-portraits at age 23... and at age 53|
That hasn't stopped artists from trying to imbue opaque surfaces (such as paper or canvas) with radiance, to suggest that their subject glows from within. In the middle ages, texts were called "illuminated" when artists used gold or silver to make them glow. Today we can illuminate images electronically using light-emitting diodes or simply turning up the brightness on our computer monitor. This makes colors glow in a way that Rembrandt never dreamed.
Some commercial illustrators of the 20th century turned that "lit from within" feeling into a personal brand. Haddon Sundblom was famous for creating a Santa Claus that radiated sunshine.
His assignments were largely simple minded, yet he did beautiful work.
Highlights from above on their hair and reflected light on their cheeks from below were ethereal pinks and turquoises.
As an aside, I love Hawley's snappy brushwork which adds contrast and vigor to the brim of her straw hat, or to the shape of his mechanic's cap.
Sundblom and Hawley didn't have the luxury of lighting their subjects electronically. Today anyone can flip a switch and give a face more lumens than Rembrandt ever did.
But a picture that literally glows is not the same as a picture that glows metaphorically. Sundblom and Hawley used their considerable arts and artifices to simulate a feeling of radiance. Their goal was not just to make colors brighter but to give Santa Claus a magical, radiant smile or surround a praying child in celestial light. In the autumn of his life, Rembrandt could give his face the sadder glow of embers after the original bonfire of his youth had subsided.
Their illusion of light was achieved with a combination of skills and talent on behalf of an artistic purpose, and those don't come with an electric switch, at least not yet.