Art to calm and to inspire

May 22, 2021 at 9:50 pm (Art)

Art and books, art and books! I am awash in both.

I know…lucky, lucky me.

Here are some paintings that I have recently come to know and love – in no particular order:

Christ Healing a Deaf Mute Person, by Philippe de Champagne

You could almost forget that this is a religious depiction, the landscape is so compelling and beautiful. Yet it is vital to know that in a small corner of the picture, a miracle is occurring.

Moonlit Landscape by Washington Allston

The Mill, Rembrandt

Is is the singularity of the structure, set against a threatening sky, the steep cliff descending into calm water below, the juxtaposition of almost glaring light, and encroaching darkness…. I don’t know. This picture has, for me, an hypnotic quality.

In the Orchard, Sir James Guthrie

To my eye, there is in this picture an element of the sacramental. The way the girl is looking past the boy rather than at him. It puts me in mind of a radically different image in which a woman is staring fixedly at something she alone can see:

Sir James Guthrie is a part of a group of Scottish artists called The Glasgow Boys. He is an artist new to me. I find his work deeply appealing.

View of the Garden of the Villa Medici, Velasquez

I have an inexplicable passion for this painting. I asked by art  guru Nora if she could help me to understand why I should feel this way about it. She noted that a view that at first seems straightforward seems later to be full of mystery. Why is the entrance to this structure boarded up in such a haphazard manner? We cannot know. And the trees seem almost to surround it, protecting it.

To me this is a portrayal of sheer beauty. It is also an atypical work for Velasquez, made on a trip to Italy. He was primarily a portrait painter.

In his youth, Velasquez was apprenticed to the painter and writer Francisco Pacheco. In time, he also became Pacheco’s son-in-law.

In the book Lives of Velasquez, Pacheco writes:

I gave him my daughter in marriage, persuaded to it by his virtue, chastity, and good qualities and by the expectations raised by his great native talent.

Michael Jacobs begins his introduction thus:

Velasquez is an artist whose works are so dazzling in their technique and so uncannily lifelike that it is difficult at times to think of him as a man of flesh and blood.

So the book I’m referring to is part of a series put out by Getty publications. They’re unusually small for art books; this volume on Velasquez measures about six inches  by four and a half. It contains Michael Jacobs’s wonderfully illuminating essay, plus the piece by Pacheco and another by Antonio Palomino (1655-1726), a Spanish painter and art historian. I should mention that there are numerous color reproductions in these books, and althouh they are small, they are nevertheless wonderful.

In order to see all the titles currently on offer in this series, click here.

Here are a few more works by Velasquez to feast your eyes upon:

Portrait of Juan de Pareja

I vividly recall the excitement at  the Metropolitan Museum of Art when this work was acquired in 1970. It has been described as “among the most important acquisitions in the Museum’s history”.

Old Woman Frying Eggs

Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Pablo de Vallidolid, the King’s fool

The famous, and incomparable, Las Meninas. To the left, Velasquez himself can be seen, pondering his work.

Whenever I gaze at the art of Velasquez, I hear the timeless, evocative music of Joaquiin Rodrigo. Here is the Adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez:

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About Robertson Davies

May 18, 2021 at 8:00 pm (books)

  I was already an admirer of Stacey Abrams when I encountered her interview in the May 9 issue of the New York Times Book Review. In it, she sings the praises of the Canadian writer Robertson Davies, in particular his novel What’s Bred in the Bone. She concludes her brief but enthusiastic commentary by saying, “Rarely has anyone heard of him or the novel, which is a shame.”

I’ve heard of him! While I’ve not read What’s Bred in the Bone, the second novel in the Cornish Trilogy, I have read the three novels that constitute the Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders. This was a while back. I remember enjoying them greatly. (Davies has a gratifyingly extensive Wikipedia entry.)

Davies died in 1995, at the age of 82. His last novel, The Cunning Man, came out the previous year. When I finished reading it, I recall that I closed my eyes and sent up a brief prayer of thanks, that someone could still write superb novels like this one.

I haven’t read anything by Robertson Davies in quite some time. Now I think I’ll read What’s Bred in the Bone.

Thanks, Stacey!

I love this picture of Robertson Davies. He resembles a magus. If memory serves, it captures, to some extent, the spirit that imbues his fiction.

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Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me…

May 14, 2021 at 6:23 pm (Art, Family)



Art books, a cookbook, and a mystery, all wonderful, all courtesy of this terrific guy:

Oh,and if you look closely, at the table, you will note the presence of an Amazon Gift Card.

Such bounty, such generosity! Such love.

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Happy Mothers Day

May 9, 2021 at 7:24 pm (Family)

Mother and Child, by Mary Cassatt, 1890

I wish  a very Happy Mothers Day to all mothers, and to all women who have given care, tenderness, and love to the children in their lives.

Lillian Helen Gusman Tedlow, my mother, in a graduation photo from the late 1930s. She attended the New Jersey College for Women, as it was then known.. Founded in 1918 as part of Rutgers University, it was renamed Douglass College in 1955. Daughter of immigrants, she was the first woman in her family to attend college.

My grandmother, my mother, and me, mid 1950s

My daughter-in-law Erica and granddaughter Etta

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A Weekend Worth Waiting For

May 6, 2021 at 7:30 pm (Family)

Ron dropped me off at the airport this past Friday. We wanted to kiss each other farewell, but of course the extremely infuriating masks made the maneuver quite tricky. I immediately thought of a painting by Magritte:

Finally – Finally! – I made it to Chicago.

Bedraggled from travel, I rang the bell. At first, nothing. Then the door flew open. “Hey there!” exclaimed my son Ben.

We hadn’t seen each other in eighteen months. I tumbled inside; we struggle with my baggage. I dropped everything and turned to him, we hugged, and I said:

“Wow! I haven’t felt a surge of pure joy like that in such a long time!” It was true. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how dull and flattened out my emotional life had been since the pandemic took hold.

Ben and Welles

Soon, Mom Erica (and a truly terrific Mom she is!) and I went to pick up the children from school. Etta is ten, Welles is seven. As they piled into the car, Etta greeted me cheerfully – “Hi, Grandma Berta.” As if she’d seen me only yesterday. When we got back to the house, hugs were freely distributed. (All four adults thoroughly vaccinated.)

Saturday and Sunday were  given over to baseball, softball, and soccer, with some screen time in between.


Welles is an aspiring pitcher. We feel that he’s got a pretty good arm, already.

Two dinners out, two in. Etta, as always, spent some time making art. She gave one of her creations to me:

I left on Tuesday, hating to say goodbye. I hope to return in just a few months. A year and a half long separation was way too much, but thankfully, it is over.


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