A Sultry Month by Alethea Hayter

August 12, 2019 at 7:48 pm (Anglophilia, Art, London, Poetry)

  One of my favorite books from the past few years is a nonfiction work entitled: A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846.

To begin with, Alethea Hayter’s powers of description are  formidable. They are shown in full spate in this passage, in which she brings the Duke of Wellington’s annual Waterloo Banquet to vivid life:

The low sunset light of that fiercely hot day came in through the six westward-facing windows of the Waterloo Gallery, competing with the light of the serried candles in the candelabra of the huge silver-gilt Portuguese Service, crowded with dancing nymphs, allegorical  figures of the Continents, camels, horses, scorpions, which stretched the whole length of the table. The colors were all fierce and bright–scarlet uniforms, shining white tablecloth, harsh yellow damask on the walls staring out between the crowded frames of the pictures captured in Joseph Bonaparte’s carriage at the Battle of Vittoria.

There was gold and sheen everywhere–gilding on the doors and ceiling, shutters lines with looking-glass, epaulettes, decanters, medals, picture frames, chandeliers, everything glared and glittered….

A Sultry Month has a wonderful cast of characters: Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, poets who against all odds made their love triumphant; John Keats, whose brief stay on Earth left us with much memorable verse; the Carlyles, Jane and Thomas, William Wordsworth, Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb – the list goes on. But perhaps the most memorable among them is a painter of whom I had not previously heard. His name is Benjamin Robert Haydon.

There is a genre of painting  called history painting. The term refers not only to depictions of historical events but also to scenes from mythology and religion.  The works were usually large, colorful, and action-packed. The Abduction of the Sabine Women (1635-1640) by Peter Paul Rubens is a good example:

By the nineteenth century, this type of subject matter was increasingly deemed outmoded, especially in England, where it had never really taken hold to begin with. But Benjamin Robert Haydon believed passionately in its relevance and its rightness. He worked steadily and, some would say, stubbornly to embody the best aspects of history painting in his own art.

In 1817, Haydon gave a dinner party which, over the years has achieved a unique sort of fame. In attendance at this gathering were all of the luminaries mentioned above: Keats, Wordsworth, the Lambs brother and sister, the Carlyles, and others. Haydon had two purposes in presenting this entertainment. He wanted to introduce young Keats to the venerable Wordsworth, and he wanted all the guests to see his rather fabulous, if somewhat bizarre, canvas entitled Christ Entering Jerusalem.

The bizarre aspect stems from the fact that Haydon has included small portraits of his present day friends in this work. If you look closely at the three men at the extreme right, you can see Wordsworth, Charles Lamb, and Keats. (I’m pretty sure that the figure with the slightly bowed head is Wordsworth.) Apparently other of Haydon’s friends and acquaintances are also represented therein. Few of these individuals were particularly religious.

The occasion was a great success, at least in the eyes of the host. This is what he wrote about it later in his autobiography:

It was indeed an immortal evening. Wordsworth’s fine intonation as he quoted Milton and Virgil, Keats’ eager inspired look, Lamb’s quaint sparkle of lambent humour, so speeded the stream of conversation, that in my life I never passed a more delightful time. All our fun was within bounds. Not a word passed that an apostle might not have listened to. It was a night worthy of the Elizabethan age, and my solemn Jerusalem flashing up by the flame of the fire, with Christ hanging over us like a vision, all made up a picture which will long glow upon

“that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude.”

Haydon began writing his autobiography in 1839. He was still working on it at the time of his death in 1846. I think it quite marvelous that he quotes from “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” also known as “Daffodils,” a poem written by his  friend Wordsworth in 1804.

Portrait of Wordsworth by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1842

 

Manuscript copy of “Daffodils,” held at the British Museum

There are at least two other books about Haydon’s “Immortal Dinner:” The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb by Stanley Plumly (2014), and The Immortal Dinner: A Famous Evening of Genius and Laughter in Literary London, 1817, by Penelope Hughes-Hallett (2002).

[A footnote, but an interesting one: Charles Lamb was a distinguished essayist. He is probably best remembered today for Tales of Shakespeare, on which he collaborated with his sister Mary. Mary was mentally unstable; in 1796, while experiencing a severe breakdown – what today we would probably call a psychotic break – she stabbed her mother to death with a kitchen knife. Charles remained devoted to his sister until his death in 1834. Peter Ackroyd’s novel The Lambs of London vividly recreates the turbulent events surrounding this calamity.]

I was completely spellbound by A Sultry Month; I look forward to reading it again.

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Renaissance, by Andrew Graham-Dixon

July 31, 2019 at 8:26 pm (Art, books)

I have just finished reading Renaissance by Andrew Graham-Dixon. This is a companion volume to his six part television series. Both date from about 1999-2000.

I want to let Graham-Dixon speak for himself. So let’s begin with Giotto‘s Lamentation (1303-6}:

The grief of his figures seems inextricably bound up with a quality of spiritual contemplation. By giving them this quality, making them at once actors in a scene and meditators upon it, Giotto has bridged the gap between and the world. We too, the congregation before the picture, are invited to become witnesses to Christ’s death, to see and feel its dreadfulness. It is as if his figures are responding to the scene on our behalf – are showing us the way to respond to the death of Christ….Because Giotto’s art insists on including us it is still as harrowing as when it was first painted.

[Click twice to enlarge]

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The sense of the real in fifteenth century Northern European painting that it becomes uncanny. The liquidity and brilliance of colors suspended in oil lends a particular lustre to details such as the copper ewer and the lights reflected in it. A dappled patch of light conveys the passage of sunshine on to on to a wall though the small panes of a thickly glazed window with astonishing virtuosity….No wonder, perhaps, that the early Netherlandish artists should have acquired a reputation as necromancers and alchemists. Their illusions are enchantments.

Virgin and Child in an Interior, by Jacques Daret (or so it is thought) c.1435

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Masaccio was the shooting star in the Florentine firmament, gone almost as soon as his brilliance had been seen.

Expulsion from Paradise, mid 1420s, by Masaccio. ‘A strong emotion had been made visible in a way that is unforgettable. There is no more wrenching image of human sorrow.’

Born in December 1401, Masaccio died in the summer of 1428 at the age of twenty-six. Twenty-six! Filippo Brunelleschi said, with heartbreaking simplicity: ‘We have suffered a great loss.’

 

 

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Art, in history and literature

July 7, 2019 at 9:10 pm (Art)

For quite a while now, I’ve been seeking out art history written with an eye toward beautiful prose as well as enlightening insights.

Vermeer, View of Delft 1660-1661

It is as though the town has not yet emerged from slumber or from a trance. The painting is not a record of busy Delft but a symbol of historic Delft….

Light in perfect accord with composition is perhaps the key, but how so? The light toned near shore, almost flesh colored is at the bottom of the canvas while the dark water-filled clouds are at the top. And between these is the softly emanating light from the massed white cumulus clouds – superbly composed, accented silhouette of the town and  the waterway, half filled with dark reflections of the buildings….

If the magic of this painting is ultimately beyond words, it still behooves us to try. We stand on this near shore, and we gaze at something real yet absolutely beyond our reach – beyond our physical reach, I mean. Our eyes, our gaze reveals Vermeer’s Delft as a magical island, one artist’s ideal of civilized perfection: his home, his nation.

Professor William Kloss

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In The Captive, fifth volume of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time), Marcel Proust’s masterwork, a writer names Bergotte is in an art gallery viewing an exhibition of Dutch paintings. Having just read an article about Vermeer’s View of Delft, he finds himself standing before it, transfixed :

“At last he came to the Vermeer, which he remembered as more striking, more different from anything else he knew, but in which, thanks to the critic’s article, he noticed for the first time some small figures in blue, that the sand was pink, and, finally, the precious substance of the tiny patch of yellow wall. His dizziness increased; he fixed his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall. ‘That’s how I ought to have written,’ he said. ‘My last books are too dry, I ought to have gone over them with a few layers of colour, made my language precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall…’ He repeated to himself: ‘Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall…'”

“Le petit pan de mur jaune…”

There is seating nearby. He sinks down onto it, then rolls off onto the floor, insensate, and dies.

From Proust: the Death of the Writer Bergotte

 

 

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‘Rousseau had no theory of color, but fully understood its possibilities and became an absolute master of its effects.’ – Recollections of Henri Rousseau by Wilhelm Uhde

May 29, 2019 at 11:22 am (Art)

When I was a child, eight years old or thereabouts, my mother took me to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I recall walking up some steps, arriving in a small room, and finding myself face to face with this:

I stood for a long time, just gazing. I was transfixed. Not only was the image enchanting, but I remember that to my young mind, the painting made perfect sense. Peace, tranquility and beauty – they all dwelt there.

This is how Henri Rousseau describes The Sleeping Gypsy(1897):

“A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic.”

When I was able to tear my gaze away from this vision, I beheld this, on a nearby wall:

The Dream, 1910

Also enchanting, but not quite in the same way, or to quite the same degree – at least, to my young eyes.

I am currently reading Recollections of Henri Rousseau by Wilhelm Uhde (with an introduction by Nancy Ireson). Uhde, whose dates are 1874 to 1947, was a German art collector particularly interested in modern art. He moved to Paris at the age of 30, becoming an admirer and ultimately a friend of the painter Rousseau. Uhde later observed:

There are people who go through life as though they were special guests on earth; and then there are those whose joy is to give, rather than receive. These latter are few and far between. One of them was Henri Rousseau.

This little book is one in a series published by Getty. Their dimensions are roughly 4 & 1/2 by 6 inches; the thickness varies from one quarter to half an inch. The quality of the  reproductions is stunning. Each one opens with an introduction by a contemporary writer. There follows the writings of those who were the artist’s contemporaries, or nearly so. It is inspired idea, beautifully carried out.

The series, called Lives of the Artists, is available from the Getty Museum Gift Shop, and, in certain cases, from Amazon. Thus far, in addition to the above, I am the happy possessor of these:

Meanwhile, back to Rousseau, here are some more favorites:

Carnival Evening, 1885-86

Self-portrait from Isle Saint Louis, 1890

Tiger in a Tropical storm, 1891

The Football Players, 1908

 

 

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‘Thus it will be our concern, however difficult the undertaking may be, to tell of the doings of the great Tintoretto….’

May 23, 2019 at 1:41 pm (Art)

….and through our narrative to make his works known, to tell how he reached the arduous apex of art; and how with his brush he brought to the images that he painted the greatest state of perfection and how he adorned painting with the most novel and rare inventions, so that nature, which at times is defective, obtained through his hands grace and grandeur.

Carlo Ridolfi, ‘Life of Tintoretto’: from The Marvels of Art, 1648, excerpt included in The Lives of Tintoretto

I do not know how to train my mouth to sing your praises adequately. How there could be so much intelligence in a small man’s body remains as much a mystery to me as a crocodile in the fourth clime.

….but you, twiddling with your paintbrush and a small dash of white lead, and mixing some red earth…you create a figure portrayed from Nature in half an hour….I also knew that you had so fine a conception for presenting gestures, postures, front-faces, foreshortenings, profiles, distant views and perspectives as anyone riding the modern Pegasus; and it would be very fair to say this truth, that if you had as many hands as you have stpirit and knowledge, there wouldn’t be a difficult thing that exists in Nature that you couldn’t create.

Andrea Calmo: ‘Further  delightful and ingenious letters from Calmo to Messer Giacomo Tinitoretto the Painter, the favourite of Nature, the Commixture of Aesculapius, and Stepson of Apelles’, 1548

Also from Lives of Tintoretto

[This post is a sort of addendum to a recent one entitled “A day at Washington’s National Gallery, Part One: The Little Dyer and his Outsized Genius.”]

Click to enlarge each of the following images;

The Miracle of St Mark Freeing the Slave, 1548

Man in Armour, 1550

St Louis, St George, and the Princess, ca 1553. Our docent told us that the Princess’s depiction on the dragon was considered, at the time, to be indecorous. This led to a discussion as to whether there existed anywhere specific instructions on how ladies should ride dragons. (Side saddle, maybe?)

 

The Origin of the Milky Way, 1570. This painting possesses a rather bizarre back story. From Wikipedia: ‘According to myth, the infant Heracles was brought to Hera by his half-sister Athena who later played an important role as a goddess of protection. Hera nursed Heracles out of pity, but he suckled so strongly that he caused Hera pain, and she pushed him away. Her milk sprayed across the heavens and there formed the Milky Way With divine milk, Heracles acquired supernatural powers.’

 

The Last Supper, ca 1563-64

 

Deposition of Christ, ca 1562

Venus, Mars, and Vulcan, ca 1551. Vulcan catches his wife Venus in the act of cheating on him. Mars, the other guilty party, is hiding under the bed.

 

Portrait of a Procurator of St Mark’s, 1570s

Portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan, 1567

For a while now, I’ve been curious about those strange round objects found going down the edge of the Doge’s ceremonial robe, and probably elsewhere as well. They’re especially noteworthy in Giovanni Bellini’s masterful 1501 portrait of the Doge Lorenzo Loredan:

The docent explained that those round objects  contained within them a selection of aromatic herbs. The purpose was to sweeten the air around the person wearing the cloak – remember, bathing was an infrequent activity in those days – and more important, to ward off the Plague.

 

Self-Portrait 1588. Tintoretto had lived a long, eventful and largely successful life. By this time, he was elderly and tired. He died in 1594, age 75.

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm’d both hands before the fire of life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

Poem by Walter Savage Landor, 1849

 

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A day at Washington’s National Gallery, Part One: The Little Dyer and his Outsized Genius

May 12, 2019 at 4:20 pm (Art, Poetry)

Summer 1555

 

The Creation of the Animals 1551-52

 

The Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne 1576/1577

Tintoretto’s father was named Battista Comin. Because of his fearlessness in battle, he earned the nickname ‘Robusti’ – the Robust One. Upon completing his military service, he took up the profession of cloth dyer – tintore di panni. His son Jacopo thus became known by the diminutive, Tiintoretto.

Okay, so having gotten that out of the way….

The above art works are among my favorites from the National Gallery’s spectacular exhibit. I was in the process of determining the date(s) of The Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne when I chanced on a poem written about the painting by one Michael Field. Here it is:

Tintoretto

The Ducal Palace at Venice

Dark sea-water round a shape
Hung about the loins with grape,
Hair the vine itself, in braids
On the brow—thus Bacchus wades
Through the water to the shore.
Strange to deck with hill-side store
Limbs that push against the tide ;
Strange to gird a wave-washed side
Foam should spring at and entwine—
Strange to burthen it with vine.

He has left the trellised isle,
Left the harvest vat awhile,
Left the Maenads of his troop,
Left his Fauns’ midsummer group
And his leopards far behind,
By lone Dia’s coast to find
Her whom Theseus dared to mock.
Queenly on the samphire rock
Ariadne sits, one hand
Stretching forth at Love’s command.

Love is poised above the twain,
Zealous to assuage the pain
In that stately woman’s breast ;
Love has set a starry crest
On the once dishonoured head ;
Love entreats the hand to wed,
Gently loosening out the cold
Fingers toward that hoop of gold
Bacchus, tremblingly content
To be patient, doth present.

In his eyes there is the pain
Shy, dumb passions can attain
In the valley, on the skirt
Of lone mountains, pine-begirt ;
Yearning pleasure such as pleads
In dark wine that no one heeds
Till the feast is ranged and lit.
But his mouth—what gifts in it !
Though the round lips do not dare
Aught to proffer, save a prayer.

Is he not a mendicant
Who has almost died of want ?
Through far countries he has roved,
Blessing, blessing, unbeloved ;
Therefore is he come in weed
Of a mortal bowed by need,
With the bunches of the grape
As sole glory round his shape :
For there is no god that can
Taste of pleasure save as man.

I had not heard of this particular poet and so set about doing further research. The facts came to light quite readily.

This is Michael Field:

Under this pseudonym, Katherine Harris Bradley (1846-1914), left, and her niece and ward Edith Emma Cooper (1862-1913) published numerous works of poetry and drama and kept a lengthy journal entitled Works and Days. More information on these two can be found on Wikipedia and on the Poetry Foundation site.

For me, one of the chief joys of the internet consists in discovering unexpected linkages like this.

And never fear – There’s more Tintoretto to come…

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Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas

April 8, 2019 at 1:36 pm (Art, books)

Yesterday I came home from the library with two art  books that were vastly different from each other in size.

The Degas is voluminous! It weighs 5.5 pounds, and is 10.5″ x 13″, with a thickness of 1.25 inches. In contrast – and what a contrast! – The Manet book is petite in the extreme: 4.5″ x 5.75. It is maybe a quarter of an inch thick and weighs about 5 ounces.

I very nearly missed the latter, as it was wedged in between larger volumes on the shelves of new nonfiction. As soon as I pulled it out, I was enchanted. Small and almost delicate, the tiny volume was a delight. I soon noted that it contained several paintings by Manet that I hadn’t previously seen. I was particularly pleased to make the acquaintance of this one:

Le Bon Bock (A Good Glass of Beer), 1876

A number of my favorites appear as well:

Gare St. Lazare, 1872-73

The Old Musician, 1862

Both of the above paintings reside at our own National Gallery, for which I am profoundly grateful. It means I actually get to see them from time to time. To my mind, Manet more than any other painter renders nineteenth century Paris palpably real.

It may seem as though the small format of Looking At Manet would render the art reproductions less than satisfactory. Oddly enough, I do not find it so at all.

Apparently the writer Emile Zola was an ardent supporter of  Edouard Manet. His commentary on the artist and his works provides the main text for this book.

Right from the beginning, you know where Zola is coming from:

At the age of seventeen, on leaving college, [Manet] fell in love with painting. What a terrible love that is–parents tolerate a mistress, even two; they will close their eyes if necessary to a straying heart and senses. But the Arts! Painting for them is the Scarlet Woman, the Courtesan, always hungry for flesh, who must drink the blood of their children, who clutches them panting, to her insatiable lips. Here is Orgy unforgivable, Debauchery–the bloody spectre which appears sometimes in the midst of families and upsets the peace of the domestic hearth.

Okay, Monsieur Zola – now tell us how you really feel about the sensibilities of the French bourgeoisie!

Looking at Manet is as good an example as I’ve seen recently of a book that should always exist in physical space. I not only enjoy reading it in this form, but also just handling it.  I may have to buy it. And there are others like it, in a series called Lives of the Artists, from Getty Publications.

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The Degas volume, by Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge, is a huge doorstop of a book filled with fascinating facts and wonderful reproductions. I obtained it through interlibrary loan because there was a still photo in it that I wanted to see. This photo would serve as confirmation that the bearded gentleman seen in this film clip is in fact Edgar Degas:

Here is the photo:

(This linkage was pointed out in a comment on YouTube.)

The video clip comes from a documentary called Ceux de Chez Nous made by by Sasha Guitry in 1914-15. This film also contains footage of Renoir painting and Claude Monet conversing with an unidentified man.

By 1915, Degas was nearly blind. It’s hard to reconcile the image in this video with the vigorous artist as he appears in earlier self-portraits, such as this one, from 1863 . For more, see this poignant article on the Open Culture site.

Edgar Degas died in 1917 at the age of 83.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Addendum to the recent post about ‘Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen’

March 31, 2019 at 8:53 pm (Art, Family)

My daughter-in-law Erica and grandson Welles also came with us on our recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. This made everything more festive.

Welles got to see the museum’s impressive collection of arms and armor.

Both Welles and Etta love to stop in the Family Room of the museum’s Ryan Learning Center. There’s always a new crafting opportunity on offer there – and Welles and Etta are both very crafty children!

Each time we go, there’s a different craft theme. This time it was textiles.

 

Etta and her Mom gearing up for ‘work’

Welles and Grandma ‘Berta – the least crafty person on the planet!

Along with others making crafts, Welles donated one of his creations to the ‘craft wall.’

The art theme carried over when we got home. Ron and I both felt that Welles’s creation here was museum-worthy:

Etta, on the other hand, migrated over to the culinary arts. There was a small impromptu gathering taking place in the backyard, and Etta decided to make a dish of hors d’oeuvres for the visitors. These consisted of small pieces of cheese, green olives, and sugar snap peas threaded onto tooth picks.

 

Etta presented a tray full of these items to the guests – adults and children both – and they ate all of them in record time!
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In Camille Laurens’s book about Marie Genevieve van Goethem – the eponymous Little Dancer – she mentions photos  in which Marilyn Monroe gazes, seemingly transfixed, at the sculpture. (At the time, it was situated in the apartment of a wealthy New York collector.) The author seemed to feel that her readers would be familiar with these pictures. I had never seen or heard of them:

Interesting commentary on the occasion of this photo shoot can  be found on the art history blog Alberti’s Window and on another blog, Maison Roos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Her name was Marie Geneviève Van Goethem.’

March 27, 2019 at 9:26 pm (Art, Family)

  The above sentence opens the first chapter of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Camille Laurens.

Marie Van Goethem, originally from Belgium, was one of three sisters. She joined the Paris Opera, primarily because her family needed the money. (Young members of the corps de ballet were frequently called “les petits rats” – Little Rats, or Opera Rats.) When the opportunity to pose for Edgar Degas came along, it meant additional income.

When completed, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was not universally loved. In fact, the reaction of contemporary viewers was quite the opposite. They had their reasons. Laurens describes of the zeitgeist prevalent in the Paris of the 1880s:

France was industrializing, and its working class was  growing in importance….The ruling classes needed to be reassured about their privileges. Small wonder they clung to theories that “proved” the natural superiority of the bourgeoisie over the working class, the rich over the poor, whites over blacks, and men over women.

With regard to the sculpture itself:

The bourgeois viewer looked at the work and saw his own antithesis. Hie preference was for Madonnas, or for plump, healthy young women. He could not fathom why a common, hardworking Opera rat with the face of a “monkey” and a “depraved” aspect should be the subject of a work of art.

Degas himself was a complex personality, not an easy person to know. At one point, the author offers the observation:

It seems that Degas shared the misogyny that was rampant at the end of the nineteenth century….

Yet Degas and Mary Casssatt were good friends and genuinely admired each others’ work:

The American expatriate painter Mary Cassatt and the French artist Edgar Degas formed a long, if tumultuous, artistic relationship and friendship in the late 19th century that lasted for decades. The two admired each other’s work during the early 1870s, years before they met. In 1877, Degas visited Cassatt in her studio—possibly their first official meeting—to personally invite her to exhibit with the Impressionists, bringing her into the fold of the Parisian avant-garde.

From The Saint Louis Art Museum site

The friendship endured for many years. Neither artist ever married.

The story of their relationship is not told in Camille Laurens’s book. Yet her intense focus on Marie and her likeness in bronze pays dividends. She forces us to look more closely, and to question:

What is she thinking about? What is her inner world like? Do her face and pose reflect concentration or relaxation? Boredom or pleasure? Is she taking herself elsewhere, and if so, to what foreign parts? Is she filled with a sense of her own self or does she savor the vacuum at its core? What lies behind her closed eyes, her skinny chest? Tears, dreams. unspeakable emotions? Or a kind of absence, a beneficent nothingness in suspended time?

This past weekend, while we were in Chicago, I looked forward to our now customary visit to the Art Institute. I wanted to contemplate Marie once again, with those questions in mind. And my granddaughter Etta also wanted to see her again.

The Little Dancer, in her accustomed place in the Art Institute

Alas, when we reached the gallery where the French Impressionist paintings are hung and where we have heretofore encountered the Little Dancer, she was not there. There was information desk right outside the gallery, but the individual staffing it was sadly clueless as to Marie’s whereabouts. Had she somehow mysteriously absconded? Yet another question…. A small couplet stole into my brain:

Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen,
Little Dancer can’t be seen.

Ah, well; Etta and I must hope for better luck next time. And of course, it’s not as though we didn’t have plenty of other objets d’art with which to occupy ourselves:

The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, 1740-1741 by Michele Marieschi

 

Portrait of Marthe-Marie Tronchin, 1758-61, by Jean-Etienne Liotard

 

Calvary, Artist Unknown, Guatemala, 1760-1800

 

Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles, painted in 1889, just a year before his death

 

Being of a scientific bent, Etta was interested in this device, located in a corner of one of the galleries. A museum guard, delighted by her question, explained that it was a hygrometer, a device for monitoring humidity in enclosed spaces.

 

This time around my favorite new discovery:

Adoration of the Christ Child, Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen and Workshop, 1470-1475

 

And of course, we always make time to revisit our favorites – which are hopefully in their usual place:

Roman Theatre Mask, with Etta imitating as best she can

And finally, Un dimanche après-midi à l’îsle de la Grande Jatte, par Georges Seurat, 1886-1886:

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Here is Camille Laurens’s poignant conclusion to the story of Edgar Degas and Marie van Goethem:

The shade of Marie melts into the deep shadow that Degas himself disappeared into. Her ghost is carried off, buried  with his remains. Nothing can separate them any longer. If we  take their two lives as one, at that point in time when  their trajectories intersected, like a momentary couple glimpsed through  a pane of glass, the resulting life is neither resounding nor insignificant. It is a life of hard  work. And also sadness, I believe. Yet it is a remarkable life, sovereign and vast in import. Both of them while still alive, she posing and he sculpting, had  the experience of death. The little statue restores their absent presence. It is their monument, their requiem.

A very special book, slight in length yet filled with grace and meaning, beautifully written by Camille Laurens and meticulously translated from the French by Willard Wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Despite glimpses of green….

January 21, 2019 at 3:05 pm (Art, Music)

Despite glimpses of green, despite the promise of sun ( though harsh and greatly weakened) soon to come, we are in the deep midwinter:

Music by Gustav Holst, to a poem by Christina G Rosetti.

The bleak midwinter calls forth a need for visions of beauty filled with color. Here are two:

Paradise Garden, Upper Rhenish Master, ca 1410-1420

 

Virgin Among Virgins, in a Rose Garden, Master of the Legend of St. Lucy, , ca 1475-1480

 

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