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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Holiday Wishes, 2018

December 24, 2018 at 8:48 pm (Art, Christmas, Family, Music)

My best holiday wishes to everyone.

I am deeply blessed and fortunate, and I wish the same for every one of you!

 

 

Wilton Diptych, left panel. Artist unknown

Wilton Diptych, Right panel. Artist unknown

 

Annunciation. Fra Angelico

 

Virgin of the Rocks. Leonardo Da Vinci

 

The Alba Madonna. Raphael

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FAMILY!!

My Aunt Patsy and Uncle Hal, enjoying life to the fullest, and always generously sharing that joy with friends and family. Forever in our hearts…

 

My parents, Lillian and Samuel ‘Ted’ Tedlow at the opera in Bayreuth, Germany. They exemplified class, elegance, and sophistication. I miss them.

Daughter-in-law Erica and Son Ben – Beautiful people in every way

 

Etta and Welles, growing by leaps and bounds, my love for them growing at the same dizzying speed

 

My husband Ron. His love, kindness, and companionship make my life worth living.

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Le Paradis, by Henri Maik

 

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Now We Are Eight!

October 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm (Family)

Our granddaughter Etta turned eight yesterday. This picture is a good indicator of her ready-for-anything, sunny nature.

I told her that I could hardly believe  that she was already eight years old. She apparently had some trouble believing it too, declaring that “I feel more like five.” (This may have something to do with the fact that little brother Welles turned five only three weeks ago.)

I also love this picture of Etta at the keyboard:

Happy Birthday, Etta!

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Grandchildren, and the endless curve of learning and loving

September 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm (Family, Film and television, Music)

On a recent visit to my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, the children introduced me to a movie called Song of the Sea. I’m not normally a fan of animated films, but this one, made in Ireland, had a charm and a mystique that was oddly appealing.

One of the characters in Song of the Sea is a Selkie (variant spelling is Silkie). The Selkie legends, a component of Scottish folklore, have come down to us from Orkney and Shetland. It posits the existence of beings who are seals in the sea and, by shedding their skins, become humans on dry land.

I was reminded of the song sung by Joan Baez, The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry. The version she sang was drawn from Francis James Child’s landmark collection of English and Scottish folk songs, a multi-volume work published in the late 1880s.    The song relates the havoc and heartbreak wrought by a male Selkie during his sojourn upon the land. Song of the Sea, however, ends on a happier note, as you wish stories to do that are told to children.

I cherish this version of the song by the Unthanks, with Julie Fowlis singing in Scots Gaelic.

Anyway – back to the grandchildren: Here they are, going back to school, earlier this month:

Etta, age 7, and Welles, age 4

And Welles turns FIVE today. Happy Birthday, Welles!!

 

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Father’s Day

June 17, 2018 at 5:28 pm (Family)

My Dad was a wonderful man. He loved my brothers and me, but I got the lion’s share of his attention when I was little by being sick much of the time. (This period of susceptibility on my part, though it  produced plenty of anxiety, was relatively short lived.)

Dad was somewhat impatient for us kids to grow up. He was eager to take us to one of his favorite venues. He had the idea that I would especially appreciate the place. And so off we went…

…to the race track.

Here we see Dad and myself in animated discussion as we compare the various tip sheets. Dad kindly placed bets for me. I paid especial attention to the colors worn by  the jockeys.

I cherished experiences like these, because they represented a rare opportunity for me to get close to my father. For the most part, he was a reserved person and one not easy to know. This eased somewhat for me as I got older. Certainly he was always there for me in times of need, which were, luckily, few.

This photo of Dad was printed and framed and given to me as a gift by my son Ben. It resides on the living room wall. From the couch where I love to sit and read, I can see it clearly. In ancient times, families possessed lares and penates, defined as “…the protectors of a family’s treasured possessions and regarded as the souls of deceased ancestors.” (From Tales Beyond Belief). I often think of these as I gaze upon Dad’s portrait.

I think my father would be especially pleased to know that his grandson Ben is also a splendid Dad.

Welles, age four; Etta, age seven, and Dad. All rather depleted, but still happy

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A Mother’s Day Visit to The Art Institute

May 24, 2018 at 5:21 pm (Art, Family)

Our goals this time were to visit our former favorites, find some new favorites, and of course, have as much fun as possible.

Our old friends were right where we left them when last we visited (this being one of the excellent things about museums).

Etta and I have grown somewhat sentimental about this bizarre Roman theater mask. Seeing it for the first time, Welles was properly amazed – “He’s  got a hand in his mouth!”

Of course we greeted Degas’s Little Dancer:

 

And Georges Seurat’s Un Dimanche Après-Midi à L’Île de La Grande Jatte:

Each time we visit this place, we see something new (to us) and wonderful:

The Poet’s Garden, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh (Click to enlarge)

 

Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy, (Asnières), 1887, Vincent Van Gogh (Click to enlarge)

 

Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli, 1874: Still Life with Fruit and Wine Jug…

…and Gorgeous Little Girl in White Dress and Shoes of Gold… Ah, well, no chance of objectivity here!

Sir John Shaw and his family in the park at Eltham Lodge, Kent, 1761, by Arthur Devis

I’d never heard of Arthur Devis but I was completely captivated by this work. How did I miss it until now?

Boar Incarnation of the God Vishnu (Varaha), ca. 10th century, India

 

An Elegant Woman at the Elysee Montmartre, 1888, Louis Anquetin

 

Noh Costume (Nuihaku), 1801/25

Etta and I made our rounds together; Welles and his Mom went a different way. When we met up, Welles was nearly beside himself with excitement. He had something truly wonderful to show his big sister! So upstairs we trooped to the Kania Collection, and lo and behold, what did we find there but this:

Officially designated as “Untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA),” this work  – in some places referred to as an installation – is by the Cuban-born artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres and is dated 1991. The Art Institute site describes it as follows:

Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply
Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs.

An endless supply of candy! Surely this is the stuff of dreams, especially for children, and especially for Welles, a confirmed candy aficionado at the age of four. (‘Endless supply’ translates into the fact that visitors may help themselves to the sweet stuff, as long as it’s promptly replenished by staff.)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres‘s life was tragically cut short: he died in 1996 at the age of 38. But with this work, he gave joy to my grandchildren and no doubt to others as well. I am grateful to him.
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As for that other famed denizen of the Art Institute, alas, it is still at the Whitney in New York. I mean, of course, Grant Wood’s American Gothic:

This is the fourth time in the past two years that I’ve come to the Art Institute and missed seeing it! I must have faith that it will some day come home – sigh….

As usual, we finished our visit at the museum’s gift shop. There are two, actually, both equally filled with a tantalizing selection of goodies. The array of art books is truly impressive; there was an entire rack of these from my current favorite art book publisher, Taschen.

Among the other merchandise, I particularly love a series of hand painted silk scarves by Chicago artist Joanna Alot. This time I came away with this beauty:

As for the children, they selected kits of modeling clay. Welles and Etta are lively, energetic, and affectionate. Sometimes it is all their no-longer-young grandmother can do to keep up with them! And yet, once home from the museum, they became lost in clay play. Etta was creating her own version of marbles; Welles was making small containers for them. (It is absolutely necessary for Welles to have at least part of his vast collection of Hot Wheels nearby, whenever he undertakes a project of this sort – or just anytime.)

Watching them so quietly absorbed in these projects, I was reminded once more of the miracle of their existence, and of my equally miraculous and boundless love for them. And many thanks, too, to their Mom, my beautiful daughter-in-law, for making all of this possible.

 

 

 

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A Wonderful Man

April 24, 2018 at 1:38 pm (Family)

  Yesterday, we said our final farewells to Dr. Harold Gilbert. I always called him ‘Uncle Hal,’ but actually he was my cousin. More precisely, he was my father’s first cousin. His father was my Grandmother Ida’s brother. Not only that – his mother was my Grandfather Jake’s sister. To add to  the confusion, both men were named Jacob.

The short version of this is, Brother and Sister married Brother and Sister. It’s an explanation that almost always leads to head scratching and mumbling to oneself and to others. (Hal loved to tell people that I was his cousin – the only extended family relation on his side living in the Baltimore area.)

No matter. Yesterday, the focus was rightly on Hal himself. When after decades of happy marriage, Hal lost his wife, my ‘Aunt Patsy,’ he had the great good fortune to meet and marry Phyllis. She added love, joy, and companionship to his final years.

In words of love and praise, Hal’s ‘works and days’ were described by Phyllis, granddaughter Alaina, daughter Debbie, and the Rabbi. Hal’s entire family has been a model of devotion, and with good reason: Hal was one of the most loving and generous individuals I’ve ever known. The Jewish religion and his family were always top priorities for him. (Special love goes out at this time from me to my cousin Stephany, more a sister than a cousin.)

At last year’s Passover Seder, he proclaimed Passover to be a wonderful celebration. Over the years, it also served as the celebration of a wonderful man.

Hal, it was great having you with us for the ninety-seven years of your life. You will be in our hearts way beyond this time.

Dr. Harold Gilbert

 

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The Art Institute of Chicago: the third visit…

March 13, 2018 at 4:19 pm (Art, Family)

…And this time Mom and little brother Welles came with Etta and me. After we got inside the museum, we split up: Welles and his Mom went off to see the miniature rooms, the paper weights, and other items of interest. Etta and I had sampled  these delights on a previous visit, and we hope to visit them again in the future. But meanwhile, wet went off in search of certain other favorites.

Such as:

Little Dancer, Age 14, by Edgar Degas (with littler dancer, age 7)

Etta calls this “The Dot Painting.” (A close look at it reveals the artist’s signature use of the Pointillist technique):

Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) by Georges Seurat, 1884

And then, there’s this character:

These tasks happily accomplished, we wandered off to do further exploration. Quite by happy accident, we found ourselves in The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor. This new installation opened only last year and is really stunning.

St. Francis Before the Pope, by Spinello Aretino 1390-1400

 

Left – St. Lucy Vergos workshop ca. 1500 Right – St .Agatha Vergos workshop ca. 1500

 

Retable and Frontal of the Life of Christ and the Virgin Made for Pedro López de Ayala, 1396

Adam and Eve, engraving by Albrecht Durer, 1504

 

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533-1537

Medieval and Renaissance music played softly in the background. We fell under the spell of these beautiful works. Etta was inspired to dance!

The arms and armor display was  also quite striking. We were especially impressed by these two who were jousting on foot:

In the European Decorative Arts collection, we saw a beautiful door whose design is attributed to Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo:

I think of the Art Institute as having three iconic paintings: L’Apres-midi Sur La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (see above), American Gothic by Grant Wood, and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I’ve been eager to lay eyes on the Hopper, painted in 1942, for quite some time, and finally – finally! – we did:

Here’s a somewhat better close-up:

About ten people were clustered around this painting. We waited a few minutes for a clearer view. Etta stared intently.

I said: “Etta, what do you think is going on in this picture? The two people facing us seem to be discussing something important. The man around the corner may just happen to have dropped in – or maybe he’s there for a reason. What do you think?”

She thought for a moment and  then replied: “I think he’s onto them.”

She left it at that, and so did I. 

The Khan Academy has an interesting video on Nighthawks:

Singer-songwriter Tom Waits has his own take on Nighthawks:

As for American Gothic, painted in 1930, it was once again out on loan – sigh… Later in the gift shop, when we were lamenting its absence, a person within hearing commented that she’d been to the museum three times in recent years and missed American Gothic every time!

Here it is, anyway, absent yet still in our hearts:

While Etta and I were covering all this territory, Welles and his Mom were also ranging far and wide:

The Family Room in the Ryan Learning Center, also one of Etta’s favorite places

 

 

Enchanted by the Thorne Miniature Rooms

Thanks to Welles and Etta’s Mom for these snapshots of Welles in action!

The four of us met up in a room filled with colorful helium balloons:

This was followed by lunch at Terzo Piano on the third floor:

At last, we rounded out the day with a visit to the Museum Shop, where we all did ourselves proud!

My daughter-in-law Erica took this picture of the children and me across the street from the Museum:

With her usual generosity, Erica made this day possible for all of us. I especially admire her skillful driving in the city and her negotiation of the interior of an especially challenging parking garage. Thanks so much, Erica! And bountiful thanks to my very special grandchildren, Welles and Etta: You make all things possible and joyful in my life.

 

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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought…

January 27, 2018 at 3:08 am (Book clubs, Book review, books, Family, Historical fiction, Mystery fiction)

  So there I am reading this mystery set in New Jersey in the year 1914, when I come across the following:

Deputy Morris went first and cut to the left, which would take him down a narrow street occupied mostly by cobblers and tailors and other such shops whose doors had closed hours ago.

Constance Kopp, the main character, is headed for a potentially dangerous rendezvous. She’s being discreetly shadowed by members of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, including Sheriff Heath himself. (This novel is, in fact, based on a true story.)

The above quoted sentence, however, plucked me out of that scenario and hit me in the face with another – one that, for this particular reader, was very close to home.

But first – a bit of background:

My father was  born in Westfield, in Union County, New Jersey in 1914. Shortly thereafter, the family moved one county north to Maplewood, in Essex County. (My grandparents had immigrated from what was then called Russia, now the Ukraine. They came through Ellis Island, where immigration officials struggled with foreign names written in unknown alphabets. What they came up with for my father’s family was ‘Tedlow.’ ‘Tevelov’ might have been closer. As best I’m able to reproduce it, it might have looked like this in Cyrillic: ‘Тевелов.’)

My grandfather Jacob Tedlow had a small tailoring business in Maplewood. He named the establishment The New York Tailoring Company, or something like it. I know that the name contained “New York” because I recall my father commenting that the choice of moniker revealed “delusions of grandeur” on his father’s part. (This was said in jest, but it was a sort of poignant jest.)

Below is a map of the counties that make up the state of New Jersey:

It can be readily seen that Essex County is just below Bergen County, with a section of Passaic County inserting itself in between the two. (Some of the action in Girl Waits with Gun takes place in Passaic County.) So you see, the mention of shops occupied by tailors and cobblers in the city of Paterson, in Bergen County in 1914, caused the personal association  to spring immediately to mind.

In the early 1990s, when my parents were  still active and healthy, Ron and I went with them to a restaurant in Maplewood. If recollection serves (which it often doesn’t), this small eatery was across the street from the building in which my grandfather’s tailoring business was located. The family, consisting of my grandparents, my father, and his two sisters, also lived in that building. (This was not an unusual arrangement in those days. My mother’s parents had a candy store – or confectioners, as it was officially designated – in Montclair, also in Essex County. They, my mother, and my uncle resided in an apartment on the premises.)

After we’d finished our meal and gone outside, my father pointed to the building’s top floor and told us that as a boy, he used to carry coal up to an elderly lady who lived there.

My father was a handsome and reserved man, not given to revealing his feelings or indulging in recollections of the past. The only other childhood memory that I remember him sharing was  of standing outside with a crowd of people who were cheering the soldiers who’d come back from the First World War. That would have been in 1919; at the time, he would have been five years old.

(I’m digging deep into the past here, and I hope I haven’t made any egregious misstatements. If I have, I apologize.)

Girl Waits With Gun is our next selection for the Usual Suspects Mystery Book Group discussion.At present, I’m about two thirds of the way in, for the most part, I’m enjoying it, especially as regards the novel’s historical aspect.  For me, it has certainly summoned up “remembrance of things past,” and I’m grateful to Carol for choosing it for us.

I admit, though, that I was made somewhat uneasy at first, as there were several disparaging references to those of the Jewish faith made at the outset. For instance, here is Constance Kopp relating some of her family’s history:

My grandfather—an educated man, a chemist—liked to say that he brought his family here to give them a more stable and certain future, and to keep his boys out of the endless wars with France and Italy, but my grandmother once whispered that they moved to get away from the Jews. “After they got to leave the ghettos they could live anywhere,” she hissed, and glanced out the window as if she suspected they were moving to Brooklyn, too, which of course they were.

However, thus far there’s been no recurrence of this kind of casually tossed-off antisemitism, and I can only conclude that it’s been made a part of this narrative for the sake, alas, of verisimilitude. (Although my parents and grandparents rarely spoke of it, they had from time to time encountered the expression of this prejudiced attitude firsthand.)

Some years ago, my son Ben made me a gift of a beautifully framed photograph of my father. It enjoys pride of place on our living room wall. When I’m reading on the couch – a favorite place for that activity – I can look up and see it. In this way, he keeps me company during this solitary pursuit.

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