- RSS Channel Showcase 6395397
- RSS Channel Showcase 7691898
- RSS Channel Showcase 6651246
- RSS Channel Showcase 8204765
Articles on this Page
- 02/08/17--15:41: _Taking Another Look...
- 02/14/17--12:09: _Le monde de la douceur
- 02/21/17--12:58: _Fly-Over Season
- 02/28/17--12:31: _A Day Of Rain
- 03/13/17--12:57: _Mary Hiester Reid: ...
- 03/26/17--11:21: _Rain Blossoms: The ...
- 04/01/17--13:09: _Music Under The Rad...
- 04/06/17--09:08: _Music Under The Rad...
- 04/14/17--13:00: _Jacques Prevert: A ...
- 04/25/17--08:45: _Chaud Lapin !
- 05/01/17--07:53: _Marisol, Our Contem...
- 05/09/17--09:37: _Music Under The Rad...
- 05/23/17--08:39: _ Laziness: A Primer
- 06/09/17--09:26: _Camillo Innocenti: ...
- 06/20/17--10:14: _Michele Cascella: Y...
- 07/03/17--09:48: _Luigi Ghirri: Mixin...
- 07/06/17--00:01: _"They Told Me I Sho...
- 07/28/17--14:12: _Writing The Book On...
- 08/10/17--18:08: _Johanna Grussner: O...
- 08/27/17--16:31: _Ernst Haas: Photogr...
- 09/07/17--13:41: _Artichokes & Ardor
- 09/18/17--13:04: _From A Box Of Old P...
- 09/24/17--17:42: _Elusive Brenda Bullion
- 10/01/17--18:20: _Essex Moonrise
- 10/08/17--14:12: _The Georgics Of Cha...
- 02/08/17--15:41: Taking Another Look At Modernism
- 02/14/17--12:09: Le monde de la douceur
- 02/21/17--12:58: Fly-Over Season
- 02/28/17--12:31: A Day Of Rain
- 03/13/17--12:57: Mary Hiester Reid: Can A Working Girl Ever Win?
- 03/26/17--11:21: Rain Blossoms: The Waters Of March
- 04/01/17--13:09: Music Under The Radar: Josh Roseman
- 04/06/17--09:08: Music Under The Radar: Melanie De Biasio
- 04/14/17--13:00: Jacques Prevert: A Celebration
- 04/25/17--08:45: Chaud Lapin !
- 05/01/17--07:53: Marisol, Our Contemporary
- 05/09/17--09:37: Music Under The Radar: Alice Coltrane
- 05/23/17--08:39: Laziness: A Primer
- 06/09/17--09:26: Camillo Innocenti: The Cottagers
- 06/20/17--10:14: Michele Cascella: Youthful Prodigy
- 07/03/17--09:48: Luigi Ghirri: Mixing Anthropology And Metaphysics
- 07/06/17--00:01: "They Told Me I Should Go To Rehab....."
- 07/28/17--14:12: Writing The Book On Love: From Alcman To Jessica Fisher
- 08/10/17--18:08: Johanna Grussner: Out Of This World
- 08/27/17--16:31: Ernst Haas: Photographing Intimate Space
- 09/07/17--13:41: Artichokes & Ardor
- 09/18/17--13:04: From A Box Of Old Photographs
- 09/24/17--17:42: Elusive Brenda Bullion
- 10/01/17--18:20: Essex Moonrise
- 10/08/17--14:12: The Georgics Of Charles Daubigny & Childe Hassam
These two works are not new nor are they new to the Museum of Modern Art. Mon pere et moi by the Iranian Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (b. 1937) is a large work that uses bright colors to depict an intimate relationship. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., bought the work for the museum the year Zenderoudi created it, in 1962. Zenderoudi studied both fine arts and decorative arts in Tehran. Ibrahim ElEl-Salahi's The Mosque, painted in 1964 and purchased for the permanent collection the following year, is small, its colors muted while the artist's use of Islamic calligraphy suggests the mosaics used to decorate architecture in Arabic countries. Even without knowing the calligraphy's lexicon, it is easy to see a sense of uplift in the juxtaposition of forms and gestures that run across the midsection of the canvas. Born in Sudan in 1930, Ibrahim El-Salahi came to New York on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1954. He became friends with the African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, whose monumental Migration Series is divided, half at the Museum of Modern Art and half at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
2. Ibrahim El-Salahi, The Mosque, oil on canvas, 12.12" x 18.12", 1964, Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
(One thing that the internet is not good at is suggesting the relative sizes of the images reproduced.)
By the time President Thomas Jefferson was took office in 1800, the American farm had already assumed the outlines still in evidence today. The best farms were situated on hillsides facing south, with barns and other sheds forming a screen around the house, the kitchen garden located nearby for protection from the elements, and a wood lot to the north that acted as a windbreak. There were trade-offs, of course, between the richer soil in the valleys versus the longer growing season on the sun-soaked hills. Farms on the north slope of hills often failed to prosper because of the shorter growing season and even today these lots are more likely to be timberland than farmland. A sheltered site for the house also lessened the need for firewood. A farmhouse was located near the top of hill so that a well with pure water would be protected from farm water runoff.
The land is a palimpsest, written on again and again, written over until details of previous times are obscured. By comparison with cities and suburbs, rural areas still offer a rich visual story for those who take the time to look. Now is a good time to take a ride in the country.
John Pfahl (b.1939) is an American photography, a graduate twice from Syracuse University, who now lives and teaches in Buffalo, New York.
For further reading: Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845 by John R. Stilgoe, New Haven, Yale University Press: 1983.
1. John Pfahl - Nursery Topsoil - Winter + Lancaster New York, 1994, Janet Borden Gallery, NYC.
2. John Pfahl - Blue X, Pembroke, New York, 1975, Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
3. John Pfahl - Pingry Hill Road, Andover, New York, 1979, Joseph Bellows gallery, NYC.
4. John Pfahl - The Very Rich Hours of a Compost Pile, 1994, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
("Je ne suis pas devant la nature, je suis dedans.")
- Pierre Tal-Coat, translation JL.
Everything changed when he encountered the antique Chinese landscape paintings from the Song Dynasty (900-1279). Here, centuries before landscape emerged from the background of religious and court paining in Europe, was a full developed genre that used the technqiues of the brush to express human emotions. Under its influence, Tal-Coat turned from portraying nature through visual perception to using paint to record his immediate emotional responses to nature4's ephemera, foam breaking on a rock, raining falling on a hillside. In contrast to the unrelenting pessimism of Samuel Beckett, who saw nothing but negations in the artist's later work, I am reminded of some lines from The Outermost House, the naturalist Henry Beston's bestseller first published in 1928. "The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach."
In 1961 Tal-Coat moved to a building at a Carthusian monastery in Normandy where he worked and lived quietly until his death.
What is it about accomplished women that makes them disappear like the Cheshire Cat, leaving behind their works to be sure, but barely a trace of a shadow?
Hiester's painting of her Wychwood studio contains the flowers and light-capturing objects that so impressed viewers in her work. There is no way to denigrate her mastery of such subjects as 'women's work.' After all, no one apologizes for such flower painters as Pierre-Joseph Redoute and Henri Fantin-Latour. The year after Hiester Reid died, a retrospective of more than three hundred paintings was mounted at the Art Gallery of Ontario in her adopted home of Toronto.
Unlike some of his contemporaries who turned their noses up at color, considering Kodachrome a dirty word, Haas quickly became adroit at catching temporary effects, becoming the first photographer to receive a solo exhibition of his color work at the Museum of Modern art in New York City in 1962; there would not be a second such for another fourteen years. Prejudices, however baseless or silly, fade slowly. Just look at the Cosmo (below), its rain-drenched petals mimicking the shape of an iris for a moment.
1. Ernst Haas - untitled, date not given, Ernst Haas Estate.
2. Ernst Haas - Cosmos, California, 1981, Ernst Haas Estate.
It may be a long way from Brazil to New Jersey, but not so far as you might think and the trail winds leads through an undeservedly overlooked song, Long Day, Short Night.
Bacharach wrote the song for the Shirelles in 1965, with every expectation that it would be a hit as Baby It's You had been for them in 1962. Both songs make use of the baião, a style originating in the rural states of northeastern Brazil, less familiar than the urban bossa nova but just as mesmerizing Once you know that the baião is characterized by percussion-driven melodies dominated by a bass drum, the link between The Shirelles'Baby It's You and Josh Roseman's version of Long Day, Short Night is obvious.
Trombonist Roseman has been a sideman with a too many jazz musicians to name but his recordings as a group leader suggest a strong connection with some in particular, Art Ensemble of Chicago member and trumpeter Lester Bowie is his Brass Fantasy phase and his collaboration with Don Byron on the clarinetist's klezmer project.
Bacharach had studied composition with French composer Darius Milhaud whose Le Boeuf sur le Toit (1920) is a melange of popular tunes lifted from Brazilian well known musicians, put through a French press of Parisian urbanity. For more on this subject - lots more! - check out the website of Daniella Thompson, a jazz programmer at KPFA, 94.1 in Berkeley, whose Boeuf Chronicles is just one of her many explorations of Brazilian music.
Long Day, Short Night
Josh Roseman Unit, trombone, Treats For the Nightwalker,2003, Enja Records
Baby It's You
Image: unidentified photographer for BBC - Josh Roseman
"I'm gonna leave you, yes I'm gonna
I'm gonna leave you 'cause I want to
And I'll go where people love me
And I'll stay there 'cause they love me"
For anyone familiar with the outlines of singer Nina Simone's biography, it would be easy to imagine that she wrote these lyrics but, in fact, they were written by her guitarist who, on the evidence, was a keen observer of the artist who first became known as 'little girl blue' but was well on way to becoming the 'high priestess of soul" when they began working together. An angry, wounded song from the 1960s has recently been given new currency from an unexpected quarter - a Belgian singer and songwriter who knows a good song even when it arrives smothered by a Broadway pit orchestra.
Rudy Stevenson, who wrote "I'm Gonna Leave You", joined Nina Simone's band in early 1964, while Simone was recording I Put A Spell On You, her finest studio album for Phillips Records, in New York City. Stevenson, also a composer and arranger, wrote a song ("One September Day") and an instrumental number ("Blues On Purpose") for the occasion. Buried on Simone's next release High Priestess Of Soul was another Stevenson song "I'm Gonna Leave You." It sounds as though it was recorded in a hurry, without much thought or care, in an uptempo Broadway-style arrangement. Simone herself was famous for introducing her own incendiary civil rights anthem "Mississippi Goddam" with the comment, "This is a show tune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet." Still, the song has presentiments of a more intimate meditation laced with payback than what usually gets belted out across the footlights.
Melanie De Biasio (b.1978) is a Belgian jazz singer who writes many of the songs she sings, so her inclusion of a song recorded by the American Nina Simone in the 1960s De Biasio knew she would not be able to afford much studio time to record No Deal, which she produced herself, so she spent weeks working out the ambiences she wanted for each track in three short days.
I'm Gonna Leave You
Melanie DeBiasio, 2013
I'm Gonna Leave You
Nina Simone, 1966.
Melanie De Biasio, courtesy Worldwide FM, Gilles Peterson.
Prevert's gallery of usual suspects included clerics ("Poetry is everywhere as God is nowhere") and the military but, unlike others he named names, never hiding behind abstractions. That was the kernel of his "anti-intellectualism," his scorn for the typical scholar who would "expend his life erecting a self-glorifying monument of theories." Prevert called out the "religious insincerity" of the Popes, especially during war times, and social injustices in the persons of Marechal Petain and the French colonials in Vietnam. His youthful encounters with the poor, introduced through his father, led t Prevert to join the Ocotber Group, a troupe of amateur actors in the 1930s. The plays they put on may not have been much more than "agit-prop" but Fabian Loris, a Prevert biographer syas, "It was not a theater, it was a way of life, with Jacques Prevert as its strong foundation, his humor corroding like acid on a plate." The Communist Party was not amused but the public was and this kept the group members safe. Meanwhile Prevert also put his politics to work in screenplays, among them Le crime de monsieur with Jean Renoir (1935), an idyllic story of a publishing cooperative in the days of the Popular Front and Quai des brumes with Marcel Carne (1938), the story of an Amry deserter.
Paris-Prévert by Danièle Gasiglia-Laster was just published by Editions Gallimard in Paris.
1. Israel Bidermanas - Jacques Prevert in Paris, 1954,Pompidou Center, Paris.
2. Gilbert Poillerat (1902-1988) - Portrait-de-l'oiseau-qui-n'existe-par, 1979, Pompidou Center, Paris.
"To the carrot, the rabbit is the perfect incarnation of Evil." - Robert Sheckley.
A detail from The Lady And The Unicorn, wool and silk tapestry, c.1495-1505, (Musee nationale du Moyen Age) Musee de Cluny, Paris.
The tapestries were deisgned in Paris and woven in Flanders. They disappeared from puiblic view, only to be found by Prosper Merimiee, author of the novel Carmen, in 1841. Merimee, it should be noted was an archeologist, among other things, when he discovered the tapestries moldering in a castle in central France. Three years later, after George Sand saw them she began to publicize their existence.
A month before, the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood had asked What Art Under Trump?in The Nation, reopening an old debate. Artists, she pointed out, have often been lectured on their moral duty. Atwood didn't invoke The Metamorphosis Of The Gods bythe late Andre Malraux but she could have. Malraux traced the path taken by the divine aura from the ancient world to art museums as our relationship to the divine has been transformed into a a veneration of objects. The sacralization of contemporary art is about money. Paintings, books, theater, and films, are not inherently sacred, no matter what price they command in the marketplace, although they have in the past served religious functions, in ancient Greek theater and medieval cathedrals, to name two instances.
Why the Albright-Knox Gallery, located some 450 miles from New York City, the place where Marisol lived for decades? It was the first museum to acquire Marisol's work for its collection when Seymour Knox purchased The Generals in 1962. The artist and the museum director became friends with Marisol making frequent appearances at openings and events there. "She was incredibly grateful to Mr. Knox for his purchase of The Generals and Baby Girl. said Carlos Brillembourg, Marisol's longtime friend and co-executor of her estate with Mimi Trujillo. Baby Girl also became an instant hit when the museum purchased it in 1964. The little girl (who is very big) dwarfs her tiny doll-like mother. And Marisol had another link with the Queen City: throughout her career, Marisol was represented by the gallery of Sidney Janis, a Buffalo native.
I had to crane my neck to get a good look at Simon Bolivar and George Washington whenever I visited The Generals; it stands seven feet three inches tall. The brightly painted wooden sculpture evokes a smile and memories of toy soldiers, but there is serious business going on here. Washington and Bolivar were both leaders of independence movements in the Americas, but their imagined appearance together suggests a satirical viewpoint; these mounted leaders with their feet hanging in air may be out of touch with reality. A Marisol sculpture, I soon recognized, is always about more than one thing at a time.
Because the art world caught up with Marisol in the 1960s, her work has often been pigeon-holed with pop Art - and left there when styles changed - but her work has not dated. Marisol But her astute mimicry of human behavior was much deeper than a silk screen of a soup can. Dubbed a "Latin Garbo" for her beauty, the feminist nature of her social critique has become clearer with time.
In 2014, the Museo del Barrio was the first New York museum to present a solo exhibition of Marisol’s work.
1. unidentified photographer - Marisol touches up The Generals at the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, 1963, courtesy Albright-Knox Gallery.
2. unidentified photographer - Marisol and a guest with The Generals, November 18, 1963, courtesy Albright-Knox Gallery.
3. unidentified photographer, Marisol - The Generals, c.1961-62, courtesy Albright-Knox Gallery.
4. unidentified photographer - Marisol - Baby Girl, 1963, courtesy Albright-Knox Gallery.
From Spiritual Eternal, I worked my way backward to her first recording as a leader, A Monastic Trio (1968) and the transcendental Journey In Satchidananda (1970), discovering along the way her other instruments, the harp played with feather-weight glissandi (remember those arpeggios), so different from the strong melodic line of Dorothy Ashby, and the piano. Coltrane, I learned, had replaced the titanic McCoy Tyner in John Coltrane's quartet the year before his death, something that certain Coltrane fans equated with the snake in the garden. For this, and for her experiments with the note-bending capabilities of modular synthesizers, she remained outside the jazz mainstream for the rest of her life. That Alice Coltrane needed to become a leader in order to have a group to play with after her husband's death in 1967, seemed unworthy of comment at the time. It makes me think of an exchange between contemporary trio leader Michele Rosewoman and a an unnamed male musician: who he asked her "What's with this all-woman thing?" as her group was setting up for a performance. Rosewoman turned and gestured toward his band with the reply "What's with this all-man thing?".
When Alice met John Coltrane, the two joined were joined togetherin seeking transcendence innon-Western religious books such as the Quran,the Bhagavad Gita, and writings on Zen Buddhism. Alice would ultimately find a home in Hinduism and founded a Vedantic Ccnter in California, where she lived until her death in 2007. Musicians Herbie Hancock and Sun Rapursued a similarquestfor a system of belief that could free black people from the oppressionthey were subjected to in America. This is what Su Ra meant when he declared, "Space is the place."
After 1978, and the move to Los Angeles, Alice Coltraneseldom recorded but, thanks to the encouragement of her son, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, she recorded one finalalbum, Transilinear Light.
World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda 2017, has just been released by Luaka Bop Records
1, unidentified photographer - Alice Coltrane, from Journey In Satchidananda, 1970, Impulse Records.
2. Jeff Dunas, photographer - Alice Coltrane, from Translinear Light, 2004, Impulse Records.
So even he was not so lazy as I.
Hsi Shu-yeh is the Taoist poet Hsi K'ang (223-262 C.E.). No doubt the transliteration of all these names has changed since Waley's day. "
It is the kind of tromp l'oeil picture that many an amateur has accidentally produced, but in this instance the result is so perfectly achieved that you want to know who is the photographer - and where exactly is he in relation to the other elements in the photo? Has he risen from some watery deep just beyond the frame? And when you learn that his name is Luigi Ghirri, you wonder why that name is not familiar.
Luigi Ghirri began his career with a sense that everything that could be done with photography had already been accomplished. He spoke often of how deeply affected he was by the view of Earth photographed from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. "It was not only the image of the entire world, but the image that contained all other images of the world." From this, Ghirri extrapolated the idea of the image-within-image, a framing technique he would use in his photographs. He brought the eye of an anthropologist to bear on the seemingly unremarkable sights that we see everyday but with an intensity that has been described as metaphysical, a word often applied to artists of Emilia-Romagna region, like Giorgio de Chirico and Giorgio Morandi. Ghirri called them his "sentimental geography" but that does not exhaust the interest of, say, those yellow traffic lights bobbing in the fog
Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) grew up in the northern province of Emilia-Romagna. A temperate area of broad fertile plains, fed by the Po River, it was created millennia ago when the sea retreated, leaving marshlands as it retreated. The young Ghirri moved to Modena, a small city but no backwater, located near Bologna, the regional capitol and home of the oldest university in the world. His studies in surveying and graphic design coalesced in a new hobby - taking pictures - that quickly became his chosen work.
Conceiving his photographs mostly in series, Ghirri presented them in books more often than in exhibitions which may have limited their initial impact. His first book Kodachrome, published in 1978, featured the tightly cropped images that would familiar in his work.
Ghirri's last home was at Roncosesi, not far from where he was born. Although he traveled, he found all that he needed for his work there. Formal, cerebral, witty, Ghirri always intended his photographs to explore rather than merely represent what was before him.
“Everything has a blighted, faded quality about it now. Still, if you look at it for a long time, the old charm reemerges. And that is why I can see that I will lose absolutely nothing by staying where I am, even by contenting myself with watching things go by, like a spider in its web waiting for flies. You need to look at things for a long time…” – Vincent van Gogh
Ghirri copied this quotation from a letter written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo in his own journal.
Although admired during his lifetime, Ghirri's work has only grown in importance since his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of forty-nine. "...(N)ow, in their faded and aging present state, Ghirri’s prints from the 1970s and ’80s signal themselves as relics of the first wave of the then-new colour photography, carrying with them both prescience and nostalgia.." Christy Lange wrote for Frieze in 2011.
1. Paris (self-portrait in reflection), 1976, reprinted from Kodachrome, 1978, reprinted London: 2012.
3. Fagnano Olona - elementary school designed by Aldo Rossi, 1985, Pompidou Center, Paris.
4. Reggio Emilia, 1973, Pompidou Center, Paris.
While I'm away from the keyboard,I hope you will explore the archives here and, if you find something that interests you, please comment and I promise to respond to each one as soon as I am able.
Original photograph by Peter Librizzi, restoration by Renee Ing Akana at 28moons
- "Fate And Necessity" by Alkman, from Lyra Graeca, Vol. I, # 142.
:Not Aphrodite, no. But like a child,
Wild, Love comes down,
Almost as though walking on flowers -
But should not touch them,
- "Not Aphrodite, No" by Alkman from Lyra Graeca, Vol. I, #6
excerpted from Pure Pagan: Seven Centuries of Greek Poems and Fragments, translated by Burton Raffel, New York, The Modern Library: 2005
I can still taste him, bitter in the throat; I still
feel the weight of his body as he fights sleep.
I do not fight it: on the contrary, I live there,
and what you see in me that you think is grief
is the refusal to wake, that is to say, is pleasure:
qui donne du Plaisir en a, and so it
when he couldn't sleep in that long still night
you sensed it and woke to show him how
to unfasten each and every button, then it us
promised you, even when he goes -
- excerpt from "The Right To Pleasure" by Jessica Fisher, from Frail-Craft, New Haven, Yale University Press: 2007
For further reading:
1. Philippe Brunet, La Naissance de la littérature dans la Grèce ancienne, Paris, Le Livre de Poche:
2. Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet, Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press: 1998.
Anonymous artist, Women In The Orchard (titled ascribed), no date, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA.
When I'm looking at you
I hear out of this world
The music that no mortal ever knew
The fairy tale I read when I was so high
No armored knight out of a book
Would find a more enchanted Lorelei than I
After reaching so long for a star
All at once from a long and lonely night time
And despite time, here you are
If you said we were through
So let me fly out of this world
And spend the next eternity or two with you
After reaching so long for a star
All at once from a long and lonely night time
And despite time, here you are
If you said we were through
So let me fly out of this world
And spend the next eternity or two with you"
- Out Of This World, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Harold Arlen.
Melisma is a technique familiar to us from its use in gospel music; its use originated in early Christian plainsong. Unlike syllabic singing where each syllable is accorded one note, when a singer moves from one note to another on a single syllable, that’s melisma. When Johnny Mercer came to write this lyric in 1944, he had been working in Hollywood for almost ten years and it shows in its style; this was no Tin Pan Alley show tune to be belted to the rafters for applause. Rather, it existed on an altogether more intimate emotional plane. Wilder was certainly right to describe Out Of This World as not being typical of Harold Arlen's songs, but then it is not typical of anyone else's that I can think of either.
Listen to Johanna Grussner sing Out Of This World.
Visit Johanna Grussner's website.
No More Blues, a recording by Johanna Grussner, Naxos Jazz: 2005.
Photograph of Johanna Grussner, 2010, courtesy of Allaboutjazz.com.
The nubbed leaves
in a tease of green, thinning
down to the membrane:
the quick, purpled
beginnings of the male.
Then the slow hairs of the heart:
the choke that guards its trophy,
its vegetable goblet.
The meat of it lies, displayed
the stub-root aching in its oil.
-"Artichoke" by Robin Robertson
Mabel Allington Royds (1874-1941)- Artichoke, 1935, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.
The charm of both drawings and watercolors is their customary intimate scale. They are suited to domestic spaces and invite the viewer to live comfortably with them at length. The gigantism of many recent paintings renders them more suitable to public spaces; how to relate to something that pushes the viewer away, maybe even out the door, makes them arrogant companions.
Visit Corners Gallery
Image: Brenda Bullion - untitled, 1973, crayon and watercolor, Steven Barbash Collection, Herbert F. Johnson Museu, Ithaca, NY.
To name the towns and beaches that border the Great Marsh is, for me like fingering a string of beads, each one more beautiful than the last" Newburyport, Plum Island, Ipswich, Crane Beach, Essex, The Dragon. Moviemakers concur: The Thomas Crown Affair was filmed at Castle Hill in Ipswich and The Witches Of Eastwick at Crane Beach, while The Crucible was shot on nearby Choate Island.
Salt marshes are nature's lungs, their grasslands and tidal estuaries filter out storm water and pollution, thus protecting the fish, insects, mammals, and sea birds that live there and, not incidentally, their human neighbors. But more than that, they are beautiful to behold; the air really does shimmer with a luminance I have seen nowhere else.
John Leslie Breck (1859-1899), who was born at sea near Hong Kong and spent his final years in and around Ipswich, made his most evocative paintings of the littoral zone, that restless, shape-shifting place between land and sea, a objective correlative to his favorite time for painting - the crepuscular hour between day and night. And so it is that the blue marsh estuaries have turned violet and pink. I wonder if Breck had ever had the twilight experience of seeing the earth's shadow in the eastern sky as the sun sets in the west, a demarcation between blue and violet that is a product of particles of the earth's atmosphere. I first saw this as a child living in Newburyport one evening when my parents pointed it out to me from our backyard.
Claude Monet settled his family at Giverny in 1883, just beginning to enjoy some commercial success in his forties, thanks to the efforts of his Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel. He began by renting the house at Giverny, only becoming able to purchase it seven years later when he turned fifty. It was no part of his intention to establish an art colony in the picturesque Norman village but by 1887 the first group of his American admirers had descended on him for the summer: Willard Leroy Metcalf, Theodore Robinson, and John Leslie Breck. Breck became an especially close friend of the artist. However a romance with Monet's stepdaughter Blanche ended badly and sent Breck home in 1890. But Breck returned an altered painter, his colors brighter, his brushwork looser, having cast his lot with the plein air or outdoor painters, He died, an apparent suicide, at thirty-nine years old just as critics reckoned that he had come into his own as an artist.
John Leslie Breck - Essex Massachusetts Moonrise, Breck family estate, courtesy of Boston Center for the Arts.
I had never thought much about Daubignyuntil I saw Fields in the Month of June. But there it was and I came to relish the times I sat on a bench in front of it, absorbing it or being absorbed into it, the light coming down from a window high above, my own personal floating world of meadows and agriculture, made seamless by the drive to Ithaca through other similar meadows. It hardly matters whether Hassam painted his meadow in England or the United States, any more than that Daubigny's meadow is French; there is something charming and familiar in this vision of agriculture as human handwriting on the land.
From a family of artists, Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-1878) had his first lessons at home with his father. Like Hassam after him, Daubigny apprenticed with an engraver; indeed his first exhibited works were prints. His attentiveness to landscape was intensified by the year Daubigny spent with his friend Jules Breton aboard Le Botin, a houseboat converted into a movable studio; the two artists floated along the rivers of northern France, the Seine the Marne, and Oise, on an unmatched peripatetic painting trip.
You can read The Georgics by Virgil courtesy of MIT.
1. Childe Hassam - Sunrise - Autumn, 1884, oil on canvas, 12in. x 18in. Sullivan Goss: An American Art Gallery, Santa Barbara.
2. Charles-François Daubigny, Fields in the Month of June, 1874, oil on canvas, 88in. x 53in., Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Ithaca, NY.