American Art – Part I of V: William Merritt Chase
In the words of one write, painter William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) was “known as an exponent of Impressionism and as a teacher. He is also responsible for establishing the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design.”
“Lexicographer. A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.” – Samuel Johnson, English lexicographer, poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and one of the sanest human beings in the history of our species, who died on 13 December 1784.
Dr. Johnson’s contributions to literate culture are far too numerous to describe in a brief posting, and so I recommend a careful reading of “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” by James Boswell, which many astute critics consider the greatest work of biographical art in the whole of literature. In it, readers will encounter the Great Man, in all his witty and curmudgeonly glory. In the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,” literary historian Pat Rogers suggests that Samuel Johnson is “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history,” but in truth, there is no argument.
Some Johnson quotes taken from Boswell’s “Life of Samuel Johnson”:
(Referring to his critics) “A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.”
A lady once asked him how he came to define “pastern” as “the knee of a horse.” Instead of making an elaborate defense, as might be expected, he at once answered, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”
“No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.”
“Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.”
(To Boswell, who was a Scotsman) “Norway, too, has noble wild prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!”
“A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.”
“But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”
“So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.”
“It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.”
A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage, remarried immediately after his wife died: Johnson said, it was “the triumph of hope over experience.”
“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.”
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”
“This is one of the disadvantages of wine, it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.”
“Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.”
“Sir, you have but two topics, yourself and me. I am sick of both.”
“Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
“It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world.”
“Wine makes a man more pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others.”
“Were it not for imagination, Sir, a man would be as happy in the arms of a chambermaid as of a Duchess.”
“Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.”
“If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle.”
“As I know more of mankind, I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.”
American Art – Part II of V: Grandma Moses
Died 13 December 1961 (at age 101) – Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, American folk artist. One critic describes Grandma Moses thusly: “A cultural icon, the spry, productive nonagenarian was continually cited as an inspiration for housewives, widows and retirees. Her images of America’s rural past were transferred to curtains, dresses, cookie jars, and dinner ware, and used to pitch cigarettes, cameras, lipstick and instant coffee.”
Below – “Sugaring Off”; “A Beautiful World”; “Winter”; “Checkered House”; “The Quilting Bee”; “A Blizzard.”
American Art – Part III of V: John Henry Twachtman
In the words of one historian, John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) “was an American painter best known for his impressionist landscapes, though his painting style varied widely through his career. Art historians consider Twachtman’s style of American Impressionism to be among the more personal and experimental of his generation.”
From the Music Archives: Jimi Hendrix
13 December 1966 – Jimi Hendrix releases the single “Foxy Lady.”
Here is one critic describing the background of Vietnamese painter Lim Khim Katy: “Born in 1978, Katy displays an emotional maturity beyond her years. After graduating from Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts University in 2001, Katy received many accolades & merits from a variety of associations, and became a member of the Fine Arts Association of Ho Chi Minh City in 2005. Her recognition as a contemporary Vietnamese artist was solidified with her first international solo exhibition in 2006.”
“In fact I think now we’ve reached a point now, where the powers that be really have sort of vested interest in all of us being stoned out as much as possible all the time so we don’t know what’s going on, and we don’t care.” – Lester Bangs, American music journalist, author, and musician, who was born 13 December 1948.
Anyone wishing to sample the writing of Lester Bangs should acquire a copy of his collected writings – “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic,” edited by Greil Marcus (the author of the brilliant “Mystery Train,” in which he placed rock and roll within the larger context of American culture).
Some quotes from Lester Bangs:
“Well basically I just started out to lead [an interview] with the most insulting question I could think of. Because it seemed to me that the whole thing of interviewing as far as rock stars and that was just such a suck-up. It was groveling obeisance to people who weren’t that special, really. It’s just a guy, just another person, so what?”
“The first mistake of Art is to assume that it’s serious.”
“Corporations are social organizations, the theater in which men and women realize or fail to realize purposeful and productive lives.”
“Here we are in the 70’s when everything really is horrible and it really stinks. The mass media, everything on television everything everywhere is just rotten. You know it’s just really boring and really evil, ugly and worse.”
“I don’t see that there are any particular changes in popular music.”
“And doing so you can recreate yourself and you can also come up with something that is not only original and creative and artistic, but also maybe even decent, or moral if I can use words like that, or something that’s like basically good.”
“As far as a truly radical conscience, you have to take it as part of a larger thing, that it was sort of historical inevitability that with the coming of a leaguer society people would start to use drugs a lot more then they had before.”
“Every great work of art has two faces, one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.”
“I mean it’s easier to be in a demonstration if it’s a trip; that’s one of the reasons why the whole thing fell apart in 1971, because it wasn’t a trip any longer.”
“It’s much easier to wear a Chairman Mao button and shake your fists in the air and all that, then to actually read the Communist manifesto and things like that and actually become involved in politics.”
“No, I see it as meaning very little at the moment because none of the groups are about anything.”
“That’s one reason why it’s pretty worthless, I can’t totally buy it, if you think about it, it’s things like the Phil Spector records. On one level they were rebellion, on another level they were keeping the teenager in his place.”
“The thing is that, they all had real strong personalities and real distinct identities, and I don’t find most of the groups that are coming out now really do.”
“The ultimate sin of any performer is contempt for the audience.”
“In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.” – Mary Renault, English writer best known for her historical novels set in ancient Greece and author of “The Last of the Wine,” who died on 13 December 1983.
Some quotes from the work of Mary Renault:
“One must live as if it would be forever, and as if one might die each moment. Always both at once.”
“The rightness of a thing isn’t determined by the amount of courage it takes.”
“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.”
“Do not believe that others will die, not you…. I have wrestled with Thanatos knee to knee and I know how death is vanquished. Man’s immortality is not to live forever; for that wish is born of fear. Each moment free from fear makes a man immortal.”
“It’s not what one is, it’s what one does with it.”
American Art – Part IV of V: Alan Feltus
From a letter written by Alan Feltus: “I think art wants to be something people can turn to for a kind of meaning in their lives, or for a calm place within the turbulance of our modern world. Art doesn’t have to explain our situation within the complexity of a chaotic and unstable society. Art can become social commentary, but it can also serve a much needed purpose providing a place of refuge wherein one can find a reason, or justification, for all the battling we have to do, mentally or physically, most of every day of our lives. After all, we love the art of the past for itself, generally being ignorant of the context, the politics, let’s say, of the time and place in which it was made. We hold onto our favorite pieces in our favorite museums or churches, in our books, and we love to be moved by the beauty of something newly found. Art should have that kind of place in our lives. Art should be about transcendence. It should not merely reflect our surroundings like a mirror, adding to the clutter, but become something more wonderful, more meaningful than that. It wants to be remembered and returned to over and over again. Good art feeds us. It is so important.”
13 December 1843 – Charles Dickens publishes “A Christmas Carol.”
I always read “A Christmas Carol” from the last chapter to the first, because I love happy endings.
Two of my favorite quotes from “A Christmas Carol”:
“‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’”
“‘If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, ‘Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’”
Below – Alastair Sim portraying one of my heroes – Ebenezer Scrooge, an indefatigable champion of free-market economics – in the 1951 movie version of “A Christmas Carol.”
American Art – Part V of V: Milt Kobayashi
“A third generation Japanese-American, Kobayashi was born in New York City, soon after that his family moved to Oahu, Hawaii, and then ventured to Los Angeles when he was eight. After receiving his B.A. in 1970 from the University of California – Los Angeles, Kobayashi began working as an illustrator. However he found his work, which was quite editorial in its nature, did not fit the Los Angeles commercial art market. In 1977, Kobayashi returned to New York City. After returning to New York, a casual visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art permanently altered Kobayashi’s artistic direction and prompted a career change. There he saw Velazquez’s portrait Juan de Paraja. ”
“My favorite review described me as the cinematic equivalent of junk mail.” – Steve Buscemi, American actor, who was born on 13 December 1957.
No man who was part of the magnificent scene shown below ever has to justify his acting credentials – especially to some talent-blind critic.
Visionary Art – Part I of II: Boris Koller
“The one who comes to question himself cares for mankind.” – Kenneth Patchen, American poet and novelist, who was born on 13 December 1911.
Kenneth Patchen had a considerable influence on many of his younger contemporaries, including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder.
“As We Are So Wonderfully Done with Each Other”
As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood lies
O my lady, my fairest dear, my sweetest, loveliest one
Your lips have splashed my dull house with the speech of flowers
My hands are hallowed where they touched over your
It is good to be weary from that brilliant work
It is being God to feel your breathing under me
Visionary Art – Part II of II: Aris Kalaizis
“Man is never alone. Acknowledged or unacknowledged, that which dreams through him is always there to support him from within.” – Laurens van der Post, Afrikaner author, farmer, war hero, political advisor, educator, journalist, humanitarian, philosopher, explorer, and conservationist, who was born on 13 December 1906.
Laurens van der Post led an eventful life, and I recommend two of his splendid books: “The Lost World of the Kalahari” and “The Heart of the Hunter.”
Some quotes from the work of Laurens van der Post:
“I was compelled towards the Bushmen like someone who walks in his sleep, obedient to a dream of finding in the dark what the day has denied him.”
“I remembered a story of how Bach was approached by a young admirer one day and asked, ‘But Papa Bach, how do you manage to think of all these new tunes?’ ‘My dear fellow,’ Bach is said to have answered, according to my version, ‘I have no need to think of them. I have the greatest difficulty not to step on them when I get out of bed in the morning and start moving around my room.’”
“Organized religion is making Christianity political rather than making politics Christian.”
“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.”
“Life is its own journey, presupposes its own change and movement, and one tries to arrest them at one’s eternal peril.”
“I suspect it was…the old story of the implacable necessity of a man having honour within his own natural spirit. A man cannot live and temper his mettle without such honour. There is deep in him a sense of the heroic quest; and our modern way of life, with its emphasis on security, its distrust of the unknown and its elevation of abstract collective values has repressed the heroic impulse to a degree that may produce the most dangerous consequences.”
“Life begins as a quest of the child for the man and ends as a journey by the man to rediscover the child.”
“The spirit of man is nomad, his blood bedouin, and love is the aboriginal tracker on the faded desert spoor of his lost self; and so I came to live my life not by conscious plan or prearranged design but as someone following the flight of a bird.”
Canadian Art – Part I of II: Paul Kelley
In the words of one writer, “Paul Kelley (born 1955) is a Canadian artist whose careful manipulation of light, form, color, and composition results in paintings that are at once sensuous and alluring, mysterious and inviting, powerful and serene. “
“To One Unknown,”
By Helen Dudley
I have seen the proudest stars
That wander on through space,
Even the sun and moon,
But not your face.
I have heard the violin,
The winds and waves rejoice
in endless minstrelsy,
Yet not your voice.
I have touched the trillium,
Pale flower of the land,
And not your hand.
I have kissed the shining feet
Of Twilight lover-wise,
Opened the gates of Dawn—
Oh not your eyes!
I have dreamed unwonted things,
Visions that witches brew,
Spoken with images,
Never with you.
“Twenty can’t be expected to tolerate sixty in all things, and sixty gets bored stiff with twenty’s eternal love affairs.” – Emily Carr, Canadian writer, artist, and uncommonly wise person, who was born on 13 December 1871.
In her prose style, sensibility, and personal interests, Emily Carr reminds me of American author Mary Austin. Anyone reading Carr’s “Klee Wyck” (“The Laughing One” – the name bestowed upon her by her Native American friends) and Austin’s “The Land of Little Rain,” will discover two gifted writers who were also intrepid travelers through some lonely landscapes that they described with poetic precision.
Some quotes from the work of Emily Carr:
“You come into the world alone and you go out of the world alone yet it seems to me you are more alone while living than even going and coming.”
“I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows.”
“Trees love to toss and sway; they make such happy noises.”
“Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don’t know in your own soul.”
I sat staring, staring, staring – half lost, learning a new language or rather the same language in a different dialect. So still were the big woods where I sat, sound might not yet have been born.”
“It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw.”
“Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching.”
“Perfectly ordered disorder designed with a helter-skelter magnificence.”
“The artist himself may not think he is religious, but if he is sincere his sincerity in itself is religion.”
“The men resent a woman getting any honour in what they consider is essentially their field. Men painters mostly despise women painters. So I have decided to stop squirming, to throw any honour in with Canada and women.”
“There is something bigger than fact: the underlying spirit, all it stands for, the mood, the vastness, the wildness.”
“You always feel when you look it straight in the eye that you could have put more into it, could have let yourself go and dug harder.”
“You will have to experiment and try things out for yourself and you will not be sure of what you are doing. That’s all right, you are feeling your way into the thing.”
Above – Emily Carr.
Below – Carr’s wonderful book; “The Crazy Stair (The Crooked Staircase)” (On 28 November 2013, this painting sold for $3.39 million at a Toronto art auction. As of the sale, it is a record price for a painting by a Canadian female artist.); “Autumn in France”; “A Rushing Sea of Undergrowth”; “Cedar Sanctuary”; “The Mountain”; “Loggers’ Culls”;
“Shoreline”; “Corner of Kitwancool Village”; “Totem Poles”; “Big Raven”; “McCaulay Point.”