American Art – Part I of II: Esther Bubley
Born 16 February 1921 – Esther Bubley, an American photographer who, in the words of one critic, “specialized in expressive photos of ordinary people in everyday lives.”
Below – “Nighthawke”; “Muriel Pare, a switching clerk at the Western Union telegraph office (1943)”; “Checkers”; “Boy Sitting at Desk, Tomball, Texas (1946)”; “Soldiers with their girls in front of the Greyhound bus”; “Self-Portrait (1950).”
“Education has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” – George M. Trevelyan, British historian and author of “Clio, A Muse, and Other Essays Literary and Pedestrian,” who was born 16 February 1876.
A few quotes from the work of George M. Trevelyan:
“One half who graduate from college never read another book.”
“Social history might be defined negatively as the history of a people with the politics left out.”
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
“Disinterested intellectual curiosity is the life blood of real civilization.”
Here is one critic describing the background and artistry of Kay Yoshiya: “At the age of 9, Kay Yoshiya encountered the paintings of Vincent van Gogh at a private art school in Yokohama for the first time. Instantaneously she made up her mind to go to the Netherlands someday, where Vincent was born and brought up, and to become an art painter. In 1965, she crossed over to the Netherlands to continue her study at art academies in The Hague. Since then, 47 years have passed, and she has been staying in Holland already twice as long as the youth period she lived in Japan. Soon after Yoshiya’s arrival in Holland, she got deeply impressed and charmed by, earlier than Vincent van Gogh, medieval altar paintings in churches and museums nearby, that gave overwhelming impact and influence to her artistic mind. In pious pray and with eager quest for art, many nameless painters in the early period of European art depicted their altar pieces; through a bit primitive métier, they were telling her the original essence of European art and culture– this is what Yoshiya perceived at that time.”
“There is no stopping the world’s tendency to throw off imposed restraints, the religious authority that is based on the ignorance of the many, the political authority that is based on the knowledge of the few.” – Van Wyck Brooks, American literary critic, biographer, historian, and the author of “The Flowering of New England” (1936), which won both the 1936 National Book Award for nonfiction and the 1937 Pulitzer Prize in history, who was born 16 February 1886.
Some quotes from the work of Van Wyck Brooks:
“The creative impulses of man are always at war with the possessive impulses.”
“Magnanimous people have no vanity, they have no jealousy, and they feed on the true and the solid wherever they find it. And, what is more, they find it everywhere.”
“Genius and virtue are to be more often found clothed in gray than in peacock bright.”
“If men were basically evil, who would bother to improve the world instead of giving it up as a bad job at the outset?”
“It is not that the French are not profound, but they all express themselves so well that we are led to take their geese for swans.”
“No one is fit to judge a book until he has rounded Cape Horn in a sailing vessel, until he has bumped into two or three icebergs, until he has been lost in the sands of the desert, until he has spent a few years in the House of the Dead.”
Born 16 February 1930 – Fred Cuming, a British landscape painter.
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: The Beatles
16 February 1963 – The Beatles reach the top of British popular music charts with “Please, Please Me.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: George Harrison
16 February 1979 – George Harrison releases the single “Blow Away.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Mexican painter Daniel Lezama:
“The first impression upon encountering Daniel Lezama’s large canvases -some of which are veritable “salon machines” where the human figure is close to life size- is a clear-cut formal reference to pictorial tradition, from Great Masters to Mexican Nationalist Nineteenth Century painters. The second impression immediately snaps the audience back to its own time and place: the events portrayed are current, the dramatic fiction is narrated in everyday scenarios. The third impression is far more complex: we are confronted by a polisemic staging that opens the way to multiple levels of interpretation and social and artistic reference. “
Here is a comment from Daniel Lezama: “I am surprised at how non-specialized audiences are often capable of approaching my work with more ease and immediacy that the art crowd. Maybe we should learn again to risk getting involved in a story, to stop and take the time a painting requires, to see it with other eyes, with heart and head at once”.
“Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.” – James Harvey Robinson, American historian and author of “The Story of Our Civilization,” who died 16 February 1936.
Some quotes from the work of James Harvey Robinson:
“We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened.”
“During the tenth and eleventh centuries the rule of the Church prohibiting the clergy from marrying appears to have been widely and publicly neglected in Italy, Germany, France, and England. To the stricter critics of the time this appeared a terrible degradation of the clergy, who, they felt, should be unencumbered by family cares and wholly devoted to the service of God. The question, too, had another side. It was obvious that the property of the Church would soon be dispersed if the clergy were allowed to marry, since they would wish to provide for their children. Just as the feudal tenures had become hereditary, so the church lands would become hereditary unless the clergy were forced to remain unmarried.”
“Partisanship is our great curse. We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other.”
“Curiosity is idle only to those who fail to realize that it may be a very rare and indispensable thing.”
“We find it hard to believe that other people’s thoughts are as silly as our own, but they probably are.”
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Spanish painter Juanjo Castillo (born 1957): “In our walking we meet men and women that stand still, maybe witnesses of a catastrophe that froze their steps. We cross through a world held in time, and in this world we recognize ourselves.”
“The dead were and are not. Their place knows them no more and is ours today… The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.” – Henry Brooks Adams, American historian and author of “The Education of Henry Adams,” who was born 16 February 1838.
In the words of one historian, “His posthumously-published memoirs, ‘The Education of Henry Adams,’ won the Pulitzer Prize, and went on to be named by The Modern Library as the top English-language nonfiction book of the twentieth century.”
Some quotes from the work of Henry Brooks Adams:
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.”
“Knowledge of human nature is the beginning and end of political education.”
“The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled.”
“He never labored so hard to learn a language as he did to hold his tongue, and it affected him for life. The habit of reticence — of talking without meaning — is never effaced.”
“These questions of taste, of feeling, of inheritance, need no settlement. Everyone carries his own inch-rule of taste, and amuses himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels.”
“Good men do the most harm.”
“From cradle to grave this problem of running order through chaos, direction through space, discipline through freedom, unity through multiplicity, has always been, and must always be, the task of education, as it is the moral of religion, philosophy, science, art, politics and economy; but a boy’s will is his life, and he dies when it is broken, as the colt dies in harness, taking a new nature in becoming tame.”
“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. The imagination must be given not wings but weights.”
“You say that love is nonsense…. I tell you it is no such thing. For weeks and months it is a steady physical pain, an ache about the heart, never leaving one, by night or by day; a long strain on one’s nerves like toothache or rheumatism, not intolerable at any one instant, but exhausting by its steady drain on the strength.”
“The study of history is useful to the historian by teaching him his ignorance of women.”
“The first serious consciousness of Nature’s gesture – her attitude towards life-took form then as a phantasm, a nightmare, all insanity of force. For the first time, the stage-scenery of the senses collapsed; the human mind felt itself stripped naked, vibrating in a void of shapeless energies, with resistless mass, colliding, crushing, wasting, and destroying what these same energies had created and labored from eternity to perfect.”
“For the first time in his life, Mont Blanc for a moment looked to him what it was – a chaos of anarchic and purposeless forces – and he needed days of repose to see it clothe itself again with the illusions of his senses, the white purity of its snows, the splendor of its light, and the infinity of its heavenly peace. Nature was kind; Lake Geneva was beautiful beyond itself, and the Alps put on charms real as terrors.”
“In Paris and London he had seen nothing to make a return to life worth while; in Washington he saw plenty of reasons for staying dead.”
“Were half the power that fills the world with terror, Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts, Given to redeem the human mind from error, There were no need of arsenals nor forts.”
16 February 1751 – Thomas Gray publishes “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard,” one of the most beautiful and influential poems in English.
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, ling’ring look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
“There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
“Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.
“One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
“The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark’d him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav’n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,
He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend.
No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose)
The bosom of his Father and his God.
A Poem for Today
“In the Woods,”
By Kathryn Simmonds
The baby sleeps.
Sunlight plays upon my lap, through doily leaves a black lab comes,
a scotty goes, the day wears on, the baby wakes.
The good birds sing,
invisible or seldom seen, in hidden kingdoms, grateful for the in-
between. The baby sleeps. Elsewhere the Queen rolls by
on gusts of cheer —
ladies wave and bless her reign. The baby frets. The baby feeds.
The end of lunch, a daytime moon. The leaves
are lightly tinkered with.
It’s spring? No, autumn? Afternoon? We’ve sat so long, we’ve walked
so far. The woods in shade, the woods in sun, the singing birds,
the noble trees.
The child is grown. The child is gone. The black lab comes,
his circuit done. His mistress coils his scarlet lead.
A Second Poem for Today
“(to crave what the light does crave),”
By Kevin Goodan
to crave what the light does crave
to shelter, to flee
to gain desire of every splayed leaf
to calm cattle, to heat the mare
to coax dead flies back from slumber
to turn the gaze of each opened bud
to ripe the fruit to rot the fruit
and drive down under the earth
to lord gentle dust
to lend a glancing grace to llamas
to gather dampness from fields
and divide birds
and divide the ewes from slaughter
and raise the corn and bend the wheat
and drive tractors to ruin
burnish the fox, brother the hawk
shed the snake, bloom the weed
and drive all wind diurnal
to blanch the fire and clot the cloud
to husk, to harvest,
sheave and chaff
to choose the bird
and voice the bird
to sing us, veery, into darkness
American Art – Part II of II: Eyvind Earl
Here is one critic describing the artistry of painter and illustrator Eyvind Earle (1916 – 2000): “His earliest work was strictly realistic, but after having studied the work of a variety of masters such as Van Gogh, Cézanne, Rockwell, Kent and Georgia O’Keefe, Earle by the age of 21, came into his own unique style. His oeuvre is characterized by a simplicity, directness and surety of handling.”