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.”
In Praise of Tea – Part I of III: Wilkie Collins
Musings in December: John Muir
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
American Art – Part II of V: Grandma Moses
“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be. – Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, an American folk artist, who died 13 December 1961 (at age 101).
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.”
In Praise of Tea – Part II of III: Lu Tong
“The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second shatters my loneliness.
The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection.
The fourth purifies my soul.
The fifth lifts me to the realms of the Immortals.”
Musings in December: Amit Ray
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Jimi Hendrix
13 December 1966 – Jimi Hendrix releases the single “Foxy Lady.”
A Poem for Today
By Katie Peterson
The thunderstorm came like a pot boiling over and the color
of water was made by that, all of a sudden, a pigment
more tropical than dense with the reflection of light.
Everywhere the scent of at least five different kinds of plants
lifted up. The desert can’t talk back but I believe
it breathes instead, breathes vivid when the water
wants it the water can’t wait and it breathes back.
I turned and went into the house.
Under the dining room table, a snake.
Green with a yellow stripe bisecting its back.
Motion ate each centimeter of floor
and air, scared, it makes sense to say, though there
exists or existed no safer time ever in which that shape
wouldn’t want to move, dead August being the exception
to this when heat makes molasses of all of us.
Why did I want to chase it out? I did, I got a rake and kept
making it make that beautiful scared
shape upon the floor, so clean.
Like two ice cubes rubbing each other
and too cold to melt. Nothing organized that fear.
Seeing the edges it found its way out.
Musings in December: Willa Cather
“I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”
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.”
“It’s dark out, Jack, the stations out there don’t identify themselves, we’re in it raw-blind like burned rats, it’s running out all around us, the footprints of the beast, one nobody has any notion of. The white and vacant eyes of something above there, something that doesn’t know we exist. I smell heartbreak up there, Jack, a heartbreak at the center of things, and in which we don’t figure at all.” – Kenneth Patchen, American poet and novelist, who was born 13 December 1911.
Kenneth Patchen had a considerable influence on many of his younger contemporaries, including Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder.
“Do the Dead Know What Time It Is?”
The old guy put down his beer.
Son, he said,
(and a girl came over to the table where we were:
asked us by Jack Christ to buy her a drink.)
Son, I am going to tell you something
The like of which nobody was ever told.
(and the girl said, I’ve got nothing on tonight;
how about you and me going to your place?)
I am going to tell you the story of my mother’s
Meeting with God.
(and I whispered to the girl: I don’t have a room,
She walked up to where the top of the world is
And He came right up to her and said
So at last you’ve come home.
(but maybe what?
I thought I’d like to stay here and talk to you.)
My mother started to cry and God
Put His arms around her.
Oh, just talk…we’ll find something.)
She said it was like a fog coming over her face
And light was everywhere and a soft voice saying
You can stop crying now.
(what can we talk about that will take all night?
and I said that I didn’t know.)
You can stop crying now.
Musings in December: John Muir
In Praise of Tea – Part III of III: Okakura Kakuzo
“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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!’”
American Art – Part IV of V: Milt Kobayashi
In the words of one writer, “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. ”
From the Movie Archives: Steve Buscemi
“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 on the link below ever has to justify his acting credentials – especially to some talent-blind critic.
A Second Poem for Today
“Let Us Have Madness,”
By Kenneth Patchen
Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:
See it trail across Time’s dim land
Into the closed house of eternity
With the noise that dying has,
With the face that dead things wear–
nor ever say
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love,
Transforming day’s evil darkness;
but We found extended hell and fog Upon the earth,
and within the head
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.
Visionary Art – Part I of II: Boris Koller
A Third Poem for Today
By Kobayashi Issa
Visionary Art – Part II of II: Aris Kalaizis
Musings in December: Edward Abbey
“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”
“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. “
A Fourth Poem for Today
“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!
Musings in December: Wendell Berry
“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
Canadian Art – Part II of II: Emily Carr
“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.
Emily Carr should be better known in the United States, both as a writer and an artist. Much of her work is inspired by both her acquaintance with the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and her abiding love for the Canadian wilderness. In the words of one critic, “Carr’s conviction that all living creatures, human and otherwise, are eternal expressions of the one Life echoes Walt Whitman, whose ‘Leaves of Grass’ was her constant companion.”
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.”
Below – Emily Carr; one of Carr’s wonderful books; “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, Kitseukla”; “Big Raven”; “McCaulay Point.”
Musings in December: Mary Austin
“We are not all born at once, but by bits. The body first, and the spirit later… Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of our spiritual growth.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid,”
By William Stafford
There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot–air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.
American Art – Part V of V: Anelicia Hannah