Sentient in San Francisco – 23 May 2019

This Date in Art History: Born 23 May 1838 – Amaldus Nielsen, a Norwegian painter.

Below – “People on the Beach”; “Coastal Landscape in Moonlight”; “Evening Mood”; “Lonely Place”; “Wind Gust.”

This Date in Literary History: Born 23 May 1891 – Par Lagerkvist, a Swedish novelist, playwright, poet, author of “The Dwarf,” and recipient of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Some quotes from the work of Par Lagerkvist:

“Nothing is more foreign than the world of one’s childhood when one has truly left it.”
“And they are deformed though it does not show on the outside. I live only my dwarf life. I never go around tall and smooth-featured. I am ever myself, always the same, I live one life alone. I have no other being inside me. And I recognize everything within me, nothing ever comes up from my inner depths, nothing there is shrouded in mystery. Therefore I do not fear the things which frighten them, the incoherent, the unknown, the mysterious. Such things do not exist for me. There is nothing ‘different’ about me.”
“It is incomprehensible that he should want to have these futile people here, and still more incomprehensible that he should be able to sit and listen to them and their stupid chatter. I can understand that he may occasionally listen to poets reciting their verses; they can be regarded as buffoons such as are always kept at court. They laud the lofty purity of the human soul, great events and heroic feats, and there is nothing to be said against all that, particularly if their songs flatter him. Human beings need flattery; otherwise they do not fulfill their purpose, not even in their own eyes. And both the present and the past contain much that is beautiful and noble which, without due praise, would have been neither noble nor beautiful. Above all, they sing the praises of love, which is quite as it should be, for nothing else is in such need of transformation into something different. The ladies are filled with melancholy and their breasts heave with sighs; the men gaze vaguely and dreamily into space, for they all know what it is really like and realize that this must be an especially beautiful poem.”
“Only the gods have many destinies and need never die. They are filled with everything and experience everything. Everything – except human happiness. That they can never know and therefore they grudge it to men. Nothing makes them so evil and cruel as that men should presume to be happy and forget them for the sake of their earthly happiness.”
“In reality all of them want a war. It implies a simplification which comes as a relief. Everybody thinks that life is too complicated, and so it is as they live it. In itself life is not at all complicated; on the contrary its salient feature is its great simplicity, but they can never understand that. They do not realize that it is best when it is left as it is; they can never leave it in peace, or refrain from using it for a number of strange ends. But all the same they think that it is wonderful to be alive!”


This Date in Art History: Born 23 May 1861 – Jozsef Rippl-Ronai, a Hungarian painter.

Below – “A Park at Night”; “Parisian Woman”; “Woman with Three Girls”; “My garden in Kaposvár”; “Female Portrait”; “Blonde Woman with a Veil.”


This Date in Literary History: Born 23 May 1947 – Jane Kenyon, an American poet and translator: Part I of II.

Some quotes from the work of Jane Kenyon:

“The poet’s job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.”
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”
“If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.”
“Everyone longs for love’s tense joys and red delights.”
“The soul’s bliss and suffering are bound together.”
“Otherwise I got out of bed on two strong legs. It might have been otherwise. I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. It might have been otherwise. I took the dog uphill to the birch wood. All morning I did the work I love. At noon I lay down with my mate. It might have been otherwise. We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks. It might have been otherwise. I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.”


This Dare in Art History: Died 23 May 1949 – Jan Frans De Boever, a Belgian symbolist painter and illustrator.

Below – “Regerende sfinx”; “Flirt – Le suiveur”; “Sisina (Les fleurs du mal)”; “Pegase”; “Sorciere”; “Les Epaves II, Lesbos.”


This Date in Literary History: Born 23 May 1947 – Jane Kenyon, an American poet and translator: Part II of II.

“Happiness”
by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Contemporary German Art – Vanessa Uher

Below – “The show must go on”; “mountain”; “I love you mist”; “Magic Mountain”; “the perfect moment.”


A Poem for Today

“Woman Feeding Chickens”
by Roy Scheele

Her hand is at the feedbag at her waist,
sunk to the wrist in the rustling grain
that nuzzles her fingertips when laced
around a sifting handful. It’s like rain,
like cupping water in your hand, she thinks,
the cracks between the fingers like a sieve,
except that less escapes you through the chinks
when handling grain. She likes to feel it give
beneath her hand’s slow plummet, and the smell,
so rich a fragrance she has never quite
got used to it, under the seeming spell
of the charm of the commonplace. The white
hens bunch and strut, heads cocked, with tilted eyes,
till her hand sweeps out and the small grain flies.

Below – Vincent van Gogh: “Woman Feeding Chickens”

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