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Friday, 20 February 2015

My Last Duchess

Because I love this poem so much I have rehashed a post from five years ago. Even if poetry is not your 'thing' please take a few minutes to read this poem and then read my shocking revelation at the end. You will probably re-read the poem and you might, like I did, when first introduced to Robert Browning's poem thirty years ago find your jaw is on your chest with open-mouthed amazement! Sometimes in art and literature the best rewards come when one has to work at bit at understanding what is being presented.....
Lucrezia de Medici by Bronzino c.1560
Generally considered to be My Last Duchess

My Last Duchess
by Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Ferrara
That's my last duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's handsWorked busily a day, and there she stands.Will't please you sit and look at her? I said"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never readStrangers like you that pictured countenance,The depth and passion of its earnest glance,But to myself they turned (since none puts byThe curtain I have drawn for you, but I)And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,How such a glance came there; so, not the firstAre you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas notHer husband's presence only, called that spotOf joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhapsFrà Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps"Over my lady's wrist too much," or "Paint"Must never hope to reproduce the faint"Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuffWas courtesy, she thought, and cause enoughFor calling up that spot of joy. She hadA heart how shall I say? too soon made glad,Too easily impressed; she liked whate'erShe looked on, and her looks went everywhere.Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,The dropping of the daylight in the West,The bough of cherries some officious foolBroke in the orchard for her, the white muleShe rode with round the terrace all and eachWould draw from her alike the approving speech,Or blush, at least. She thanked men good! but thankedSomehow I know not how as if she rankedMy gift of a nine-hundred-years-old nameWith anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blameThis sort of trifling? Even had you skillIn speech which I have not to make your willQuite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this"Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,"Or there exceed the mark" and if she letHerself be lessoned so, nor plainly setHer wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,E'en then would be some stooping; and I chooseNever to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,Whene'er I passed her; but who passed withoutMuch the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;Then all smiles stopped together. There she standsAs if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meetThe company below, then. I repeat,The Count your master's known munificenceIs ample warrant that no just pretenseOf mine for dowry will be disallowed;Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowedAt starting, is my object. Nay we'll goTogether down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
The single word Ferrara at the beginning would have set the scene for 19th century readers of this poem. It is set in the sixteenth century Italian city-state of Ferrara. The speaker is probably Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara who is showing a courtier around his privately commissioned works of art. A painting of His last Duchess is hidden behind a curtain ("...none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you but I...")
He describes her as if one of his many possessions and tells how she rated the friendship and attention of others above the gift of his "nine hundred years old name".
When I first read this poem my blood ran cold and I was genuinely shocked when I realised what the Duke was implying:
"......I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. 
There she stands as if alive".
He's had her killed! Oh my God! He talks about her as if she were faulty goods that he had to be rid of. Please read the poem again with this knowledge and notice how cleverly Browning has shown the casual nonchalance of the Duke.
At the end he is preparing to go downstairs to size up his next potential wife while talking about some of his other possessions. The Duchess was 17 years old when she died.

Chilling; the work of a master poet.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Painting of the Month (52) February 2015:Millais

Ophelia. Sir John Everett Millais, 1852
Four years before this painting was made the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in London in 1848. Millais was one of the three founder-members whose main idea was to return to the style of art that they thought should dominate. They objected to the classical style that Raphael and others has promoted, favouring instead great attention to detail, nature and bright colours. In particular they objected to the founder of the English Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds; apparently they referred to him as "Sir Sloshua". On the whole I don't go too much on their work but I think this particular painting is a bit special.
Ophelia was the character in Shakespeare's Hamlet who is depicted drowning in a Danish river. Her death does not occur on stage but is eloquently described by Queen Gertrude, Hamlets's mother. She fell from a branch into the water and floated without trying to rescue herself because her voluminous dress filled with air and kept her buoyant. However, the dress eventually became saturated and she drowned. Another character suggests it was suicide. (Prince Hamlet had rejected her because he was pre-occupied with his 'To be or not to be' soliloquy in which he contemplates the attractions of suicide - it's a laugh a minute is Hamlet.)
There is a very interesting story about Elizabeth Siddal, left, who was a favourite model for many of the Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets. Millais had her posed in a bath of cold water for many hours during the winter while he meticulously painted. (He had previously spent months outdoors painting the scenery ). Small lamps were lit under the bath-tub but they were inadequate to keep the water warm. 'Lizzie' became ill, possibly with pneumonia so her father threatened legal action action against Millais, who ended-up paying all of her hospital bills. Others have speculated that it was her addiction to laudanum that had made her ill. Life imitating art?
Sir John Everett Millais was born in Southampton, England in 1829 and died in Kensington , London in 1896.
Sir John Everett Millais

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Letchworth Garden City

About 40 miles from the centre of London, in the County of Hertfordshire, south-east England, lies Letchworth, the world's first garden city.
Letchworth from the air (www.letchworth.com)
Letchworth, Willian and Norton were three villages all mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1068 and the area that they covered was to form the basis of the Garden City in 1903. The 'green belt' movement also began there; this was a way of controlling building to stop the expansion of towns and cities. There is a huge one around London and it is almost impossible to get permission to build on 'greenfield' sites. This has the effect of limiting urban growth (and inflating property prices). The population of Letchworth is around 34,000 and remains steady. It is an early example of modern town planning and a deliberate mix of urban and rural elements. It remains a very attractive and desirable place to live.
The Mercure Letchworth Hall Hotel where we stayed last weekend. 
Letchworth is also the location of the UK's first roundabout (traffic circle)

The town is also the home of this noted Art Deco cinema of 1936......and of this charming old railway station (1903)
One other unusual thing about Letchworth is it's legal format. It is believed to be the only community where a charitable trust, rather than elected representatives actually controls ownership of land and property. In effect all of the shops and commercial properties pay 'rates' and any surplus money is fed back into the local economy..  
Listening to: On The Rocks, the University of Oregon's acapella singing group performing an open-air version of Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance'. It's poor quality vision and sound, probably shot on someone's phone, but hilarious to watch and wonderful to listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6IEV2dJbSE 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Answers to the Christmas Quiz and a new question.::

Here are the answers to the Christmas Quiz which was obviously not hard enough! Next time it will be extra difficult! Also, at the end, there is a bonus Christmas question that will really make you think. Probably.


1) The Latin word meaning 'coming' gave us what term which still refers to the coming Christmas period?  ADVENT means coming or arrival
2) In which European language does 'Nadolig Llawen' mean Merry Christmas? WELSH
3) Who composed the Lieutenant Kijé orchestral suite, part of which is a familiar piece of Christmas music? PROKOFIEV
You can here it here
4) In which fictional place was it always winter but never Christmas? NARNIA from C S Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
5) In which continent did turkeys originate.....? (In the UK we don't celebrate Thanksgiving but, traditionally, eat turkey at Christmas.) NORTH AMERICA, the US and Mexico.

6).....and why are turkeys so-called? Because they were first brought to Europe by Turkish merchant ships (and were thought to have come from India). 
Well done to those who got them (even by 'research'!)
And here as promised is the new question:
In the lyrics of Elvis Presley's song Blue Christmas there are three other colours mentioned. What are they? If it's too much for your brain listen here

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Quiz Questions (22): Christmas Quiz

It's a while since I posted a quiz so here is a new selection of harder Christmas questions. Cheating is definitely allowed! I wish all readers of this Blog a peaceful holiday season and prosperous new year!
Over 1,000 Santas took part in a Charity Run in Bristol, England last weekend.
Your correspondent was there!
1) The Latin word meaning 'coming' (oh, behave!) gave us what term which still refers to the coming Christmas period? 
2) In which European language does 'Nadolig Llawen' mean Merry Christmas? 
3) Who composed the Lieutenant Kijé orchestral suite, part of which is a familiar piece of Christmas music? 
4) In which fictional place was it "always winter but never Christmas"
5) In which continent did turkeys originate.....? (In the UK we don't celebrate Thanksgiving but, traditionally, eat turkey at Christmas.)
6).....and why are they so-called?


Listening to 'Linda Paloma' by Jackson Browne: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wr4jIWl654
and there is a good a live version: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLd76ZXGDO4

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Painting of the Month (51) December 2014: Manet

In 2005 a BBC Radio station ran a competition where listeners voted for their favourite painting in the UK. For the next few items in this series I will be featuring a random selection of those pictures. By 'random' I mean paintings that I personally like!
A Bar at the Folies-Bergieres. Édouard Manet 1892
There are many interesting features of this painting that, despite it's late nineteenth century setting, make it quite modern. Firstly it is generally believed to be the first painting to depict a registered trade mark. Can you spot it? I will reveal it at the end of this article. Secondly there is the impossible composition; the girl behind the bar is looking straight out at the viewer of the painting yet, in the mirror behind her, her reflection can be seen talking to a customer at completely the wrong angle. For years I thought it was the back of another barmaid. The gent with the top-hat should be in front of us blocking our view. The girls name was Suzon, who in reality did work there, but Manet had painted her in his studio and added the background from quick impressionistic sketches he had made. She looks sad and detached from her work. She wears a locket around her neck which hints at a love far away from this world with the sinister stranger at the bar with his Jack-the-Ripper-like menace. This picture was painted immediately after The Ripper was 'active' (1888-91). 
Eduard Manet worshipped the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez and his painting 'Las Meninas' is the surprising inspiration for this picture. Looking at the picture, below, can you see the connection and the elements that interested Manet? Let me explain:
'Las Meninas'. Velazquez 1656.
There is a strange mix of positions and points of view. The artist, the Infanta and a dwarf courtier are looking out of the picture at the viewer while others, within the painting, are interacting between themselves. Also reflected in a mirror, near the centre are what is probably the King & Queen who would be looking into the painting. Possibly they are the subject which the artist is painting. Shouldn't we be looking at their backs?

At each end of the bar is a beer bottle with a red triangle design on the label - the trade mark of Bass beer brewed in Burton-on-Trent, England. (Founded in 1777 and still going though not a patch on the great beer that it once was since being taken over by Anheuser-Busch!)
Listening to Negro Y Azul (The ballad of Heisenberg) by Los Cuates de Sinaloa from Breaking Bad. Fab! Listen here

Saturday, 29 November 2014

My Heroes (40): Roger McGough

I went recently, with my younger daughter, Laura, to hear the Liverpool poet Roger McGough reading works from his long career. In the 1960's he used to be in the band Scaffold with Paul McCartney's brother, Mike.
It was in our local library with a small audience and it was a very entertaining evening, both funny and moving by turns. I bought a few books and told him that the last one of his that I bought was as a teenager - many years ago. He looked at me over the top of his glasses with mock horror! He still has an element of that Liverpool wit, long associated with The Beatles.
Roger McGough now.....

....and then, left.
Here are a few of his poems to enjoy:

GOODBAT NIGHTMAN
God bless all policemen
and fighters of crime,
May thieves go to jail 
for a very long time. 
They've had a hard day
helping clean up the town,
Now they hang from the mantelpiece
both upside down. 
A glass of warm blood
and then straight up the stairs,
Batman and Robin
are saying their prayers. 
* * *
They've locked all the doors
and they've put out the bat,
Put on their batjamas
(They like doing that) 
They've filled their batwater-bottles
made their batbeds,
With two springy battresses
for sleepy batheads. 
They're closing red eyes
and they're counting black sheep,
Batman and Robin
are falling asleep.
MAFIA CATS
We're the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
We're crazy for pizza
With hot pepperoni
We run all the rackets
From gambling to vice
On St Valentine's Day
We massacre mice
We always wear shades
To show that we're meanies
Big hats and sharp suits
And drive Lamborghinis
We're the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
Love Sicilian wine
And cheese macaroni
But we have a secret
(And if you dare tell
You'll end up with the kitten 
At the bottom of the well
Or covered in concrete
And thrown into the deep
For this is one secret
You really must keep.)
We're the Cosa Nostra
Run the scams and the fiddles
But at home we are
Mopsy, Ginger and Tiddles

Lastly, to show that there can be depth as well as humour.....
YOU AND I
I explain quietly. You
hear me shouting. You
try a new tack. I
feel old wounds reopen.

You see both sides. I
see your blinkers. I
am placatory. You
sense a new selfishness.

I am a dove. You
recognize the hawk. You
offer an olive branch. I
feel the thorns.

You bleed. I
see crocodile tears. I
withdraw. You
reel from the impact. 
Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: Dissatisfied Blues by Brownie McGhee. Listen on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29i6aMOIqLQ


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Painting of the month (50) November 2014: Bazza

 To celebrate my 50th Painting of the Month post I am featuring an obscure artist known as Bazza of Redbridge. He is a watercolour specialist and this is a retrospective of some earlier works including some quick holiday sketches - one of his favourite ways of working. The paintings vary in size from postcard to A4.

15 minute flower study

Painted for my Grandson, Sonny ,when he had cancer at the age of five.

Copied from a small picture in a holiday flat.
The Beach Huts

Some chap in a fantasy library with a Cezanne forgery on display.

Sonny about a year after leaving hospital, aged six.

Quaint local Street, Woodford Essex, UK

Carvoiero, The Algarve, Portugal

Carvoiero, The Algarve, Portugal

English rural scene. Composed from an amalgam of three separate photographs.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Boroughs of London (3): Bexley



When I chose the London Boroughs as the topic for this series I should have thought it through a bit more. It should have been called 'A Review of Some of the More Interesting and Historical London Boroughs'. Bexley would not have been on that list! However, I have often said that, if one keeps digging, something interesting can be found about almost any topic......
The London Borough of Bexley shown in green in the south-east of London, just south of the Thames.
The village of Bexley, after which the Borough is named, has a charter dating from 834 but hardly any other local places are mentioned in the 11th century Domesday Book. It didn't really start growing quickly until the 17th century and the development of the railways in the 19th century was a major impetus for growth. It still has a tremendous amount of green open spaces. The population now is around 237,000 blah, blah, blah.
The most important building is Hall Place, which is Grade 1 listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was formerly a private stately home but is now owned by the local authority and houses a museum and several galleries. I don't know for sure but I bet it's available for wedding receptions.
Hall Place built around 1540. The second wing, on the right, was added about 100 years later.
I don't think you could say that the architecture is sympathetic to the original building.
          



Bexley is also renowned for being the location of the only house built by and lived-in by William Morris, founder of the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement.
Located at Bexleyheath, the house is uniquely built of striking red brick. It is now owned and run by the National Trust and open to the public. And, big surprise, it has a tea room! The house is a fabulous example of one man creating his own dream home. He was not the architect but he put in plenty of ideas including hanging paintings by Edward Burne Jones. There is also a very charming garden where one can stroll and imagine what it must have been like to live there.
I knew I would find something interesting there!
Next in this series: The London Borough of Brent, home of Wembley, the national football stadium.
Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's Bette Midler singing 'Buckets of Rain' duetting with the writer of the song, Bob Dylan. 


Monday, 20 October 2014

Man Delights Me Not

Gary Oldman and Tim Roth as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
"I have of late - but wherefore I know not-lost all my mirth
forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, 
the Earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to 
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, 
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights me not: no, nor woman neither, though, by your smiling you seem to say so."

This is Hamlet describing his melancholy to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Of course, William Shakespeare had a genius gift with words but he also had great psychological insight into the human mind. Although I read these words quite often they take on a whole other perspective when heard spoken by great actors. I have selected some You Tube examples of how the speech comes alive and a final special treat!.

1) Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet
2) Iain Glen as Hamlet in 'Rosencrantz and Guidenstern Are Dead'
3) David Tennant as Hamlet
And finally a wonderful sung version from the musical 'Hair'
4) What a Piece of Work is Man

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Boroughs of London (2): Barnet

This the second in my new series which looks at the London Boroughs in alphabetical order:
The place name Barnet is derived from the Old English word  bærnet meaning "land cleared by burning". It is the second largest of the 32 Boroughs by population and covers over 33 square miles. Various parts of the area were mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book and the 1471 Battle of Barnet was very important during the Wars of the Roses when the House of York defeated the House of Lancaster to place Edward IV on the throne. At that time Barnet was a small town to the north of London.
The Battle of Barnet 1471
In 1588 Elizabeth 1st granted Barnet the right to hold the annual Barnet Fair. In Cockney Rhyming Slang 'Barnet' means hair as an abbreviation of Barnet Fair.
Hampstead Garden Suburb, within the borough was set up in the early twentieth century and is a fine example of early town-planning. The philanthropist couple Henrietta and Samuel Barnet were instrumental in it's formation but now, contrary to the original conception, it is one of the wealthiest districts in the country.
Hampstead Free Church, Hampstead Garden Suburb
With respect to the Borough and it's residents I have to say that it's not the most exciting part of London although it does have some 'nice' residential areas.
Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ very loudly! Listen on You Tube.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Painting of the Month (49) September 2014: Vlaminck


Restaurant de la Machine à Bougival, 1905

"You talkin'' to me? You must be talkin' 
to me 'cos there ain't no-one else here!"
Mauruce de Vlaminck, 1876-1958, was a member of The Fauves, (literally 'Wild Beasts') a group of painters working in the early twentieth century led by Henri Matisse. The other leading member of the group, beside those two was André Derain. The main characteristic of Fauvism was 'colourism': a way of expressing mood through the use of strong and strident colour rather than painted detail. In the picture above there is no real attempt to depict reality. The loose style of composition can be seen as a development of post-impressionism - mainly via the work of Van Gogh and Gauguin. Fauvism was soon overtaken as a movement by Cubism and Vlaminck 'blamed' Picasso for it's demise. He looked like a heavyweight boxer and not the kind of chap that you might want to upset!
He travelled all over France to paint and also spent some time painting by the Thames in London.
The works of the Fauvists are usually very colourful, of course, and rather cheery with a high 'feel good' factor. Another striking example of his colourful work is shown below.
A Day in the Country, 1905
Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it’s: ‘All Apologies’ by Nirvana. Listen on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LFVQpDKHk4

Friday, 29 August 2014

“This is Just to Say”

Born and died in Rutherford, New Jersey 1883 -1963
“This is Just to Say”  by  William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

This absolutely brilliant little gem of a poem by William Carlos Williams is a masterpiece in saying a lot with a few words. There is a whole back-story that you simply can't help hearing when you read it. One imagines it as being a scribbled note left on the kitchen work-surface and it speaks of some kind of blissfully happy domestic situation. You can taste the plums and somehow you know that she won't be angry when she reads the note. Apparently she wrote a reply:

Dear Bill: I've made a
couple of sandwiches for you.
In the ice-box you'll find
blue-berries--a cup of grapefruit
a glass of cold coffee.

On the stove is the tea pot
with enough tea leaves
for you to make tea if you
prefer--Just light the gas--
boil the water and put it in the tea

Plenty of bread in the bread-box
and butter and eggs--
I didn't know just what to 
make for you. Several people 
called up about office hours--

See you later. Love. Floss.

Please switch off the telephone.

This is very sweet and also, in it's way, tells a bigger story. I love the last line about switching off the telephone.
Some may ask whether "This is Just to Say" is really a poem at all but have no doubt that it is a great one. The lines all appear to be fairly similar but they contains lots of different metres but, somehow, it still seems to have a kind of rhythm  when read. Incidentally, I think the first line can be read as a part of the poem. This poem has probably been over analysed since being written in 1934; it has even suggested that it's sub-text is about sexual frustration!
I prefer just to read it and smile.
Continuing my experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Boroughs of London (1): Barking & Dagenham

Welcome to my new project which is a tour of all of the Boroughs of London since Greater London was formed in April 1965. I will be looking at interesting buildings and other stuff (to be frank I'm not sure how this will pan-out yet!) London has been described as a series of villages and each Borough contains several different areas or districts all of which were probably actual villages at one time. There are 32 Boroughs and I will also include the City of London which is not actually a Borough but an administrative area (much like the status of Washington DC in the US).
In alphabetical order, Barking and Dagenham is where we start:
As the name implies, Barking and Dagenham were formerly two separate boroughs before the creation of Greater London. They were then within the county of Essex, one of the 'Home Counties' which is the name given to those counties which surround London in the south-east of England. Hand-axes and other tools have been found in the area dating from the Palaeolithic era about 10,000 years ago and the names both date from Anglo-Saxon times before the Normal invasion of 1066.
Eastbury Manor House, Barking, built 1573 during the reign of Elizabeth I
Eastbury Manor House was originally in an isolated position, on rising ground with views of the Thames across marshland to the south. Rescued from ruin in 1918 by the National Trust, the exterior retains its original appearance. Tree-ring analysis shows that the roof timbers were felled in the spring of 1566.  It's now used as a meeting and community centre.


The other truly remarkable building in the borough is (the ruins of) Barking Abbey. Like so many ancient monastic buildings in Great Britain it fell into ruin in 1539  when Henry VIII was instrumental in starting the English Protestant Reformation when the Pope would not grant him a divorce. Barking Abbey was a very important community and a major land-owner in the area with it's influence spreading for many miles around. The ruins shown below are less than five minutes walk from Barking Town centre.

Barking Abbey operated for nearly 900 years and was a vastly wealthy community
Photo: tripadvisor.com

Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: The Proclamers 'Sunshine on Leith'. Listen on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmELS03_4So

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Painting of the Month (48) August 2014: Gainsborough

Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough c.1750
The National Gallery, London
This very interesting painting remained in the family of the sitters for two hundred years and did not become generally known until the twentieth century. It combines two genres of painting; the landscape and the conversation piece, usually showing a group of at least two people in an informal pose. Basically Mr Andrews is showing off his assets and I refer to his estate as well as his wife. She sits stiffly submissive; she too is a possession placed on a fancy Rococo-style bench. The dog in art is a symbol of loyalty.  
Thomas Gainsborough was only twenty-one when he painted this early masterpiece and it was quite pioneering in showing the realistic changeable elements of British weather.
Difficult to see in  the background (although if you can enlarge the picture you can see more clearly) are cattle and sheep on the right, middle-distance and I can just make out a couple of horses below the trees to the left. Mr Andrews has got his world under control and now he can relax although he doesn't appear comfortable holding the firearm.
Thomas Gainsborough, self-portrait 1754
Note the similarity to Mr Andrews.
One fascinating aspect of the painting is that a part of it is unfinished. Look at her lap. What could be intended for adding into that space. Embroidery? Knitting?
It was probably the hope that a small child would be added later.
Incidentally the oak tree which they stand in front of is still there today on the Essex-Suffolk border in Eastern England.
The marriage of this couple was not for love. It was a business decision that brought together two great estates. You are looking at Mr and Mrs Andrews Inc. They don't look happy do they?
As an experiment I am going to be mentioning the music that I am listening to (usually on Spotify or You Tube) as I post. Right now its Luciano Pavorotti duetting with Bryan Adams at Sydney Opera House in a 'live' recording of 'O Sole Mio'. Don't care for it much....