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Thursday, 7 April 2022

Painting of the Month (100): Cezanne

This is the 100th time that I have posted a Painting of the Month, so I am really being self-indulgent today! I have long been intrigued by Cezanne's series of paintings of Mont Saint-Victoire; I have given talks on the topic, blogged about it and deeply researched it. This is one of my favourite paintings of all time!

Mont Saint-Victoire, Aix-en-Provence. Depicted more than 60 times by Cezanne.
I'm listening to the late Amy Winehouse singing Don't Go To Strangers with Paul Weller and Jools Holland. What an incredible talent we have lost! Listen here.


Thursday, 17 February 2022

it may not always be so by e e cummings

Sometimes it seems that the only thing people know about e e cummings is that they think he never used capital letters – even in his name. His poems tend to be untitled so this one is known as ‘it may not always be so’:

it may not always be so; and i say
that your lips, which i have loved, should touch
another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be—
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

You may have noticed that there are two capital letters in this sonnet; one in the word Accept, which is quoted speech and one to begin the final sentence. It can be read in various places that he wanted his name only to be written in lower-case but it isn’t so. It was his publishers who wanted to do that (although he readily agreed). He also used capitals when signing his name. But enough of that – let’s discuss the poem! He is writing about losing the love of his life to another man and conjecturing what this would be like. “If this should be”…”send me a little word; that I may go unto him”.

He is virtually saying that he would give his blessing although he would be extremely sad – “Accept all happiness from me”. In other words, if you love someone let them go. If you really love someone, then their happiness is your primary desire – even if you are not included in that love. A very generous attitude don’t you think? Or maybe it’s paranoia...

I'm listening to The Perry-Gardner Orchestra playing a tune that will be very familiar to BBC listeners over a certain age. It is possibly the most relaxing music you will ever hear! Click here for Sailing By.


Sunday, 13 February 2022

Painting of the Month (99) FEB 2022: Gene Brown

Brown describes his paintings as representational expressionism. “You can tell what the subject is, but I exaggerate shapes and colour. Because I love texture and bright colours, that to me is almost as important as the composition.” Brown’s work is uniquely his. There will be no head-scratching wondering who did these paintings. There is an obvious emphasis on strong design and colour. “Happy” and “joyful” are words that define the emotion of his paintings. “I have had many people tell me that my paintings are happy paintings,” Brown said. “They make people feel good. I know all about aerial perspective and lost and found edges, etc., but rules are made to be broken. I have fun with bright colors and I enjoy my niche. I had a gentleman, who bought one of my paintings, put it on his mantle at home so that when he came home, he could look at it and unwind from his hectic day at work. That’s all I need."

Acrylic on canvas. The artist is American, b. 1938
I'm listening to Betty Wright's Clean Up Woman. It's a great recording but is mightily enhanced by the fabulous guitar playing of Willie Hale. Listen here.




Thursday, 3 February 2022

Ruth's Wedding

I haven't been around the Internet so much recently because, last weekend, we were celebrating the wedding of my daughter Ruth to Gary in London. Now they're Honeymooning in Tenerife.  Here she is just before setting off for the venue.


I'm listening to The Beatles singing Baby It's You. Listen here!

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Painting of the Month (98) Jan 2022: David Hockney

 Mr and Mrs Clark & Percy

Mr and Mrs Clark & Percy, David Hockney, Acrylic on Canvas, 1971

This painting depicts the newly-married fashion designer Ossie Clark and his wife the textile designer Celia Birtwell in their flat in Notting Hill, London, with one of the couple's cats on Clark's knee. Actually, Percy was their other cat but Hockney thought that Percy made a better title; read on to find out why! It is a very large canvas so that the figures are nearly life-sized. They are both looking directly outward making the viewer a third person in the triangle. Typically, the cat disdains this and looks out of the window. The room is stark in a 1960s minimalist style.

Among the various sources that Hockney drew on was Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Marriage (see below). There is plenty of symbolism in both works. The Arnolfini dog, which represents fidelity, is replaced by the cat, a symbol of the penis, and representing lack of fidelity ('Percy' is a slang term for a penis).

Hockney's portrait, with the bride standing and the groom sitting, reverses the convention of traditional wedding portraiture, such as Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough (also shown below). Indeed Hockney shows the Clarks standing apart, a foreshadowing of their 1974 divorce because of his bi-sexual infidelity. And the reversal of roles hints that she is the dominant party.

The lilies next to Celia Birtwell, a symbol of female purity, are also associated with depictions of the Annunciation; at the time of the portrait she was pregnant.

Hockney worked and reworked the portraits many times until he was satisfied, repainting Clark's head perhaps twelve times. He achieves the difficult task of balancing the dark figures against the light flooding in through the window behind them.


I’m listening to La maison où j'ai grandi by French singer Françoise Hardy. The title means The House Where I Grew UpIn the sixties I was really taken with her. You’d have thought I’d have grown out of it by now! Listen here