Wednesday 27 February 2013

Just add a nought

Happy Birthday Philip.
(And let's hope you were six in that school photo,
not seven, or heaven forfend - 
Now I must hurry away and make more chocolate-
related comestibles.

Tuesday 26 February 2013


Can't linger.
I'm busy culling little books
and cooking for a big birthday.

Monday 18 February 2013

Texture and pattern

This weekend.
Wasn't it glorious?

Thursday 14 February 2013

The rainbows are back

It's like sighting the first snowdrop

or the returning swifts

but trickier.

All elements have to be perfectly present

for the rainbows to appear.

Vigilance is all
because in a blink,
in the merest downward glance
to remove a lens cap,

they dissolve.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Art therapy

 The Wilton Diptych, Turner's Helvoetsluys,
anything by Van Gogh, (I rather favoured 
Still Life with quinces and lemons
in order to tempt Sue), and Velasquez's Crucifixion,
have each had votes so far.
Further nominations are for
The Graham Children by Hogarth and 
The Madonna with the Iris by Dürer.

None of the downloadable images did justice to them
so I have scanned a postcard of my tentative choice.
Despite Clark's assertion that the public did not want to see
Dutch painting or any realistic paintings, 
I see that in June 1942 they exhibited Pieter de Hooch's
A Woman and her Maid in a Courtyard
sadly not now on display, but I am frequently drawn to this:

and I think that amid the chaos of bombed-out,
blacked-out London,
I would have been happier to contemplate sunlit order
 than to wilt under the stern gaze
of Margharetha de Geer.

The inscription above the door translates as:
This is in Saint Jerome's vale, 
if you wish to repair to patience and meekness.
For we must first descend if we wish to be raised.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Blitz spirit

Whilst pondering the lowering effect of 
this long winter on the nation's spirits,
I found myself wondering how much harder it must have  been
to stay cheerful during World War II,
and yet we are portrayed in newsreels as a resilient and 
cheerful bunch even during the Blitz.
This British Council film is fairly typical:

The National Gallery in London had been putting on 
morale boosting concerts by Myra Hess since 1939, 
and visitors couldn't help noticing
the bare walls where pictures had been 
evacuated for safety to Wales.
It was decided that the public should have access to 
great pictures even in the most difficult circumstances.

Kenneth Clark said that the difficulties, 
'must be weighed against the delight and refreshment 
which the sight of a great picture would give'.
One picture was to be displayed every three weeks.

The Met Office weather report for February 1942
notes that the month was,
'remarkable for its persistently cold character'.
In England and Wales,

'sunshine was considerably below average on the whole;
in eastern districts it was particularly scanty'.

What did they choose for the aesthetic refreshment of Londoners?
Letters sent in by members of the public had made it,
'perfectly clear that people do not want to see Dutch painting
or realistic painting of any kind;
no doubt at the present time they are anxious to contemplate 
a nobler order of humanity'.
They chose the newly acquired portrait of 
Margaretha de Geer by Rembrandt.

She was the wife of a wealthy merchant Jacob Trip
who had made his fortune from mining,
manufacturing iron and trading with armaments.
She was displayed each day between January and March 1942
and placed in secure storage each night.

On a persistently cold day in February 2013
I stood myself in front of her.
The gallery was quiet, it was near closing time
and most of the visitors had been 
gently herded towards the exits.
We contemplated one another.
I could not honestly say I felt delighted.

In February 1943 they showed Constable's The Hay Wain.

Next time I visit, I am going to have to make my own selection.
Which National Gallery painting would lift your spirits?

Monday 11 February 2013

Just add sun

It was a small hopeful sign yesterday.
Hopes dashed again with the reappearance of 
the dreariest sort of snow this morning.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Et lux perpetua

We're going to another performance of Mozart's Requiem tonight.

It's a new hobby. Requiem collecting.

Monday 4 February 2013


This sweet film is blowing about the internet,
but my thanks to Isabelle's daughter 
for providing a link that worked.