Posts Tagged ‘painting’


I have read too many headlines this morning. My head is full of thoughts. I think I shall take a break from the computer screen until I can sort them. Meanwhile, I share these last images from my recent visit to the Boston Public Library’s Abbey Room and painter Edwin Austin Abbey’s expression of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.


Panel XIII. Sir Galahad crosses the sea in Solomon’s Ship

As for what’s happening in this scene, from the BPL website: “Sir Galahad crosses the seas to Sarras in Solomon’s Ship, guided by the Grail borne by an angel. Sir Bors and Sir Percival accompany him, while three spindles for the Tree of Life rest upon the stern of the ship.”



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detail from The Arthurian Round Table and the fable of the Seat Perilous

Between 1893 and 1902 fifteen panels were installed in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square depicting the story of The Quest for the Holy Grail. Conceived of by artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) he based his work on Lord Alfred Tennyson’s  version of the Arthurian legend. In recent years the BPL has done a magnificent job of capturing the beauty of the full panels and sharing each panel’s story with the public through Flikr. That link is below. When I walk in with my camera I tend to focus in on the details and this is what I recently saw.



detail from King Amfortas and the Castle of the Grail lie under a spell


This time one of my favorite panels to focus on what the last in the sequence, The Golden Tree. According to the BPL summary, an adaptation from an outline by Henry James, “Sir Galahad, now the King of Sarras, builds a golden tree. When he is presented with the Grail, his spirit and the Grail ascend to heaven. Like other elements throughout the mural cycle, the golden tree and the Grail are depicted in gilded raised relief, a method that Abbey may have learned from his studio partner John Singer Sargent.”







Well worth a visit to see in person but until then you can see the full cycle of panels here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157647672175522/with/15258034891/

And if you have a large cup of tea at hand, or something else, you can read Tennyson’s Holy Grail upon which the murals were based. They don’t write poems like this anymore. 🙂 http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/tennyson-the-holy-grail

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Happy New Year! No doubt it will be an interesting one.

Best wishes for peace and prosperity and an awareness of the beauty in the world around us.

Strength and courage will be necessary I suspect. As for New Year goals …

… I’ve made none, not really, except perhaps a commitment to continue to pause and to pause without expectation. These photos I took while pausing inside Trinity Church.

It has been my pleasure to photograph there many times over the years.

Each time there is always something new to see in the tower, on the walls, in the windows and even on the doors.

We’ll see what 2017 holds. 🙂


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Hope by George Frederick Watts

In 1959, Martin Luther King Jr would open a sermon with these words about shattered dreams, “Our sermon today brings us face to face with one of the most agonizing problems of human experience. Very few, if any, of us are able to see all of our hopes fulfilled. So many of the hopes and promises of our mortal days are unrealized. Each of us, like Shubert, begins composing a symphony that is never finished. There is much truth in George Frederick Watts’ imaginative portrayal of Hope in his picture entitled Hope. He depicts Hope as seated atop our planet, but her head is sadly bowed and her fingers are plucking one unbroken harp string. Who has not had to face the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams’?

English painter George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) would paint the first of several versions of Hope in 1885. Its symbolism would prove very popular and over time it would be massively reproduced. I read that by the 1930s however his work fell out of fashion and major galleries like The Tate removed his work from permanent display. So I do wonder when, where and how Martin Luther King first saw Hope. I do know when a young Barack Obama learned of the painting. It was in 1990. Pastor Jeremiah Wright would deliver a sermon, The Audacity to Hope. Wright’s words would move the young student who would eventually rouse a whole nation (mostly) with a notion that he would call, The Audacity of Hope.

So where is hope these days? In part its a personal question that we each have to grapple with on any given day depending on what’s happening in our lives.


Hope by Edward Burne-Jones, 1896

Watts and later his friend Edward Burne-Jones each painted variations of Hope during dark periods in their lives. For Watts that period included the death of his adopted daughter’s child. Burne-Jones had been commissioned by a wealthy American to paint a dancing figure but as he dealt with the death of his friend and colleague William Morris he asked if instead he might paint Hope. I think of hope as something you hold on to or reach out for. And sometimes it even settles around you like a warm blanket when you least expect it. Or, as Emily Dickinson wrote,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Sources & Additional Reading




Watts Magazine, p.14+


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The inspiration was William Merritt Chase’s Just Onions painting now on view at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is a lovely still life of a few onions next to a copper pitcher. Given that I know a certain fellow who is currently obsessed with collecting and restoring copper pots, I figured why not try my own series of “just[fill in the blank]” with the copper pots in the background.

Who knows? This may turn out to be a fun winter project, to sketch out still lives with these refinished copper pots, and then to see if I can bring these ideas to life.

Just Onions by William Merritt Chase, 1912

Just Onions by William Merritt Chase, 1912

Learn more about the actual painting here. And visit my JustFood shop for other food images.

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to photograph its stained glass windows and along the way I stumbled upon Raphael’s Transfiguration (1516-1520). Not the original of course. That’s in the Vatican. This painting, which my guide at the time knew little about, appears to be a 19th century reproduction. The history of this particular painting – its creation and who gave it to the church – may be lost to history.  However, I’ve since learned from a research fellow at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts that such reproductions were popular and prints being produced as early as the 16th century.

Transfiguration was Raphael’s last painting. He died at the age of 37 leaving the painting incomplete. It is considered one of his most beautiful works out of a very large body of work. It was a treat to chance upon the reproduction and perhaps one day I will see the actual painting in person. Meanwhile, below is a photograph of Raphael’s handiwork and you can read details on the Vatican Museums website here.

Raphael’s Transfiguration, photo by Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43522641

Additional Reading



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i keep sitting down to write you about this painting… and each time i draw a blank… it is a favorite of mine… a poster of it welcomes you into my studio …” — Donald Langosy, 2016

detail from nymphs and satyr by bouguereau

detail from nymphs and satyr by bouguereau

Of late I’ve become quite bold in asking people to share with me in words and sometimes images the beauty that they experience. I want to understand why a certain piece of music heard, a poem read, or a moment in a certain field can move them so deeply. In painter Donald Langosy’s case, I wanted to know why he was so moved by Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr (1873), a painting held in the collection of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. I’d learned from Langosy’s daughter that, as with Titian, it was a work of art Langosy might like to see in person one day.  And so I asked him to please tell me why, and as I waited for his words, I did a little bit of my own research into this Bouguereau.

Adolphe William Bouguereau (1825-1905) was a French figurative painter noted for producing rather luminous works with Classical, mythological and religious themes. His work was very popular with the European and American public during his lifetime. He received top prices for his work. He not only painted portraits, but he also decorated private homes, churches and public buildings.

Pieta, 1876

pieta, 1876

Quite prolific, he apparently produced over 800 finished paintings. In addition, beginning in the 1860s he taught at the Academie Julian in Paris. Among his many students over the years he would teach Henry Ossawa Tanner and Ellen Day Hale. As I read criticism about his work from across the different decades, both the words beautiful and escapist were applied. During the height of Bouguereau’s career there was a new movement starting in the French art scene, Impressionism. Many within this new school were not enamored of Bouguereau’s work and actively belittled it. Despite the controversy surrounding his subject matter, so polished and dreamy during an age of great turmoil, few denied the mastery of his technique.

sadly,” notes Langosy, “Bouguereau is remembered for his unending number of paintings of little girls and poetically posed young virginal women…. which is unfortunate… for it distracts from his many accomplishments…like this one, which is among the finest masterpieces ever painted…

…compositionally outstanding…. but outstanding because of the remarkable brush work… which is brilliant because of his command of color and line….. the sensual twirl feeling of the nymphs… the satyr in a diagonal angle attempting to brace himself against their attempts to over power him… Bouguereau’s subtle sense of line accenting the individual rhythms of the different poses…

…rhythm of line is what creates three dimension on a two dimensional plane…. and then there are the leaves and grass and the water… egads!….i’m speechless… i haven’t written enough about this painting… but now you will understand why it took me this long to write

And that is how I came to learn of nymphs, satyrs and appreciate the work of Bouguereau through the words of Donald Langosy.


Additional Readings & Images







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