Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Guest Post from an Extraordinary Blogger

How the National Gallery, London was influenced by the death of Edgar Degas ...

I had as my theme for the recent A –Z Challenge Degas and his paintings ... under the theme title “Art, Art and more Art” ...

Hilary of Positive Letters emailed me and said she’d come across a story about Degas and the economist Maynard Keynes and could she guest blog part of the story here ... we have become friends through our posts.

Hilary is an extraordinary blogger from the UK, who has been blogging for six years.  She writes about Britain, particularly Cornwall and Sussex, and from her travels gives us wonderful tidbits of information about British history, people, places, museums and things; she occasionally adds in stories about her time in South Africa and knowledge of other parts of the world.  She is going to publish some ebooks based around her posts and blog in the near future.  So, if you are a new follower please read through some of her treasure trove of stories

Presenting:  Hilary Melton-Butcher       

"Lover of Words blog “Of Ships, Shoes and Sealing Wax and Cabbages and Kings” had as her theme for the recent A –Z Challenge Degas and his paintings ... under the theme title “Art, Art and more Art” ....

... as she says “Art is universal and even though we may not speak the same language, we can enjoy looking at the same painting and see different things in it, because of our own experiences and thoughts” ...

And I would add learn about the era – for instance her “C is for The Cotton Office in New Orleans – who knew the Degas family was into cotton brokerage and had a business in Louisiana ... 

The Cotton Market in New Orleans. 1873  Edgar Degas

So I was entranced by her A – Z entries on Degas ... now you’re here please check them out ... and follow her if you’re not already doing so ...

... as you can imagine Degas was on my mind ... and when I heard about a tie in between Degas and Maynard Keynes, the economist ... I had to post the story ...

Maynard Keynes, the economist, was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, and was a passionate supporter of the arts, but worked for the government and had persuaded the Chancellor of the Exchequer to let the Director of the National Gallery have £20,000 to purchase some of Degas’ art works from his estate.

On my blog I left Keynes in 1917 Paris, with the Director of the National Gallery, bidding for art works from Degas’ private collection of friends’ paintings after his death ...

... as the auction began the howitzers lobbed shells at Paris ... this scared most  buyers away ... leaving Keynes to purchase 27 paintings at greatly reduced prices to take back to the UK ... by artists such as Delacroix, Cezanne, Monet, Ingres and Degas’ own works ...

Keynes and the Director of the National Gallery, who was a classical artist knew what he was bidding for ... but was not fond of modernism, so Keynes bought and kept Cezanne’s “Still Life with Seven Apples” ...

... however the 27 paintings purchased were what would go on to become the foundation of the collection of modern art at the National Gallery today.

The suffragette movement had targeted the Gallery to draw attention to their cause, so at the start of the War the National Gallery was in a state of flux ... with the result that most of their paintings were stored away ...

Earlier in the 1900s the reception of Impressionist art at the Gallery got off to an exceptionally stormy start  ... but what was then, became dramatically changed through the acquisitions at this bizarre sale in 1917.

Cezanne remained a real problem ... he divided artists, even modern artists in London and the art world ...

...  the Bloomsbury Group supported crossing that divide ... and thought the most important thing in the world was to put up paintings by painters such as Cezanne and those he influenced, e.g. Degas.

 Today the most popular rooms at the National Gallery are the four galleries devoted to modern French painting over 50 years, whereas the Florentine and Flemish paintings covering about 200 years are arranged in two rooms each ...

... confirming Charles Holmes, National Gallery Director in 1917, and Maynard Keynes’ bizarre purchases to be so important to the success of The National Gallery with its collections as we know them.

Finding out about how Degas’ death gave renewed life to the National Gallery ... through the purchase of those 27 paintings from his private collection ...

... seemed to offer a way to really round off Lover of Words A-Z posts on Degas ... and to explain how important Degas is today to our British art collection.

Thank you for having me on your blog ... and my post on Maynard Keynes and those paintings can be found here:

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day, 2014, The Gettysburg Address,

This is Memorial Day weekend here in the United States.  The Gettysburg Address in its 269 words says it perfectly, Ken Burns in his documentary presents it well.  But Lincolns words are for all the veterans of all wars. Civil Wars can be particularly horrific.  Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, is a classic book written about the Battle of Chancellorsville.  It is written from the point of view of a young man who enlisted to fight for the North and who wanted "glory."  It is worthwhile reading or re-reading. The writing is haunting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Women I admire #1. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

In the news this week is the public notice of an auction of Jacqueline Kennedy's letters to an Irish priest in whom she confided over the course of fourteen years--1950 to 1964. They span her life from the age of 21 to the year after her husband was assassinated, 1964.

Mrs. Kennedy was a very private person and she said in the letters she did not have any one to confide in, to share her feelings so when she met Father Joseph Leonard, she began writing to him, knowing he would never divulge her words, and he did not.  Father Leonard died in 1964 and all these years her letters have remained private.

Auction houses, when they have a treasure such as this, make bits of it public in order to publicize the auction and raise the bids.  How would Mrs. Kennedy feel about this?  Not good, I think.  But, all these years later, I think it is a good thing.  It gives us a personal picture of a very private First Lady, who on the surface seemed glamorous,  a bit imperious, aware of her status and her wealth, dazzling in public, and a First Lady we all admired.

In the parts of the letters which have been made public she does not seem this way at all. If anything, she was very self-aware, saying that she was overcome with ambition, "like Mac Beth."    She said that her life could look very glamorous from the outside, living in the world of "crowned heads and men of destiny -- but if you're in it, it could be hell."

Part of this was her sense of loss of her privacy and the media everywhere, but the main reason was John Kennedy's womanizing.  She understood this before her marriage, even comparing it to her father's womanizing which caused her own mother so much grief.  But it went on with more intensity after their marriage.  President Kennedy, because of the power and prestige of the presidency, could have any woman he wanted and he did.

She did not have an easy childhood either.  Her father, whom she adored, was an alcoholic who did not stay sober on her wedding day to John Kennedy, so at the last minute, she had her step-father walk her down the aisle.  We see those lovely photographs of her dancing with her husband after the wedding.  How sad she must have been inside, that her father let her down again.

I admire her even more so now.  Despite all that was going on in her personal life, she made us proud of her as First Lady.  The White House was dazzling, she was dazzling.  The trips she took to Europe and India and other countries were beautifully set, making America seem sophisticated and elegant, like Mrs. Kennedy.

I find it comforting to know she had a confidant like Father Leonard, someone who listened.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mothers' Day. A Snowy Sunday Here in Colorado

Snow Statues (written in April for the 2012 Blog Challenge)

This is a tribute to my mother who loved to sculpt snow statues.  In the winter, if the snow was just right, on Sunday, after working all week, she would sculpt snow statues.  My sister and I wished she were like other mothers who did "normal" things because sometimes she sculpted nude statues.  "Please put clothes on them,"  we would beg her, but she followed her own muse and made ephemeral statues made of snow.  Often there would be a theme:  Christmas, a creche; Valentine's Day, lovers holding hands behind a tree; and Easter bunnies.  The lover theme she did every year on Valentine's day; first holding hands, the following year presenting a Valentine's heart, and finally, the gentleman on his knee proposing.  The neighbors loved it and occasionally photographs of her work appeared in the paper.  I wrote this poem many years after her death.  The photograph inspired it.

    Smiling into the camera,
     my hands resting on my
     little sister's shoulders,

     My mother asking us to smile
     as we squinted into the sun.

     She wanted to take 
     a picture of her creations,
     the three of us.

     I remember how she loved
     being outdoors,
     sculpting those statues,
     so many of them,
     so many different Sundays.

     As she worked, she and 
     shared the same joy,
     as she sculpted, molding
     the snow into a thing of beauty.

     All those trillions of snowflakes
     transformed into art 
     and for a few hours,
     she forgot the pain
     inside the house.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Happy, but Snowy Mothers' Day from Colorado

Happy Mothers' Day to all of you.  I will write a Mothers' Day post tomorrow because today, we are experiencing a snow storm here in Colorado!  Yes a snowstorm, 12 inches predicted here.  My husband who in my posts will be known as "RJ,"  just helped me cover all our just-ready-to-bloom iris's, in hopes that they will survive.  We used upside down plastic storage containers after being told that plastic storage bags were not good.  So, our back yard looks like a storage train of lumpy large storage boxes.  Today our attention is focused on the storm, protecting the trees and plants.

Here in Colorado you know that you never plant anything before Mothers' Day and the best time is around Memorial Day which is the end of May here in the United States.

My sister and I had a very special mother and I want to write a more thoughtful blog in her memory.

Add a snowstorm to this picture and it will look about right.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Quest for More Energy and Better Health. . . .

This You Tube video was recommended by my dietitian.  The premise seems so simple, can you do something for 30 minutes out of your 24 hour day that can change your health in a profound way?

Here in the United States, we are a nation of "sitters"--not baby-sitters, although I always thought that the word seemed odd, do we sit on the babies?  (just a little aside).  We sit too much, at home and at work and of course, to and from work.

My biggest complaint is fatigue and of course if you are tired all the time and need naps in the afternoon, it's hard to be more active and move more.  Physical problems can prevent being enthusiastic about walking very far.  I have slowed down this past year, and after undergoing every test, no answer can be found.  But I am not giving up!  I have too much to do, places to go, people to see, and just more of life to experience.  So, after seeing and hearing this video, I will be more disciplined about moving more.  The statistics that Dr. Evans cites are thought-provoking.  Let me know what you think. 

The You Tube link is: 23 1/2 hours Dr. Mike Evans