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Friday, January 25, 2013

Mary Cassatt, Frederic Chopin - Prelude in E minor Op. 28 No. 4, William Wordsworth -

A terrific article here about composer study.  I think we are probably moving too fast with a new picture and piece of music each week.  I'd also like to work more at finding biographies to read about our artists, poets and composers as I agree that this makes a wonderful connection.  When we read Aileen Fisher's We Dickinson's: The Life of Emily Dickinson as Seen Through the Eyes of Her Brother Austin, Emily Dickinson's poetry took on a whole new meaning.  I'd welcome ideas and your thoughts.  Do you like the pace or do you sometimes feel that we're being rushed and not really getting to know and savor each artist and piece?  Would it be helpful to plan ahead a little further who the next artist, composer and poet will be?  Also, I'm sorry this post is a day late....

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This painting by Mary Cassatt is a wonderful example of impressionistic painting.  Notice all the different colors dabbed into the water.  Our eyes are left to do the mixing.  There is a lot of motion in the water and yet the people are in sober repose.  Their skin tones contrast nicely with the turquoise of the water.  As I've been reading about Mary Cassatt's life I get the feeling that she was perhaps a bit arrogant - saw herself as above most others and I personally feel that this attitude comes through in most of her paintings.  This one doesn't show her attitude as much as some but I almost feel that she doesn't admire people, especially children or care to show them at their best.  Most of her children are not particularly attractive.  One reader commented, " Mary Cassatt always managed to make her pictures slightly irreverent where you'd expect them to be staid." I can't think of a better way to say it - there's a hint of irreverence. She was amazingly skilled and mastered the impressionistic style well, but as I study each picture I always feel a bit disappointed by the emotional portrayal of the people.  Just my own opinion....  What do you think?  How do your children respond to her paintings? 

Today's piece of music by Frederic Chopin - Prelude in E minor Op. 28 No. 4 is a very sad piece.  Wikipedia has this to say about it, "Hans von Bülow called the prelude "suffocation", due to its sense of despair. In fact, Chopin's last dynamic marking in the piece issmorzando, which means "dying away". But the prelude may have once been given a title. According to George Sand's daughter Solange, who stayed with the composer at the monastery in Majorca when the preludes were written, "My mother gave a title to each of Chopin’s wonderful Preludes; these titles have been preserved on a score he gave to us." [1] That titled score is lost. But Solange did record the names of the preludes, apparently without assigning the names to the prelude numbers.[2] It is believed that the title "Quelles larmes au fond du cloître humide?" ("What tears [are shed] from the depths of the damp monastery?") corresponds to Prelude No. 4."  

The music certainly manages to portray his mood.  Do you feel sad as you listen?

I was blessed and challenged by this poem by William Wordworth

A Narrow Girdle of Rough Stones and Crags

A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags,
A rude and natural causeway, interposed
Between the water and a winding slope
Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore
Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy:
And there myself and two beloved Friends,
One calm September morning, ere the mist
Had altogether yielded to the sun,
Sauntered on this retired and difficult way.
----Ill suits the road with one in haste; but we
Played with our time; and, as we strolled along,
It was our occupation to observe
Such objects as the waves had tossed ashore--
Feather, or leaf, or weed, or withered bough,
Each on the other heaped, along the line
Of the dry wreck. And, in our vacant mood,
Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft
Of dandelion seed or thistle's beard,
That skimmed the surface of the dead calm lake,
Suddenly halting now--a lifeless stand!
And starting off again with freak as sudden;
In all its sportive wanderings, all the while,
Making report of an invisible breeze
That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse,
Its playmate, rather say, its moving soul.
--And often, trifling with a privilege
Alike indulged to all, we paused, one now,
And now the other, to point out, perchance
To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair
Either to be divided from the place
On which it grew, or to be left alone
To its own beauty. Many such there are,
Fair ferns and flowers, and chiefly that tall fern,
So stately, of the queen Osmunda named;
Plant lovelier, in its own retired abode
On Grasmere's beach, than Naiad by the side
Of Grecian brook, or Lady of the Mere,
Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance.
--So fared we that bright morning: from the fields
Meanwhile, a noise was heard, the busy mirth
Of reapers, men and women, boys and girls.
Delighted much to listen to those sounds,
And feeding thus our fancies, we advanced
Along the indented shore; when suddenly,
Through a thin veil of glittering haze was seen
Before us, on a point of jutting land,
The tall and upright figure of a Man
Attired in peasant's garb, who stood alone,
Angling beside the margin of the lake.
'Improvident and reckless,' we exclaimed,
'The Man must be, who thus can lose a day
Of the mid harvest, when the labourer's hire
Is ample, and some little might be stored
Wherewith to cheer him in the winter time.'
Thus talking of that Peasant, we approached
Close to the spot where with his rod and line
He stood alone; whereat he turned his head
To greet us--and we saw a Mam worn down
By sickness, gaunt and lean, with sunken cheeks
And wasted limbs, his legs so long and lean
That for my single self I looked at them,
Forgetful of the body they sustained.--
Too weak to labour in the harvest field,
The Man was using his best skill to gain
A pittance from the dead unfeeling lake
That knew not of his wants. I will not say
What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
With all its lovely images, was changed
To serious musing and to self-reproach.
Nor did we fail to see within ourselves
What need there is to be reserved in speech,
And temper all our thoughts with charity.
--Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,
My Friend, Myself, and She who then received
The same admonishment, have called the place
By a memorial name, uncouth indeed
As e'er by mariner was given to bay
Or foreland, on a new-discovered coast;
And POINT RASH-JUDGMENT is the name it bears. 

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