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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Tea, Chopin - Variations on a German Theme, William Wordworth - A Night Piece

I am contemplating spending more time on each artist, musician and poet - perhaps 12 weeks, changing them all at once and recommending books for biographical research throughout.  It seems we are just getting used to one when it is time to change and I don't feel that my children are really getting in touch with them, just having a passing taste.  I'm hoping to do a little more with reading biographies of some of them aloud together.  Any other suggestions for improving this blog would be welcome at this time.  I liked a reader's helpful suggestion that we switch with the seasons as this would work with a variety of school schedules. 
File:Cassat CupOfTea.jpg
Tea by Mary Cassatt
 As we have noted before - Mary Cassatt treated people in a somewhat irreverent manner - here she puts the cup in front of this lady's face - hiding all but her eyes.  The subject is an intimate one - close friends together over tea, but she handles it with a notable personal disinterest or disconnection.  Neither of the people looks at us or at each other - in fact we're not sure who or what they are looking at. Perhaps she just wants to leave us guessing  It is a relaxed moment - perhaps they have another friend across the table or maybe they are just deep in thought?  What do you think?

Another fine piano piece by Frederic Chopin - Variations on a German Theme.  
This piece is much happier than last week's sad piece....
Here is a link to a couple of paragraphs describing the writing of this piece of music.  Chopin was young - only 16 when he wrote it.  Variations on a theme take a basic melody and write it up with different flavors or styles.  See if you can trace the basic melody through it's various themes.  Which part do you like best?

Another beautiful poem by William Wordsworth - I love his vivid portrayals of nature and rich vocabulary.

                   A Night-Piece
The sky is overcast
With a continuous cloud of texture close,
Heavy and wan, all whitened by the Moon,
Which through that veil is indistinctly seen,
A dull, contracted circle, yielding light
So feebly spread, that not a shadow falls,
Chequering the ground--from rock, plant, tree, or tower.
At length a pleasant instantaneous gleam
Startles the pensive traveller while he treads
His lonesome path, with unobserving eye
Bent earthwards, he looks up--the clouds are split
Asunder,--and above his head he sees
The clear Moon, and the glory of the heavens.
There, in a black-blue vault she sails along,
Followed by multitudes of stars, that, small
And sharp, and bright, along the dark abyss
Drive as she drives: how fast they wheel away,
Yet vanish not!--the wind is in the tree,
But they are silent,--still they roll along
Immeasurably distant; and the vault,
Built round by those white clouds enormous clouds,
Still deepens its unfathomable depth.
At length the Vision closes; and the mind,
Not undisturbed by the delight it feels,
Which slowly settles into peaceful calm
Is left to muse upon the solemn scene.


  1. Beautiful poem! You always find the nicest ones.

    I had a different take on the painting; I saw it as two people who maybe don't like each other all that much, struggling through the social 'niceties'. I think it's the fact that each is covering her mouth in some way that gives me that impression.

  2. Oh my love all of this! :) I've been debating what new composer to listen to with my children (we've been enjoying Tchaikovskey) and will have to dig around your site here for ideas! :)

    My oldest daughter and I learned about Mary Cassatt a few years ago. I love the colors and beautiful subjects she painted. I never thought about the things you mentioned looking at this painting! Thank you! It makes me think a little bit harder about WHAT the painting is about!

    Do you have any suggestions for an artist that would really interested boys? :) I tend to lean toward soft Impressionists etc and it hasn't really grabbed them too much. I'm not worried or anything, I feel it's good to expose them to all kinds, but it's nice to through in something that has a bit more masculine flavor to it. We just finished up with light look at Rembrandt which they seemed to enjoy...especially paintings like Samson getting his eyes poked out. ;) LOL! Oh dear. Anyway, any thoughts! Thanks!!


  3. Sorry for the spelling errors/typos...I type like I talk...TOO FAST. *blush*

  4. Thank you for taking time to comment! If your boys liked Rembrandt and you want more - we covered some of his works in April and May of 2012. You can type in Rembrandt in the search box. They might also enjoy Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, Millet or Remington (Wild West and lots of action) or Audubon's birds. I recommend browsing through old posts if they aren't connecting with a current artist. As far as music, if you haven't used the early posts on this blog - Peter and the Wolf is fun for kids as is Carnival of the Animals. I also really liked "The Creation" by Franz Joseph Haydn. I found it with marvelous nature videos that are suited to the music. You can find these using the search box on this blog. Hope some of these ideas are helpful.

  5. I LOVE your weekly posts! Your questions stimulate me to think much more about the painting than the picture itself!
    I asked myself similar questions about our fine arts appreciation lessons for this year. I felt that the younger children enjoyed a broader overview. We have focused on one artist and a composer from month to month. We lingered longer only if we found a really rich resource. And I am focusing on one poet for the rest of the year.
    Keep going with what feeds your children's hearts, minds and souls! We'll enjoy it with you!

  6. Thank you, I so appreciate your kind words. I'm blessed by your encouragement to focus on what feeds my children's hearts and minds. I sometimes forget to slow and enjoy the journey, to be led by God's spirit and my children's hearts. One of the beauties of home schooling is that we can move at our own pace as it suits our family rather than by a regimented program. Thank you for reminding me.... Patti

  7. Or maybe Mary Cassatt liked the way of the shape of the cup and the hat offered symmetry.

  8. Sure the repeated shapes.... I can see that. Thanks for sharing!