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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Young Mother Sewing; Chopin - Etude no 3 in E major, William Wordsworth - A Morning Exercise

Today's painting by Mary Cassatt is typical in many ways.  She has wonderful composition skills - the picture is laid out in a triangle leading from the little girl up to the mother and down again by the mother's arms.  We feel as if we are let in on an intimate moment - the little girl looks a bit shy and surprised as she catches our eye.  As usual the connection between mother and daughter are shown by close proximity in pose but not by eye contact. The mother's focus is on her sewing rather than on her daughter.  In a relaxed way they look very comfortable together. I like the contrast of color between the cool blues of clothing and green background and the warm skin tones.  Mary Cassatt does a wonderful job of using contrast - light against dark (The little girl's dark hair against the lighter clothing and skin) and the contrast of cool colors against warm - as mentioned above.  She layers light, dark, light, dark up the triangle. 
Young Mother Sewing - Mary Cassatt
Today's music by Frederic ChopinEtude no. 3 in E major Op 10 No. 3 is described by Wikipedia as follows: Étude Op. 10 No. 3, in E major, is a study for solo piano composed by Frederic Chopin in 1832. It was first published in 1833 in France, Germany, and England as the third piece of his Etudes Op. 10. This is a slow cantabile study for polyphonic and legato playing. Chopin himself believed the melody to be his most beautiful one. It became famous through numerous popular arrangements. Although this étude is sometimes identified by the names "Tristesse" (Sadness) or "Farewell (L'Adieu)," neither is a name given by Chopin. More here from Wikipedia about this piece.

I just ordered in a book by Opal Wheeler, Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland.  We enjoyed her fictional life of Beethoven for children, Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells  so I'm looking forward to this children's book also written by her.

I recommend the Vox Music Masters series "Story of Chopin in Words and Music".  These audio biographies are a combination of biographical information interspersed with musical selections.   

A link to an hour and a half of music by Chopin here.

Another lovely nature poem by William Wordsworth featuring bird songs

        A Morning Exercise
Fancy, who leads the pastimes of the glad,
Full oft is pleased a wayward dart to throw,
Sending sad shadows after things not sad,
Peopling the harmless fields with signs of woe;
Beneath her sway, a simple forest cry
Becomes an echo of man's misery.

Blithe ravens croak of death, and when the owl 
Tries his two voices for a favourite strain--
"Tu-whit--Tu-whoo!" the unsuspecting fowl
Forebodes mishap or seems but to complain;
Fancy, intent to harass and annoy,
Can thus pervert the evidence of joy.

Through border wilds where naked Indians stray,
Myriads of notes attest her subtle skill;
A feathered task-master cries, "WORK AWAY!"
And, in thy iteration, "WHIP POOR WILL!"
Is heard the spirit of a toil-worn slave,
Lashed out of life, not quiet in the grave

What wonder?  at her bidding, ancient lays
Steeped in dire grief the voice of Philomel;*
And that fleet messenger of summer days,
The Swallow, twittered subject to like spell,
But ne'er could Fancy bend the buoyant Lark
To melancholy service--hark! O hark!

The daisy sleeps upon the dewy lawn,
Not lifting yet the head that evening bowed;
But 'He' is risen a later star of dawn.
Glittering and twinkling near yon rosy cloud;
Bright gem instinct with music, vocal spark;
The happiest bird that sprang out of the Ark!

Hail blest above all kinds!--Supremely skilled

Restless with fixed to balance, high with low,
Thou leave'st the halcyon* free her hopes to build
On such forbearance as the deep may show;
Perpetual flight, unchecked by earthly ties,
Leav'st to the wandering bird of paradise

Faithful, though swift as lightning, the meek dove;
Yet more hath Nature reconciled in thee;
So constant with thy downward eye of love,
Yet, in aerial singleness, so free;
So humble, yet so ready to rejoice
In power of wing and never-wearied voice.

To the last point of vision, and beyond,
Mount, daring warbler!--that love-prompted strain,
(Twixt thee and thine a never-failing bond)
Thrills not the less the bosom of the plain;
Yet might'st thou seem, proud privilege! to sing
All independent of the leafy spring.

 How would it please old Ocean to partake,
With sailors longing for a breeze in vain,
The harmony thy notes most gladly make
Where earth resembles most his own domain!
Urania's* self might welcome with pleased ear
These martins mounting towards her native sphere.

Chanter by heaven attracted, whom no bars 
To day-light known deter from that pursuit,
'Tis well that some sage instinct, when the stars
Come forth at evening, keeps Thee still and mute;
For not an eyelid could to sleep incline
Wert thou among them, singing as they shine!

*Philomel - a Greek mythical figure who became a nightengale
*halcyon -   A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice.
* Urania - the muse of astronomy (the word muse originates from Greek mythology. The Greek gods Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters called the Muses. The nine daughters were of one being in heart, spirit and thought. If the muses loved a man, then the man's worries instantly disappeared. The man who was loved by the muses was considered to be more sacred than a holy man).


  1. Loving the continued Cassatt paintings, Patti. This one is a favorite.

    My mother recently visited Poland and spent a day exploring his residence there. She brought the boys back darling shirts and a book about Chopin as a young boy from the Fryderyk Chopin Institut. It is cute, but twaddle. However, it is greatly appreciated.

    We have been busy relocating from MN to TX so I was unable to respond to a previous post regarding time spent per new piece. For what it's worth, I do think that every two weeks is a great rotation to allow more time to absorb each work. Thank you for your commitment to this blog. It brings much joy.

    1. Thank you so much for taking time to comment! It's fun that your Mom was able to make that connection for your children with what they are studying. It makes his life more real for them even if it is second hand.
      I have decided to spend longer on each composer - readers can continue to use the posts weekly or pick and choose spending longer on some works, but it will give us more time to read biographies and connect in more ways as well as more paintings, pieces of music and poems to choose from and be familiar with. Thank you for your input.
      I hope you're soon settled and comfortable in your new place. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that your children won't have to adjust to a new school! I hope the transitions to your new home go smoothly. Blessings!

  2. Yes, it is nice for the boys to make that connection through Nana. It is wonderful. We are feeling more settled into our TX home. Missing MN very much, but returning to a known place has its benefits. Thanks!

  3. The Chopin Etudes are the most important pieces in the genre and formed the basis for all future concert etudes.Really its a fantastic work.

    Chopin Biography