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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Mother Combing Her Child's Hair, Frederic Chopin: Raindrop Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15, William Wordsworth - The Kitten and the Falling Leaves

I like this painting by Mary Cassatt of a mother combing her little girl's hair.  They both look gentle and sweet.  The use of a mirror to the left adds an interesting added perspective of them.  
The impressionistic style is very obvious in the clothing and chair with all the little strokes of color.  This painting is made with pastel and gouche on tan paper.  Pastel is chalks and gouche is opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a gluelike substance.
Mary Cassatt - Mother Combing Her Child's Hair
I have really come to appreciate Mary Cassatt as we have studied her work and read a short biography of her life.  I like how she chose common, comfortable scenes for her paintings.  I didn't realize how impressive this was until I read that this was unusual in her time when most paintings of people were formal and it was a new thing to use bright colors and informal settings.  Next week we will begin studying paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer.
A final piece by Frederic Chopin today is very contemplative.  Frederic Chopin - "Raindrop" Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15.  The following is the text provided by the person who uploaded this piece to You-tube:  

Beginning in D-Flat Major, this piece focuses on inner confliction and the contemplation of the solitary self. The composition was born from the mind of Frédéric Chopin in 1858 during his stay at the Valldemossa monastery. Amantine Dupin once commented, "It casts the soul into a terrible dejection. Maurice and I had left [Chopin] in good health one morning to go shopping in Palma for things we needed at our "encampment." The rain came in overflowing torrents. We made three leagues in six hours, only to return in the middle of a flood. We got back in absolute dark, shoeless, having been abandoned by our driver to cross unheard of perils. We hurried, knowing how our sick one would worry. Indeed he had, but now was as though congealed in a kind of quiet desperation, and, weeping, he was playing his wonderful prelude. Seeing us come in, he got up with a cry, then said with a bewildered air and a strange tone, "Ah, I was sure that you were dead." When he recovered his spirits and saw the state we were in, he was ill, picturing the dangers we had been through, but he confessed to me that while waiting for us he had seen it all in a dream, and no longer distinguishing the dream from reality, he became calm and drowsy. While playing the piano, persuaded that he was dead himself, he saw himself drown in a lake. Heavy drops of icy water fell in a regular rhythm on his breast, and when I made him listen to the sound of the drops of water indeed falling in rhythm on the roof, he denied having heard it. He was even angry that I should interpret this in terms of imitative sounds. He protested with all his might—and he was right to—against the childishness of such aural imitations. His genius was filled with the mysterious sounds of nature, but transformed into sublime equivalents in musical thought, and not through slavish imitation of the actual external sounds. His composition of that night was surely filled with raindrops, resounding clearly on the tiles of the Charterhouse, but it had been transformed in his imagination and in his song into tears falling upon his heart from the sky."

Another thoughtful poem by William Wordsworth - He uses a simple pattern of rhyming every two or occasionally three lines.  

The Kitten and the Falling Leaves

That way look, my Infant, lo!
What a pretty baby-show!
See the Kitten on the wall,
Sporting with the leaves that fall,

Withered leaves -- one -- two -- and three --
From the lofty elder-tree!
Through the calm and frosty air
Of this morning bright and fair,

Eddying round and round they sink
Softly, slowly: one might think,
From the motions that are made,
Every little leaf conveyed

Sylph or Faery hither tending, --
To this lower world descending,
Each invisible and mute,
In his wavering parachute.

-- But the Kitten, how she starts,
Crouches, stretches, paws, and darts!
First at one, and then its fellow
Just as light and just as yellow;

There are many now -- now one --
Now they stop and there are none.
What intenseness of desire
In her upward eye of fire!

With a tiger-leap half-way
Now she meets the coming prey,
Lets it go as fast, and then
Has it in her power again:

Now she works with three or four,
Like an Indian conjurer;
Quick as he in feats of art,
Far beyond in joy of heart.

Were her antics played in the eye
Of a thousand standers-by,
Clapping hands with shout and stare,
What would little Tabby care

For the plaudits of the crowd?
Over happy to be proud,
Over wealthy in the treasure
Of her own exceeding pleasure!

'Tis a pretty baby-treat;
Nor, I deem, for me unmeet;
Here, for neither Babe nor me,
Other play-mate can I see.

Of the countless living things,
That with stir of feet and wings
(In the sun or under shade,
Upon bough or grassy blade)

And with busy revellings,
Chirp and song, and murmurings,
Made this orchard's narrow space,
And this vale so blithe a place;

Multitudes are swept away
Never more to breathe the day:
Some are sleeping; some in bands
Travelled into distant lands;

Others slunk to moor and wood,
Far from human neighbourhood;
And, among the Kinds that keep
With us closer fellowship,

With us openly abide,
All have laid their mirth aside.
Where is he that giddy Sprite,
Blue-cap, with his colours bright,

Who was blest as bird could be,
Feeding in the apple-tree;
Made such wanton spoil and rout,
Turning blossoms inside out;

Hung-head pointing towards the ground --
Fluttered, perched, into a round
Bound himself, and then unbound;
Lithest, gaudiest Harlequin!
Prettiest Tumbler ever seen!

Light of heart and light of limb;
What is now become of Him?
Lambs, that through the mountains went
Frisking, bleating merriment,

When the year was in its prime,
They are sobered by this time.
If you look to vale or hill,
If you listen, all is still,

Save a little neighbouring rill,
That from out the rocky ground
Strikes a solitary sound.
Vainly glitter hill and plain,
And the air is calm in vain;

Vainly Morning spreads the lure
Of a sky serene and pure;
Creature none can she decoy
Into open sign of joy:

Is it that they have a fear
Of the dreary season near?
Or that other pleasures be
Sweeter even than gaiety?

Yet, whate'er enjoyments dwell
In the impenetrable cell
Of the silent heart which Nature
Furnishes to every creature;

Whatsoe'er we feel and know
Too sedate for outward show, 0
Such a light of gladness breaks,
Pretty Kitten! from thy freaks, --

Spreads with such a living grace
O'er my little Dora's face;
Yes, the sight so stirs and charms
Thee, Baby, laughing in my arms,

That almost I could repine
That your transports are not mine,
That I do not wholly fare
Even as ye do, thoughtless pair!

And I will have my careless season
Spite of melancholy reason,
Will walk through life in such a way
That, when time brings on decay,

Now and then I may possess
Hours of perfect gladsomeness.
-- Pleased by any random toy;
By a kitten's busy joy,

Or an infant's laughing eye
Sharing in the ecstasy;
I would fare like that or this,
Find my wisdom in my bliss;

Keep the sprightly soul awake,
And have faculties to take,
Even from things by sorrow wrought,
Matter for a jocund thought,

Spite of care, and spite of grief,
To gambol with Life's falling Leaf.

1 comment:

  1. Another magnificent Cassatt painting, Patti! You have given me several that I will include in our family's upcoming Cassatt study. I also love the factoid that you included regarding informal vs form subjects, the former being so much more enjoyable to me. Thank you for your hard work!