Introduction and Welcome

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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.

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. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Mrs. Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren, Chopin - , William Wordsworth - A Character

Mary Cassatt has captured a wonderful reading moment here.  The children are very engaged in the story and you can tell they adore their grandmother.  Sweet painting....  Even though my oldest grandchild is just three years old, we already love cuddling up with books together.  I look forward to many more wonderful times together with my grandchildren shared around books.  
Mrs. Cassatt Reading to Her Grandchildren

I was amazed watching Yundi Li's fingers fly over the piano keys as he plays Fantasie Impormptu Op.66This is a beautiful piece of music by Frederic Chopin and the musician is obviously very skilled.  

 Here is a link to "The Best of Chopin" almost 2 hours of pieces by Chopin if you want to listen to lots of music by this composer 

Today's poem by William Wordsworth describes the wonder of  possibilities in  human facial expression.  

                        A Character

I marvel how Nature could ever find space
For so many strange contrasts in one human face:
There's thought and no thought, and there's paleness and bloom
And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom.

There's weakness, and strength both redundant and vain;
Such strength as, if ever affliction and pain
Could pierce through a temper that's soft to disease,
Would be rational peace--a philosopher's ease.

There's indifference, alike when he fails or succeeds,
And attention full ten times as much as there needs;
Pride where there's no envy, there's so much of joy;
And mildness, and spirit both forward and coy.

There's freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare
Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she's there,
There's virtue, the title it surely may claim,
Yet wants heaven knows what to be worthy the name.

This picture from nature may seem to depart,
Yet the Man would at once run away with your heart;
And I for five centuries right gladly would be
Such an odd such a kind happy creature as he.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Auguste Reading to Her Daughter, Chopin - Nocturne Op.27 No. 2, William Wordsworth - To a Child Written in Her Album

This painting by Mary Cassatt leaves me a bit dissatisfied.  It doesn't quite fit my ideals of the bliss of mother reading to daughter or the active connection I feel when I share a book with my children.  The daughter looks comfortable but detached - perhaps she is just far away in thought.  It bothers me a little that they are both so "quiet" as if they were somehow disconnected even though they are physically close - the mother almost looks as if she is reading silently and the girl looks disinterested, almost pouting.  I really like the bright colors in their clothing and the contrasts between light and dark - the mother's face against the dark water and her dark hair against the bright green of the far bank.  It's a pretty picture, but somehow it seems that some of the joy and sparkle in the countenances is missing.  Anyone else able to better put your finger on what I am perceiving - or perhaps disagree with me and have a better insight into this painting.

Auguste Reading to Her Daughter
 Frederic Chopin -   Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2

 I enjoyed this peaceful piece of music by Chopin.  I hope you do, too.  

A new poet today -William Wordsworth
Two Biographical sketches: - William Wordsworth 
Wikipedia - William Wordsworth

   To a Child Written in Her Album
Small service is true service while it lasts:
Of humblest Friends, bright Creature! scorn not one:
The Daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dew-drop from the Sun.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Children Playing on the Beach, Fredric Chopin - Nocturne in E Flat Major, James Whitcomb Riley - The Prayer Perfect

Mary Cassatt painting today is a fun summer scene with two children playing at the beach.  From the cold midwest in January - this looks wonderful....
Children Playing on the Beach
 A New Composer today - Fredric Chopin.  A lovely piece here - Nocturne in E Flat Major
Links to biographical sketches follow:
Fredric Chopin - Wikipedia 
AllMusic - Chopin biographical sketch 

A lovely prayer poem today by James Whitcomb Riley
 The Prayer Perfect
Dear Lord! kind Lord!
Gracious Lord! I pray
Thou wilt look on all I love,
Tenderly to-day!
Weed their hearts of weariness;
Scatter every care
Down a wake of angel-wings
Winnowing the air.

Bring unto the sorrowing
All release from pain;
Let the lips of laughter
Overflow again;
And with all the needy
O divide, I pray,
This vast treasure of content
That is mine to-day!