Introduction and Welcome

Welcome to All Things Bright and Beautiful. If you are new to this site, I would recommend that you read my very first entry - which is an introduction and welcome to this blog. You can view it here

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Alexnader Cassatt and His Son Robert, Frederic Chopin Mazurka Op. 7, No. 1, Willima Wordsworth - The Tables Turned

I ordered in about a half dozen books from our public library on Mary Cassatt that we are enjoying.  Being a popular artist there are many books featuring her art - many are oversize books that show her art nicely.  I found a nice biography, They Found a Way Mary Cassatt, by Catherine Scheader.  It's an 80 page chapter book told in story form.  It's not a large book and the pictures are black and white so you will probably want to get at least one of the larger books featuring color prints of her work to go along with it.
Alexander Cassatt and His Son Robert - by Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt didn't paint many pictures of men and those she did paint were, like this one, of family members.  Mary Cassatt was deeply devoted to her family.  This painting shows her brother and nephew.  Notice how the hands and arns lead your eye in a circle back up to the faces of the two.  

From 1825-1849 Frederic Chopin wrote at least 69 Mazurkas.  Today's featured piece is one of them.  Here is a link to an article explaining Mazurkas which are a polish folk dance in triple meter.  And another link here talking about Chopin's use of Mazurkas.  
Frederic Chopin: Mazurka op. 7/1

Another beautiful poem by William Wordsworth today extolling the benefits of contemplating nature.

The Tables Turned (An Evening Scene on the Same Subject)

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless --
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mary Cassatt - Portrait of a Young Girl, Frederic Chopin - Mazurka in B minor, Opus. 33, No. 4, William Wordsworth - Lines Written in Early Spring

This painting by Mary Cassatt features a young girl sitting contemplatively in the grass near the lane that winds through the background.  We are enjoying a junior biography of Mary Cassatt:  They Found a Way Mary Cassatt, by Catherine Scheader.  It's less than 80 pages long and told in story form with lots of dialogue.  It also has black and white pictures of some of her paintings.

Another Mazurka by Frederic Chopin this week played by Vladimir Horowitz Frederic Chopin - Mazurka in B minor Opus 33 no. 4

Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz October 1 1903 – November 5, 1989 was an American classical pianist and composer. His technique and use of tone color and the excitement of his playing were legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.  See more about him here.  

An introduction by William Wordsworth himself preludes 

this poem. 

 Lines Written in Early Spring

Actually composed while I was sitting by the side of the brook that runs down from the Comb, in which stands the village of Alford, through the grounds of Alfoxden. It was a chosen resort of mine. The brook fell down a sloping rock so as to make a waterfall considerable for that country, and across the pool below had fallen a tree, an ash if I rightly remember, from which rose perpendicularly, boughs in search of the light intercepted by the deep shade above. The boughs bore leaves of green that for want of sunshine had faded into almost lily-white; and from the underside of this natural sylvan bridge depended long and beautiful tresses of ivy which waved gently in the breeze that might poetically speaking be called the breath of the waterfall. This motion varied of course in proportion to the power of water in the brook. When, with dear friends, I revisited this spot, after an interval of more than forty years, this interesting feature of the scene was gone. To the owner of the place I could not but regret that the beauty of this retired part of the grounds had not tempted him to make it more accessible by a path, not broad or obtrusive, but sufficient for persons who love such scenes to creep along without difficulty.

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:--
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

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: √Čtude 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 √©tude 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).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mary Cassatt - , Frederic Chopin - Ballade No. 1 in G minor, William Wordsworth - Daffodils

This painting by Mary Cassatt is different than many I have featured in that the Mother and child are actively interacting with each other.  Love that red hair!  The greens in the background balance the warm skin tones and clothing nicely.

Frederic Chopin  Ballade No. 1 in G minor played by Vladimir Horowitz. here

This Wikipedia article explains what a Ballade was.  Chopin was the first to use it as a musical form.

William Wordsworth's poem echoes Charlotte Mason's thoughts on the long lasting benefit of nature study.  


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,--
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.