Bits and Bobs (the "it’s been a long time" edition)

Upset c.1887
Joseph Decker (1853-1924)
de Young Museum, San Francisco

Scanner Wars and Sunday Painting
It has been a while since I have done a Bits and Bobs. But it has been an even longer time since I have done a Sunday Painting. You may remember several months ago when I wrote about getting into a physical altercation with my scanner/printer. Well, I wasn’t kidding and I only just now have replaced it. Actually John got if for me for Christmas (rewarding bad behavior) but it took a while to arrive and I finally decided to hook it up this weekend. (“Hook it up” isn’t the right phrase considering it is wireless.)

So in honor of having a scanner again, I decided to revive Sunday Painting, my occasional feature where I post a scan of one of the many art postcards I have collected over the years. How ironic then, that my first one out of the gate is one that I didn’t actually scan. I fell in love with this painting at first sight. If I could own and hang in my house one work of art that is currently in a major collection, it would be this one. Kind of a strong statement given all the amazing art I could choose from, but there is something about this painting that makes me covet it. Maybe it is because the de Young Museum which owns it, doesn’t provide a postcard of this little lovely, and the artist is relatively obscure and I can’t find a color image in any book that makes me want to own the real thing so badly.  And just look at the image itself. Similar to my taste in fiction, I love paintings with lots of detail of mundane objects and subjects. Can you just imagine the owner of this box of candy?

This poster is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee
Should the Queen be getting all the attention? Well, perhaps more than a poster. And to be perfectly truthful, this poster won’t have its Diamond Jubilee until next year. Since it is the Queen’s accession to the throne that is at the 60-year mark, not her 1953 coronation, this poster, has to wait until next year to really celebrate. But when you think about it, that is probably a good idea. The poster won’t have to share the limelight with all the Queen’s festivities. (And I did use the new scanner for this image.)

Poster designed by Gordon Nicholl
National Railway Museum, York

Will I get Jubilee-fever when I am in England?
A few months ago John and I were pondering our travel schedule for the year and we decided to go somewhere for about eight days in the May/June time frame. Being the kook that I am, I almost love planning travel more than doing it, so running through the list of options once dates are chosen is perhaps one of my favorite things in life. After sifting through the possibilities on our very long wish list, and balancing them against our plans for next year, we soon settled on a trip to England. We thought it would be a great time for John to see some gardens. It seems the only time we ever make it to England these days is over the Veteran’s Day holiday and gardens aren’t quite as interesting in the cold, foggy days of November as they are in the Spring.

All of this is prelude to say that I wasn’t even thinking of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or the possibilities of related events and exhibits when we bought our plane tickets. But then last week I came upon this post by Meg at Pigtown Design just up the road in Baltimore all about the Jubilee and some of the events surrounding it. Like one at the V&A of Cecil Beaton portraits of the Queen. But that ends in April. Shoot. I suppose I could go up to Leed’s which is where it goes next, but that is too far off our itinerary. Or I could try the Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Windsor Castle, but that really isn’t my cup of tea. The one I really, really want to see is an exhibition of her diamonds at Buckingham Palace. But that doesn’t start until the end of June.

Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown

Thankfully there is The Queen: Art and Image at the National Portrait Gallery (one of my favorite museums in London) that will actually be running while we are there.

Lightness of Being, 2007
Christine Levine

And speaking of Baltimore (and queens)
Last night we watched The Filthy World. A one-man show by Baltimore’s most infamous native son, John Waters. Everyone knows that he is the genius behind the film Hairspray. But some may not know that he is the king of really filthy films that are all about really bad taste and have been banned and censored all over the world. Well, his one-man show is hilarious. Waters is brilliant and talks non-stop for an hour and half going over the highlights of his childhood and career. But please, unless you know about the early John Waters and his penchant for the irreverent and filthy, do not rent this one. Or don’t say that you weren’t warned.

But where are the books?
It has been a while since I posted a book review and I am not sure when that is going to change. My reviews have never really approached the standards of real book reviews, (Hmm, why don’t we hyphenate that? I bet it was at some point. Isn’t the noun “book” serving as an adjective? Teresa, what say you?) being more like personal musings on my reading experience. But I think I may be at a point where I don’t feel like writing them. Originally I started doing them so I would better remember what I had read. But I could do that without trying to turn them into reviews. My work has taken a very interesting, but brain-intensive turn (more on that in the weeks to come) that makes me want to turn off a bit more at night rather than trying to provide analysis or description of what I am reading. I think I may come up with some abbreviated format that frees up time for posts like this one and more time for reading.

Shelf Esteem No. 8

Don’t worry, I haven’t run out of fabulous images of overstuffed bookshelves and cozy home libraries. I realize that posting such an anemic “library” might make some of you think that I am scraping the bottom of the barrel for Shelf Esteem content. Not so.   

Cozy factor: Despite having many of the trappings of cozy, the overall effect is not very cozy.

The Shelves: They are quite odd. They don’t seem to be one thing or the other. The unit looks built-in, yet it is of a size that makes one wonder why they bothered. It seems like a lot of effort, money, and thought went into making this, but the overall effect is rather cheap looking and not very pleasantly scaled. Plus it seems like overkill for the small amount of storage it provides.

The Books: I will let you decide. Three picture books on golf. Michener, Le Carre, McMurtry, Iriving, Crichton, Grisham, Dan Brown

Is this person a reader? Yes, but really…in this case who cares?

The book I would read if I had to pick one: I think I would try one of the Le Carre. I think I would enjoy these despite having some problems getting into one of his books in the past.

What gives Thomas? Why are you wasting our time with this one? Simple, the John Currin painting above the shelves. I love the surreal (or perhaps it is super- or hyper-real) quality of his work. I mentioned it once before when I commented on the Persephone cover of Mariana by Monica Dickens. His works sell in the $500,000 range. Can you imagine having an art budget that big? We saw a major exhibit of his work a few years ago, but I forget where. His work is fascinating. And it has been so long since I did a Sunday Painting. So here are few more for your perusal.

Sunday Painting: Falling Tide, Pirates Cove by Sarah Faragher

Back in April I posted pictures of the cottage we were going to rent in Maine this summer. Not long after I posted the photos I got an email from Sarah Faragher who told me that she had spent time in the house when her aunt rented it years ago. Sarah’s email delighted me not only because of the coincidence, but because she was a lurker on My Porch–one of the unknown millions (tongue-in-cheek) who read My Porch but don’t comment.

Then it turned out that Sarah, painter and former used bookstore owner, was going to be on Islesboro participating in a group art show at the same time that we were going to be on the island. And even better, she emailed me to tell me that she brought a couple of books for me and that she would leave them at the show for me to pick up. We may be an odd bunch, but book lovers sure do love to share book love–even with people we don’t know.

Well you can imagine that I didn’t just want to pick up free books, but I actually wanted to meet Sarah when I picked up the books, so I made a point of going at a time I knew she would be staffing the show. And then I had a thought. What if I hated her art? I have zero ability to lie effectively about such things. I would be the worst poker player in the world because everything I think can be read on my face. How could I meet this stranger and then coo about her work if I didn’t like it?

I walk into the old schoolhouse (or was it the town hall?) and not knowing what Sarah looks like, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. So I headed straight for the guest book (something I normally do not sign) when a woman to my right says “I know you…” at the same moment I notice to my left a group of very striking paintings that are right up my aisle. I silently hope that these are Sarah’s works, because I can also tell at a glance that there is some stuff there that just isn’t my cup of tea. After some chit chat it turns out that the paintings that drew my eye were indeed Sarah’s work.

Not only a big sigh of relief but genuine pleasure in being able to coo over her work. And though I didn’t think I was in an art buying mood, it took me about 30 seconds to realize that I was going to buy one. I was hemming and hawing over which one it would be but the one you see here was always the front runner. The decision might have been harder if another painting that I really liked hadn’t already been sold.

And I haven’t even mentioned the books that Sarah brought for me. I will save that for another day’s post. I have lots of book-related posts swirling in my head after two weeks of not blogging.

For now, you can enjoy one of Sarah’s views of Islesboro, Maine.

Falling Tide, Pirates Cove
Sarah Faragher

Sunday Painting: Woman Ironing by Edgar Degas

Remember how I said I was going to have my own private readathon? I even inspired Simon S to do the same. Well, in my case the best laid reading plans always go awry. I forgot that I had to give a tour for my job on Saturday which took up half the day. Then we had some people stop by to see if they wanted to buy an old desk of ours. Then I had an urge to mow the lawn. And then I just didn’t feel like reading much.  I have been watching the early films of Mike Leigh instead. I am going to blog about these at some point because they are weirdly fascinating. I am getting some reading in–I am in the middle of The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch–but definitely not the weekend of reading I had planned. With any luck I will be able to dedicate next weekend to my readathon.

Appropriately the subject of this week’s Sunday Painting doesn’t have time to read either (although my guess is that she works far harder than I have to).

Woman Ironing (begun c. 1876, completed c. 1887)
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Sunday Painting: Chester Dale by Diego Rivera

A few weeks ago I went to the National Gallery of Art here in Washington. It is truly spectacular in so many ways. In addition to the beautiful buildings and amazing collection, the NGA benefits from the fact that it is not as popular with visitors (I am guessing) as the Smithsonian is. And likewise it is far less congested than the Met in NYC or the Nat Gal in London. It makes for a wonderful experience.

Anyhoo, my office is a mere four minute walk from the the NGA but I hadn’t been there for some time. I took a look at the Canaletto exhibit but had more fun perusing the permanent collection. Sad for me and my Sunday Painting feature is the fact that the NGA, like so many other museums around the world, no longer has the acres and acres postcards that it used to. This is especially annoying for me as I tend to like works that aren’t necessarily the most popular. So the chances of finding postcards of the pieces that I like the most is getting slimmer and slimmer. I guess I need to combat this with the digital camera and paper and pencil for writing down names to look up later online.

One of the exhibits they currently have going on is highlights of The Chester Dale Collection, a collection of about 300 hundred works mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries.  There are many marquee paintings in this collection, but the one I was quite taken with was this portrait of the tycoon painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Would you have guessed that this was a Rivera? I sure didn’t.

Chester Dale, 1945
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Sunday Painting: A Centenary Portrait by John Wonnacott

This seemed an appropriate entry for my Sunday Painting feature this week. An absolutely gigantic portrait of the Royal Family painted in 2000 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I don’t think I saw this in person, but I seemed to buy the postcard nevertheless. I am not sure if it shows in this image, but you can see lines on the postcard where the various canvases come together to make this 119 foot by 81 foot painting.

The Royal Family: A Centenary Portrait
Prince William of Wales; HM The Queen; HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother;
The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Prince Henry of Wales; HRH The Prince of Wales
John Wonnacott (b. 1940)
National Portrait Gallery (London)

There is a lot I could say about the wedding this past week and all of the endless prattle pro and con that was everywhere. But I will limit myself to just a few observations. When Charles and Diana got married in 1981, I was in the early stages of my Anglophilia. As much as it may still rankle the old guard, I became a huge fan of the Royal Family mainly due to Diana’s arrival on the scene. My enthusiasm knew no bounds. Thankfully Charles and Diana got married during the summer so I could get up at 3:00 am to watch the wedding and not have to worry about going to school.

So, flash forward to 2011. Although I am still fascinated by trappings of royalty, I am no longer the rabid fan I used to be. As a result I have paid very little attention to William and Kate over the years and I was still pretty ambivalent about them going into Friday’s ceremony. But when I saw the moment when Kate took her place next to to William in the Abbey and he so clearly told her that she looked beautiful, I got a little teary. Unlike the foreshadowing stiffness of C&D, William and Kate looked so comfortable and happy with each other. Let’s all cross our fingers.

Other thoughts:

  • I loved the maple trees that lined the nave of the Abbey.
  • Kate truly looked radiant and beautiful.
  • I think Harry might be starting his very own bald spot.
  • The Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie not only looked ridiculous, but they made the mistake of calling too much attention to themselves at someone else’s wedding.
  • The music was a bit of a snooze. Too much Parry.
  • Were those three Paris Hilton clones Earl Spencer’s daughters?
  • Prince Albert’s fiancee was impeccably dressed.
  • Lady Sarah Chatto looked fantastic and her outfit (by Jasper Conran I think) made her look so much like her late mother, Princess Margaret.

Sunday Painting: Marshfield Meadows by Martin Johnson Heade

Whenever we watch Antiques Roadshow, or Cash in the Attic or other shows like that, John gets a little annoyed with me because I am always yelling “sell it!” at the TV. In most cases the cash value of the object being appraised is far more interesting to me the object itself. And in some cases the objects are just plain ugly. But once on an episode of the short-lived “Find!” the Keno brothers were at a woman’s house and she had a painting my Martin Johnson Heade in her attic (or basement).

Now that Martin Johnson Heade that they found (wasn’t this one) sold for $800,000 when they took it to auction. A decidedly huge amount for shows like these. And it was the one time that I was really torn. $800,000 could buy many, many things. But to acutally own a Martin Johnson Heade.

Marshfield Meadows, 1878
Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)
The Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH


Sunday Painting, Manic Postings, and FOUR books to GIVE AWAY

I should have spaced all these postings out. But I couldn’t wait. Like a kid on Christmas morning. So here is my Sunday Painting feature, followed by:

1. A give away of four very English books.

2. My Borders Loot.

3. Some great book pairs.

4. Bliss.

And now here is a little Gene Davis to restore some order to my frenzied mind.

Untitled, 1969
Gene Davis, (1920-1985)
The Kreeger Museum

By the way, The Kreeger Museum is a great art collection in a modernist mansion here in DC designed by Philip Johnson. Pictures of the museum if you follow the link in the caption.