Cat Grass

Cat Portrait by MHPhotography

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The temple of delight

PART TWO of ROMANTIC FICTIONS AND CASUALTIES

fragonard fountain of loveFragonard, The Fountain of Love 1785 Oil on canvas, Wallace Collection, London.
Image source: WGA. In this painting, the purveyor of insouciance and erotica for the ancien regime breaks into the psychological dreamworld of the Neoclassicists and Romantics in his own decoratively moody way.
“I fly with HORROR from such a passion.” Sally Siddons.

The Tragic Muse’s eldest daughter’s love for the artist had been tested already. She had kept faith in him even after he had abandoned her for her younger sister, a pretty, airheaded girl of sixteen he felt, on impulse, he must marry. During this gaping wound in time, two years of “mortification, grief, agony”, a new kindling took place inside her. Under layers of suffering, she heard more clearly the music of her calling.

Passion reverberated in her, enriching her voice with sweetness, and her melodies with mortal yearning: “I never should have sung as I do had I never seen you; I never should have composed at all. . . You then liv’d in my heart, in my head, in every idea…”

She had turned a fallible man into her muse, and given birth to her own art.

the-marchioness-of-northampton-playing-a-harp-sir-henry-raeburn - CopySir Henry Raeburn, The Marchioness of Northampton playing the harp, c.1820.
Oil on canvas.
“I never should have sung as I do had I never seen you; I never should have composed at all. . . You then liv’d in my heart, in my head, in every idea…” (Sally Siddons)

A few weeks after his engagement to the younger daughter was made official, the shock of unaccustomed proximity to reality cleared the artist’s vision. He saw that he had mistaken his feelings. He confided in the Tragic Muse that it was not her younger daughter that he loved. It was the elder daughter. It always had been. His love was true; he had simply suited the wrong action to the word, an error that any artist or actor would forgive.
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The poetry of art

The first thing you notice is the astonishing blue. It is a woman’s dress, with a luminous life of its own, a bright heart bursting out of a pale pink shell, made of the same colours as the blue sky, flushed pale carmine by the setting sun. Darkling, she “cannot see what flowers are at her feet, /Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs”. She has a woman’s head, but her body looks more like an exotic blue flower, a lady elf transforming from gordian to woman’s shape. Her dark curling hair might be part of a tree’s foliage.

gainsborough ladybate-dudley1787Lady Bate-Dudley, oil on canvas c.1787. © Tate. Her husband, Sir Henry, known as the Fighting Parson, was a loyal friend and supporter of Gainsborough; he also wrote comic operas. The Bate-Dudleys seem to have inhabited a surprisingly passionate landscape of their own.

Viewed as late 18th century society portraiture, Gainsborough’s painting of Lady Bate-Dudley is disconcerting, being far more about abstract colour and light than the status of the sitter; as poetry of art, it perfectly evokes states of mind painted in words by Keats.

Gainsborough was a poetic painter, Keats the most painterly of poets in an age inspired by unbounded imaginative affinities. Keats’ liquid imagery was as often in danger of dripping from his verse as Gainsborough’s oil-diluted colours from his palette. They Continue reading

Calico

Please don’t ask me
“How do you feel?”
In the garden of how I feel
nothing grows
but tears and sighs and bitter aloes.
I cannot speak
my sorrow:
it swells inside me, fungating tumour,
choking words and ulcerating thoughts.

In the garden
of how I feel,
there is no light; sunken corner
of mind’s eye,
knotted stems writhe and mould; torn out of earth,
the mandrakes scream;
ivy leaves
rustle angrily as rats tunnel through,
dragging tails and leaving stench of death

in her garden
where lavender,
lily and roses used to grow.
Violence
of absence displaces memory.
Past and present,
love severed;
nothing looks nor feels the same to me
that once was seen and felt by her, too.

Please don’t tell me,
“you must move on”-
fresh amputee crawling towards
a closed door,
my only way out through catacombs.
Resurrection:
replanting
the wild and tender flowers that she loved,
colours breaking heart of stone and clay,

ancient arts of sweet disorder,
patterns swaying with summer stems
Make-believe
like her the most while having little,
her mystery
calico –
look – she’s climbed to the highest branch again –
she stands, laughing in the dappled light.

Written after seeing a photograph of a woman in a garden