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Picturing a World

Kitchen garden

Uh-oh, a couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was inside a crossword puzzle. The dream is hard to remember clearly, much less describe (more surreal that an Alice-in-Wonderland card game); but the upshot was that the next morning I quit doing puzzles, cold. Now, as I finish my breakfast cup of tea, I'm reading Helen Gammack's Kitchen Garden Estate (2012) instead. It's perfect. Paper that's a delight to feel, many illustrations, and short, information-packed discussions of a wide array of gardening practices for raising edible and medicinal plants.

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Girl at a garden gate

I think we can all agree that one of the saddest things about the current pandemic is the way it has forced children into isolation. Worse things than being cheated of graduation exercises can happen to teenagers; but for younger children to be cheated of grandparents and playmates? That's worrisome for their psychological future. Strange how we bring our preoccupations to looking at images. I think I would always have loved the way this little girl, held in by the fence, looks out at us. At another time, I might have related it to feminist concerns or formalist art-history observations on Morisot's technique. Now it seems somehow emblematic of summer 2020, even for the privileged few. Beautiful, potent, rueful.

Image via Art and Artists.

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Japanese garden

In these troubled times, gardens offer comfort and inspiration. Exploring the Museum Computer Network portal, I got to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento where where I found this painting by Theodore Wores. Wores, a San Franciscan who was influenced by James McNeill Whistler, went to Japan, learned the language, and brought Impressionist techniques to painting landscapes there. (Another example is his Street in Ikao.)


The Iris Flowers of Horikiri called to mind two things: First, the Asian-influenced garden, Innisfree, in Millbrook New York, where irises border a stream. Second, Natasha Pulley's Lost Future of Pepperharrow, most of which takes place in Japan in the 1890's and includes a Japanese estate with many gardens.


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Marie Bracquemond and touch

As I said in my previous post, Marie Bracquemond’s husband, Félix, hurt as well as helped her artistically. Although they both exhibited at one or more of the eight Impressionist shows, she was, in fact, more receptive to the new esthetic than he was; and his criticisms could be choleric. He also  Read More 

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Venetian flower pots

The geraniums in this watercolor by Francis Hopkinson Smith caught my eye, as images of flowers in pots always do. It seems both obvious and also somehow wonderful that people have been growing flowers in clay pots ever since antiquity. In a place like Venice,  Read More 
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Breakfast tables

Here in New England, mornings are getting too cool to eat breakfast on the porch; but before summer fades entirely, I was pleased to run across this painting at the always interesting Lines and Colors blog. It is an example of blogger Charley Parker’s feature, “Eye Candy for Today,” which demonstrates the value of looking at an art work bit by bit instead of always as an integrated whole. My interest in garden history has led me to peek into backgrounds of portraits and biblical paintings to catch glimpses of gardens in the past. For writers, realistic details spring out, e.g., the single blossom in a wine glass on the table in this picture. Read More 

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Van Gogh’s hospital

While I was working on Where the Light Falls, my husband and I visited this mental hospital in Arles. The courtyard has been restored to look much as it did when van Gogh was a patient. The  Read More 
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Noli me tangere

In the Bible, it is Mary Magdalene who first witnesses the Risen Christ (John 20:14–17). She mistakes for him a gardener until he reveals his true identity, whereupon he tells her not to touch him yet (“Noli me tangere” in the Vulgate Latin).  Read More 
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Henri’s Jardin du Luxembourg

After Jeanette completes Edward's portrait, they walk to the Luxembourg Garden. This painting of it by Robert Henri is reproduced in Barbara Weinberg’s book, The Lure of Paris:Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers (1991), my real introduction to the whole topic of an American woman studying art in Paris. Consequently, although the picture was painted twenty years after the action of my novel and in a later style, its vividness has been with me all along. Read More 
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Romance in the Luxembourg Garden

From the time I started writing, Sargent’s painting of a couple strolling in the Luxembourg Garden was a key image for me. Edward and Jeanette. The fountain. The fashion silhouette of the woman’s dress (no bustle). Touches of red. Light. Read More 

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