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Picturing a World

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.

The first 19th C painting in this genre that I remember seeing was John Singer Sargent’s Breakast Table at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum of Art. I couldn’t get over how Sargent created the illusion of shiny silver with grays, white, blue, and orange. Hanna Hirsch-Pauli does the same.

For a more Impressionistic breakfast table, see Berthe Morisot’s Cottage Interior.

Herbert Badham’s 1936 painting Breakfast Piece is a later example of the genre—too late to illustrate Mattie at breakfast, yet the woman staring off into space alone and the newspaper makes me think of her. The cigarettes might fit, too; but I’m resisting making Mattie a smoker.

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