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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Break From Politics

(For politics, please scroll down)

How Mr. AOW and I spent the day on Friday, September 18, 2015:

Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877)
Read the brochure HERE.

The exhibit Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye opened on June 28, 2015, at the National Gallery of Art.

One of the highlights of the day was the security guard at the entrance-exit door for the exhibit.  This older black gentleman, with an elegant demeanor, greeted everyone who was entering the exhibit and offered a brochure to any of us who didn't already have a brochure. He also spoke to everyone who was leaving the exhibit and ended his brief goodbye exchange with a wide smile, a steadfast gaze, and these words: "I hope you have a wonderful life!"  Capra-esque.


  1. That is an awesome exhibit. Although the painting of the cow's head hanging on a hook by it's snout made me a little squeamish.

    Speaking of art and things losing their head, did you ever see the headless human body statues on N.Y. avenue in downtown DC? Talk about tasteless and art imitating real life...

    1. Anonymous,
      I HATE those headless statues!

      I didn't like the dead-animals still lifes at the exhibits. I'm not the squeamish sort, but the cow's head hanging on a hook by it's snout doesn't seem worthy of praise, IMO.

    2. A bit of Comsciousness Raising for Animal Rights, perhaps?

    3. FT,
      I think that it's more a matter of capturing moments he observed while strolling through the streets of 19th Century Paris. Caillebotte used the canvas much like a camera uses film.

    4. I was attempting to be humorous, AOW.

      In the workaday world not so long ago what we think of today as shocking exhibitions of cruelty, brutality, vulgarity and rotten taste were commonplace and perfectly acceptable as "just part of life" before we were subjected to "Consciousness Raising" and "Sensitivity Training," et al.

      Artists, however, have always had a keen eye for the implicit significance in commonplace, every day occurrences. That's why in all significant art, music and literature there runs a deep undercurrent of profound sadness.

      After all in actual fact life is a tragedy. No one gets through the experience alive.

  2. Replies
    1. Shades of Maurice Chevalier in Gigi, perhaps?

    2. Indeed. A vulgar type "redeemed" (by the gentleman flaneur's "art")...

      The Ragpickers' Wine

      In the muddy maze of some old neighborhood,
      Often, where the street lamp gleams like blood,
      As the wind whips the flame, rattles the glass,
      Where human beings ferment in a stormy mass,

      One sees a ragpicker knocking against the walls,
      Paying no heed to the spies of the cops, his thralls,
      But stumbling like a poet lost in dreams;
      He pours his heart out in stupendous schemes.

      He takes great oaths and dictates sublime laws,
      Casts down the wicked, aids the victims' cause;
      Beneath the sky, like a vast canopy,
      He is drunken of his splendid qualities.

      Yes, these people, plagued by household cares,
      Bruised by hard work, tormented by their years,
      Each bent double by the junk he carries,
      The jumbled vomit of enormous Paris,—

      They come back, perfumed with the smell of stale
      Wine-barrels, followed by old comrades, pale
      From war, mustaches like limp flags, to march
      With banners, flowers, through the triumphal arch

      Erected for them, by some magic touch!
      And in the dazzling, deafening debauch
      Of bugles, sunlight, of huzzas and drum,
      Bring glory to the love-drunk folks at home!

      Even so, wine pours its gold to frivolous
      Humanity, a shining Pactolus;
      Then through man's throat of high exploits it sings
      And by its gifts reigns like authentic kings.

      To lull these wretches' sloth and drown the hate
      Of all who mutely die, compassionate,
      God has created sleep's oblivion;
      Man added Wine, divine child of the Sun.

    3. ________ Nocturne ________

      Now through night's caressing grip
      Earth and all her oceans slip,
      Capes of China slide away
      From her fingers into day
      And th'Americas incline
      Coasts towards her shadow line.

Now the ragged vagrants creep
      Into crooked holes to sleep:
      Just and unjust, worst and best,
      Change their places as they rest:
      Awkward lovers like in fields
      Where disdainful beauty yields:

While the splendid and the proud
      Naked stand before the crowd
      And the losing gambler gains
      And the beggar entertains
May sleep's healing power extend
      Through these hours to our friend.
      Unpursued by hostile force,
      Traction engine, bull or horse
      Or revolting succubus;
      Calmly till the morning break
      Let him lie, then gently wake.

      ~ W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

      Odd how poets express similar observations and feelings about the human condition irrespective of Time, Ethnicity or geographical Location, isn't it?

      As the Stage Manager in Our Town said, when asked if anyone ever realized how wonderful and precious life is while they they were living it, "Only the Saints and Poets, they do some," he answered.

      Some playwrights do too obviously. Thornton Wilder was certainly one of them. I wonder if anyone under the age of sixty even knows who he was anymore? In our rabid pursuit of purely materialistic concepts of Equality and Fairness we've busily thrashed every fiber of mystery, wonder, awe, spiritual awareness, cosmic consciousness, tenderness, empathy, and affection out of the culture since Wilder wrote his lyric, infinitely wise, elegiac tribute to every day human existence.

  3. We will be in DC the week of Sept 28th and trying to figure what to see.
    This might be part of that.

  4. Caillebottte's work seems reminiscent of both Manet and Pisarro.

    1. It's interesting to compare him to a more obscure artist who died very young, Frédéric Bazille.

      Caillebotte's compositions in several cases are near reproductions of Bazille's.

      Bothe had a hard edged realism that looks back to Manet and Courbet and their compositions share some ideas with Seurat.

      Paris Street, Rainy Day would make an interesting companion to La Grande Jatte.
      There's been a resurgence in interest in Caillebotte which will be amplified by this show.

    2. I don't see anything remotely akin to pointillism in this street scene Ducky, but the treatment of rain-soaked cobblestones leaves me breathless with admiration. In the brochure I couldn't help noticing his treatment of rippling water was very like some of Monet's work.

      I had never heard of Brazille before, but I am now eager to look him up.

      Since all of these guys were responsible for capturing and defining The Spirit of Their Age as no mere photographic image could ever do, I suppose it's natural they all influenced each other to one degree or other.

      It's rather like music of the Baroque Era. To casual listeners with little specific knowledge its easy to think the music of Bach, Handel, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, and a host of other minor composers of the period like Bustedt, Quantz, Telemann, William Boyce and Maurice Greene, et al. might have been written by the same person.

    3. I do see, Ducky, that the figures in Caillebotte's street scene have a rather static quality about them, as though they were frozen in time and will never move again. In that regard they do resemble the figures in La Grande Jatte

    4. By the way, Ducky, the very first time I ever became aware of Caillebotte was a good twenty years ago when the National Gallery put on a fairly comprehensive exhibit of works by the Impressionists. The gallery even built a special series of rooms with elegant architectural details suggestive of nineteenth-century grandeur to house the masterworks. M. Caillebotte. was featured in one of them. I remember thinking his painting showed great technical mastery but seemed rather cold. It was decidedly less lyrical, less animated, and thus less appealing in tone than the better known Impressionists.

      Washington, DC must have a 'thing' for Caillebotte, because i've never seen his name appear anywhere but in association with the Nat'l Gallery.

      Those wet cobblestones will haunt me forever.

    5. In groups scenes his figures barely seem aware of each other.

      Much the same as the Jetee.

    6. Duck,
      In groups scenes his figures barely seem aware of each other.

      Interpretation according to the audio tour:

      The artist is conveying the theme of human isolation even amid the presence of other human beings. See Interior, Woman at the Window, for example. Across the street, someone else is looking out of the window.

      In the end, we are all alone.

    7. FT,
      the figures in Caillebotte's street scene have a rather static quality about them, as though they were frozen in time and will never move again

      Like a photograph capturing a specific moment in time.

    8. FT,
      Washington, DC must have a 'thing' for Caillebotte

      Also for Mary Cassatt.

    9. his figures barely seem aware of each other.

      Much like many of the Boston Flaneur's photo's... ;)

    10. That;s why Ducky photographs –– unlike his political convictions }:-x –– are so good, Thersites. His artist's eye finds and captures moments that reveal haunting, sometimes disturbing, sometimes-amusing examples of the Human Condition. Like all artists he sees and attempts to preserve and shed light on things most people see but never notice.

      I may not like many of the subjects on which he chooses to focus, but I respect his powers of discernment and his desire to communicate his unique vision through the art of photography.

    11. It's funny, Jen takes the opposite approach (from ducky) with her photography. She personally engages the subject and "asks" them for their photo. Typically, they then "pose". So in a way, ducky is like the capitalist photograpger, stealing his subject's "surplus (photographic) value"... whilst jen is more the "socialist" photographer, personally engaging her subjects and portraying them in ways that THEY would wish to have their images captured. ;)

      Now undoubtedly, ducky's photo's may be more "authentic/ realistic", but perhaps it's high time that we gave inauthentic "poser's" their "sociallly responsible" due. :)

    12. Would you have asked this guy's permission?

      It was tough enough deciding to take the shot.
      I could never have gotten that stare otherwise.

      Asking for a pose (never done it) seems like asking someone to step out of reality.

    13. He appears to be with his old lady... you could ask her. ;p

    14. Your "reality", like the concept of a "public space", is socially constructed

    15. Your "reality", like the concept of a "public space", is socially constructed

    16. He appears to be with his old lady... you could ask her. ;p

    17. FJ, I might be more of a capitalist than you realize. ;-)

      And Ducky...how is it stepping out of reality? In reality, I approached them, and we shared a moment. :-)

    18. AOW, I just LOVE these experiences with "strangers"! I'm willing to bet that that man saw his job as a mission: to share a smile with as many people as possible. I really love that. I want to be more like that. I'm glad that you and Mr. AOW had a good time at the exhibit!

    19. By asking you establish a different relationship between yourself and the subject. Not a problem but I'm not interested in the subjects reaction to me.
      There are many shots that simply aren't possible if the subject is aware of you. I'm just more interested in those.
      The subject in a more natural context although I do have power to alter that context.

    20. Yes, I think that's just it. We have different objectives.

  5. What a lovely man that security guard is! We need millions more like him! Have you ever had a very brief encounter with someone you really connected with and then you know you'll never see each other again...like the elevator doors are about to open, for example, or the light turns red...and you're going to never see each other again...a teen, or an elderly person?... and say "have a wonderful life!" to them? I have and it stops them dead because a little 'moment' happened and they get that!

    1. Every day, almost.
      Going in to restaurants, factories.
      Holding the door, or having it held.
      It all starts with a smile and a nod.
      I'm gonna meet that guard in a couple weeks and tell him what AOW had to say. :)

    2. Ed,
      I'm gonna meet that guard in a couple weeks and tell him what AOW had to say.

      Oh, I hope that he's working that location in the exhibit again!

      I wish that I'd taken note of his name on his security badge. But I was so pleasantly shocked that I forgot to learn his name.

    3. Z,
      I have many pleasant encounters like you mentioned.

      But I've never before had anyone say to me, "I hope you have a wonderful life"!

      I did stop to turn around to shake his hand and to tell him "Thank you for saying that wonderful thing."

    4. Ed, we may have more in common than either of us imagined. Whenever I'm "out and about" I greet everyone with whom I come in contact as though they were already a cherished friend. I make a point of showing interest in their thoughts, their concerns, their families, and their joys. I don't care if it's clerk at the checkout lane in a grocery store, a bank teller, a waitress, a postal worker, an auto mechanic, the pest control man, the cable TV repairman, or the guy who comes to sweep off my roof and clean out the gutters. They all get a smile from me, and a question or two about how they're doing and what they've been up to, etc. It's astonishing how this almost never fails to generate a warm, friendly response in return.

      Needless to say, it's very different from blogging. ;-)

  6. Lovely! Mr. B and I enjoyed the brochure. I can hardly go to a museum with him, he's so visual. I'll be finishing room 3 while he's still in room 1. (But we still do :) )

    1. Baysider,
      The situation is reversed with Mr. AOW and me. I am the one who takes forever exploring exhibit, but he's finished quickly and off to see another exhibit.

  7. One of Caillebotte's first debuted works, The Floor Scrapers, was not well received by the critics:

    Caillebotte made his debut in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, showing eight paintings including Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers) (1875), his earliest masterpiece. Its subject matter, the depiction of labourers preparing a wooden floor (thought to have been that of the artist's own studio) was considered "vulgar" by some critics and this is the probable reason for its rejection by the Salon of 1875. At the time, the art establishment deemed only rustic peasants or farmers as acceptable subjects from the working class.

    One critic opined (paraphrase): "If you're going to paint nudes, those nudes should be women."

    Please note that in The Floor Scrapers, all the men are the same man. There's a message in that sameness, IMO.

    1. Through his art, the flaneur "redeems" the vulgar subject, places himself into the subject's situation and thereby "gains" a new perspective. It threatens "class" distinctions where money purchases social distance.

    2. It "humanizes" those disdained for their "occupations" and brings them "closer"... too close, for some.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thersites,
      It threatens "class" distinctions where money purchases social distance.

      And to those for whom these laborers work all look the same. One dies or disappears, and another like him replaces the one who is gone.

    5. Good point! Money socially de-values (vulgarizes) a worker from his contribution.

    6. Now, you sound just like a Marxist, Thersites! ;-)

      If you want to believe that "money" –– that divisive, godawful, eeeevil necessity –– is desired primarily to give those fortunate enough to have it the capacity to look down their long noses at those who don't, I think you –– and all who take that dismal, cynical, envy-inspired view –– are wrong.

      I have a modest degree of wealth for which I thank God every day. It would appear vulgar, and sanctimonious if I were to tell you how I choose to share the blessings of my bounty with others. Both AOW and SilverFiddle know a good deal about that. Perhaps they'd be willing to share their knowledge with you, if you care enough to ask.

      PS: What the misnamed Robber Barons "gave back to the community" in the form of beautiful public parks, libraries, university quadrangles, theaters, concert halls, railroad stations, notable architectural achievements in apartment houses, office buildings so far outweighs in beauty, quality and integrity the meager, dreary, utilitarian garbage meted out inefficiently, parsimoniously and very very expensively by the modern Socialist State is not only markedly inferior, it is an affront to human dignity and an appalling sign of regression for Civilization.

      Vital things ALWAYS absent from the fundamentally sinful, malicious, envy-inspired Leftist Point of View are HUMILITY, GRATITUDE, HUMOR and GOOD CHEER.

    7. If you want to believe that "money"...

      I don't. I do believe, however, that many people who have money, use it to "distance" themselves from the dreary manual labor that the workmen perform. They see the work as "beneath" them. And so many (not all) of the rich attribute the "vulgarity" of menial and dirty work, to the individuals who perform it, and subsequently "look down" upon them, as well as the work they perform.

      And no, I don't think money or capitalism is evil. What is evil, however, is for "Power" to favor those who have it, over those who do not.

    8. Thersites,
      They see the work as "beneath" them...and subsequently "look down" upon them, as well as the work they perform.

      As in: "No daughter of mine is going to scrub anyone's floors!" I've heard that one more times than I can count.

    9. Believe it or not, a few years ago, I had one homeschool parent get all bent out of shape because I asked her son to get my rolling suitcase with school papers and books from my car; my suitcase was unusually heave that day. She actually pulled her kid from my classes because I'd asked her precious son -- a 7th grader and fit as a fiddle, to do menial work.

      I've also that the occasional homeschool parent get bent out of shape because I asked that parent's child to erase the board.

    10. I believe it. As soon as money enters into a social equation, things can get pretty awkward, pretty fast, as the "payer" usually expects the "payee" to perform all labour related activities.

    11. When I was a child in school we ALL had the opportunity to erase the board. As Mr. B says, "we competed for the honor."

    12. ...they all look alike. The "class effect? Ot the "not my social group" effect? ;)

  8. The Floor Scrapers is a masterpiece, AOW. Wonderfully imaginative in its use of SEPIA. Those who greeted it with disdain used to be called PHILISTINES. Every great, innovative artist i music, literature and pictorial art was despised by the Philistines –– a neat, colorful term for the dull-witted, humdrum, devotees of rigidly conventionalized images and practices. Like the poor they always have and always will be with us.

    More to be pitied than despised in my never humble estimation. They MISS nearly all the wonder, glory, beauty, excitement and sense of meaning in existence. I had several such in my own family, so I know very well whereof I speak.

    Brutal cynicism, disdain for all things "Bourgeois," and a rabid desire to DESTROY the status quo is NOT the antidote to Philistinism, however. That's BOLSHEVISM and look what IT achieved!

    1. FT,
      Yes, it's a masterpiece. No doubt about it. But it wasn't viewed as a masterpiece for some time.

      IMO, conventionalized images and practices have value. But so so the mold breakers.

    2. Interesting, because I fastened on The Floor Scrapers immediately. Okay, I'm an artistic Cretin. But I like what I like - the light, composition and the way it showed the work being done. Mr. B and I reviewed it for some time.

    3. It's a great painting, Baysider.

      It fits into a social realist tradition along with Courbet, Manet, Corot and some others.

  9. I remembered that in Japan students cleaned the classrooms - at least used to. I always thought that made sense for several reasons. In my aunt's school the janitors REFUSED to clean rooms prior to the start of school. The TEACHERS all had to clean their own classrooms. I said, 'why not the kids?' Why have so many janitors?

    Well, this school in Oregon has picked that up: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/04/04/396621542/without-janitors-students-are-in-charge-of-keeping-school-shipshape

    They are all assigned cleanup, and it happens after lunch. It goes on to cite the Japanese that say the school is more than learning from a book. It's learning to become a member of society and take responsibility for yourself.

    1. Baysider,
      At the private school where I worked for 18 years, the students regularly did the daily janitorial service. No complaints at all. Every family took turns to do more-specialized weekend work as well. Helped to keep the tuition down AND created a bond within the school body.

      When the owners of this wonderful school aged out and sold, I worked for the new buyers for one year. What a bunch of losers the new administration was! They were elitists, and the new school catered to the spoiled-rotten crowd. We teachers were ordered not to have any students do any kind of cleanup! Including erasing the board and picking up trash from the classroom floor! Instead, all cleanup fell to us teachers, who had to come in earlier and stay later. Meanwhile, the directors sat in the office and drank their coffee and ate donuts. Literally! Needless to say, there was a huge turnover of faculty in that school.


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