Monday, March 18, 2013

Dappled Things

Irises in Monet's Garden

Olive Trees in Bordighera
The flowering plum trees and cherry trees around town have shed their petals, scattering them on sidewalks like confetti. Now green leaves are unfurling; flowers uncurling. Spring has come to Sacramento, and with it the play of light and shadow dapples the streets. As I walk in Midtown, the lines of one of my favorite poems come to mind: “Pied Beauty”, by the Victoria poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).
        
Glory be to God for dappled things,
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
            Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pierced—fold, fallow, and plough;
           And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                          Praise him.*

I’ve always loved the splash of his words. And even though Hopkins suffered periods of despair during his short life, (short by today’s standards) this poem, written in 1877, overflows with a kindliness of spirit that must have always bubbled within. (You can read a deeper analysis of it HERE.)  
And I've loved the "splashes" of beauty in an Impressionist painting. Four years before Hopkins wrote this poem, across the Channel, in in the Nadar studio in Paris, a group of painters gave the first of eight exhibitions (1874-1886) that earned their independent styles the name of “Impressionism.” Impressionism emphasized the play of light and shadow. To capture it, they painted en plein air, “in the open air”. In fact, if you look at the paintings above by Monet, a towering figure in the group who inspired them all and kept them from giving up,** you can think of the technique as a dappling of light and color. A Monet painting is a pied beauty. A painting by any of the Impressionists is a dappled beauty. 
Each of them went their own way with the technique, of course, as any artist must. But all of the Impressionists left paintings dappled with color-saturated light. (You can see a complete list of the Impressionists HERE.) Whatever course their later individual styles took, each of them, like Hopkins, saw the world and left a response “whose beauty is past change.”

How about you? Do any of the impressionist painters affect you this way? If so, which one? Do you have a favorite Hopkins poem? Which one? Can you recommend another painter or poet whose work is a "pied beauty"? If so, please share.
  
       
*The Oxford Book of Short Poems, Chosen and Edited by P. J. Kavanagh and James Michie,           
Oxford University Press, 1987

**The Impressionists, Text by Pierre Courthion, Translation by John Shepley, Special Limited Edition by Rēalitēs USA Pubications, Inc., 1980



34 comments:

  1. I love that poem by Hopkins. Recently read all his collected poems & have to confess it was work, but worthwhile. Lovely post!

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  2. Hi, Naomi, loved your comment. His language always makes me feel that, for a priest, he was constantly drunk on words. :-)

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  3. In terms of Impressionist artists/poets, I confess myself to be grossly uneducated, but I do like Monet. I had his Cliff Walk at Pourville in my bedroom growing up. The Hopkins poem was very nice :) I see on your bio for this blog that you have a MG mystery set in Victorian times on submission. Have you read the Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springer? My WIP is a MG mystery set in the Lake District of England in 1907, so the time of King Edward, but I think some of the Victorian tendencies persisted past Queen Victoria's reign. Do you ever do beta reading for people? Just wondering :)

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    1. And by the way, my WIP has fog, horses clip-clopping, and cobblestone streets all in the first paragraph. Overkill? :)

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  4. Jess, yes, I do beta reading sometimes. Oh, I don't think you can overkill London mysteries atmosphere. Your Edwardian WIP sounds interesting. Let's talk. "-)

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    1. Great! It's actually in revision right now, but I'll get in touch when it's somewhat readable :)

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  5. Congratulations on your new blog. It will be fun to read. Lovely poem and lovely pictures. I do love the Impressionist paintings and Monet is my favorite, but there are many others I like. I don't have much familiarity with Victorian poets, but I very much like Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach.

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  6. Thanks, Rosi. I just read Dover Beach, after your comment. I had never read it before, only heard little snatches of it. Oh, what a lovely poem! I notice, too, his scansion is a bit different than what's been pounded into our minds. Any other way of writing his poem would have detracted from it, don't you think?

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  7. I like some of the impressionist paintings but not all. Their style is refreshing and easy on the eye, but easy to impersonate. The paintings they produced are among the liveliest ever created and full of freshness and light.

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  8. Hi, Martin, yes, they are easy on the eye, that's for sure. It's probably why plein air painting has become so popular. I was intrigued to learn that the original group either never or seldom used black, and they created their grays purely with complementary colors. Nowadays, you can go into an art store and get a tube of any shade or color you want. They actually had to create all that color that feels so lively to us today.

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  9. Stunning paintings. I love impressionism.

    By the way, nice comment on my blog comparing the structure of music and books. Apt.

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  10. Elizabeth, I LOVE impressionism. I love Monet, Renoir, Cassat (I'm not sure if I'm spelling her name correctly) and many others.

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  11. Love the new blog! Good luck on submission! As a Francophile, of course I love the impressionists.

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  12. Thank you for putting Hopkins side-by-side with the Impressionists. I had not realized they worked so close in time, although Hopkins is one of my favorite poets. I return to him again and again, although I have yet to read all his works. The long poem about the nuns who died on that ferry intimidates me. I love Pied Beauty. Another favorite is God's Grandeur ("there lives the dearest freshness deep down things. . ."). I look forward the reading more here.

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  13. Hi, Elizabeth. What a lovely blog. Yes, Victorian England was such an intriguing time. My favourite impressionist painter is Edgar Degas. His paintings of ballet dancers in rehearsal are fabulous. Good luck with your novels. I'll visit often.

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  14. Theresa, Julia, & VB, yes, I've always loved the Impressionists. VB, thanks for the good wishes for submissions. My fingers are crossed.

    Skeeter, glad to find another Hopkins lover. I so love his language. It makes me dizzy at times with the sheer pleasure of words.

    Valentina, I like Degas, too. I love the magic he works with pastels, all those delicate tutus. Thanks for the good wishes re: my novels.

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  15. Congratulations for taking on this new blogging project, Elizabeth. I believe it will be a success. Thanks also for introducing me to the work of Hopkins; there are so may writers that we have yet to explore. As for periods of despair, doesn't it happen to all writers?

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  16. Thanks for your words of encouragement, Gary. I'm glad you enjoyed "meeting" Hopkins. You are right about those periods of despair, but writing does have a way of making you bounce back.

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  17. Hi Elizabeth. What a lovely idea. Like the look of this a lot. Congratulations.

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  18. Rachna, Thanks. I spent some time planning it, so I'm glad you like the look of it. I'm really glad I started it and have a whole list of topics I want to blog about.

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  19. Plum and cherry trees are up there with my favourites. Shame I'm heading into Autumn here in Oz... And yes, I do love the play of light in all the impressionist paintings.

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  20. Hello! What fun to peruse your lovely blogs! I do love impressionist painters, but I don't have a particular favorite. Usually subject matter moves me to "luv" a painting. And color. I want to swim in it!
    ~Just Jill (from the nut-tree)

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  21. Hi, Lynda, thanks for your comments. And thanks for following my new blog. Yes, that's right! Australia is having just the opposite weather. I have to confess that fall is my other favorite season. Both Spring and Fall have such beautiful colors.

    Hi, Jill, Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for following me. Glad you like my blogs. Look forward to seeing you again.

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  22. Thank you for sharing this beautiful in both ways. Nice seeing you stop by my blog! ;)

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  23. Congratulations with the new blog. This post was great and I learned something new, so thank you for that. I now know something about Gerard Hopkins.

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  24. Hi, Sheri, nice to see you here. Glad you liked it. I hope your story is going well.

    Murees, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, Hopkins is a very interesting poet. I love his alliteration and lush language.

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  25. Congrats on your new blog! I've never been as interested in art as other things and not too smart on it at all, but I do like Monet. :)

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  26. Lovely thoughts on the Impressionists, Elizabeth. As an art movement for me it doesn't provoke a massive emotional response, but Monet is wonderful, and I did a study on Renoir, and have a huge appreciation for their work all the same. My favourite art movement from the Victorian period is the Pre-Raphaelites, and I absolutely adore the poet Tennyson, especially the poem The Lady of Shalott.

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  27. Hi, Kimberly, Nice to see you here. Yes, Monet is probably the most popular Impressionist. A lot of others have mentioned he was their favorite, too.

    Jayne, thanks for stopping by. I'll have to look into the Pre-Raphaelites. And I've just discovered Tennyson. My next post is going to be about him, in fact.

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  28. The Painted Ladies of San Francisco rendered in pastels in this illustration strike me as a springtime dappled streetscape.
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/92429720/san-francisco-victorian-colorful-houses

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    1. Debbie, you are so right. I love those painted ladies in SF. There was a book about them years ago, and each one is a real work of art.

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  29. I have always been enamored by impressionist paintings. Thank you for sharing these.

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  30. Hi, Catherine and Optimistic, thanks for stopping by. Glad you like what you see!

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