Are we some kind of lovers?
Everyone asks what you’re doing with me
I know this is not what they want
They’re afraid you’ve been blinded
But I already know how it’s going to be
If anyone should ask
Say we’re mated
For as long as this life lasts
We are mated
Why else would you be here right now
And you know we’ll still be here tomorrow
Nobody else understands what I’m doing
Nobody else makes me act in this way
And because they can’t comprehend
What we mean to each other
They won’t leave you alone
So you know what to say…
Jacob Van Loo, An Amorous Couple (ca. 1650)
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (called il Grechetto), Melancholia (ca. 1640)
“While I traversed the apartment in the most horrible dismay of soul, expecting every moment that the earth would open and swallow me up, my conscience scaring me…and the city of refuge out of reach and out of sight, a strange and horrible darkness fell upon me. If it were possible that a heavy blow could light upon the brain without touching the skull, such was the sensation I felt. I clapped my hand to my forehead, and cried aloud through the pain it gave me. At every stroke my thoughts and expressions became more wild and indistinct…These thoughts kept undisturbed possession of my mind all the way through my illness, without interruption or abatement.”
—William Cowper, “Memoir of the Early Life of William Cowper, Esq.” (1835)
cf. Georges Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884 (detail) (1884/86),
Study for “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” (1884)
and Gustave Caillebotte: Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877 (detail) (1877)
…yet all the time she was conscious of the scent of Rodolphe’s head by her side. This sweetness of sensation pierced through her old desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust of wind, eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to drink in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took off her gloves, she wiped her hands, then fanned her face with her handkerchief, while athwart the throbbing of her temples she heard the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councillor intoning his phrases. He said—“Continue, persevere; listen neither to the suggestions of routine, nor to the over-hasty councils of a rash empiricism…”
—Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
I think I’m falling
In love again…
Charles Wilda, The Ball/Der Ball (1906)
Maximilien Luce, “The Good Samaritan” (1896)
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
At The Louvre, August, 1984
Such dim-conceivèd glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main—
A sun—a shadow of a magnitude.
–John Keats, On Seeing the Elgin Marbles (excerpt)
cf. Maximilien Luce: Man Washing (1887), Morning, Interior (ca. 1890) and Coffee (1892)
cf. Everett Shinn, All Night Cafe (ca. 1900)
O, how I faint when I of you do write
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame!
But since your worth—wide as the ocean is,—
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wrack’d, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building and of goodly pride:
Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this,—my love was my decay.
cf. Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (1942)
William Merritt Chase, The Song (Oil On Canvas) (1907)
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there sits a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”
Carl Vilhelm Holsøe, Woman in an Interior with a Mirror (oil on canvas) (1898)
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountainside,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Time Does Not Bring Relief” from Collected Poems (Harper Collins)
And there’s a storm that’s raging
Through my frozen heart tonight…
Paul-Narcisse Salières, The Faïence Restorer (Oil on canvas) (1848)
Francis William Edmonds, The City And Country Beaux (detail) (Oil on canvas) (ca. 1838)
Miss Shepherd being the one pervading theme and vision of my life, how do I ever come to break with her? I can’t conceive. And yet a coolness grows between Miss Shepherd and myself. Whispers reach me of Miss Shepherd having said she wished I wouldn’t stare so, and having avowed a preference for Master Jones—for Jones! a boy of no merit whatever!
–Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Marry him or marry me
I’m the one that loves you baby can’t you see?
I ain’t got no future or family tree
But I know what a prince and lover ought to be…
cf. John Atkinson Grimshaw, Princes Dock, Hull (1887)
F.W. Edmonds, Sparking (detail) (1839)
Paul-Albert Besnard, Love (1885–87)
“…the point for me is that he understands.”
“Yes,” Fanny Assingham cooed, “understands—?”
“Well, what I want. I want a happiness without a hole in it big enough for you to poke in your finger.”
“A brilliant, perfect surface—to begin with at least. I see.”
“The golden bowl—as it WAS to have been.”
And Maggie dwelt musingly on this obscured figure.
“The bowl with all our happiness in it. The bowl without the crack.”
—Henry James, The Golden Bowl
Stop and take a big breath
Begin with something hollow…
Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Polishing the Brass (1912)
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
Edwin Austin Abbey, Valentine rescues Sylvia – Act V, Scene IV, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Pen and ink) (1892)
Elin Kleopatra Danielson-Gambogi, Winter Night (detail) (oil on canvas) (1898-1899)
There goes another love song
Someone singing about me again
There goes another love song
Now I need more than a friend…
cf. Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Comedia (Oil on panel) (ca. 1892-1894)
cf. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Carriage (ca. 1881)
cf. Konstantin Yegorovich Makovsky, La Parisienne (1902)
But I just can’t sleep for thinking of you
Here alone with the moon…
George Sotter, A Snowy Night (1939)
cf. Head of a Woman (Copy after Leonardo da Vinci) (ca. 18th century?)
Peter Severin Krøyer, Interior of a Tavern (1886) and Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, Woman with a Jug (1882)
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?…
—Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Edmund Charles Tarbell, Girl Writing (Oil on canvas) (1917)
Leave me now before my heart finds out…
Winslow Homer, A Temperance Meeting (1874)
cf. Thomas Eakins: The Black Fan (ca. 1891) and The Young Man (ca. 1898-1902)
and photograph by Abigail Keenan via Unsplash.com
Thomas Hovenden, Breaking Home Ties (Oil on canvas) (1890)
APRIL 26. Mother is putting my new secondhand clothes in order. She prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels…
—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
cf. L.A. Ring, In the Month of June (1899) and Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World (1948)
Where did your long hair go?…
cf. Franz Marc, The Artist’s Father on His Sick Bed I (edited) (1906-1907)
There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
–Robert Frost, The Oven Bird
cf. John Maler Collier, The Confession (1902) and A Cozy Fire in the Fireplace – YouTube
Harry Wilson Watrous, Just a Couple of Girls (1915)
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it — indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in…I enjoyed looking at her…Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before…
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne…
cf. Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher (ca. 1662)
cf. Edgar Degas, A Woman Ironing (1873) and Rain on Window – YouTube
Peder Mork Mønsted, Winter Landscape (1927)
after the light of leaves
the light of snow
and white as coconut before the snow
—Joan Vayo, “all souls day”
cf. Mary Shepard Greene Blumenschein, Un Regard Fugitif (detail) (edited and animated) (1900)
cf. Paul-César Helleu, Woman Reclining (edited and animated)
William McGregor Paxton, Girl Arranging Flowers (1921)
William Merritt Chase, At the Window (ca. 1889)
(Cambridge, September 1864)
Susan Gilbert Dickinson
at Centre of the Sea –
I am glad Mrs. Gertrude lived –
I believed she would –
Those that are worthy of Life are of Miracle,
for Life is Miracle,
and Death, as harmless as a Bee –
except to those who run
It would be best to see you –
it would be good to see the Grass,
and hear the Wind blow the wide way in the Orchard –
Are the Apples ripe –
Have the Wild Geese crossed –
Did you save the seed to the Pond Lily?
Love for Mat, and John, and the Foreigner –
And kiss little Ned in the seam in the neck, entirely for Me –
The Doctor is very kind –
I find no Enemy –
Till the Four o’Clocks strike Five,
Loo will last, she says.
Do not cease, Sister.
Should I turn in my long night,
I should murmur “Sue”
Thomas Eakins, Maud Cook (1895)
cf. image from page 206 of “La Lecture” (edited) (1887)
Those eyes I tried to capture
They are lost to me now forever
They smile for someone else
And so this had to be painted from memory…
cf. George Segal, “Three People on Four Benches” and Duane Hanson, “Man on a Bench”
Hello my friend, are you visible today?
You know I never knew that it could be so strange…
cf. John Singer Sargent, Firelight (edited and animated) (ca. 1875)
John Singer Sargent, Woman Seated before Piano (from Scrapbook) (ca. 1880)
Fernand Khnopff, Hortensia (1884)
cf. Francis Watts Lee, Unidentified Woman (ca. 1900)
cf. Julian Alden Weir, Idle Hours (edited) (1888)
cf. Julius von Leypold, Wanderer in the Storm (1835) and Time Lapse Clouds Lightning Storm – YouTube
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
–Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Martinus Rørbye, View from the Citadel Ramparts in Copenhagen by Moonlight (1839)
Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one,–
Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.
Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.
Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.
Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.
—Hamlet, Act I, Scene I
Camille Corot, View of Genzano with a Rider and Peasant (ca. 1843)
Presently he broke out again, as if he were love-stricken in earnest, “O Princess Dulcinea, lady of this captive heart, a grievous wrong hast thou done me to drive me forth with scorn, and with inexorable obduracy banish me from the presence of thy beauty. O lady, deign to hold in remembrance this heart, thy vassal, that thus in anguish pines for love of thee.”
—Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
cf. Allen Tucker, Interior (edited) (1921)
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
–William Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper (excerpt)
cf. William de Leftwich Dodge, Venus in Atrium (edited) (ca. 1908)
The late afternoon sunlight is slanting through the window
Again, sketching the room in vague gestures of discontent
That roll off the mind, and then only seem to disappear.
What am I going to do now? And how am I going to sleep tonight?
–John Koethe, “Picture of Little Letters” (excerpt)
cf. Samuel Worcester Rowse, Portrait of a Young Woman (animated)
cf. Suzuki Shōnen, Fireflies Over the Uji River by Moonlight
cf. Jean Béraud, Parisian Street Scene (ca. 1885) and Charles Marville, No. 3, Urinoir (Système Jennings)… (1865-75)
cf. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Bougival (edited detail) (1883)
Charles Robert Leslie, Slender, with the Assistance of Shallow, Courting Anne Page, from “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (detail) (1825)
You gonna make a move you better make it now,
Don’t be afraid cause love will show you how–
You take that first step…
cf. Augustus Leopold Egg, The Life of Buckingham (edited detail) (undated, exhibited 1855)
cf. William Henry Rinehart, Clytie (1872) and photograph via unsplash.com
Reconstruction of Guy Pene Du Bois, On the Bridge (1926)
Marie-Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Self-portrait (1790)
“Art, and the summer lightning of individual happiness: these are the only real goods we have.”
—Alexander Herzen, quoted in Isaiah Berlin, “Herzen and his Memoirs”
cf. Edouard Manet, Music Lesson (1870)
Gerard ter Borch, Dancing Couple (1660)
cf. Thomas Rowlandson, An Audience Watching a Play at Drury Lane Theatre (ca. 1785)
cf. Henri Matisse, The Dessert: Harmony in Red (The Red Room) (1908)
Albert Von Keller, Chopin (detail) (1873)
3D realization of Valentin de Boulogne, The Lute Player (ca. 1626)
cf. Peter Henry Emerson, Rowing Home the Schoof-Stuff (1886) and Charles River and Back Bay, Boston, Mass. (ca. 1900)
cf. Edmund Charles Tarbell, Across the Room (c.1899) and Alonzo Myron Kimball, Parlor Scene (1906) and Composed Armor (c.1550–80)
cf. Jules-Alexandre Grün, Café Scene and photograph via unsplash.com
cf. Edward Hopper: Evening Wind (1921) and New York Interior (ca. 1921) and photograph via unsplash.com
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Broken Eggs (detail) (1756)
cf. Frank Millet, A Cosey Corner (1884)
cf. Edgar Degas, Sulking (c.1870) and photograph via unsplash.com
cf. Vilhelm Hammershøi, “Interior, Strandgade 30” (1901) and unidentified photographer, “Woman sitting on window seat” (c.1900-1920)
cf. Photograph by Toni Frissell
cf. Peder Severin Kroyer, Portrait of a Married Couple (1890) and photograph by Martin Miranda via unsplash.com
Anonymous (After Guido Reni?), “A man holding a book, about to write in it, looking upwards to the left, after Reni?” (17th century)
A young writer is tempted…to be guided by the known, the admired and the currently accepted, as he hears a voice whisper within himself, “Nobody would be interested in this feeling I have, this unimportant action – therefore it must be peculiar to me, it must not be universal nor generally interesting nor even right.” But…some other voice in that crossroads makes him write down those apparently exceptional and unimportant things and that and nothing else is his style, his personality – eventually his whole self as an artist. What he has thought to throw away…was the saving grace vouchsafed him.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to Morton Kroll, August 3, 1939
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
–Robert Frost, “Acquainted with the Night”
Harold Gilman, Edwardian Interior (c.1907)
Her secrets: old featherfans, tasselled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunny window of her house when she was a girl…
Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.
And no more turn aside and brood.
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys.
—James Joyce, Ulysses
cf. John Wootton, Portrait of a Man on Horseback
During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher…
–Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher
Who’s riding so late where winds blow wild?
cf. Edouard Vuillard, The Two Schoolboys
“Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”
—Willa Cather, My Antonia
Tomorrow he would go up to the New Albion, in his best suit and overcoat (he must remember to get his overcoat out of pawn at the same time as his suit), in hat of the correct gutter-crawling pattern, neatly shaved and with his hair cut short. He would be as though born anew. The poet of today would be hardly recognizable in the natty young business man of tomorrow. They would take him back, right enough; he had the talent they needed. He would buckle to work, sell his soul, and hold down his job…
He would get married, settle down, prosper moderately, push a pram, have a villa and a radio and an aspidistra. He would be a law-abiding little cit like any other law-abiding little cit– a soldier in the strap-hanging army. Probably it was better so…
Vicisti, O aspidistra!
—George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
Left: Richard Parkes Bonington, Rouen (1825)
Right: Frank Sutcliffe, Whitby (c.1880)
Left: Jo, La Belle Irlandaise, Gustave Courbet (1865–66)
Right: My Favourite Picture of All My Works. My Niece Julia, Julia Margaret Cameron (1867)
Left: Georgia O’Keeffe – Hands and Thimble, Alfred Stieglitz (1919)
Right: Drawing Hands, M.C. Escher (1948)
cf. George Bellows, Dempsey and Firpo (1924)