My Friends, and detail, oil on canvas, 1887. Viggo Johansen, 1851-1935, Danish. Philadelphia Art Museum
Off the table: politics is left at the door when the friends meet to pass the last night of the year together. Everyone is angry and apprehensive. The public discourse is more Orwell than Orwell.
Lithograph (poster) of a lecture: Fascism, 8th lecture: How to Combat Fascism, 1939. Jesus Escobedo, 1918-1978, Mexican. Philadelphia Art Museum
Off the table: tensions between partners is held at bay for the evening. No connubial histrionics.
Political Drama, 1914, oil and collage on cardboard. Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941, French. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
On the table: conviviality, friendship, love, food, drink and patience for the midnight hour when the year will change.
First a libation to Dionysos, the archetype of life everlasting, the god of wine, transformation and theater.
Visibly in the world from mid-Autumn when Apollo withdraws into eclipse in the fabulous, transformative showers of gold, copper, rust and brass which Dionysos creates on the earth, Dionysos remains among us until Apollo and his bright, pinpoint light returns in late Spring to chase Dionysos and his followers into the world’s shadow places until Autumn comes again.
A theatrical mask representing Dionysos made of faience from the 2nd century AD, thought to be from Medinet el-Fayum (Arsinoe), Egypt. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Liquors made in summer for winter from citrus fruits and berries and offered first to Dionysos and his adepts, satyrs and bacchantes. The fruitful transformation of this to that and the offerings to their god fills them with ecstasy.
And so, on to the feast for which preparations have been minutely planned.
Fish Market, 1568, oil on Baltic oak. Joachim Beuckelaer, 1535-1575, Netherlandish, Antwerp. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
My Mother, oil on canvas, 1929. Painting by N.C. Wyeth, 1882-1945, American, of his mother, Henriette Zirngiebel Wyeth, four years after her death, depicting her in the kitchen of the house in Needham, Massachusetts in which the artist grew up. Brandywine Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Peeling Onions, 1852, oil on canvas. Lily Martin Spencer, 1822-1902, American born England. Exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2015
Even the young daughters of the house have helped prepare the food. Not the sons, of course: they are expanding their minds and sharpening their killer instincts with video games…………..
The Three Sisters, 1896, oil on canvas. Leon Frederic, 1856-1940, Belgian. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The Yield of the Waters, 1878, altered 1889, oil on canvas. William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916, American. Detroit Institute of Arts on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2015
Still Life with Peacock Pie, and detail, oil on panel, 1627. Peter Claesz, 1596/7 – 1660, Dutch. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Dishes with Oysters, Fruit and Wine, and detail, oil on panel, c. 1620/1625. Osias Beert The Elder, active 1596-1623, Flemish. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Details of Still Life with Oysters, White Wine and Lemon, 1974, colour lithograph. Jack Beal, 1931-2013. Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware
The Lobster, 1908, oil on canvas. Arthur Garfield Dove, 1880-1940. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas and on display at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2015.
Cards and chess between courses
Untitled (Playing Chess), oil on canvas. Morris Blackburn, 1902-1979. Promised gift of the Pennsylvania Academy of Art to the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia.
Ace of Clubs and Four of Diamonds, oil on board, 1912. Juan Gris, 1997-1927, Spanish. Philadelphia Museum of Art
A little fruit
Still Life with Fruit, 1675, oil on panel. Jacob Van Walscapelle, 1624-1727, Dutch. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Still Life with Oranges and Goblet of Wine, oil on artist’s board, 1880-1890’s. John Frederick Peto, 1854-1907, American. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
And music, too
The Concert, and details, oil on canvas, 1623. Gerritt Van Honthorst, 1592-1656, Dutch. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
And more fruit and nuts
Fruit and Plants with a Crystal Bowl, detail, c. 1850, oil on canvas. Ferdinand Richardt, 1819-1895, Danish-American. Exhibited in 2015 at the Philadelphia Art Museum
Tumbling Clementines, 2004, watercolour. Eileen Goodman, born 1937 , American. On display in 2015 at the Woodmere Museum of the Arts of the Philadelphia Area
A Dessert, oil on wood, 1814. Raphaelle Peale, 1874-1825, American. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Pies, a little cheese
Banquet Piece with Mince Pie, oil on canvas, 1635. Willem Claesz Heda, 1594-1680, Dutch. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Foodscape, detail, oil on canvas, 1964. Erro, born 1932, Icelandic. Exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2016
Valentine’s Day Sweets, 2003, watercolour. Eileen Goodman, born 1937 , American. On display in 2015 at the Woodmere Museum of the Arts of the Philadelphia Area
Still Life: Cognac and Biscuits, 1850, oil on canvas. John Francis, 1808-1886, American. Collection of John and Dolores Beck and on loan to an exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2015
Coffee. From Ethiopia, of course…..
Object, 1936. fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon. Meret Oppenheim, 1913-1985, Swiss. MOMA, NY
And when the friends hear fireworks, they raise a toast to the new year because midnight has arrived. They sing Auld Lang Syne. They kiss each other.
The French windows are thrown open towards the fireworks.
The world enters the room. The world’s whole sadness with it. Anguish at the words of children in Arabic: we want to live. Please help us.
Fireworks, Night at Longchamp, detail, ferrotyped silver gelatin print, 1936. Brassai, French, born Romania, 1899-1984. On exhibit at The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia in 2016
Untitled (Study with Glasses and Circles), c. 1932-34, gelatin silver print. Emilio Amero, 1901-1976, Mexican. Exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in winter 2016