First Flowers

The winter has been going on and on.

 

 

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Winter, oil on canvas, 1932.  Jose Clemente Orozco, 1883-1949, Mexican.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2016/2017 in an exhibition about the artists of the Mexican Revolution

 

 

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Tenant Farmer and detail ,1961, tempera on Masonite.  Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009, American.  Delaware Art Museum. 

The artist said that this deer seemed to have an affinity with the willow tree and with the farm building almost as though he lived there.  He had a dream of hundreds of deer encircling this house and he painted this image in order to remove that image from his mind.

 

Ivy in a south-facing window has kept me green company.

 

 

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Night Still Life and detail, 1962, oil on canvas.  Elizabeth Osborne, born 1936, American.  Collection of Philip and Linda Osborne on exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, in 2016

Only one of my potted geraniums in another window has survived the winter.

 

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Pot of Geraniums, 1912, oil on linen.  Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

 

Plants brought in for the winter are straining to get outdoors.

 

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Within, 2016, oil on linen.  Tony Martolock, American, born 1984.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

 

I put on my Napoleonic flower power outfit for this rite of passage.  I don’t want any nonsense out there.

 

 

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Three Cornered Hat and detail, c. 1943, oil on canvas.  Walt Kuhn, 1880-1949.  Baltimore Museum of Art.

 

On a day of frosty haze,  I leave the city with my Flower Observatory folded up in the back of my car. 

I am going to look  for the first flowers of the year. 

 

 

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Cold City, watercolour mounted on maroon paper mounted on cardboard.  Paul Klee,  1879-1940, Swiss.  The Berggruen Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, NY

 

I leave the city travelling down the west of Schuylkill River.

 

 

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Washington Bridge, New York, oil on canvas and detail, c.1915-1925. Ernest Lawson, 1873-1939, American.  Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington

 

 

I look for a copse across a stream.  Not too big a copse.  The city in the background looks like a dream, a mirage.

 

 

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The Three Willows, c. 1942, watercolour on paper.  John W. McCoy, 1910-1989, American.  Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.

 

 

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Pine Forest II and detail, 1901, oil on canvas.  Gustav Klimt, 1822-1918.  Private collection on display in the Baltimore Museum of Art, 2017

 

 

And near its edge but within the copse,  I install my Flower Observatory.  In fair weather, not too cold, I climb up, balance myself between its petals, and wait.

 

 

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Flower Observatory and details, 2004, steel.  Oliafur Eliasson, Danish, born 1967.  Baltimore Museum of Art

 

 

On very bright days when the blaze off the steel  of the Flower Observatory is so bright that they blind me,  I use Martin Puryear’s half-bridge in the park for my vigil.

 

 

Martin Puryear Pavillion in Fairmount Park October 9, 2015-12

Martin Puryear Pavillion in Fairmount Park October 9, 2015-07

Pavilion in the Trees, completed 1993. Martin Puryear, American born 1941. West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

 

My razor focus.

 

 

 

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The Amazon, oil on canvas, 1925.  Joseph Stella, 1877-1966, born Italy, died New York.  Baltimore Museum of Art

There are always birds who accompany me.  They perch on their own observatory, surrounded by their mysterious symbols.

 

 

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Cicadia, 1973, oil, oil crayon and pastel on canvas.  Pat Steir, American, born 1938.  Baltimore Museum of Art

My eyes traverse a broad circle laid out for me by Elizabeth Murray.

 

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Pink Spiral Leap, 1975, oil on canvas.  Elizabeth Murray, 1940-2007, American.  Baltimore Museum of Art

 

February:  early Spring flowers arrive in February at Winterthur, Delaware where Henry Frances du Pont planted whatever he wanted without reference to the origin of the plant. 

None of the flowers below is native to the United States and, to my knowledge, no native flowering plants flower here (mid-Atlantic states) before March.

The majority are shades of yellow, Apollo‘s colour.  First signs from him that he is preparing his return.

 

 

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Fragrant Japanese and Chinese-Japanese Witchhazel, a woody bush.  Winthtertur , February 2017

 

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Winter aconite, Winterthur, February 2017

 

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Crocus, Wintherthur, February 2017

 

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Snowdrops are constructed like a helicopter.  These will be lifting off soon.

 

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Snowdrop, Winterthur, February 2017

 

 

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The Spring Witch, 1883-84, oil on canvas.  George Wilson,  1848-1890, British.  Delaware Art Museum

This painting refers to Persephone (Prosperine) who, having been kidnapped by Pluto and taken to Hades is released by Jupiter so long as she has eaten nothing while she is in the underworld.  Because she had eaten part of a pomegranate, she is required to remain in Hades the three months of winter.

  On the first day of Spring, she returns to the surface of the earth to initiate the growing season with her mother, the great goddess Demeter, who gave agriculture to humans.

The figure is walking through snowdrops whose life she has preserved as she has preserved the life of all organic matter on the earth.

 

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   Persephone, 2015, stained glass, cut, sandblasted, engraved, painted, fired and assembled with copperfoil, 2015.  Judith Schaechter,  American, born 1961.  On display at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 2015.

 

 

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Hellebores (Lenten Rose), Winterthur 2016, 2017.  Both beautiful and poisonous.

 

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Adonis, Winterthur, February 2017

 

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Spring Snowflake, Winterthur, February 2017

 

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Winter Jasmine, Winterthur, February 2017

 

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Beautifully crafted iron flowers accompanying steps leading up to a sundial in the park at Winterthur are darkened for the winter in a ventilated sheath.  Spring is here when those sheaths are removed.

Spring is almost here.   Away with the furs.

 

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Furs, 1924, watercolour on paper. Edith Dimock, 1876-1955, American.  Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington

 

Sometimes I lie down in the shade of my Flower Observatory and look up.

The sun glinting through its joints is heartening during the cold waiting hours.

The god Apollo is preparing his return, pulsing from his great distance, sharp and as pinpoint bright as the light off the facets of diamonds.  

 

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Views from under the Flower Observatory, 2004, steel.  Oliafur Eliasson, Danish, born 1967.  Baltimore Museum of Art

 

The message is for Dionysos:  withdraw.  And stop your adepts from stomping all over the new flowers.  They are always so drunk.

There is no point crying about these pagan gods:  the little Christian cherub doesn’t want me to talk about Apollo and Dionysos:  he does not believe in multi-culturalism. 

 

 

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Spring, 1935, oil on canvas.  Francis Picabia, 1875-1953, French. Centre Pompidou, Paris, on loan to MOMA, NY winter 2016/2017.

 

 

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Spring, c. 1937/38-43, oil on canvas.  Francis Picabia, 1879-1953, French.  Menil Collection, Houston, on loan in the winter of 2016/7 to MOMA, NY

 

 

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Rising Green, 1972, 0il on canvas. Lee Krasner, 1908-1984,  American.  Metropolitan Museum of New York

 

 

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A Spring Landscape and detail oil on canvas.  Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947, French.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

 

 

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Spring, 1900-1902, opalescent glass, painted glass, lead. Designed by John  LaFarge, 1835-1910, American;  assembled by Thomas Wright, 1858-1918, American born England; painted by Juliette Hanson,  1881-1920, American.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

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Late Spring Morning, c. 1915-1917, oil on canvas.  N.C. Wyeth, 1882-1945, American.  Brandywine Museum, Pennsylvania

 

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Appalachian Spring, oil on canvas, 1946-47.  Morris Blackburn, 1902-1979, American.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

 

 

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Spring Rain and detail, 1912, oil on canvas.  John Sloan, 1871-1951, American.  A member of the turn-of-the-20th-century Philadelphia Ashcan Group all of whose members migrated to New York. Delaware Art Museum

 

 

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Spring, c. 1916, oil on canvas.  Giocamo Balla, 1871-1958,  Italian.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY 

The Italian Futurist stops looking at his machines for a moment to pay homage.

 

 

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Growth #2, oil and oil stick on canvas, 1989.  Charles Burwell, American born 1955.  Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington

 

 

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Spring in Central Park, oil on canvas, 1914.  William Zorach, 1889-1966, American born Lithuania.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

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Planting Two, 1973, oil on canvas.  Warren Rohrer, 1927-1995, American, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

 

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Hydrangeas Spring Song, 1976, acrylic on canvas.  Alma Thomas, 1891-1978, American. Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

The witchhazel and Lenten roses will linger.  The aconite, snowdrop, crocus and Spring snowflakes will be gone soon and in their place forsythia, trillium and the fabulous purple-lilac-blues:

 

Spring come again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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