Esteemed thinker: William Wordsworth

landscape Landscapes are nature’s way of telling us who is really in charge; for no matter how hard one tries to encapsulate a vista the end product does not quite imitate reality. Transport yourself to any corner of the earth and you may find a vision so beautiful that it seems to take your breath away. The range of colors, shapes, and feelings wound up in such a view has been replicated by humans throughout the ages yet to really experience that “ah ha” moment, it needs what we call today, “real time”.

We live in a world where technology permits us to transport virtual images, allows us to share and receive, allows us to observe our universe in a speed that was once deemed only possible in fiction. When man first stepped on the moon and when the Mars rover frolicked upon the forbidden planet, the photos sent back to us on Earth gave us reason to be humble; it gave us a view to extend our imaginations and expand our dreams, entitling us to wonder what it would be like to see such sights for ourselves.

Landscapes, a word that once meant paintings in a museum have become part of our vernacular to mean more. We capture them, place them in our computers or on our phones and keep them as souvenirs; yet Mother Nature knows that it is through her eyes that we really see it.

NPG 104; William Wordsworth by and after Henry William Pickersgill I present to you today the esteemed thinker: William Wordsworth (1770-1850), a most gifted English poet who helped establish, with his friend and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, what we presently refer to as the Romantic period in literature. Having taken a walking tour of Europe early in his career, Wordsworth is believed to have been influenced by this experience for much of his writing explores the relationship between humans and nature. While touring Europe, Wordsworth also came into contact with the political upheaval of the French Revolution, which subsequently brought about his interest and sympathy for the life, troubles and speech of the “common man”. In 1843 Wordsworth was named poet laureate of England, though by this time he had for the most part quit composing verse. He is fondly remembered by poetry lovers for poems such as “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud”.

From the book of his collected titles, The Prose Works of William Wordsworth, (1876) I have retraced the words of our famous and illustrious Mr. Wordsworth; a man who has brought to us literary greats that continue to be read, studied, and interpreted more than a century later. Take just a few moments and permit him to take you on an exploration; without a camera or an easel he will define a lovely view for your enjoyment…

“… At Lucerne, in Switzerland, is shewn a Model of the Alpine country which encompasses the Lake of the four Cantons. The Spectator ascends a little platform, and sees mountains, lakes, glaciers, rivers, woods, waterfalls, and vallies, with their cottages, and every other object contained in them, lying at his feet; all things being represented in their appropriate colours. It may be easily conceived that this exhibition affords an exquisite delight to the imagination, tempting it to wander at will from valley to valley, from mountain to mountain, through the deepest recesses of the Alps. But it supplies also a more substantial pleasure: for the sublime and beautiful region, with all its hidden treasures, and their bearings and relations to each other, is thereby comprehended and understood at once…

To begin, then, with the main outlines of the country;—- I know not how to give the reader a distinct image of these more readily, than by requesting him to place himself with me, in imagination, upon some given point; let it be the top of either of the mountains, Great Gavel, or Scawfell; or, rather, let us suppose our station to be a cloud hanging midway between those two mountains, at not more than half a mile’s distance from the summit of each, and not many yards above their highest elevation; we shall then see stretched at our feet a number of vallies, not fewer than eight, diverging from the point, on which we are supposed to stand, like spokes from the nave of a wheel… In the vale of Keswick, at the same period, the sun sets over the humbler regions of the landscape, and showers down upon them the radiance which at once veils and glorifies,—- sending forth, meanwhile, broad streams of rosy, crimson, purple, or golden light, towards the grand mountains in the south and south-east, which, thus illuminated, with all their projections and cavities, and with an intermixture of solemn shadows, are seen distinctly through a cool and clear atmosphere…”

Second image: Portrait, oil on canvas, by Henry William Pickersgill circa 1850; National Portrait Gallery, London

Esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh

hayThere are very few things that humanity agrees upon except perhaps when it comes to nature. Not even those who consider themselves city dwellers are devoid of Mother Nature’s presence nor can they ignore her. Even in the most congested conditions does one find a flowering weed growing between the cracks of cement, whereupon our hearts delight with its determination. Even in the smoggiest of days do we feel her resolve, releasing the sun’s rays or sprinkling rain upon a thirsty sidewalk…for these are the doings, the free spirit that belongs to nature… And of course there are the forever vistas that we witness along the shores or on the precipice of a mountain…scenes that make us heave with a great sigh of gladness.

We would be hard-pressed to find someone that has not recorded mentally or digitally nature … for we hold her in universal awe. It is a theme that has inspired the artists of the world and in tribute they have dedicated works in her honor.

Today’s blog introduces one of the most famous artists in history, a man who I believe was greatly misunderstood and unfortunately best known for his physiological breakdown during which he cut off part of his left ear with a razor; an event in his life that has became synonymous with his name… Esteemed thinker: Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was a largely self taught artist and considered one of the greatest Post-Impressionists. His bold and colorful style of painting became an influence on his successors, where his approach to expressionism was adopted by generations of followers. Though his work was never honored during his lifetime, his masterpieces now have become part of what we recognize as genius.

van gogh hay stack So without anymore fanefare, I bring to you the thoughts of this humble man which I have extracted from his letters to his brother, Theo. Set aside a moment and read the words of Vincent Van Gogh …

“… Many landscape painters do not possess that intimate knowledge of nature which those have who from childhood have looked at the fields. Many landscape painters as men (though we appreciate them as artists) give something that satisfies neither you nor me. You will say that everyone has seen landscapes and figures from childhood on. The question is: Has everybody also been reflective as a child? Has everybody who has seen them also loved heath, fields, meadow, woods, and the snow and the rain and the storm? Not everybody has done that as you and I have: it is a peculiar kind of surroundings and circumstances that must contribute to such knowledge of nature; it is a peculiar kind of temperament and character, too, that must help to make it take root…”