Sunday, November 12, 2017

19th-century Painted Landscapes (Inhabited)

Joshua Cristall
Latona and the Lycian peasants
ca. 1812-22
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

"And now having reached the borders of Lycia, home of the Chimaera, when the hot sun beat fiercely upon the fields, the goddess, weary of her long struggle, was faint by reason of the sun's heat and parched with thirst; and the hungry children had drained her breasts dry of milk.  She chanced to see a lake of no great size down in a deep vale; some rustics were there gathering bushy osiers, with fine swamp-grass and rushes of the marsh.  Latona came to the water's edge and kneeled on the ground to quench her thirst with a cooling draught.  But the rustic rabble would not let her drink.  Then she besought them: "Why do you deny me water?  The enjoyment of water is a common right.  Nature has not made the sun private to any, nor the air, nor soft water.  This common right I seek; and yet I beg you to give it to me as a favour.  I was not preparing to bathe my limbs or my weary body here in your pool, but only to quench my thirst.  Even as I speak my mouth is dry of moisture, my throat is parched, and my voice can scarce find utterance.  A drink of water will be nectar to me, and I shall confess that I have received life with it; yes, life you will be giving me if you let me drink.  These children too, let them touch your hearts, who from my bosom stretch out their little arms."  And it chanced that the children did stick out their arms.  Who would not have been touched by the goddess' gentle words?  Yet for all her prayers they persisted in denying with threats if she did not go away; they even added insulting words.  Not content with that, they soiled the pool itself with their feet and hands, and stirred up the soft mud from the bottom, leaping about, all for pure meanness.  Then wrath postponed thirst; for Coeus' daughter could neither humble herself longer to these unruly fellows, nor could she endure to speak with less power than a goddess; but stretching up her hands to heaven, she cried: "Live then for ever in that pool."  It fell out as the goddess prayed.  It is their delight to live in water; now to plunge their bodies quite beneath the enveloping pool, now to thrust forth their heads, now to swim upon the surface.  Often they sit upon the sedgy bank and often leap back into the cool lake.  But even now, as of old, they exercise their foul tongues in quarrel, and all shameless, though they may be under water, even under water they try to utter maledictions.  Now also their voices are hoarse, their inflated throats swell up, and their constant quarrelling distends their wide jaws; their shoulders meet their heads, the necks seem to have disappeared.  Their backs are green; their bellies, the largest part of the body, are white; and as new-made frogs they leap in the muddy pool." 

 from Ovid's Metamorphoses, book 6, translated by Frank Justus Miller (1916), revised by G.P. Goold (1977), and published by Harvard University Press in the Loeb Classical Library

Joseph Anton Koch
Landscape with procession of the Magi
oil on panel
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller
Prater Landscape
ca. 1830
oil on panel
Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Johan Jongkind
View on Montmartre
oil on canvas
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

James Campbell
The Dragon’s Den
oil on canvas
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Johan Fredrik Eckersberg
From Horgheim in Romsdal
oil on paper, mounted on panel
National Gallery of Norway, Oslo

Théodore Rousseau
Great oaks of old Bas Bréau
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

"And if thus his Majesties Forests, and Chases, were stor'd; viz. with this spreading Tree at handsome Intervals, by which Grazing might be improv'd for the feeding of Deer and Cattel under them, benignly visited with the gleams of the Sun, and adorn'd with the distant Landskips appearing through the glades, and frequent Vallies

                                                                  . . . betwixt
          Whose rows the azure Skie is seen inmix'd,  
          With Hillocks, Vales, and Fields, as now you see
          Distinguish'd with a sweet variety; 
          Such places which wild Apple-trees throughout
          Adorn, and happy shrubs grow all about . . .            

(for so we might also sprinkle Fruit-trees amongst them (of which hereafter) for Cider and many singular uses) we should find such goodly Plantations the boast of our Rangers, and Forests infinitely preferrable to any thing we have yet beheld, rude and neglected as they are; I say, when his Majesty shall proceed (as he hath design'd) to animate this laudable pride into fashion, Forests and Woods (as well as Fields and Inclosures) will present us with another face than now they do.  And here I cannot but applaud the worthy Industry of old Sir Harbotle Grimstone, who (I am told) from a very small Nursery of Acorns which he sow'd in the neglected corners of his ground, did draw forth numbers of Oaks of competent growth; as being planted about his Fields in even, and uniform rows, about one hundred foot from the Hedges; bush'd, and well water'd till they had sufficiently fix'd themselves, did wonderfully improve both the beauty, and the value of his Demeasnes."

 John Evelyn, from Sylva (1664)

Gustave Courbet
At the edge of the pool
oil on canvas
Brooklyn Museum

Holger Drachmann
oil on canvas
Bornholm Art Museum, Denmark

Jean Eugène Clary
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Carl Fredrik Hill
The Tree and the River III (The Seine at Bois-le-Roi)
oil on canvas
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

John Singer Sargent
Under the willows
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Thomas Wilmer Dewing
oil on canvas
Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Again we have another of these long dialogues, to which no translation can do justice.  There are roughly another hundred lines, of perfectly matched lyrical conversation; question and answer follow each other in the strictest rhythm and infallible regard to rule of metre and rhetoric; musically, this is the unquestioned classic method of a Bach or Haydn.
          We are back again with our old bag of tricks, we are re-working a pattern in a tapestry, we have heard all this before.  The dialogue, at times, seems to play almost the same rôle as the prologue; the words may be monotonously chanted, when dramatic sequence allows; they may numb us into some state of affable acceptance; we need some sort of antidote to this high-pitched hysteria of perhaps the must ultra-modern of all this poet's lyric fragments."

 H.D., from the stage-directions for her translation of the Ion of Euripides, originally published in 1937

Albert Dubois-Pillet
Little circus camp
before 1890
oil on canvas
Phillips Collection, Washington DC