Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Nineteenth Century Artists at Work

Hippolyte Bellangé
"C'est beau, les arts"
(Passersby in the street watching an artist paint a quince
on a canvas attached to an exterior wall, while standing on a chair)
British Museum

John Everett Millais
Touching-up Morning at the Royal Academy
(Crowd of artist-onlookers including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown,
with J.M.W. Turner at far right, seen from behind, standing on a box and wielding a brush)

(later collector erroneously labeled the work "1851")
British Museum

For the Imagists at the British Museum

Your tearoom has been modernized
and now the masses trundle through
with quick-dry trays
and infants squealing like unfixed alarms.
It's hard to imagine you
among the mummies,
it's hard to imagine your spacious living brains.
Thought is pretty costly here,
if thought relies on more
than a slender view of winter trees
above the burglar-proof windows.
There are too many images here,
commotion and hunger (it's 4 o-clock,
they've stopped tea, there's nothing
but paper plates, no doilies, no
music, a few sticky buns,
some ale without the alcohol . . .).
My feet hurt among the Roman coins,
the gift shop's chosen to plasticize
Tutankhamen and his friends.
This is how order shapes
the new world:
packed, humidity controlled,
shipped breathing
from the desert before which
art students with pastels
crouch in prayer.

– Shannon Nelson-Deighan (1994)

Horatio Joseph Lucas
In the Studio of a Friend
British Museum

Louis Fagan
Painter at work
British Museum

Louise Danse
Painter working at an easel
before 1888
British Museum

Charles Baude after Gustave Courtois
Portrait of Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret painting
wood-engraving from Le Monde Illustré
British Museum

Hubert von Herkomer
Etcher at work
ca. 1891
etching (book-illustration, for title-page)
British Museum

Victorian Hummingbird Case

Against the brown branches arranged in the glass,
you do not photograph well, tiny brown silences.
Unhooked from your song, the visibles pass.

Face, face and face, lovers, children and grass
outside the curator's window reflect green alliances
against the brown branches arranged in the glass.

Testament to chemist and architect of what lasts,
miniature wings, hollowed throats, bony appliances
unhook from your song as the visibles pass.

Live, motors of beauty, precise, utterly fast,
you amaze the rare seconds
against the brown branches arranged in the glass.

The feather dance whirrs in the intricate past.
These literal pilgrims announce the ghostly ascendence
hooked to one song as the visibles pass and pass.

This, this and this: flecked stasis and grass,
surreal against the pterodactyl's webby transcendence
of human time, birdsong, the whole unhooked visible passing.
The brown branches arranged in the glass push against nothing.

– Shannon Nelson-Deighan (1994)

Frédéric Florian after Paul Renouard
Portrait of Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier with painting of Napoleon on easel
ca. 1891
British Museum

Anonymous English photographer/printmaker
Edward Burne-Jones painting a mural
ca. 1890-1915
British Museum

Paul Naumann after Richard Westall
Queen Victoria at age eleven, sketching in a landscape
wood-engraving from Illustrated London News
British Museum

Jan Veth
Portrait of Joseph Israels painting
British Museum

Jean-Louis Forain
Self-portrait making a lithograph
British Museum

Arthur Ellis
Portrait of engraver Charles William Sherborn in his Chelsea studio
wash drawing
British Museum

Victorian Parlor

Let hands be gentle when they part the curtain
Whose foliage and flowers of gold brocade
Protect this place.  Here everything is certain
Forever, though stars fade.

When it is time for tea the sunset blazes
Red dew upon the crystal chandelier,
The mirror fills and flows with forest hazes:
Let hands be folded here.

Far from the world of bare and plushless noises,
The other plane of streamlines raw in brass,
Let hands learn peace where on the mantel poises
A shepherd of white glass.

– Elizabeth Bohm (1941)

Thomas Robert Way
Portrait of Henry Ospovat, age 22, drawing
British Museum

Poems from the archives of Poetry (Chicago)