japonisme: poppies redux

24 May 2007

poppies redux

"The common white lily which grows in Europe, and which even before the Middle Ages was regarded by the Church as emblematic of virginity, does not seem to have existed in Palestine; and when, in the Song of Songs, the mouth of the Beloved is compared to a lily, it is evidently not in praise of white, but of red lips. The plant spoken of in the Bible as the lily of the valleys, or the lily of the fields, is neither more nor less than the anemone.

"This is proved by the Abbé Vigouroux. It abounds in Syria, round Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the Mount of Olives; rising from a tuft of deeply-cut, alternate leaves of a rich, dull green, the flower cup is like a delicate and refined poppy; it has the air of a patrician among flowers, of a little Infanta, fresh and innocent in her gorgeous attire."

-- J.K. Huysmans 1

On the surface, Henry James, the fastidious American anglophile, and Pierre Loti, the Orientalist writer
par excellence, could not be more different.

However ... James was drawn – ‘surrendered’ is the word he uses – to the seductive charms of Loti’s prose, which he describes as ‘poetry in observation, felicity in sadness’, which can suggest a world of meaning in the apparently simple description of a poppy. .2

The subject of poppies was a common one in French and Impressionist painting. It had recently become especially associated with Claude Monet (Les Champs de Coquelicots — Coquelicots près de Vétheuil 1880 — Coquelicots Rouges à Argenteuil), two of whose Giverny poppy field paintings of 1885 had garnered tremendous attention when they were included in the first great American show of French Impressionist art held in New York City at the American Art Association in April of 1886.

Poppies had been painted in Grez in 1885 also, by the Swedish painter, Karl Nordstrøm and the American, Theodore Robinson . And in 1886, a group of American painters, John Singer Sargent, Edwin Blashfield, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Frank Millet, were all painting poppy pictures in the art colony of Broadway in the West of England. At the same time that Vonnoh was completing Coquelicots, Childe Hassam was investigating the theme in the garden of the poet, Celia Thaxter, on the Island of Appledore off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine (Poppies, Isles of Shoals, 1891). 3


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Blogger jgodsey said...

gorgeous as always
where do you find th etime?

26 May, 2007 19:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i'm retired?

27 May, 2007 11:28  

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