The Angelus

The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet, 1859

Two peasants stop to say the Angelus prayer at dusk in response to the sound of the distant church bells. They are in the midst of the potato harvest, The woman devoutly worships, the man may be turning his hat, waiting for her to finish. The Catholic Angelus prayer, commemorating the incarnation of Jesus, is said three times a day, at dawn, noon and dusk. In the countryside, this praying was a way of regulating time in the days before wristwatches. This painting is probably Millets most famous. In France, the picture became a symbol of national pride and was widely revered and reproduced. It embodied a vision of piety and devotion, fruitful land and the dignity of labor.

Anne and I celebrated Valentine’s Day together. We didn’t go out or anything special like that, but instead, I fixed us a nice dinner at home. After dinner, we exchanged cards and a few gifts. We then ended up watching the newest episode of the Outlander TV series together. It is the initial episode of Season 5, The Fiery Cross, which was suppose to drop this Sunday, but instead Starz moved its release up a few days, making it available for watching on Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen all of the previous seasons, but have read none of the books. While Anne has read all of the books and has seen almost none of the TV show.

In the past, when I have read the book and then watched the movie, I’ve always felt that cinema had cheapened the story. Most of that has to do with the two medium’s confines. There is no way that any one motion picture could ever tell a story in the same level of detail as can be told in a book. At least not in a single sitting, but with the serialized story telling that’s available now, in these big production TV series, the two mediums are on a more level playing ground.

Game of Thrones is the arch-type for this TV genre. With it, I began with the books, but switched over to the TV and I am happy that I did so. TV concluded its version of that story last year, while the print version is still outstanding.

With Outlander, the books have all been written and the TV series is just trying to catch up, but I don’t think that I’ll ever switch over to the books. On the TV, the book’s characters are fleshed out by real life actors, who pronounce the Scottish dialects much more comprehensibly than I would have ever been capable of sounding out myself. A TV series with a dozen or more hours to tell a book’s story can more than adequately cover any plot, in my humble opinion. 

Millet and Modern Art

Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

Millet and Modern Art: From Van Gogh to Dalí is the full title for the new exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Produced in partnership with the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam, it celebrates the art and influence of French painter Jean-François Millet (1814–1875). This show opens to the general public on Sunday and runs until May. As these special art shows at the Saint Louis Art Museum go, this one was certainly one of the best that I’ve seen. It draws works from many different sources that comprise many different artists.

Millet is known as the father of Modern art and in his day was very famous. He attracted many disciples, who imitated his ideas. Now-a-days, their fame has come to eclipse that of Millet. No more ardent a disciple can be found than that of Vincent Van Gogh. This exhibit has multiple side-by-side examples of Millet’s original painting and a copy that Van Gogh made thirty years later. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and Van Gogh certainly wasn’t alone in this practice. Similar imitation is shown with many of the other artists too.

Pictured is a painting by Van Gogh called Starry Night. In this show it is displayed along side a somewhat similar looking painting by Millet, with an identical title. Unfortunately, my photo of the Millet painting did not turn out that well, so I cannot give you a side-by-side comparison. Like his fame, many of Millet’s artworks have not worn so well. Coincidently, Van Gogh has a much more famous version of Starry Night that hangs in New York and was painted the year after this one was made. The pictured Starry Night reminded Anne of our photos of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. 

This morning was the coldest day of the winter. It was only four degrees when I got up. There was no school scheduled today, because otherwise it would have been cancelled. It was so cold… How cold was it? It was so cold that the water company workers took the day off. It was too cold for them to dig holes. 

Bad Choices, Good Choices

Reclining Pan, Francesco da Sangallo, 1535

On the day before yesterday, today’s eve-eve sort-of-speak, we viewed this statue of a reclining Pan. Seeing it on New Year’s Eve it appeared to me to offer a cautionary tale. A caution against too much excess during the evening to come, “Raise your cups everyone, I have a toast. Let’s drink to excess. Excess!” Yesterday, the morning after, dawned sunny and bright and warm too. Perfect weather. A perfect day for a new beginning, a new year.

The kids soon skied to their annual bacchanal, where they lounge around all-day like beached whales. Attire there is casual-casual, Pan casual. Each year some blockbuster movie franchise is featured with a complete re-showing of all of its many constitute parts. Lately though, the choice of new franchises has become problematic as these franchises become ever more bloated. Their marathon viewing now tests the endurance of even the most stalwart of these lads and lasses. This inevitably leads to choices. God forbid! Hopefully, good choices.

Home alone, Anne and I, left to our own devices chose wisely. We went for a bicycle ride. New Year’s Day cycling is sort of a thing among bicyclists. Start the new year right. Get a jump on your annual mileage totals. Strut your stuff. It’s supposed to be a rain or snow, still go kind of tradition, but I’ll take 50 °F and sunny all the same. Unfortunately, the nice weather also brought out the multitudes. People of all shapes and sizes exercising their resolutions.

We waded into the crowd. There was a crosswind, unhappily leftover from this week’s earlier winter storm and there was cross traffic too. The regulars having to contend with the influx of newbies. Cross traffic does not stop. Happy traffic always yields! What do teachers say after being cut off on the bike path? “Now, that’s not making safe choices.”

It is a new year. A time for new beginnings. You have a whole year laid out before you. Experts caution us about making New Year’s resolutions. That’s because so many of us fail at keeping them. Within a week, rain or shine, the bike path will return to the providence of its regulars. Meaning that for many, failure is an option and all too often the most obvious one. 

On our bike route to the park, someone has recently put up a placard. On one side it says, “You Can Do It.” On the other side it says, “You Matter.” Both are affirmative statements. Similar signs appear during our annual big charity ride. Those are usually place on an uphill climb and frequently leave a saccharine aftertaste. I think this sign is different, because of where it is placed. We see the You Can Do It side of the sign within the first mile of our ride. We’ve already done the heavy lifting, we’re out on our bikes. This side of the sign doesn’t feel too demanding, because we are about to make our two-mile descent to the park. We’re coasting. Likewise, the You Matter side appears near the end. Its life affirming message again is not too strident, because we’re almost home. In life as in many things, it is not the drill sergeant yelling in your ear that motivates you, except to run away. It is those nudges along the way that keep you going.

Gauguin Redux

Woman with Mangoes, Paul Gauguin, 1889

Anne had her first day off since we got back. She wasn’t scheduled to work and there were no last minute pleas for help. So, she got a day off. We both slept in and then leisurely sat around all morning, drinking two cups of coffee each. We finally got off the dime and drove to the Slammer, to see the Gauguin exhibit that leaves next week. We got caught up in the procrastinator’s end of show rush and had a hard time finding a parking spot. We also couldn’t get an immediate entry into the exhibit, but we did score immediate seating in the café and had lunch first. This Gauguin show emphasizes the breath of the different media that he worked in, but save for one painting that I used after I had first seen the show, none of his famous work is represented. He was also quite the pedophile.