Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stefan Hirsch

I'm writing an article about this guy for Wikipedia. He was an art teacher during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s and for much of that time he was head of the art department at Bard. However, my piece is about the art he made, mainly during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. The research has been generally interesting and the writing hasn't been too very tedious, although my prose can hardly be said to sing. One especially pleasing aspect of the work has been my quest to obtain permission to show images of stuff he produced and, like the photo shown here, of the man himself. Once I've located the people who hold rights, I've found them to be uniformly cooperative and even supportive. The most troublesome part of the whole enterprise comes from my difficulty in finding words to describe what the images show (and to make word-pictures for works I don't show). One of the guy's strengths is that he can't be pigeonholed. There isn't a straightforward collection of art jargon that covers him.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

an end

This shows some of what's left of a rose I've nurtured from a cutting over the past couple of years. It bloomed once this spring and, having served up too many breakfasts to our local rabbits, is now almost beyond hope.

While steeping tea this morning a fox trotted rapidly by on the driveway that separates our house from the neighbors on the west side, and in his mouth, seen as a furry blur, was what might have been one of our depredators. The fox was large for his kind, and handsome, with the speed of his passage making his tail stand out. I am happy he captured a meal and complexly sad both for the bunny and the rose.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

moving earth

Excavation continues in the little shopping center where I buy groceries. Last week the large digger crawled out of the pit when the bank of earth left for its escape dwindled. Now a small digger and front loader are trucking about, moving dirt to a spot where the big digger can extract it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


This little guy came by today to help us rid our car port of burrowing carpenter bees.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


This cedar tree stands beside our neighbors' house. We have a companion on our side of the shared driveway. I once heard that people planted cedars near houses of our vintage for the good luck they were supposed to bring. American Indians held them to be sacred. The morning sun lights this shot and makes it easy to see the wound the tree suffered during a winter storm a year and a half ago. Years of exposure have bleached some of its red bark to a silvery gray.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

coin tower

This shows part of Amsterdam's Amstel Canal. The tower belongs to Munttoren, Munt Tower, dating from 1620. The clouds were beautiful on the day I took the photo.

Monday, July 21, 2014


This shows the Lookout on of foggy day. It's a color photo; there just isn't much color to record. The Lookout was formerly a boarding house is now a restaurant and country inn. The place is Flye Point, near Blue Hill in the Penobscot region of Maine and it's August 2013.

Friday, July 18, 2014


We heard some beautiful music last evening in a place of beautiful paintings. I did some research recently on a man who studied art as well making it. Before starting a painting he chose tone balances, made decisions about tensions of line and area, and considered overall harmonal values based on theories of color, design, and music. You can dissect his work using these theories, but this technical vocabulary does not give you much help when you try to communicate what you find satisfying about it.

The image shows fields and bogs leading to the sea at Judique, Nova Scotia. It doesn't have a particular point of interest. It evokes happy personal emotions about the place and that makes it difficult for me to tell whether it's a good photograph as well as a reminder of a good vacation. Is it pleasing in general, or simply a memento of a specific place at a specific time?

I can think of some good adjectives to describe them but I can't really convey the pleasure it gave me to examine a painting by Bonnard or a performance of the Debussy quartet (both of which floored me last evening). All the same, I'm certain others respond to the two works much as I do. It's different with the photo. I can say why I think the photo might have aesthetic value, but I can't put myself in the position of a viewer who wasn't present when I took it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

digging out

I've been observing an excavation that's taking place where I shop. Over recent months the yellow digger in the photo has been gradually removing earth from an area which used to be a nicely landscaped courtyard. I expect the objective it to increase rent by bringing in new retail establishments.

What's interested me is the engineering problem facing the crew. For many weeks the digger with its caterpillar tracks was at the bottom of the hillside it created. In many repetitive steps, it moved dirt up the incline and loaded it into waiting dump trucks. Now that the excavation is nearing completion, it's up top. The process has been methodical and, obviously, it works.

There's a limit to the effectiveness of the method, however, and I wonder how the contractor plans to get out the last of the earth. The digger can't return to the bottom to bring it up since it needs the incline to get itself out, yet the digger's arm isn't long enough to reach down from the top to bring up the last of the dirt. So, I keep watching as I make my daily run to the grocery.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

young and happy

This photo was taken in 1888. The young woman is my paternal grandmother. She loved dogs and I never knew her to be without one close at hand. Her childhood was largely a happy one, spent on this property — the house and gardens of an estate of her father's in Woodside, Queens, New York. She loved dogs and her home, but most of all she loved her father. So as to remain with him as long as possible, she put off marriage until she was over thirty and the man she chose worked in one of her father's business concerns and came from a family closely intertwined with her own. The wedding took place not that many years before her father's death and it was not a success. She endured a relationship that was painful to both partners and remained faithfully in it for sixty years, until her death in 1962, aged 92.

Monday, July 14, 2014

fresh water

My wife and I received a last-minute invitation to spend a weekend on a large lake in central Virginia. Formed barely a quarter century ago when a power company dammed the local river, the it is a very modern vacation destination. The densely-wooded shoreline boasts many imposing dwellings having tiny beach-fronts, boathouses, gazebos, and swimming docks. Its water sports are all motor-driven and most involve speed.

Yet, as you see here, the undeveloped parts have a scenic placidity. I took the photo on a evening cruise in a pontoon boat, a craft that's worth looking up if you're unfamiliar.

Friday, July 11, 2014

morning light

Plants come down to my basement office to take a rest, some to regain health and others to end their lives. They sit by a window in which I've hung some glass disks which sometimes catch the light and cast colorful shadows on the wall behind. There are four of these disks, yellow, purple, blue, and red. You see the red and purple, at top, and shadows of the red and blue — no yellow here, alas, apart from the strange begonia. The wall is a jumble of bike posters and whiteboard, the latter used when I make my (rare) attempts to sell off stuff on eBay. The succulent behind the begonia is a treasure, a gift received back in the 1970s at a wedding on Malibu beach.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Sequoia National Park

April 2012 was warm and sunny when a niece married the love of her life in Long Beach but the groves of Giant Sequoia in the southern Sierra Mountains were just emerging from the grip of winter.

Monday, July 07, 2014


This year the Tour is spending its first few days in England. The second stage began in York and moved west toward Skipton, then south to Sheffield. Between York and Skipton it took roads that are on or near ones I took in the mid-1970s on a bike tour with my friend Graham. I planned the route months ahead from Ordinance Survey maps and road maps I bought at the map store in Washington DC near where I lived and while I was doing the planning I tried to get in enough riding so that 90 or 100 miles a day would not wear me out. We stayed in hostels and B&Bs, ate in pubs, and enjoyed some marvelously good weather.

I've stitched together two screen captures to give a feel for the Yorkshire segment of the Tour. TV coverage begins about 7:00 a.m. my time. As I do morning chores, I watch via EuroSport internet feed. The images are fuzzy but still pretty absorbing. For the second stage Sunday it seems the whole county turned out, lining the roads and, as the Belgians and Dutch like to do, making a party of the event. It also seems the countryside is as beautiful as it was during my long-ago bike tour.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


A woman named Andrée Ruellan made this lithograph. She was an artist best known for showing ordinary people at work or play in New York City, Savannah, Charleston, and along the New England coast. Born in Manhattan, her parents were French and she spent a good part of her young life in France. That's where this picture, Half Past Two, comes from. She made it in the late 1920s.

I'm putting together a Wikipedia article on Ruellan. Her work seems entirely straight-forward. It's mostly representational. She had great technical skill and a good eye. She could, and did, make greeting cards and illustrations for magazines. But most of her work, and all the best of it, transcends illustration. In 1943 she told an interviewer, "What moves me most is that in spite of poverty and the constant struggle for existence, so much kindness and sturdy courage remain. Naturally I want to paint well-designed pictures, but I also wish to convey these warmer human emotions."

I'm reproducing this image under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law.

Friday, July 04, 2014

white blossoms

I took this early in June at Swarthmore College which boasts a fine arboretum. I didn't notice what tree sent forth these blossoms.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Fourth

This is what the world looks like across the street from our house. Happy Independence Day!