Nov 17, 2021

Words and pictures about Vermeer, Hammershoi, Monet, Sydney Smith, windows, and refugee crisis.

As I am getting ready to part with the library books on Hammershøi, one more dive into redrawing of his windows brought up more connections and the interest to write them down. (Here is the first post about Hammershoi and another book connection).

Vermeer's light makes him one of my favorite painters, but his windows are not the main subject - they are a cornerstone of his works but there are too many other things to explore. With Hammershoi it is the elevation of the window beyond the source of light or framing device that makes me look again. The scarceness of other things and static, formulaic figures only make me look at the windows more and then just look more at everything. There is an essay that proposes homelessness as a concept for understanding Hammershoi and suggests that these paintings are a safe place for him. It helped me see that I think about his paintings as very long halts, icebergs of time. They make me think about winter feeling endless and about refugees, especially kids because of their different perceptions of time. About all the people who were torn away from their homes and whose life is suspended, people who are trying to find an anchor and human connection or at least calve that iceberg into something more manageable. 

A few years ago there was an exhibition of Claude Monet's "The Early Years" and I saw it in San Francisco. One painting stuck with me since then - there is a girl with a red kerchief passing outside the window on a winter afternoon. We are looking from a room that already feels like dusk. The most interesting part for me is that I did not notice the girl during my first visit to the museum but wrote down quite a lot about the work itself. How many more times I didn't notice people? 


My fascination with windows and multifarious associations needs another mention. There is an astonishing children's book illustrator whose name is Sydney Smith and in his book "Town is by the sea" (text by Joanne Schwartz) and I think that inherently this book is about windows. There are everywhere either by the presence of the light or lack of it and they are telling their own story. We see the world through them, without them, we see the world protected by them, we measure the passage of time by them. There is a lot of light in this book and a lot of darkness. But there is hope in between too, I think.

1 comment:

  1. I'm practicing shadows and drawing in black and white, so I was inspired by your posts on the subject. Sadly the book is not in my library and the price for Hammershoi books is expensive. I'm going to stick to images online and practicing with the tools I have. What did you use? I love how you captured your images. Wow, thanks!

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