Posts Tagged ‘painting’

Kameda Bosai, Old Trees

September 7, 2016 2 comments

Confucian Poem LACMA M.91.22.jpg


RT has been resolutely ignoring his creative impulses (such as they were) in the face of the many tasks (not the least of which is grieving) that have followed on his mother’s death. Resolutely ignoring, that is, until a spontaneous visit to his local bookstore brought him face-to-face with an alluring poem by Kameda Bosai, a Japanese poet (or rather, scholar and literati painter) that RT had never heard of before. Well, the temptation proved too much for the sterner angels of RT’s nature, and he offers the results of his latest foray into translation below. He knows that mom would approve.


old trees crimson at spring’s glance;

waterfalls icy, smash and echo.

imagine a mountain hermit swaying,

collapsing into laughter. water-stars, wind.


(Dedicated to Andy and Janet)


Image: Confucian Poem, Kameda Bosai. circa 1820-1824. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. WikiCmns. Public Domain.


Du Fu, Take 2

April 8, 2016 4 comments

This poem, by Du Fu, China’s greatest poet, continues to haunt RT. The version below isn’t his first attempt at bringing the poem over into English, and certainly the poem’s reputation (its opening lines are generally considered to be the greatest ever written in Chinese poetry) has something to do with his interest. Or it may simply be that the poem is being given to RT slowly, line by line. An improvement over his previous attempt? RT will let his readers judge …

Spring Thoughts


The Great Palace lies in ruins;

mountains reflect, rivers pass on.

In cities, weeds like silk pile up,

and rain slaps the flower’s cheek.

But enough of this!

Birdsong astonishes my heart.


Three months have passed

and still the beacon fires burn.

I’d pay pure gold for a letter.

Raking my head, exasperated,

I pull loose my scholar’s knot.

The hairpin dangles.


PaintingEmperor Xuanzong of Tang fleeing to Sichuan province from Chang’an; painter unknown. 11th century. WikiCmns. Public Domain.

Albert Eckhout and Dutch Brazil

August 7, 2015 2 comments

Readers may recall that RT was born in Brazil 50-odd years ago. He considered himself fairly conversant in Braziliana, at least in its 1950s and 1960s aspects, but confesses that he had never heard of Albert Eckhout when he stumbled on his work a few days back. Such things happen of course, especially when the painter in question lived hundreds of years ago, but RT was also ignorant of the fact that the Dutch established a colony in northeastern Brazil, New Holland, and held on to it for a couple of decades before being forced out by the Portuguese. The Dutch incursion might seem trivial, except that Brazil apparently owes the origin of its national consciousness to this struggle with a European competitor.

And then there is the question of Mr. Eckhout’s work; African Woman, to RT’s eye, anticipates the paintings of Henri Rousseau by several centuries. What an achievement…and if that were not enough, Mr. Eckhout has a minor planet named after him. But now we have entered the realm of true trivia.

Last but not least among RT’s recent discoveries concerning Latin America is the artistic movement known as Costumbrismo, which flourished during the 19th century. Hardly a minor movement, Costumbrismo counted adherents in every Latin American country and in Spain as well.

Who’d’a thunk it? RT is more than satisfied with the results of his latest wanderings…


Painting: African Woman. Albert Eckhout (c. 1610–1665). WikiCmns. Public Domain.


John Constable: Landscape and Prophecy

October 28, 2014 2 comments

It could be just a fine landscape painted in the colder months in England, but RT feels there’s something prescient or even prophetic about this untitled painting by John Constable. The image, with its loose, impressionistic style, anticipates art that would have been considered avant-garde a half-century after Constable painted it (1811), and its subject is nothing tangible, but rather the mood it creates in the viewer. We see here a movement away from the heroic and romantic concerns of the 18th and 19th centuries towards a direct encounter with nature and experience, the commonplace that is somehow not commonplace. The beauty of humanity and nature are here in balance, a poise we need to encourage in our century.    RT

Painting: Study for or detail of a larger painting? John Constable, 1811. WikiCmns; Victoria and Albert Museum. Public Domain.


Queen Victoria’s Coronation, 28 June 1838

May 10, 2014 4 comments

File:Parris - Coronation of Queen Victoria.PNG

That people in the first half of the 19th century were no strangers to illness and death is richly illustrated by the antecedents and birth of Queen Victoria of Britain (r. 1837-1901). Born 24 May 1819, she was originally fifth in line of succession to the throne, but in the 18 years that elapsed between birth and coronation, the people nearer the throne than her all died, her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathern, in 1820 of pneumonia, less than a year after her birth. By 1830, she had become heiress presumptive.

Not that England stagnated during the years prior to Victoria’s coronation: her immediate predecessor, William IV, oversaw an updating of the poor law, the restriction of child labor, and the abolition of slavery in the the British Empire. As if this were not enough, the Reform Act of 1832 was passed by Parliament during his reign. No small achievements, these.

Diminutive, obstinate, and honest, Victoria oversaw the continuing transition of the United Kingdom into a constitutional monarchy even as the British Empire reached the peak of its power. As an adult, she wrote more than 2500 words a day, an achievement any professional writer could admire, and most of her diary survives, a telling account of the Queen’s personal influence during one of the greatest periods of prosperity in human history.

There are no perfect monarchies, and certainly Victoria’s reign produced its share of difficulties, even as the intellectual ferment characterized by the works of Darwin and Marx would go on to shape battle lines in the 20th and 21st centuries. But Victoria helped provide a framework of peaceful political evolution, at least in Britain, the hope that mankind can indeed produce, in the words of Tennyson, “a Parliament of Man.”

The world is working towards a new synthesis, one that is more inclusive, just, and loving. As much as any person in modern history, Victoria has helped set the stage for what may end up being humankind’s ultimate achievement, a prosperous world at peace.

ImageThe coronation of Queen Victoria (1838). Author: Edmund Thomas Parris. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Anselm Feuerback–3 AM Madness Post

File:Anselm Feuerbach - Self-Portrait - Google Art Project.jpg

Surely one of the finest portraits painted during the 19th century! Anselm Feuerbach, superb colorist and classically inspired painter, deserves to be remembered among the greats.   RT

Painting: Self-Portrait, Anselm Feuerbach (1873). Alt Nationalgalerie, WikiCmns; Public Domain.


moving and a poem

February 3, 2014 2 comments

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Dateline: West Virginia. Our first item is that RT has officially moved in with his mother; perhaps not the optimal arrangement, but one that isn’t bad either. We are currently in process of redecorating (i.e., finding more room for RT).

& here is a poem that came to RT suddenly yesterday afternoon as he was getting himself ready for the monthly reading at a local tearoom. This is a somewhat wintry composition, though showing early and promising buds.


Death Dance


this wrinkling and withering,

maybe it will never end:

*****skin tough as bark,

*****face falling like tattered leaves

*****eye like

**********a spoiled apple.


take another pill, amend the flesh,

disappear the treacherous


leg spilling sand into soil like

a glass pouring out hours.

Hidden your mind then,

*****each twig, every

**********blade of grass your limb,

*****the spider weaves your name

*****the seed speckles

***********your eye—

everything is mazed and mapped: they

have to follow, to measure and decipher, each

step, each echo,

each love.

Copyright © 2014, The Rag Tree


ImageTerpsichore (1510-1511), Raffael. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Zinaida Serebriakova

January 8, 2014 Leave a comment

File:Serebryakova SefPortrait.jpg


Zenaida Serebriakova (1884-1967), Russian aristocrat through and through,  was nonetheless a revolutionary to the bone. One of Russia’s first woman visual artists of note, she was born into a refined family–the Benois, whose founding ancestor, Louis Jules Benois, was a confectioner (pardon the pun)  who settled in Russia after fleeing the French Revolution.

Serebriakova received thorough instruction in painting, studying under Osip Braz, spending time in Italy, and finishing with a period at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. She came to prominence when the above self-portrait, At the Dressing Table, was exhibited in 1909. A trip to Paris in 1924 to paint a large mural turned into decades-long exile when she was unable to return home. Her two younger children  joined her soon thereafter, but the Soviet government prevented her from resuming contact with her older children until the late 1950s.

Serebriakova traveled a great deal, especially in Africa, painting Arab and African women in native dress. Throughout her career, she remained dedicated to capturing the beauty of the world.


Self-Portrait: At the Dressing TableZenaida Serebriakova. 1909. (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow); WikCmns; Public Domain.


Anna Bilinska Bohdanowicz–Polish Painter

October 8, 2013 2 comments


This self-portrait impresses RT: straightforward, tough, and not without a touch of humor (& please note the technical skill). Anna Bohdanowicz (1857-1893) looks like a promising painter whose career was cut short by an early death. Did RT mention her self-confidence? He’s willing to bet she was ahead of her times in many ways…   RT

Self-Portrait: Anna Bilinska Bohdanowicz; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Aurelian and Zenobia–the Crisis, Part 4

October 8, 2013 2 comments



AD 270: After struggling through almost four decades of weak emperors and continuous invasions by alien peoples, the Roman Empire at last found the man to lead it out of crisis: Aurelian. Born in near obscurity in Roman Dacia, Aurelian rose through the military ranks as a successful commander until he was proclaimed emperor following the brief reign of another soldier-emperor, Claudius II. The new emperor at once embarked on an incredible series of military campaigns.

Claudius had already scored a decisive victory over invading Goths at the Battle of Naissus, and Aurelian built on this momentum. In 271, he overcame initial defeat in Italy at the hands of the Alemanni to destroy the invaders at Pavia. After ordering the construction of the Aurelian Walls around Rome, he led his army into the Balkans, where he defeated another horde of invading Goths, killing their leader in battle.

Aurelian continued his march east, easily retaking Asia Minor from the Palmyrenes. In Syria, Aurelian finally encountered real resistance, crushing the Palmyrenes at Antioch. The victory led to the siege and capture of Palmyra, and Zenobia (240-275) herself was captured as she was attempting to cross the Euphrates into Persia (274) The queen was taken back to Rome, where she was made to walk in golden chains as part of the emperor’s triumphal entry into the city.

Accounts differ over Zenobia’s fate, some suggesting that she was beheaded shortly after arriving in Rome, but others relating that she married a Roman senator, gave birth to several daughters, and became a famous socialite. What else, after all, could the Romans do with a lady who claimed descent from Dido?

The subsequent reconquest of the Gallic Empire seems anti-climatic: Aurelian persuaded the Gallic emperor Tetricus to capitulate before battle, and Tetricus fled into the Roman camp during the fight, leaving his army to scatter before the onslaught. Aurelian awarded him with high position in Rome.

As charmed as Aurelian’s career seems, however, he did not escape the usual fate of emperors during the crisis: he was murdered by own officers in Thrace (A.D. 275).


Aurelian was not only a great leader in battle, but an energetic and constructive ruler as well. He restored many public buildings, re-organized the management of the food reserves, set fixed prices for the most important goods, and prosecuted misconduct by the public officers. The only true loss that occurred during his reign was the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria while the emperor was subduing a rebellion in Egypt–and even this is not certain.

But at Aurelian’s death, the empire was still weak. Dozens of thriving cities, especially in the Western Empire, had been ruined, their populations dispersed. They could not be rebuilt; the currency had lost much of its value during the crisis and much of the empire’s economic infrastructure had been wrecked. Another sign of trouble: major cities and towns had not needed fortifications for many centuries; many now surrounded themselves with thick walls.

And these are only the most superficial problems. Part 5 will spell out the deeper changes.  RT


RT’s Related Posts: 1) The Crisis of the Third Century, Part 1, Rome; 2) The Crisis of the Third Century–Part 2: The Gallic Empire; 3) Palymyra, Valerian, Shapur, Mani–The Crisis, Part 3


Roman CoinAntoninian des Aurelianus. WikiCmns; Public Domain. PaintingQueen Zenobia’s Last Look Upon PalmyraHerbert Schmalz. WikiCmns; Public Domain.