Treasure Trove: My Bible

With the season of Lent now well advanced, I’m planning on structuring my posts for the next few weeks around the theme of Christianity, beginning with the cornerstone of Christian faith, the Bible.

Like many Christians in the affluent West, I have a lot of Bibles.

Like many Christians in the affluent West, I have a lot of Bibles. There’s the illustrated King James Bible that my late grandmother gave me when I was christened, and the Good News Bible from my (first – it’s a long story) confirmation. There’s The Message, a popular paraphrase, gifted to me about ten years ago by my friend Julia. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: My Bible”

Paintings You Should Know: ‘The Two Fridas’ by Frida Kahlo (1939)

The Two Fridas, Frida Kahlo, 1939

While Mary Cassatt and Tamara de Lempicka turned their artistic talents to depicting the external reality of women’s lives, Frida Kahlo used them most frequently to express her own internal reality, and particularly her physical and emotional pain. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: ‘The Two Fridas’ by Frida Kahlo (1939)”

On My Reading List: February 2016

Last week a colleague of mine told me that she never reads books: there are too many words that she doesn’t know. It must be terrible to feel yourself shut out from the world of literature, and it makes me very grateful for my own familiarity with the world of words, and the encouragement I received from my parents to start, and continue reading. Continue reading “On My Reading List: February 2016”

Treasure Trove: The Good Shepherd with the Kid

He saves the sheep, the goats he doth not save!
So rang Tertullian’s sentence, on the side
Of that unpitying Phrygian sect which cried:
‘Him can no fount of fresh forgiveness lave,

‘Who sins, once wash’d by the baptismal wave!’
So spake the fierce Tertullian. But she sigh’d,
The infant church; of love she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord’s yet recent grave.

And then she smiled, and in the Catacombs,
With eye suffused but heart inspired true,
On those walls subterranean, where she hid

Her head in ignominy, death, and tombs,
She her Good Shepherd’s hasty image drew;
And on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid.

  • Matthew Arnold, The Good Shepherd with the Kid, 1867

Continue reading “Treasure Trove: The Good Shepherd with the Kid”

Poet Profile: Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

Then, when the clouds are off the soul,
When thou dost bask in Nature’s eye,
Ask, how she view’d thy self-control,
Thy struggling task’d morality…

…‘Ah child,’ she cries, ‘that strife divine –
Whence was it, for it is not mine?’…

…’I saw it in some other place.
– T’was when the heavenly house I trod.
And lay upon the breast of God.’

– Matthew Arnold, Morality

Largely forgotten today, Matthew Arnold was once hailed with Tennyson and Browning as one of the great Victorian poets. Continue reading “Poet Profile: Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)”

Shakespeare in the Park: Macbeth

Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all as the weird women promised, and, I fear, thou play’dst most foully for’t. – Act 3, Scene 1

Macbeth poster

On Saturday night I had the all-to-rare opportunity to attend a local production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth. Although I’ve read the play, I’d never seen it performed before, and at $20 a ticket it was too good to miss. Continue reading “Shakespeare in the Park: Macbeth”

Author Profile: William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Tonight I’m off to an open-air performance of Macbeth, so what better time to post a profile of its writer?

Shakespeare first folio
Engraving of Shakespeare from the First Folio.

Over the course of his career The Bard wrote or collaborated on over 30 plays (the usual count is 38, although the authorship of some is contested), 154 sonnets, two longer poems, and an uncertain number of other verses. His keen insight into human nature and the human condition meant that his plays never fell neatly into the Classical divisions of tragedy and comedy: quite apart from his historical plays, his tragedies almost invariably contain moments of comedy, while one frequently encounters moments of tragedy in his comedies. Perhaps because of this, his are the most performed plays in the world, translated into every major language; it is sometimes said that not a single day goes by without one of his plays being performed somewhere in the world. Continue reading “Author Profile: William Shakespeare (1564-1616)”

Paintings You Should Know: Tamara de Lempicka’s ‘Young Girl in Green’

Just as Mary Cassatt portrayed the ideal ‘New Woman’ of the 19th Century, Tamara de Lempicka captured in Art Deco brilliance the Bright Young Things of the Roaring Twenties, and ‘Young Girl in Green’ (1929), also known as ‘Girl in Green with Gloves’ or ‘Young Girl With Gloves’, is one of her most famous paintings.

de Lempicka girl in green
Tamara de Lempicka, ‘Young Girl in Green’, 1929.

Painted in oil on plywood, it measures 45.5cm by 61.5cm and is currently held by the Musée national d’art modern in Paris. It is painted in the Art Deco style, which was heavily influenced by Cubism. The distinct angularity of the style did not prevent De Lempicka from capturing a sense that the fabric in the dress was moving in the breeze, or conveying the subtle eroticism of her subject’s curves, including the outline of her nipples, bellybutton, and upper thigh.

Tamara in a green Bugatti
‘Tamara in a Green Bugatti’, self-portrait by Tamara de Lempicka, 1925.

Born Maria Górska in 1898 to a wealthy Polish family, Tamara appears to have been determined from an early age to determine the course of her own life. She was married twice, the first time at the age of 18 and the second time, following her divorce from her first husband, to a Baron who had commissioned her to paint his mistress. She had one child, a daughter named Kizette, by her first husband, and while she frequently painted her she could hardly be described as a devoted mother – Kizette spent much of her childhood being raised by her grandmother. De Lempicka was openly bisexual and had a number of female lovers. In other words, she lived the quintessential Bohemian life, first in Paris and later in America, and was a popular portrait painter with the ‘It’ crowd of the time. She remains best-known for her portraits of strong, independent women. Tamara de Lempicka died in Mexico in 1980.

Spot the Difference: Opera and Musical

Opera Week was my first experience of opera (apart from one I went to in high school, which may or may not have been Bizet’s ‘Carmen’, and about which I can honestly remember absolutely nothing), but I’ve loved musicals since I was a teenager and have been fortunate enough to attend a number of them over the years. Opera and Musicals are two different things, but I started asking myself ‘where does that difference lie?’ Continue reading “Spot the Difference: Opera and Musical”

Author Profile: James Joyce (1842-1941)

Joyce 1915
James Joyce, 1915.

Much like Charles Dickens, James Joyce’s early life was shaped by his family’s gradual descent from relative middle-class prosperity into poverty, exacerbated by his father’s drinking and financial irresponsibility, a pattern which Joyce himself would repeat in his early adulthood. But in spite of this, Joyce would become one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and in particular in the modernist stream-of-consciousness style. Continue reading “Author Profile: James Joyce (1842-1941)”