Saturday, February 20, 2016
It's a bit late to talk about winter soups but we have more than another month before spring arrives. The picture shows a bowl of potage d'hiver I cooked up on our snow day last week. The idea of potage is to throw whatever you might have on hand in your fridge, sauté it, add water and some herbs as you like, and throw it in the blender. Perhaps it is a modernized version of the concoction referenced in the nursery rhyme "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old." In those days, they threw everything in the pot and ate from the pot, threw more stuff in the pot, and ate some more....
Potage d'hiver is apparently now a French soup, and I love to make it in winter. Usually I take onions, leeks, carrots, celery, turnips, a small red potato or two, and a parsnip. In this case, I couldn't find any turnips, so I used what I had on hand: onions, leeks, celery, and carrots sautéed in the pot with olive oil, then plain frozen peas, cauliflower, and broccoli added with water, and some herbes de provence and a lot of freshly ground pepper. Let that simmer for an hour or more, and then blend it up. It's a good stick-to-your-ribs lunch. I usually eat it plain, but any kind of garnish would be fine: cheese or garlic croutons, shredded cheese, a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
Another very simple potage d'hiver is this cauliflower soup:
Slice an onion and sauté in 2 TB of olive oil and 2 TB of melted butter for 15 minutes on low heat til soft, but not darkened. Add a head of cauliflower cut up into pieces the size of the florets and 1 cup of water. Put the lid on the pot and simmer over medium low for another 10 or 15 minutes, then add another 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and keep on heat til the cauliflower is completely soft. Cool a bit and then blend up. The result is a creamy and delicious soup, but without the cream. Garnish with shredded parmesan or croutons, or both if you are having guests and serve a cup of this soup as a first course.
I like to make my own soups since they tend to taste far better than canned and lack the overdose of sodium and sugar canned soups tend to have.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Untitled, by George Luks, 1920
To me, this drawing exemplifies the miracle of drawing and painting. I happened upon it when I was looking at George Luks' work in preparation for this post. We could easily COUNT the pencil strokes in this drawing. And yet, we know exactly what is going on. Two women who are neighbors in the city are talking. They are not affluent, as indicated by the kitchen chair on the stoop and the babe in arms. The one with the baby is doing the talking and the one who is sitting is listening but not in rapt attention, as she is not looking up at the talking woman. We feel that they are friends who know a lot about each other. More than likely the standing woman is talking of things that must be done--I have to go in now, only have this for supper, a comment about the husband and when he is coming? Yes, the sitting woman may tiredly nod in agreement, I know what you mean.
Meanwhile, sitting in front is a woman who seems younger, who hears their conversation in the background, and is not attentive. It is the background noise of her life. She sits in a condition of inwardness, even as she looks onto the street before her, watching children playing or women on the way to the store or peddlers calling out their goods or men on the way back from work. But she is not thinking of them. She is watching and waiting. She may be waiting for a man or for a friend or, more likely, simply for her future, and she waits in anxious hope.
My words are a reduction of the atmosphere conjured up by Luks' drawing. With his few quick strokes of the pencil, he has created a world, and we instantly know its tone--cares, tiredness, neighborliness, boredom, and hope. A whole world on a piece of paper.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Chadds Ford Hills by N. C. Wyeth
I posted this painting first in 2010, noting that it was by N. C. Wyeth "of his beloved Chadd Ford Hills, for which I have no words at all."
But N. C. Wyeth had words, which he put down in a letter written on July 19, 1907, about Chadds Ford:
"From the hill...the country rolls back like some great billowing crazy quilt: patches of tender green corn interspersed with squares of ripe yellow wheat and the rich succulent greens of the woods. Great voluminous clouds boil up from hot, quivering horizons, blossoming in great bunches of ominous rain clouds."
N. C. Wyeth's letters are filled with beautiful passages like this. He was a great writer with the gift and willingness to lyrically pay homage to the people and land he loved. Note the gorgeous shimmering blue of the Brandywine River in the lower-center.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Giving Thanks by Horace Pippin, 1942
Horace Pippin was an African-American painter, born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1888, 10 miles from the Brandywine River. When he was a small child, his family moved to Goshen, New York, but he returned to West Chester in 1920 and lived there with his wife until his death in 1946.
Pippin was an artist who proved what courage and perseverance can achieve. He was forced by the illness of his mother to leave school as a young teen and work to help support the family. When World War I came, he joined the renowned African-American 369th infantry, called Harlem's Hell Fighters, all of whom received France's Croix de Guerre honor. Pippin returned from the war with wounds that rendered his right arm useless. This did not stop him from becoming an artist. To paint, he learned to use his left arm to prop up and guide his right hand.
Horace Pippin marker outside 327 West Gay Street in West Chester, where Pippin and his wife lived. The marker says notes: "A self-taught black artist, he painted while living here such notable works as 'Domino Players,' 'John Brown Going to His Hanging,' and the 'Holy Mountain' series."
In 1937 at the behest of a local school principal, Pippin's work was shown in the Chester County Art Association show. N. C. Wyeth, a judge of the show, found his paintings impressive and began to open doors to Pippin. Wyeth introduced his work to the art historian, Christian Brinton, and from there Pippin's work began to be collected, including by Albert Barnes. His work also came to the attention of the pioneering New York City art dealer Edith Halpert. One year later, his work was being shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1994, a retrospective of his work, with more than 100 paintings, was shown at the Metropolitan Art Museum, and in 2015, the Brandywine River Museum had a major exhibition of his work.
Pippin painted many kinds of subjects--historical, allegorical, religious, and scenes from life in the Brandywine River Valley. Here is a small selection from among his scenes of domestic life. All of these paintings were done in the last few years of his life. Some of them have quilts, and in Domino Players, a woman is sewing one! Pippin may have been thought of as a folk artist, but I find in his work a sophistication of color and composition that goes beyond folk art, and an emotional intensity with an economy of line that folk art often lacks.
Christmas Morning Breakfast, 1945
Domino Players, 1943
Sunday Morning Breakfast, 1943
Supper Time, 1940
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Anthony Adverse as a Boy, by N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945), with his son Andrew as the model
Andrew Wyeth, as quoted in "Wyeth's World,"
by Henry Adams, Smithsonian Magazine, June 2006
The Road to Friendship by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), 1941
Jamie Wyeth, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2014
Christmas card, 1954, by Andrew Wyeth
The Sea Watched by Jamie Wyeth (1946-), 2009
Of course, that's only part of the story.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Children Throwing Snowballs by George Luks, 1906
Taking a welcome break not from winter but from the Wyeths, here are paintings of snow in New York City, by George Luks (1867-1933), a painter of the Ashcan School. I don't think anyone captures as well the contrasting qualities of snow in the city and the moods it engenders.
Luks hailed from Pennsylvania coal country, studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and had a personality brimming with vitality and orneriness. Although he exhibited beginning in 1908 as a member of The Eight--the Robert Henri Ashcan School--he rejected any school label and said he had no mentors, including Henri.
His painting--fresh and direct--bespeaks his view on life. Take it head on, without hemming and hawing; he reportedly died from injuries suffered in a barroom brawl.
In his scenes of New Yorkers in the snow, he manages to capture the beauty of snowfall but also its devolution on the city streets to piles of wet grime surviving only because the air is harshly cold. To me, his paintings exhibit great economy--every brushstroke counts and is filled with energy. So vibrant is his painting of people, that we know exactly the mood of his subjects and can easily imagine being right there with them. Watch for his miniature cityscapes in the far left corner of some of these paintings.
The Butcher Cart, 1901
Winter Night, 1930
The North River, 1910
Winter, High Bridge Park, 1910
Hitch Team, 1916
Brooklyn Bridge, 1916
Luks also painted a scene of women knitting on park benches at Highbridge Park.
These and many others of his paintings can be found here.