Friday, March 30, 2012

Fine Arts Friday: Breakfast

The Breakfast Table by John Singer Sargent, 1883.

(As always, click on the paintings to get a better view.)

Not everyone's breakfast is as elegant as that shown in Sargent's painting of his sister Violet engrossed in a book at the breakfast table. Roses, good silver, cloth napkins in napkin rings, a silver coffee pot on a white tablecloth. Nevertheless, a leisurely breakfast in pleasant surroundings can be a real pleasure no matter what the fare.

The Gilchrist family breakfast is more typical of our image of the family breakfast: not in such elegant surroundings, with slightly grim parents, and children who are well behaved but subdued--the atmosphere is not carefree. The painter, the son of a famous Philadelphia conductor and composer, must have usually sat in the empty seat at the head of the table there.

The Gilchrist Family Breakfast by William Wallace Gilchrist, Jr., 1916

But often at breakfast, people are anxious to get on their way and are not attuned to those around them. The social image of breakfast begins to disintegrate, and breakfast begins to look and more like a dining bustop rather than the first gathering of the family.

The Breakfast by William MacGregor Paxton, 1911

At the Breakfast Table by Norman Rockwell, 1930

Of course, no self-respecting child or adolescent wants to hang around the breakfast table for long.

Cottage Interior by Berthe Morisot, 1886. That's her daughter Julie edging toward the garden.

Breakfast at Berneval by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1898

To keep children engaged in breakfast, when time and weather permit, it is always fun to move the meal outdoors.

Breakfast on the Piazza by Edmund Tarbel, 1902

The Open Air Breakfast by William Merritt Chase, 1888

A leisurely and quiet breakfast in beautiful surroundings would seem to be a luxury in today's world, except for some on Sundays. I hazard a guess that in the long run it pays to make breakfast each day as lovely and inviting as possible, as this mother has done,

Illustration from Bright April by Marguerite di Angeli, 1946

or even if one is eating alone.

Breakfast in the Garden by Frederick Frieseke, 1911

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bold Colors for a Courageous People

Small Dining Room at Mount Vernon, home of President George and Mrs. Martha Washington

When I visited Mount Vernon about more than a decade ago, I was thunderstruck by the color that the small dining room was painted--a deep, very vibrant green. In previous years the dining room had been painted a calmer, more neutral color, but research on the walls showed that the Washingtons had the walls painted the far more attention-getting green that is there now.

Dining room at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

The dining room in Thomas Jefferson's elegant Monticello has also recently been returned to the very warm golden yellow that Jefferson himself had favored. The strong teal in the Mount Vernon large dining room is another sign that at least in Virginia, those with the money to do so favored strong colors for their everyday home surroundings. Such colors, especially in the Monticello dining room, make a beautiful backdrop for handsome polished wood furniture. Homes of the federal era were devoid of chintz and other printed fabric, devoid of heavily stuffed furniture, and window treatments were minimal.

Large dining room at the Washingtons'painted a deep teal

The exuberance of color that our American forefathers favored matched the spirit: bold and courageous in its embrace of liberty and opportunity.

Fine Paints of Europe has created a Mount Vernon Estate of Colours that incorporates the brilliant colors young America--in case you want to give the Washington-Jefferson style a try.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring, Everyone!

Buds and Blossoms by Daniel Garber, 1916

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Backbone of America

John Garfield as Mickey Borden

"Hmmm," says Mickey Borden, the cynical composer, when he first walks into the home of the musical Lemp family, "Rug, the smell of cooking in the kitchen, piano, flowers. It's homes like these that are the backbone of the nation."

Four Daughters, 1938

Monday, March 5, 2012

Knitting Is Helping Elderly Survivors of the 2011 Japanese Tsunami

Women at Yarn Alive, started by an American Christian missionary, confer over an afghan that is in the works.

The Wall Street Journal has an article (go to the slideshow or video) today on how knitting is helping older women in northeastern Japan, who survived the 2011 disaster in Japan and who are now homeless. A Christian missionary from Ohio, Teddy Swaka, who has lived in the area for 50 years, started Yarn Alive, with yarn donated from Australia and Ohio, to offer the opportunity to elderly women to knit. Swaka says that she herself goes crazy if she doesn't have something to do with her hands, and she had a hunch that knitting but be helpful to these women whose lives were ripped to shreds by the tsunami. Many of the women are widows who lost their homes or their businesses or both in the tsunami or who lost loved ones. Now living in makeshift temporary housing, they get together every Tuesday to talk and knit and learn new patterns and stitches. They are also crocheting afghans. The sharing of company and the knitting has alleviated some of the sadness and loneliness that these women feel--and also produced beautiful work!