Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pink-and-blue happiness

Prince Charles is "on telly" talking about color. Just now, on the challenge of capturing the purple of the birch trees in January or the orange-yellow of grasses in August with his paintbrush.

I had no idea that so many members the Royal Family (note how I capitalize it like a properly respectful subject) were artistically talented, and encouraged in that talent. (What would it be like to come from that kind [or any kind] of artistic background, I wonder? It sounds so nurturing, like being given a gift, a kind of native second language.)

During this London sabbatical I am swimming in glorious works of creation. Today I visited The Wallace Collection, formerly a private collection of European art masterpieces, housed inside an elegant London townhouse packed with treasures: Sevres porcelain, gilded clocks, magnificent chandeliers, silk brocade wallpapers, 18th-century armchairs, velvet draperies, marble mantelpieces and busts on plinths, collections of lacquer snuffboxes and dainty miniatures and wooden floors that held ghosts of aristocratic footsteps, creaking with the weight of history. I stepped through room opening into room of beautiful objects collected by generations of the Marquesses of Hertford.

I was talking about color, which leads me particularly to the Rococo paintings, Fragonards and Bouchers. Pastoral, frothy and gaily colored—beribboned shepherdesses with porcelain complexions, amorous youths, and soft-looking, idealized countrysides. Sentimental, but I'm not sure why that is so often leveled as a criticism, because I dare any romantic to find them anything but charming.

Boucher marries a particular shade of salmon pink to a warm, delicate shade of deep aqua's as if these two exquisite colors echo the unspoken dialog between the lovers, whispering that a summer's day is nature's finest gift, that life is fleeting but full of delight, and that laughter is the loveliest way to measure its seasons.

Fragonard's The Swing, also part of the collection, is another famous Rococo painting radiating joie de vivre. Later critics looked down on this subject matter as frivolous at best, but they may have been sourpusses. Joy, grace and beauty can be as elevating as "serious" matters, surely?

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