Thursday, March 24, 2011

Art and Nature

Spring is here and the magnolias are coming into bud, just waiting to burst into flower. I love the shape of the buds in this stage and have taken plenty of photographs of them, like this one of the Hillier garden near Lymington.

Looking at them again today though I was reminded, as I always am, not of the last time I looked at the real thing, nor of a photograph, but of a painting. This particular painting hung on a classroom wall in my secondary school, so I must have first encountered it when I was ten or eleven years old. It was of a magnolia tree full of pink flowers, mainly in bud but with some coming into full bloom. The bare branches and upright flowers were set against a perfectly blue sky. There may have been a wall in the background but it is the contrast between blue and pink that I remember. Sadly I do not remember the artist and have scoured Google Images in vain!

This is one of the books I treasured

Looking at pictures has always been important to me, beginning with illustrations in books. My memory of those illustrations is more than visual, sometimes I can almost taste them, as if the child that I was used all her senses to register and remember those images. I remember nothing of the words of the various Flower Fairies books by Cicely Mary Barker but I vividly remember the illustrations.

I also loved the detail of Beatrix Potter's illustrations especially all the clothes in the Tailor of Gloucester.

I was particularly fond too of Margaret Tempest's illustrations for Alison Uttley's series about Little Gray Rabbit and I imagined being inside the house in the wood which appeared on every endpaper, even though it was in black and white.

Hope by G.F.Watts

From illustrations in books I graduated to the sheets of art reproductions which were issued as a series by the periodical Child Education and collected by my mother, a primary school teacher. She kept them between cardboard covers under a bed at home and every so often I was allowed to get them out and look through them. This must have been at about the same time as I was looking at the painting of the magnolias at school. The series was full of Victorian classics, many in sepia, but I still remember them with the same intensity as I do the illustrations in books.

 I also remember the thrill, many years later, of visiting the Lady Lever Gallery at Port Sunlight near Liverpool and seeing so many of my favourites on the walls and in full colour! 

Millais - Sir Isumbras at the Ford

For almost all of my life Art and Nature, the one complementing the other, have both fed my spirit with an intensity which roots me in the present while at the same time bringing back memories of the past. Long may they continue to do so!

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