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Tony Grist

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Dance To The Music Of Time [Mar. 30th, 2005|12:00 pm]
Tony Grist
Up to London to look at art.

My mother’s uncle, Joseph Southall, who was a Quaker and a late-flowering pre-Raphaelite (he died in 1944), has an exhibition at the Fine Art Society. He was good at what he did. Apparently, implausibly, he was admired by Picasso. Anyway, we paid our respects, then went and had lunch at the Wallace Collection. My favourite painting at the Wallace is Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time- a lovely quiet thing in grey and olive with touches of bitter orange- showing four women, who represent Poverty, Industry, Wealth and Pleasure, going round in an endless circle, while Father Time, looking gleeful, strums his harp and Apollo drives his chariot through the sky. Poverty leads to Industry which leads to Wealth which leads to Pleasure which leads to Poverty- you get the idea.

Why is melancholy so enjoyable? What is it about the dying fall- the sunset touch? Is it because we’re flattered? Humanity is stupid and sad and we (that’s you and me and Poussin and Poussin’s aristocratic patron) pity it from our glacial peak of detached understanding.

Coming out of the Gallery, Ailz and my mother were strolling down the middle of the road and I was so eager to shepherd them onto the pavement and out of harm’s way that I didn’t look where I was going and almost walked into an oncoming car myself. What a useless baby I am!

[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2005-03-30 05:01 am (UTC)
Perhaps ennui can make even the shallowest of persons feel "deep" and "mysterious?" I don't know. But you're right; most of us enjoy melancholy to some extent, so long as it doesn't descend further into all -out depression.

Then, of course, there is a also the strange (or maybe not so strange) correlation between melancholy/depression and creativity. As if opening the door to melancholy somehow also opens creative doors that normally remain closed when we are happy. How sad, that. Wouldn't it be sublime if we could figure out how to open those doors when we were joyous? So that our best work could be created, not when we are in despair, but when we are laughing and hopeful and happy?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-30 09:57 am (UTC)
I guess Keats's Ode To Melancholy is one of the definitive statements on the subject.

Happy works of art are far fewer than sad ones, but they do exist. P.G. Wodehouse is an example of writer whose mood is almost unfailingly happy.

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-03-30 07:05 am (UTC)
Somehow it slipped by me that Southall was a relative of yours!

I like so much your dry "we paid our respects..."

Anyway, about melancholy: it is a flirtation, like walking on a ledge near an abyss. (I wrote about this just this morning, how I will imagine a house and then find myself mired in the dark details...it's like I can't help myself, and then I have to pull back.)

It's all about death, I guess: whistling in the graveyard.

Or is that too facile? Still, I think I am right--the lure of horror stories, the need to taunt death with risk-taking--

Finally, I laughed out loud to think of your guiding your family to safety and almost walking into a car! And there it is, again: black humor!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-30 10:04 am (UTC)
Talking about relatives, we were looking through family photos this afternoon and we came across a picture of one of my mother's favourite aunts and i turned it over and it said "Dorothy (C.S.) Forester."

"You're not telling me our relative was married to C.C. Forester?" I said.

"Well yes," said my mother.

So there you are. i'm related by marriage to C.S. Forester. What a turn up for the books!
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2005-03-30 08:11 am (UTC)
Here's a link to a photo of the painting: http://gallery.euroweb.hu/art/p/poussin/2a/22dance.jpg
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-30 10:00 am (UTC)
Thank you!
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From: morrison_maiden
2005-03-30 11:00 am (UTC)
I think it's because we want to see that even masters cannot beat all their problems. They can create as they wish with their medium, but deep down, they're just like us. I think that's what's so appealing about these troubled artists
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-31 08:00 am (UTC)
I've just started reading a BIG biography of Peter Sellers. Now there was an artist who was very, very deeply troubled.
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From: morrison_maiden
2005-03-31 10:09 am (UTC)
He seems to be very popular in terms of the biographies that are always being checked out at my library. I don't really know much about him personally though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-03-31 10:21 am (UTC)
He was a man with a very fragile sense of his own identity. Like many actors (but to a greater degree than most) he was only fully "there" when
being someone else.
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