This photo has been circulating on the Internet since at least 2013, when someone first sent it to me, along with the caption, "Before girls were told that every single last thing in their life must be pink."
But it's not just about the pink. It's about... Well, this is the way I was able to dress when I was 7 years old. Blithely... No. Blithe. "Blithe to my gender." What I had of one at the time.
It is not possible for an ad like this to be produced today.
Note also that the little girl (or the marketer) did not believe she needed a kit to decide for her what she should build.
"Reverence," "Indulgence," "Sumptuous," "Entitlement"--this is the vocabulary that comes to mind when I think "John Singer Sargent." But then there is Sargent's friend, Henry Tonks. With whom none of these words can be associated.
Tonks was not an easy man to know. A physician before he became a painter--and during World War I, he became, for a time, physician again. Appointed an official war artist in 1918, he painted a series of uncompromising portraits of wounded soldiers which I do not recommend looking up on the internet unless you want to be upset. One of Tonks's early students, from the time Tonks was teaching in London, wrote:
"Tonks cared nothing for other authorities and he disliked self-satisfied young men….His surgical eye raked my immature designs. With hooded stare and sardonic mouth, he hung in the air above me, like a tall question mark, moreover… of a derisive, rather than an inquisitive order. In cold discouraging tones he welcomed me to the Slade. It was evident he considered that neither the Slade, nor I, was likely to derive much benefit.
I find myself according Sargent deeper respect, for maintaining a friendship with this man... past the superficials of disdain for "making nice."
And, even better, some great satirical images remain for us, out of that decades-long friendship. They were "official painters" of the war together (~1918), but also traveled and enjoyed each other's company both before and after that. The details of these images are particularly fine. Note that Sargent, in the third picture, is being "belayed" on his mountain perch by two rope-wielding assistants, and he has set up his easel on the top of a mountain route--as evidenced by the heavily packpacked climber, trying to crawl up into the picture...!
The images are all linked through to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts--click through, if you like, for more details.
We live in an amazing age when it comes to family documentation. Philip Sampson was my grandmother's older brother. He was one of the soldiers who participated in that famous "Christmas in the trenches."
Thanks go to my cousin Julie, for finding, and sharing, this article with me.
If you are told that such a one speaks ill of you, make no excuses against what was said, but answer, "He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone!"
When I was young, my mother did a number of bad portraits of me. Or so I thought, at the time she was doing them.
My feral child self thought this one in particular was hideous, and especially was furious that she gave me yellow eyes.
Now that I am not young ... I better appreciate that my Mother was a patient painter.
I was not a patient model.
“I can see that you spoke in ignorance, and I bitterly regret that I should have been so petty as to take offence where none was intended.”
And yet--circa 2010, I was dismayed to find that it was one of the few books that I found impossible to share with my children.
One of my friends gave them a copy for a very early birthday. I didn't like that cover either. But I did think... they would grown into reading it. It sat and waited on the shelf. And then, yes... my voracious readers gave it a try--and they set it down again. Nope.
It's a small tragedy, but a real one. I imagine a few decades hence, and some future publisher thinking, "Hey, how about a classic edition of that old book The Sword in the Stone? You know the one that old Disney cartoon is based on? It's just come out of copyright, so we can put it out real cheap!" So--away they go, and pulp and print a bunch of paper--into a poor version of a text that has become increasingly unintelligible, all illustrations stripped out. "Why did Great-Auntie Katya say she loved this book so much?" some future kid will wonder.
Reader-of-the-Future--it wasn't the same book.
Practicing drawing foxes, because pen and ink is not very forgiving... (sketch for an illustration of a few years back)
I send out Christmas cards, yearly. When I have time, I do an illustration. When I don't have time, they become... New Year's cards, or even Valentine's Day cards. I have lots of reasons for sending them, many of which have changed as the years go by. At this point in my life, having reliably updated mailing for my friends and the people I care about are definitely a big part of it. An "Addressee Unknown/Returned to Sender" rubber-stamped envelope is a pretty good way to be sure you've lost track of someone you once had much love for!
This year, with our late (U.S.) Thanksgiving, I am doomed. Lots of New Year's cards, for sure.
My mother took this photograph of me and my Dad in 2016. We were visiting the William Merritt Chase exhibition at the Boston MFA.
We got a wheelchair for my mom, so she wouldn't have to walk. She was extremely nervous about the outing. In her last years (my mother passed in 2018), she had diminished lung capacity owing to a severely dysfunctional diaphragm. We had a big argument in the car before we got to the museum.
*At* the museum, we had a wonderful, wonderful time. WMC may not have been the most original painter of the 19th century, but he is a painter's painter, with luscious brushstrokes and a sensualist's love of color. And he's one of those 19th century artists who got to spend a lot of time on beautiful beaches, and in lovely country homes, shaded by old trees. I'm glad I have this picture, to remember.
William Merritt Chase could have been another John Singer Sargent, but--he isn't. Sargent. Had something bigger or more complex going on. This said--I'd be happy to have a good WMC at home on one of my walls!
click above to bring up Katya's contact information.
Sites I recommend
These ones are maintained by long-time personal friends.
is a consummate artist. There are so many images to enjoy on this site. His carved wooden long-leaf red pine Rhinoceros (which he made for me when I was ~11 years old) is a personal favorite.
Is the U.K. based caving gear store run by serious hard-ass Tony Seddon. This link goes to the 'caves' section of the store's site--complete with alarming portrait photo of Tony ("After 7 days underground and 700m prussiking").
The Oxford University
Maintained by Steve Roberts, a guy who is extraordinary in so many ways, I'll just limit myself here to saying "Steve is a man who knows about motors."
John Bedell is an archaeologist, historian, and father of five living in Maryland. His blog is a fascinating grab-bag of historical, artistic, and political materials. This entry about work and leisure gives a good example of his voice.
This is Liz Manicatide (now Liz LaManche), principal at Emphasis Creative's personal art & graphics site. I love Liz's work, panache, and aerial artistry, which leads me to-
Flying Squirrel Consortium
Phil Servita's site, and the place to go for custom fabricated circus equipment (either freestanding or fixed point), and aerial classes, if you happen to live in the area.
Paul's site is... unique, authentic, & expressive, and pretty much exactly what I think of when I think of a website as an artform.
Metro Bikes Trails Guide
(St. Paul, MN)
"Reviews and Reports on over 70 bicycle paths in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area!"
Maintained by the tireless Seamus Flynn, and a great little site for those local to the Twin Cities area.
I enjoy the Ukrainian/Russian artisanship on this website.
Sites I enjoy
I don't know these people, but I appreciate their work.
What's That Bug?
The title says it all. A useful site for both the non-bug-phobic & the consummate bug-phobe.
Margaret & Helen
Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting…
I'm not a grandmother (or raging!), but I appreciate this site. Especially the fact-checking part.