Thursday, February 25, 2010

tulip, tulip

As I was painting the tulips, I noticed they were starting to straighten and rise in the vase, and open. Here is the painting, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, done quickly and stylized, yes.  Also, it is somewhat fleshy, the paint in the leaves, do you think so?  And emblematic, the image seems to me, in a simple way, so I have called it  Easter 2010 .

I had been drawing tulips before and after the Easter painting.  Good thing.  Yesterday I set up to do some small gouache paintings of tulips.  But when I came back after a lunchbreak to actually start, the tulips had burst open in their vases so far that petals were flattened like an open hand.  Some petals were already fallen onto the table.  I did these two sketches anyhow, from my memory of the white tulips and from my drawings.

Whenever I pause to look at paintings of tulips, I think of a wonderful book, Still Life with a Bridle by Zbigniew Herbert (translated from the Polish).  The book is small, 8 x 4.5 inches, 165 pages of writing; it is exquisite and sturdy.  Its subtitle is Essays and Apocryphas.  Herbert wrote the book after he travelled to Holland to explore the Dutch seventeenth century through paintings.  One of the chapters is titled The Bitter Smell of Tulips  and it starts with this line:  Here is a story of human folly.  The one image of our edition is on the cover:  a tulip.

By the way, it is said that tulips do not have a smell and I think this may be so.  Yes?

1 comment:

  1. Hello Ai-jen,

    Zbigniew Herbert is a writer near and dear to my heart, and it teases a smile to learn through sheer serendipity that someone else out there feels so as well. It was actually his essay (or was it apocrypha) on the tulip mania in 17th Century Amsterdam that won me over, before discovering his poetry. Another fascinating read on the irrational exuberance of tulips is "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds."

    I thank you for this most welcome break and wish you a very good day indeed. Sincerely,