Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Maine Thing -- Day 28


Certain American artists live in an exalted realm for me, their works so excellent and reviews so extensive that I shy away from saying anything about them.  But today images of two of them, the writer E.B. White and the painterWinslow Homer, unexpectedly arrived in my email, and this has prompted her to dare a few words.

Probably I needn't worry about taking them down from their pedestals. Neither of these iconic artists likely gave a hoot whether they were on anyone's pedestal.  Homer devoted numerous paintings to man's tiny, transient, fragile place within the timeless force of nature. And White wonderfully (as always) expressed his thoughts on individual grandeur: "In every queen there is a touch of floozy." 

And I can safely say they both chose to live their last years in Maine. And both were originally 'from away,' meaning,for both, New York City - at least at the beginning of his career in Homer's case.  Of Maine, White famously wrote “I would rather feel bad in Maine, than feel good anywhere else,” which goes far in capturing White's dry humor and Maine 'soul.'

It is anyone's guess what Winslow Homer (1836-1910) said about Maine - or anything personal for that matter.  He craved solitude and was notoriously private, denying commentary even to his biographer.  Prouts Neck, Maine offered him that privacy and silence and appears to be the place that brought out his truest genius.  Already thought by many to be the greatest American artist of the nineteenth century, his paintings took on a new intensity when he moved there late in life.  In Maine he began his deep concentration on the vast, rugged, violent power of the sea.  And these emotional, virtuoso painterly responses to nature are the works - of all his magnificent output - that command the most respect today.


Winslow Homer, Northeaster, 1895, reworked 1901, 34 1/2 x 50", oil on canvas

Elwyn Brooks (E.B.) White  (1899-1985)is the creator of Stuart LittleCharlotte's WebThe Elements of Style and This is New York among many other - often award winning - essays and books. To me much of his writing is so exquisite and touching I can nearly cry just thinking about it.  So I'm just going to let him speak for himself today and refer you to the writings of his stepson and fellow New Yorker writer, Roger Angell, for biographical and anecdotal reading.

E.B. White typing
“By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience- if they did they would live elsewhere.”
― E B White, Here Is New York

“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.”
― E.B. White, Here Is New York

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book."

[Letters of Note; Troy (MI, USA) Public Library, 1971]”
― E.B. White

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”


Life’s meaning has always eluded me and I guess it always will. But I love it just the same.”

"All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world."   *To this I would like to add This is how I feel about LivingArt.

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