The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am an art historian, currently studying satire in Netherlandish art, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it ekphratic poetry, responding to works of art. This is to be a site for words and images, interacting on one another, as vehicles of human expression.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Dark Side

The Dark Side, originally uploaded by algo.

Algo's photographs of the English countryside always bring joy to my soul. This piece ( see: ) entrances my eyes, but pushes me to despair of ever saying so much with so little.

Here is just a little of what it says to me:

"The Dark Side," by Algo

A clump of five reeds
Rooted in mud;
Their fates intertwined,
Like parents,
With three children.
Now broken by wind,
Bleached by sunlight,
And bent by time.
Winter’s worst storms
They somehow endured.

Now, in Spring sunshine,
They boast the more.
Broken, bleached,
Yet standing strong,
In calm azure pool
Like a ziggurat, on sand.
They yet reach skyward,
Though inevitably bend,
And so mortals remind
Each has its end.

--John Walford, 4/30/08

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Winter Afternoon along the Quais, Paris

Winter Afternoon along the Quais, Paris, originally uploaded to Flickr by Rita Crane Photography, see

This piece is signature Rita Crane, and utterly exquisite. Just look at the quality of light, the rhythms, and the shadows! -- Note to mention the two couples!

"Sunlight, shadows, and golden, Parisian stone"

Rosy-golden light
Bouncing off the Seine.

Soft sunlight, late in the day,
Dancing on a row of trees
Casts shadows on the wall.
Their joyful patterns,
Playing off French stone--
Organic on inanimate--
In harmonic accord.
Two couples--
One sitting, one pacing-
Quite oblivious,
To what Rita saw!
Who, possibly, could ask for more!?

What Rita posts,
My eye adores!

--John Walford,
November 17, 2007

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Frail Frames in Spring Time, 2008

Originally uploded to Flickr, April 16, 2008, see:

"Frail Frames in Springtime"

Frail frames in Spring time, my mind gives pause,
How harsh winter, such decay does cause.
Yet a fragile beauty, preserved in death,
A wonder yet, that takes my breath.
Each fallen leaf that lay buried under snow
Springtime warmth has given a fresh glow.
What once was but sap, surging under the bark;
What once was young, tender, fresh as a lark;
What once lent cool to the forest floor,
Taking summer heat that on it bore.
Now lies forgotten, but for my eyes,
To catch and cherish, from where it lies.

Each life, each leaf, its distinct pattern holds.
Nobody knows how each life unfolds,
Showing in itself a fresh facet, it seems,
Of its Creator, Who it also redeems.
So frail our being, yet so robust,
Life itself, full of laughter and lust.
From sap in a parent, to skeleton in ground,
Each thought, each word, each gesture, sound,
Carries its own meaning, and never dies,
Therein the greatest of mystery lies.
Say we are nothing more than the tree!
On than one note, I disagree!
--John Walford, April 16, 2008.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And A Day Will Come, When All Sorrow Shall Pass Away, 2008

Uploaded by John Walford to Flickr, April 15,2008, see:

"And A Day Will Come, When All Sorrow Shall Pass Away"

Yes, there are times, when dawn is met with joy.
The mind races to meet the prospects of the day.
How glad of heart, for such times we are!
So thankful, for life, for another chance,
To try our hand at living out our dreams;
To polish that text started the night before.

Yet, there are times, when dawn draws forth our fears,
And sleep, if not restful, respite from life did give.
Glad we had been for night to lift our weighty burden,
To bury our turmoil under darkness and sheets.
Yet, far too soon, dawn our angst cruelly rouses,
As light creeps round the blinds, and cars hurry by.

Each, in his or her own torment, wrestles with the day,
Tossing and turning, anything, to face the other way.
Thoughts, like our restless bodies, toss and turn,
One more round, and perhaps we can resolve,
Those gnawing thoughts that eat at us all day.
Tormented thus, the day, we keep at bay.

But duty does us summon, to overcome our angst;
At least to suppress it, under cover of routine.
But, in truth, it never leaves us, lurking always there,
Though we seek every way to wash it clean.
Like a fighting bull terrier, it clings to our throat,
Over our defeat, it happily does gloat.

Now this does illumine who our enemy may be,
The Prince of Darkness, none other but he!
Time to take up the sword of the Spirit,
And resist to the end, all that opposes life.
If we endure, surely will dawn the day,
When, truly, all sorrow shall pass away.

--Dedicated, humbly and lovingly,
to Mark & Anne, Jon & Ted Fackler,
as you mourn the loss of beloved Ben.
John Walford, April 15, 2008.

Dancers at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 2008 -- One more for the Fackler family.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sadness Must Go

Originally uploaded by fotovizions.

I saw this photograph, "Sadness Must Go: Let the sadness go away, free your mind," uploaded by fotovizions on 10 Apr 08, just a couple of days after news that one of the sons of a good friend, and himself dear to our family, committed suicide.

Coming at this moment of time, this work touches me more deeply than usual, but the sentiment is all too familiar.

Feeling the power of the image, and its beautiful light, color, mood, and treatment, in response, I write as follows:

"Oh Sadness, How Can We Banish Thee?"

Sadness will go
Only when
Something stronger
Pushes it away.
For nature
A vacuum.
-- JW, 4/11/08

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Traces of Times Past

"Black Death's Last Trace, Norfolk, England, 2007"


In Homage to Jacob van Ruisdael, great Dutch 17th c. Landscape Painter, thinking of works such as those shown below (from the National Gallery, London, small version), or even, The Ruins of Egmond Castle, (The Art Institute, Chicago); And, in fact, closer to home, this painting by my artist-friend Anne Roberts, who lives near the ruin, and whom we visited this summer, when my photo was taken.

"Where hammer, the anvil once struck, now the solitary skylark sings"

Where once was heard the sound of hammer striking anvil,
And the shouts and cries of children running in the streets,
Now skylark sings, and grasses bend with the wind;
All village life now stilled, no more the bell does toll.
Black Death, spared none, seized one and all.
Their homes vanished, a ruined church does yet stand tall.
-John Walford, 8/11/07

Jacob van Ruisdael, Panoramic Landscape, National Gallery, London:


Jacob van Ruisdael, Ruins of Egmond Castle, The Art Institute, Chicago:


and, Anne Roberts, Medieval Ruin, near Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England:


Monday, April 7, 2008

We Lie Awake and Wonder

Photo: "Raindrop Rhapsody," by John Walford, see large on black:

"We Lie Awake And Wonder"

Each one, in his or her own bed,
Lies awake and wonders.
Staring into the silent darkness
Feeling abandoned, and alone.

This one, laid off from work,
Lacking immigration papers.
He wonders how to feed the family,
As the monthly bills keep coming.

Was it so bad, that long ago,
He, the wired border crossed,
In stealthy cover of darkness,
With hungry wife and child?

For all these years, for night shifts,
He ran the company presses.
But the new boss, he lets him go,
No papers, and the press stands still.

This one, stares down the darkness,
Wondering what went wrong.
Our lovely boy, once so strong,
So gentle, tender-hearted.

Why did depression seize
His vulnerable, adolescent mind,
And slowly tighten its cruel grip
Until bearable no more?

We lie awake and wonder,
Each with his or her misfortune.
Why are we so afflicted,
And why the silent darkness?

Was Christ really with his men,
In that storm-tossed ship?
Belief is hard to cling to,
In the darkness of the night.

We see nothing, hear nothing,
But the goods-train trundling on,
Making its long journey,
As we lie awake and wonder.
--John Walford, April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Speaking to the Soul, With Not Ever a Sound

Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son, 1669

"Speaking to the Soul, With Not Ever a Sound"

Through lumpy, red, black, yellow oils,
Layered in mellow glazes, light recoils,
To write on the eye, a dark image profound,
That speaks to the soul, with not ever a sound.

Lurking in shadow, a marveling mum;
Man crouching in wonder, counting the sum,
Over the steward, dismayed older son,
What holds their attention? Now come!

This painter he knew, the power of all vice,
Knew death takes children, lover, and wife;
Tasted great fortune, thrown to the wind,
Admits in each paint stroke that all have sinned.

The miller’s son from Leiden has taught me to see,
Over even the worst prodigality, mercy poured free.
What terrestrial father, this father can match,
Bending to comfort an unworthy wretch?!

What warm, mellow glow on his old Jewish face,
Grasping tattered son, in tender embrace,
The boy’s head, its rest on father’s chest does find,
This tender love, Rembrandt showed humankind.

--John Walford, for Joe McHale, 4/5/2008

This written in response to Joe's ekphratic poem, written, surreptitiously, in my class one day:

"Rembrandt soaked his brush
In blacks, by commission gave
To us the pageantry of night

And he has made the picture
Speak; in this, his innovation
Forever a name inside the book

His paintings speak to inevitable
Sorrow, that our days are numbered
And cumbersome, that the ideal

Of natural beauty is a cross
Held by the tainted face,
Tattered cloaks and rugged beards"

Joe McHale, Wheaton College, Spring, 2008.

2 from UU

2, originally uploaded by dou_ble_you.

dou_ble_you, UU, or U2,
Mysterious man he be.
I know him, yet did never see.
He lives in London,
Or so he tells,
But his mind, I swear,
In Andalusia dwells.

I have followed his art for now over a year, and this piece, more spare than usual, caught my eye, and sparked these words:

"Andalusian Eros"

Spare marks of gold,
Laid thick on blue,
My visual curiosity
They did inflame.
On closer look,
The flames did rise.
What's that popping
Before my eyes?
The human foot,
Ne'er been seen
So phallic beneath
A seaside queen.
--JW, 4/5/08

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Morning Sunbeams, 2008

Morning Sunbeams, 2008, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

Jeremy S. Begbie's book, "Voicing Creation's Praise," Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991, has been a highly significant book for the development of my thought about art and creativity, as has he, personally.

His musical performances/lectures are always a virtuoso performance of the highest caliber, superbly conceived, and executed to perfection. Like many of us, he has tasted the deep lows, as well as the highs, of life, and this piece is dedicated to him, by a fellow pilgrim, with appreciation for him as a person, and high regard for his brilliance.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Greek Tragedy

, originally uploaded by semimortal79.

This powerful, haunting image, to start my day, from semimortal79, so Gothic and dark....but she still in a dark mood?...If so, I'm sorry, but now it's Spring, and, semimortal79, your world and heart can be sun-filled once again! Or so I pray!

"Greek Tragedy"

Greeks, so full of passion;
They relish nature's bounty,
Strong wines, deep-stirred food,
Glistening seas, and high wind.
But the Greek forte is tragedy.
Here, that strong, dark mood
Hovers over me, powerful,
And haunting, like the
Dark, Oedipal complex,
That stirred me
From my sleep.
Awakened to find this,
My distant "niece's" visage,
Towering over me,
Carrying the authority
Of her noble culture,
Yet swathed in darkness,
That my words cannot banish.
But I will try, for with Spring
Comes new color, warm air,
And a fresh start for the world.
Or, but for war, so I would hope.

-- "Uncle" John, April 2, 2008.

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John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

My photo
United States
I am a British-born, art historian, teaching in the USA; I studied law, in England,1964-68; worked part-time in the art world, 1968-69; then studied art history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1969-76; completed my Ph.D. diss. at the University of Cambridge, 1981; moved to the States in 1981, and have since written, or co-authored, other books. I am currently studying satire in Netherlandish art. My wife, Maria, was born in Milan, Italy, where she worked as an interpreter, in business; she spent seven years in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, 1963-70. She came to Amsterdam in 1971, and we soon married. She is a wife, mother, literary critic, of Italian (and French) literature, and completed her Ph. D. diss. in 2002, at the University of Chicago, on Cesare Pavese and His Critics. We have three married children, and eight grandchildren, all of whom we excessively adore! I welcome dialog about art, photography, human behavior, beliefs, and motivation from all comers, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, values, or beliefs. This is to be a site for words and images, as vehicles of human expression, around topics of mutual interest.

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