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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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.

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John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

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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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