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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Thursday, May 26, 2011

John Walford's Springtime Promise, 2011


Springtime Promise, 2011, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

“Under Our Noses: Things Happened Upon”

When British boys, of my breed, post-war generation,
Sought consolation from city life and social turmoil,
We had the memory of British poets, like Wordsworth,
And British painters, like Gainsborough and Constable,
Teaching us from schooldays to seek the picturesque.

Behind them all was Claude, with a dash of Ruisdael,
Who provided a frame, and a ready-made template,
Through which to look out on the world. England’s
Landscape, indeed, had been bent into same shape
By its rich Earls, as laid down by Mr. Capability Brown.

Thus reshaped into views, over grass, lakes and trees,
Soon tour guides would lead to the most ‘picturesque.’
Thus from canvas to terrain, it soon looked the same,
And young bloods were schooled to set out on a quest,
To find the best of the best, the pure ‘picturesque.’

Now, when tourism followed, with train and motorcar,
Folks came form afar, to catch a glimpse with the rest.
Yet better, with film camera, then digital too, each one
Could take home their own landscape simulacrum,
A framed view on the wall, to wander through, ad infinitum.

Old habits die hard, ‘til age bruises the heart, bends the neck,
And lowered, aged eyes discover a wondrous world underfoot.
When young and fleet, we trampled over it, heedless and blind.
When slow, bent, and ripe, it now yields to us its own lyric rhyme,
And at last we learn, that there, under foot, is found the sublime!
-- JW, on unlearning the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque,
May 26th, 2011, for my brother-in-law, Colin McC, on his 73rd birthday.

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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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