Finding Poetry in the Prosaic

My had friend suggested visiting the Vermeer exhibit, so the other day we ventured out to the de Young too see the famous painting (and much more) on view until June 22 in San Francisco.  It was well worth a visit!  The de Young Museum is the first North American venue to present Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis, a selection of paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Poetry in the prosaic connotes the beautiful, subtle and intentional ways that the Dutch artists took every day images and created art with often deeper and existential connotations.  The famous Girl with the Pearl Earring was stunning.

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My favorite of the Rembrandt series was the Landscape with Three Trees.  The image features dark ominous clouds giving way immediately to bright heavenly skies, while in the foreground three trees stand strong and upright, against a soft rural landscape.  The meaning of the image is both moving and subtle.

 

 

The Three Trees etching now sits framed in my living room – and a smaller version above my bedroom study – a subtle reminder on the cyclical nature and transience of life.

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Dutch painters also liked to use timepieces in their still life paintings to remind the viewers of the passage of time.  The intent seeming to lead a good, meaningful and moral life while you have it.  Everyday items like our daily meals and flowers on the table are transitory – as is our short life.  Rachel Ruysch was especially talented at portraying an aura of the dual power and tranquility of a moment forced in time.

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Another favorite of mine was  a still life by Willem Heda, featuring  a fish with capers, a sliced lemon, a bread roll, a few hazelnuts, a large wineglass, and the ever present timepiece – indicative of the transient nature of these things, and of life.Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 7.27.46 AM
Afterwards, famished, we enjoyed lunch at the beautiful de Young cafe.  I had a gorgeously presented (and prepared) poached salmon salad with fingerling potatoes, and my friend had a simple tuna sandwich on a fresh-baked roll.  Both delicious!

Always my favorite way to spend a free day.

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