Friday, February 12, 2010

Oranges In Paper

I'm a Dutch girl at heart.  Give me a Pieter de Hooch or a Frans Hals and I'm a happy girl.  I got to see Vermeer's the Milk Maid and stood there enthralled by sheer cleanness of the sunlight falling onto her headpiece.  If it shows everyday life or, even better, a still life of food, I become like a groupie following a band; I'll stand there for what seems (to everyone else with me) for a good deal of time drinking in the beauty of it all. When in Paris in September I got to see a lovely exhibit at the Jacquemart-Andre Museum.  There were all the other tourists, crowding around in huge clumps from painting to painting.  There was me pushing through the crowd with my notebook writing things like "strawberries, melons, quinces, gown has yellow fur trim...." you get the picture.   

Being an 18th century gal I understand that life was not so rosy or great in the 'good old days.' So what is it about these that captivate me so?  It is the excess of it all- the tables laden with food, the silver, the luminesent glassware. It's the gold of the peaches, the ruby red of the currants, the glimmer off the glass.  Do I think that everyone in 17th century Holland had that much food?  No, but what a wonder that someone thought that food, or a maid washing dishes, or a man handing off a letter, was worthy of remembering.  

It was shocking to me then, when I walked into the de Young Museum in San Francisco to see a painting that caught my attention to the point of obsession. And guess what? It wasn't even 17th century nor from Holland.  The artists name is William Joseph McCloskey, and the painting title "Oranges in Tissue Paper, Ca 1890." Wow.  It is as simple as the title:  a bunch of oranges wrapped in paper laying on a table.  I could smell them, I swear to you.  The paper looked as if it were made from real paper, not just pigment on canvas. I could see each of those oranges, deemed precious enough to wrap in paper for their voyage to who knows where, being wrapped by hand.  I could hear the paper crinkle.  Simple. Lovely. and Worthy of preservation.


I also got to see some of the ugliest stawberries in a painting I'd ever seen.  They actually gave me the creeps.  Shame on  you Severin Roesen.