Roman De La Rose
Saturday, June 07, 2014
|Rosa 'English Elegance' June 7, 2014|
Roman de la
Rose, Illustrated manuscript c.1398
MS 169 Fitzwilliam Museum
Originally written circa 1230 by Guillaume
When I the age of 20 had attained –
The age when Love controls a young man’s
As I was wont, one night I went to bed
And soundly slept. But there came a dream
Which much delighted me, it was so sweet...
Le Roman de
la Rose, lines 14ff.
The Roman de la Rose
was completed (de Lorris wrote the first 4058 lines) by Jean De Meun who added
17724 more between 1268 and 1285
This much more I’ll
tell you: at the end,
when I dislodged the
bud, a little seed
I spilled just in the
centre, as I spread
The petals to admire
Searching the calyx to
its inmost depths
Lines 21717 - 21.
The Colour Of Skin
Friday, June 06, 2014
Ilse Taylor Hable - Artist
|Portrait of Teresa - medium / support: oil on linen
size: 76x61 cm, 30x24 in. Ilse T. Hable|
About Skin Tones
In one of his many, blogs, my friend Alex Waterhouse-Hayward describes the
trials and tribulations of the photographer, who wants to capture perfect skin
tone on film. When he asked me recently if I
would write an essay on flesh tones from my perspective as a figurative
painter, I was delighted and agreed.
To the layman, or the student painter, nothing seems to be as difficult as
mixing the right colors for skin tones. We painters, especially portrait painters,
are often asked the same question: "What color do you use for your skin
The answer is, of course, that there is no such thing as a recipe for painting
skin tones. First of all, there are hundreds of variations of colors of skin
and secondly, there are just as many types of light, under which each of them
will appear to be different. Apart from that, there is reason to believe that
different people see colors differently. And finally, different brands of paint
will produce different results.
To understand color is to understand light, or better said, the light visible
to the human eye. This is a section of the electromagnetic spectrum between red
and violet. Light enables us to recognize color and shape.
First, let’s talk about the quality and temperature of light. Both depend on
many factors, such as time of day and geographical location, but also
atmospheric circumstances like the concentration of UV rays, moisture and
pollution. It also makes a great difference whether the light source is natural
or artificial, and if it is artificial, what kind of light bulb is being used.
All of these factors will have an influence on the perceived color of an
illuminated object or the skin tone of a person.
Then there are the shadows. Light inevitably creates shadow. Local color will
take on a different hue and value, depending on whether it is in light or in
shadow. The change in value is obvious: shadows make things look darker.
But the hue? Is it not the same color, just
darker? No, it isn't, especially not for the painter. While we paint, we tend
to start seeing the colors of our subject matter with a much keener eye. We
observe for a long time, until we see of what components each color is made of.
Master painters like Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida and John Singer Sargent have
shown us so convincingly that skin tones are not a mere variation of beige and
brown, but that they are full of real color.
If the light that illuminates an object, or in our case the skin of a person,
comes from a warm source, lets say direct sun on a hot day in the tropics, or
an incandescent light bulb, the shadow colors will be cool. If the opposite
happens, like outdoors, on a grey day in the northern hemisphere, or indoors,
using a fluorescent light bulb, the colors in the shadows will be warmer in
comparison to the colors in the light.
|El Bote Blanco, Jávea, Spain Oil on linen 105 x 150 cm - Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - 1905 |
|Charles Woodbury by John Singer Sargent 1921|
But that is not all: A particularly beautiful thing happens, when reflected
light hits a shadow area. Shadow areas can take on a hue totally different from
their local one, when another color, coming from an illuminated object nearby,
is being reflected into that shadow. The surface of the object in shadow will
be influenced by that secondary light source.
Here are a few examples.
"Nude with Pink Curtain" is bathed in soft colors. Daylight, coming
from a high window, produced cool highlights and the shadow areas are
comfortably warm, giving the whole painting a tender, feminine feeling.
|Nude with Pink Curtain - medium / support: oil on canvas
size: 61x91 cm, 24x36 inches, Ilse T. Hable|
"Mangos" is a different example: Strong sunshine illuminates the
woman's skin with warm tones. In the shadow areas I saw cooler colors, but only
relatively cooler, given the hot temperature of the tropical location of the
"Lying Nude with Green Pillow" demonstrates reflected color: There is
green from the pillow in the shadow of her arm and her nose; blue along the
body, where it rests on the blue cloth. Where flesh throws a shadow onto flesh,
like in the thighs, the shadow color appears much warmer, due to the warm local
color of the source.
|Mangos medium / support: oil on linen
size: 61x46 cm, 24x18 inches Ilse T. Hable|
|Lying Nude with Green Pillow - medium / support: oil on linen
size: 45x61 cm, 17.5x24 inches -Ilse T. Hable|
Color is relative; each color is affected directly by light and indirectly by
the colors that surround it. For the painter, at least the representational
painter, it is a must to refresh one's eyes constantly. I do this by
establishing the color relationships early on in the process, trying to be
accurate and moving rapidly from place to place, covering the whole canvas, so
as not to "fall in love" with one area of color. The brain can get
accustomed very quickly and you can lose the ability to use critical judgment
about color relationships. A tone that appears to be warm may well look cool in
comparison to another, much warmer one, next to it. If I leave an area white
for too long, this whiteness will affect my choice for the surrounding colors.
In a painting, be it a portrait or a nude, the flesh tones are only some of
many colors that make up the whole. They have to be mixed carefully to reflect
the complexion of the sitter, but they also have to harmonize with the
"Portrait of Teresa", a
commissioned painting, may be a good example for that last point: The blue of
her favorite chair was in strong contrast with the red of the dress. I normally
don't pair two primary colors, but Teresa is definitely a "red dress woman"
and somehow the cool, blue color of the chair made that even more obvious. I
painted this portrait quite a few years ago and can only assume that I kept the
skin tones relatively neutral, because the overall harmony demanded it so.
You see, with painting, there is always the element of gut - if you listen to
it (and your ability allows it), you will do the right thing.
Ilse T. Hable
The Colour of Skin - Part II
A Musician's Hand
Thursday, June 05, 2014
|Monica Hugget - violin - Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi - Milan, 1753|
|Harry van der Kamp - bass|
|Stephen Stubbs - chitarrone - copy mid 17th century Italian model by the English Luthier Stephen
Barber in 1995.|
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
When I was a boy in Argentina
plants somehow were always part of my life even though I was not consciously
interested in them. Walking to school from the Belgrano R station meant that while
walking under the jacarandás I would either step on either their falling blue flowers
or their large pods which we called chauchas. Riding the train home to Coghlan I would notice the blue or
white flowers of morning glories. I was much too young to understand the difference
between garden worthy plants and weeds.
My mother cultivated a beautiful garden
that featured a large wisteria, many oleanders and plants that grow in the zone
of Buenos Aires which is identical to South Africa. This meant we had
irises and calla lilies. I think that my mother in a futile attempt to make me
interested in the garden planted snapdragons. I still remember where they grew
in the long narrow garden that we had. I was more interested in the many plum trees, the backyard fig tree and the níspero (loquat). I would climb them to eat their fruit. I tried a green persimmon (my father called it a kaki) once and that was enough. My mouth puckered up and I thought it was going to close in on itself.
I never connected the relationship between
the irises to my Aunt Iris Hayward. My father insisted in pronouncing iris and
Aunt Iris in Spanish. Sort of eerees (but you must place your tongue closer to
your upper front teeth to get that Spanish r). I simply never connected even
though my grandmother had some Filipino friends, the Moretas, whose many
children (I think there were eight of them) were either (the men) named after
biblical angels or archangels or (the women) after flowers. I only remember Violeta
My knowledge of iris the flower ends right
there. I know that my wife (she is snobbish in her choice of garden plants)
considers bearded irises as common fodder but appreciates Siberian irisis and
Iris ensata (Japanese iris).
But through the years of gardening here in Vancouver I do know that
irises need full sun (in short supply in our shady garden). I have also heard
Rosemary say that their flowers are short-lived. But both of us appreciate the
Iris pseudacorus (Flag Iris). In spite of the shade of our side-garden pond
they grow well (they are supposed to be invasive) and flower (yellow).
My Spanish Dictionary (Real Academia
Española) informs me that iris derives from the Latin and it means rainbow. In
Spanish we unnecessarily call a rainbow an arco iris. It would seem according
to the mataburros (donkey killer is an epithet for dictionary in Spanish) that
iris is sufficient. It is because iris plants come in so many colours that they
have been given that name
Further exploration has made me learn that
the Florentine Iris, also known as Orris Root is used for perfumes and is one
of the special ingredients of Bombay Sapphire Gin.
The Iris has suddenly made its appearance
in our garden. A nearby house was sold and then sold again. We noticed the
demolition markers on the sidewalk. So Rosemary and I “liberated” some of the
plants. I know my father would have opted for the word pinch. In that garden
there were two large irises with blue buds. Rosemary uncharacteristically
nodded in the affirmative when I pointed my spade at them.
One week later the two irises are in bloom (very dark
blue) in her perennial bed which is the sunniest in our garden. Today I cut one
of them to scan.
I can report that besides being very
beautiful their scent resembles cocoa powder.
Esmero & Dr. Pat Mc Geer
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
In 1986 I was assigned to photograph Social
Credit Cabinet Minister Pat McGeer. I knew he was a keen basketball player so I
communicated to him that I would take his picture in the UBC Gym court. At the
time I never used my 35mm cameras for anything except rock and roll photographs
of local alternative scene bands. For anything else I used my heavy 6x7cm
medium format Mamiya RB-67. Because magazines like photographs that were not
murky I always used flash, and when possible a studio flash.
From what I remember I clamped a large
Ascor flash and umbrella to the top of the backboard. I don’t remember exactly how.
But you might notice from the picture that the ball and the ring are
over-exposed as they were closer to the flash. But McGeer is properly exposed
because I metered for him.
As to how I was up there with my heavy
camera I have no recollection, but I was. Just in case, for once eschewed my
usual Ektachrome transparency film (you had to be bang on) for the more
forgiving colour negative, which in this case was Fuji HR100.
The photograph was used in a two-page
spread for Vancouver Magazine. One page was a full bleed photograph and on the
other page was McGeer’s profile.
I was having a bout of my usual insomnia,
in this case not sleeping worrying about unfinished business in the garden as
Rosemary and I are opening it for the Vancouver Rose Society on June 7. The
though came to my head beginning with the beautiful Spanish word esmero.
1. m. Sumo cuidado y atención
diligente en hacer las cosas con perfección.
Española © Todos los derechos reservados
My translation: Full care and diligent attention
in making things with perfection.
The word esmero comes from the verb
lat. vulg. *exmerāre, limpiar).
1. tr. Pulir, limpiar, ilustrar.
2. tr. Ar. Reducir un líquido por la evaporación. U. t. c. prnl.
3. prnl. Extremarse, poner sumo cuidado en ser cabal y perfecto.
4. prnl. Obrar con acierto y
Española © Todos los derechos reservados
That translates to, in its principal definition,
to polish, clean and burnish. What is interesting is that papel esmeril or
emery paper does seem to be connected to esmero via the Byzantine Greek.
In short I see little effort in local
contemporary magazine photography for any esmero and pride in one’s work. I
remember not to long ago that a local photographer confessed to me that the
quantity of lights and the quality of lights he used for shoots depended upon
pay. I could not understand such a philosophy then and by now there seems to be
no memory for putting effort before one presses one’s camera shutter button.
It is interesting to note that Doctor Pat McGeer has been researching Alzheimer's for many years. I was struck by his intelligence the two times I took his photograph. It is my hope that in some way he will help find a treatment for this scourge.
The Syphilitic William Lobb
Monday, June 02, 2014
|Rosa 'William Lobb' June 13 2013|
Rosa ‘Louise Odier’ is a beautiful intense
pink rose with a heavenly scent. Rosa ‘Jacqueline
du Pré’ is lovely and white and
somehow seems musical. The naming of plants has a way of adding romance and
interest. We have a clematis that I would consider ordinary. It is plainly
maroon but Rosemary loves it because it's Clematis ‘Rebecca’. There is a hosta
which I have never had the opportunity to buy, Hosta ‘Emily Dickinson’ even
though my Hosta ‘Robert Frost’ is pretty nice.
So what can anybody
say about Rosa ‘William Lobb’?
The venerable Royal
Horticulural Society weighs in:
Other common names
Rose 'William Lobb'
Synonyms Rosa old velvet moss
Rosa can be deciduous
or semi-evergreen shrubs or scrambling climbers, with usually thorny stems
bearing pinnate leaves and solitary or clustered, 5-petalled flowers followed
by showy red or purple fruits
Family Rosaceae /
Species 'William Lobb'
is a strong-growing medium-sized shrub, open in habit, with arching shoots.
Moderately scented, double, deep magenta-purple flowers 9cm in width fade to
greyish-purple. Heavily mossed buds
Centifolia Moss roses
are lax, thorny shrubs with small clusters of often fragrant, semi-double or double
flowers in midsummer, the flower stalks and sepals with an aromatic, moss-like
|Rosa 'William Lobb' June 1 2014|
My bible, Peter Beales
– Classic Roses says:
‘William Lobb’, ‘Duchesse
d’Istrie’, ‘Old Velvet Moss’
Laffay France 1855
Very vigorous, often
producing long stems each with large clusters of flowers, so heavy as to bend
almost to the ground. Best with support, perhaps of another rose, say a climber
of similar colour such as ‘Veilchenblau’ or a vigorous creamy-white rambler. Well
mossed, with ample large leaves. Flowers large semi-double, a mixture of
purple, grey, magenta and pink, slightly paler on the reverse.
When I show William
Lobb to visitors to my garden I ask them to rub the unopened buds with their
hands. The are rewarded with an intense pine resin scent. And that’s that. They
lose interest and I take them to see other plants.
For a while I have
wondered who William Lobb. I found my answer yesterday in (yes!) Wikipedia.
Lobb was a Cornish plantsman, (1809 – 3 May 1864) who worked for the most
prosperous English plant sellers, Veitch of Exeter. James Veitch instantly
caught on that Lobb, in spite of not having had a formal training in botany had
the potential of being a very good plant hunter. At the time Victorians were
madly pursuing the competition of who could have the rarest and strangest
Lobb went to South
America and up as far as Panama
and from there to California.
He introduced to England many
plants and trees but there were three standouts, the Monkey Puzzle Tree
(Araucaria araucana), the Sequoiadendron giganteum and a beautiful California shrub with
yellow flowers (which I have in my garden, Fremontodendron californicum. Plant
hunter David Douglas (why we call the Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii,
somehow overlooked the discovery of Thuja plicata so it was Lobb who introduced
the Western Red Cedar to his homeland.
Most interesting is
that Lobb went to San Francisco
during the Gold Rush and disappeared in 1860. His family thought he had caught
the gold fever. But that was not the case.
On 3 May 1864, Lobb
died forgotten and alone at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco. The cause of death was
recorded as “paralysis”, but was probably the result of syphilis. He had no
mourners at his burial on 5 May in a public plot in Lone Mountain
Cemetery. In 1927, his
headstone was moved to South Ridge Lawn and in 1940 to a crypt at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park
under the care of the California Academy of Sciences. A small memorial plaque
can be found in Devoran Church Cornwall where his brother Thomas Lobb (also a
plant hunter) was buried in 1894.
|Rosa 'William Lobb' June 2 2014|
It was interesting for
me to read that Lobb obtained seeds of the giant Sequoia by shooting the cones
with a rifle and having assistants scour the ground for seeds.
I find it coincidentally funny that I love Rosa 'William Lobb' in decline as my scans here of the flowers. It is perhaps my paean to Lobb's syphilis. You might note that the rose has another name, perhaps because the hybridizer, Jean Laffay was French and he might have wanted to please his French countrymen. The Duchesse
d’Istrie was a beautiful woman married to a French hero in the Napoleonic wars. He was Jean-Baptiste Bessières, duc d’ Istrie,
maréchal d’ empire.
On 27 October 1801, he had married in the castle of Carrussel (at Ferussac, Lot-et-Garonne)
Marie-Jeanne-Magdelaine Lapeyrière (1781-1840).
A most delightful portrait in miniature of La Maréchale Bessières,
duchesse d’ Istrie, has been executed by Jacques Delaplace; the piece is
preserved at Rueil-Malmaison
in the musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau. The piece –
tabatière– was aquired in 1953; inventory number M.M.40.47.8633; ancient
collection of baron Rabusson-Corvisart.
So far I have not been able to locate a portrait of William Lobb.
Sunday, June 01, 2014
Thank God for Wikipedia. Were it not for it
many an amateur, like this one would put a big foot into everything. Consider
the fine concert I attended today at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church on 320 15th Avenue in Vancouver. The group is called Stile Moderno. If you
understand that this musical group, headed by Arthur Neele, violin, Angela
Malmberg, violin, Natalie Mackie, violone, Konstantin Rusianov Bozhinov,
theorbo (or archlute and if you still don’t know, look it up in Wikipedia) and
Christopher Bagan, harpsichord (this latter gentleman who looks to be around 26
is actually a Doctor of Musical Arts), specializes in 17 century music you
might be confused by the title. Modern?
If you consult your Wikipedia you will find
Seconda pratica, literally "second
practice", is the counterpart to prima pratica and is more commonly
referred to as Stile moderno. The term "Seconda prattica" was coined
by Claudio Monteverdi to distance his music from that of e.g. Giovanni
Pierluigi da Palestrina and Gioseffo Zarlino and describes early music of the
Baroque period which encouraged more freedom from the rigorous limitations of
dissonances and counterpoint characteristic of the prima pratica.
Stile moderno was coined as an expression
by Giulio Caccini in his 1602 work Le nuove musiche which contained numerous
monodies. New for Caccini's songs were that the accompaniment was completely
submissive in contrast to the lyric; hence, more precisely, Caccini's Stile
moderno-monodies have ornamentations spelled out in the score, which earlier
had been up to the performer to supply. Also this marks the starting point of
basso continuo which also was a feature in Caccini's work.
In the preface of his 5th Book of Madrigals
(1605) Monteverdi announced a book of his own: Seconda pratica, overo
perfettione della moderna musica. Such a book is not extant. But the preface of
his 8th Book of Madrigals (1638) seems to be virtually a fragment of it.
Therein Monteverdi claims to have invented a new “agitated” style (Genere
concitato, later called Stile concitato) to make the music "complete/perfect"
|Stile Moderno - Arthur Neele, Christopher Bagan, Angela Malmberg, Konstantin Rusianov Bozhinov, Natalie Mackie|
Since I am not completely ignorant of the
above I can add that the 17th century is sometimes called the
fantastic period of the baroque.
Think of young Turks not wanting to be part
of the establishment. Think about punks tired of long, over-the-top guitar
solos. Think of Schoenberg wanting to exist music as he knew it. Think
It seems that in this fantastic period
composers dallied with dissonant notes. A few years ago I could hear them in
the works of Pandolfi and, amazingly in some Vivaldi cello sonatas. I could not
hear, except for a few nicely jarring ones today in a concert that was billed
as Dance and Dissonance.
One of my fellow concert goers Marc Destrubé, a virtuoso violinist,
who specializes in just about every period of music beginning in the 16th
century to the present (and I could be wrong) said, “Those notes were there,
you simply have become used to them.”
He is absolutely right. During the interval
over some delicious pastries and green tea, Arthur Neele explained that the
music they were playing today had shocked the listeners of the day.
You could compare that to trying to
remember what it was like to first listen to the music of Thelonius Monk. They
sounded like wrong notes to me at first and then they became the “right”, wrong
I had a similar experience listening to a Vancouver punk band, the
Modernettes for the first time in the late 70s. I could not believe that
musicians could possibly be professional and sing off key. I had no idea that
the singer, Buck Cherry (aka John Armstrong) was doing his best to sing off key
to emulate the music of the proto-punk band The New York Dolls. It was their way, their
version of stile moderno to escape the clutches of sugary pop music.
Stile Moderno played the music of composers
Andrea Falconieri (c.1585-1656), Dario Castello (?1585-?1630), Giovanni
Battista Buonamente (?1595-1642), Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643), Salamone
Rossi (c.1570-1630). Biagio Marini (1594-1663), and Marco Uccelini (1603-1680).
I must confess, and I am not ashamed to, that I only know of three from that
batch. I have CDs of Biagio Marini and Falconieri and I first heard Frescobaldi
played in a baroque Mexican church in the early 60s. The other composers were
empty ciphers. Of note (all nicely explained by Neel) is Salamone Rossi, a
virtuoso violinist who was so good that he was accepted by his fellow Mantua musicians and
composers in spite of the fact that he was Jewish.
What all that means that with the exception
of the Biagio Marini I was listening to new music played by musicians in the
know who with their smiles were plainly having fun and we the audience were
There was a harpsichord solo, Frescobaldi’s
Aria detta la Frescobalda in which Bagan explained that it provided later
composers with what really is an ancient custom called “sampling”. The first
part it would seem was later borrowed by Bach for his famous violin chaconne
and the second part was a version of Greensleeves. In Biagio Marini’s
Passacalio we were able (and this is indeed rare) listen to the great theorbo
very nicely played by Bozhinov. At one point his nose was over the edge of the
huge instrument in sort of a baroque version of WWII’s Kilroy Was Here. The
base notes of a theorbo have a resonance that no other instrument, be it a
guitar or a cello can possibly match. I would say that these notes, this sound is something like vibrating a tuning fork and placing it close to another of a similar frequency. It, too will vibrate in sympathy. As I did.
|Andrea Falconieri - Batalla de Barabaso yerno de Satanás|
I was intrigued by Biagio Marini’s Sonata
sopra la Monica (I have it played by Monica Huggett) since I had never noted
its name. Neel told me that Monica was a popular tune of the time. I used my
imagination and the soothing Sonata for me represented the long suffering
Monica waiting for her terrible son, (St. Augustine) to abandon
his wicked ways.
The concert ended like the Wedding at Cana, the best was saved for last. Stile Moderno played
Marco Uccellini’s Aria Sopra la Bergmesca. This was a wonderful ground with that
repeating bass line in which the violins played a melody and everybody smiled
including this transfixed concert goer listening with the excitement music I
had never heard before.