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Art and nature

Excerpt from The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit

During the night, there’s an utterly terrifying thunderstorm. It begins quietly enough with the wind rattling the windowpanes. Then the house begins to shudder as it’s buffeted by sudden gusts.

Each hour, the storm gathers force, with heightened thrusting and whistling of the wind. Leaves and small branches fly past the window. Outside, the trees are waving like blades of long grass, as the squall thrashes and roars.

Nature’s mood tonight is cataclysmic raw violence. Massive jolts of lightning crackle, and thunderclaps follow almost instantaneously. Timber cracks and branches crash to the ground. At one point, an errant limb hits a window in the living room. For more than an hour, I’m a creature, huddled in a cave, wondering at the wrath of God.

By the dawn’s early light, the storm has blown over, and I go outside to examine the damage. A huge branch has landed just next to the house. The main weight missed the living room by no more than six feet.
    From The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit, page 45

Other quotations on art and nature

In the beginning was nature. The background from which and against which our ideas of God are formed, nature remains the supreme moral problem. We cannot hope to understand sex and gender until we clarify our attitude towards nature. Sex is the natural in man.
    Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae, Vintage, 1991.
                    I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
    William Wordsworth
    Lines Composed A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey
But let nature shrug, and all is in ruin. Fire, flood, lightning, tornado, hurricane, volcano, earthquake - anywhere at any time. Disaster falls upon the good and bad. Civilized life requires a state of illusion. The idea of the ultimate benevolence of nature and God is the most potent of man's survival mechanisms. Without it, culture would revert to fear and despair.
    Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae, Vintage, 1991.
This is an art
Which does mend nature - change it rather - but
The art itself is nature.
    William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, IV, iv, 96.
We tend to associate Romans with blood sports in the arena, rather than gardens and a love of nature -- forgetting for example the even less obvious Turkish passion for tulips.
    Peter Walcott
A landscape does not exist in its own right... For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere that gives objects their true value.
    Claude Monet
Learn about the pine from the pine; learn about the bamboo from the bamboo.
Nature excites the imagination to representation.
Happy are those who sing with all their heart, from the bottoms of their hearst. To find joy in the sky, the trees, the flowers. There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

Art and water

Dawn by the river...

Tuesday July 30

As always, dawn brings fresh light on my thinking. From where I sit on the grassy bank behind our house, the other side of the inlet isn’t visible, and the mist makes a pale gray continuum of water and sky....
    From The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit, page 5

Tuesday August 1

It’s very still in the dawn by the river. Mist as thick as drizzle drifts listlessly across the intersection of the river with the Bay. Totally alone, I sense an incipient whirlwind of inspiration at the grandeur of the anatomy of crabs, the streamlined architecture of their shells, the brilliant engineering of their limbs.... The sun cuts abruptly through the mist, and it’s time to return to the house, collect my paints, and lock in the profits of these dawn intuitions. As I breakfast, the cottage seems oddly empty and forlorn. The morning unfolds in all its glory. The weather is splendid. A soft breeze reduces the toll of the summer humidity.
    From The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit, page 44

Thursday August 15

At dawn, the sky is overcast, with heavy clouds hanging low over the river, like a gray silk canopy. The air is heavy and humid. It’s going to rain. I survey the scene from the verandah of my little house, and watch sheets of water start to fall. The prospects of the day are not promising. The weather is bad enough. Worse is the abrupt failure of inspiration in animals or landscape. My spirit craves the solid shapes of the human body.
    From The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit, page 51

Monday August 26

Dawn is a yellow glow over the water, underneath violet wisps of cirrus. I’m up and about early. When I come in to breakfast, my head is damp from the mist. Making a good start on a landscape, I resolve doggedly to give my full attention to the river, setting aside the sculpted portrait of April that’s taking shape in my studio.
    From The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit, page 87

Tuesday August 27

Before sunrise, April comes silently and sits beside me. The sky and the river are awash with lush color: crimsons, corals, violets and mauves predominate in an unexpectedly gorgeous dawn. She stays quiet, absorbed – I hope – by the glory of the morning. By six o’clock, the flamboyant display of gaudiness is finished, disappearing as quickly as it became visible. It’s followed by a subtle orange glow, and pale silvery blues and grays.
    From The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit, page 89


The Painter by Stephen Denning

The Painter

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Sonnets by Stephen Denning

Sonnets 2000

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