Saturday, September 19, 2009

Growing Older, Remembering More Keenly, Waiting for Eternity.

One week ago I injured myself and I am recovering with my leg up. Immobility makes me vulnerable to reflection. Then last night in the company of friends we discussed someone who was eighty years old. Christine unapologetically reminded me that in 13 years I would also be 80. Sweet! Furthermore some close friends have lost loved ones recently and the frivolous nature of so much of life becomes pale. Mortality dominates.

Among my considerations during this reflective disposition are the remembered joys of my boyhood days sixty years ago. It’s a long way back in time now that I am 67 years old. I am an old guy yet my spirit still owns some youthful ambitions among which is my art. Great art speaks to some superior life lessons.

Winslow Homer is a celebrated American painter and was a glorious watercolourist and master of oils who himself captured for us winsome moments in life, sometimes of childhood. In his ‘Boys in a Pasture’ painted when he was an older man, the artist nostalgically records an innocence of youth, a tranquility and pleasure of a time when a child’s day without farm duties could stretch to the horizon beyond the picture’s frame. From our viewpoint close to the ground we study with interest the gaze of the boys into the limitless distance. My boyhood enjoyed such buoyancy.

Rembrandt painted many self portraits over his lifetime and this featured portrait which I saw in the Musee Louvre this year depicts his frailty when as art historian Jeff Dugan informs me, Rembrandt had “suffered the loss of his fortune, his reputation, his family and his health. It is remarkable that Rembrandt had the psychological strength to create such a brutally and uncomplimentary self-portrait.” Dugan continues, “But in this portrait, there’s a hint of something that I think can be seen in most old men and women. In the eyes of this old man burns the same flame of genius, of optimism, and of freedom that we see in his self portraits as a young man. Inside the frail shell is a soul that in many respects is still as young and alive and energetic as it has ever been. Time has imprisoned this soul in responsibilities and infirmities, and Rembrandt has the courage to show us this without flinching. But if we look into his eyes, we can also see the man that he feels himself to be, despite all the external decay.”

GPS Application:
Rather than terminating, life is a continuum. Just as you might disagree with Dugan’s interpretation of Rembrandt’s self portrait you may dispute my opinion that God acquits us by virtue of our faith in Jesus Christ and that he has prepared a life and home for us beyond the death of these bodies. I find irresistible the enduring promise from Revelation …”and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

Jeff Dugan's website is titled Art to Heart

Homer's painting 'Boys in a Pasture" is housed at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Rembrandt's 'Portrait of the Artist at the Easel' is displayed at the Louvre.

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