Sunday, April 10, 2011
Witnessing the World
While looking at several paintings by Winslow Homer the other day, I found that, as usual, I am more drawn to his quiet scenes of plain folk going about their lives, whether it's a young woman carrying a pail of fresh milk, a lobster fisherman in Maine, a shepherdess resting with her flock, or the girl with a hay rake, there in my side bar, with those small brush strokes of blue shining in the sunlight.
But while I was moving through them, one titled, "Houses of Parliament," called me back for another look. I found myself very drawn to this painting. Its simplicity and its ethereal quality were enticing. But there was something else. The men in the boat pulling their oars made me pause and then spend some time there. I had this vague feeling that I couldn't articulate even to myself. What was it about that boat on the Thames, those men at their oars, that made me sit there just watching them? Were they ferryman in a race against time and the turning of the tide? Or was it something else, something more?
The qualities you see and experience in a painting may be quite different than mine. You may not be struck by the same thought or feeling. Whatever nameless feeling I had while viewing this painting, whatever well from which I drew this response, in that moment it was as though everything depended on the men in that boat. Everything. Life itself was counting on them. Perhaps even some great good could come from simply watching them, witnessing their efforts to keep the world spinning on its axis.
Winslow Homer "Houses of Parliament"
Remember to click on and enlarge the image.