A Second View of Toledo

El
Greco,
astonished,
brushes color
with a quickened hand,
tips the canvas sunward
to defy the failing light
half-fearful that his flaming skies
 might fall, his rising shadows catch a
   nascent moon, the sweet-souled stars, in darkness.

Born in Crete in 1541, Domenikos Theotokopoulos became known as”El Greco” or “The Greek”, a reference to his heritage. After a move to Venice and time spent studying with Titian and Tintoretto, he traveled to Spain, where he took up residence in Toledo.

Known primarily for religious subjects and portraiture, he left only two landscapes from his time in Toledo:  View of Toledo, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and “View and Plan of Toledo”, which hangs at the Museo Del Greco in Toledo, Spain. Both paintings reflect El Greco’s views on the primacy of color over form and his marvelous use of light.

In the latter days of July, we were treated to a particularly dramatic sunset. When I looked at the photos I’d taken from my balcony, I couldn’t help but think of El Greco. If he had painted a sunset,  it might have looked akin to this deeply saturated Texas sky.

For more about El Greco, click here.

For more about the poetic form known as the Etheree, click here.


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Published in: on August 16, 2013 at 9:04 pm  Comments (81)  
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  1. Good Evening Linda:

    Your picture is so dramatic I can not even begin to describe it. Your poem takes care of that with elegance.

    When I was in college in Costa Rica, we studied this Greek painter for a whole semester. Since then, “El Greco” has been one of my favorite painters.

    I also viewed a film about his life in Toledo. I can’t recall the title at this moment. All I can recall was that it was spectacular. Most of his famous paintings were exhibited in the film. His colors were as bright as they can be, and his elongated figures expressed so much emotion. He had a problem with his vision.

    His masterpiece, “El Entierro del Señor de Orgaz” was one of the first scenes he saw as he entered the city of Toledo.

    Once again, your photograph of a sky on fire in Texas is beyond words. Thank you.

    Bye,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      This has been a summer of lovely but far more delicate sunsets – washes of pearl-like pink, tangerine, lemon-yellow. I was enthralled by this one, and especially delighted that it lingered for such a long time, allowing me to experiment with the manual settings on my camera instead of using the automatic setting.

      I’ve always been drawn to El Greco’s work. One of my favorites is this boy with his ember, although it certainly isn’t the first thing the name “El Greco” usually brings to mind.

      What a pleasure that class must have been. I’m glad my photo and poem recalled it for you!

      Linda

  2. That is a beautiful splash of color and an equally-beautiful and well-crafted etheree!

    I was thinking of you today when I peeked at wunderground to see what was happening near the yucatan.

    • Lisa,

      When I was looking at your series of sunsets, I was just smiling and smiling, thinking, “Well! I’m going to have a sunset to share with her!” I’m glad you enjoyed it, and the poem.

      It looks like what’s happening right now is a whole lot of nothing. There have been a lot of people hoping against hope that thing would develop and bring some rain to south Texas, but the NHC has backed off completely. We’ll see what happens when it gets a little farther west. Even a nice tropical depression would make us happy – but we don’t get to choose!

      Linda

  3. Wow and wow. That is one beautiful sunset that you have captured. I wish that it were mine. Interesting life of this painter and very gifted. Love the way you presented your etheree.

    • Yvonne,

      He really was an interesting man. I didn’t realize that one reason he moved on to Spain was that he wasn’t getting commissions, partly because he’d irritated people with his criticism of Michaelangelo. It sounds like an artist’s version of office politics.

      I so much enjoy working next to a window that opens to the sky. Every now and then I’ll be sitting at the computer and suddenly realize the quality of the light has changed. I always get up and look. Sometimes, it’s just sunset. Sometimes, it’s a sunset like this.

      It was a sunset that deserved a poem, don’t you think?

      Linda

      • Absolutely it deserved a poem and not a frame as well.

  4. Beautiful sunset, beautiful capture of it. It is indeed a painterly sky.

    • Martha,

      I’ve been sitting on the photo for a few weeks. When you were showing some of your wonderful clouds I nearly sent you a link – but I decided to keep it a secret until I could pair it with the poem.

      Thanks for the kind words – “painterly sky” is just the right phrase.

      Linda

  5. I spent some time in Spain and the sunsets can be as dramatic as the one you chose to illustrate your lovely etheree. El Greco may have had a problem with his vision, but we don’t need perfect vision to appreciate his magnificent paintings. Judy Lovell’s herons are graceful illustrations of your poems. I also love your phrase “confrontation, conflict and contentiousness.!

    • kayti,

      It’s a small point, but worth noting that I didn’t choose the photo to illustrate the etheree. Instead, the poem grew out of the photo. People sometimes ask, “Where in the world do you get all these ideas?” This is a perfect – and perfectly clear – example. First the sunset, then the photo, then the poem. The process with the heron etherees was the same. The herons came first, then the photos, then the poems.

      On the other hand, when I write an essay or prose piece, I most often do choose photos as illustrations after the fact, or in the process of writing. I haven’t a clue why it should be a different process, but it’s worth thinking about.

      Whatever El Greco’s vision problems, his “inner eye” certainly was sharp and clear. I’ve not looked at the chronology of his work, but if he was painting both tortured, elongated figures and some of his more tender and attractive portraits at the same time, there clearly would have been an intention to make a point through his artistic choices. I’m going to have to put that on my “Things to explore on a rainy day” list!

      With so much confrontation, conflict and contentiousness in the world, maybe we need a new CCC to combat it all – a “Civility Conservation Corps”!

      Linda

      • I think one of the differences on what came first is that an essay is about the story or the message first and foremost and so images can be chosen later for illustration of the point or to provide a visual connection. Poetry however is hardly even written in a sit down with no triggering inspiration, generally it is a visual or emotional trigger. This is not to say that a single image can’t inspire an essay or that a poem can’t be written with no other reason than one is compelled to sit and write not knowing what exactly inspired the urge.

        Photographers like to say F8 and Be There! And that’s because nature does what she wants, when she wants and you better be there! You can plan what you think you want, but that gets dashed to pieces in the face of what is given.

        Course I like to think that if your camera wasn’t ready, that the visual image could generate poetry in order to capture the essence and share the view.

        I already said…again..just a truly great etheree for all the reasons commenters have presented!!

  6. Spain under the Inquisition was a repressive and emotionally claustrophobic place. El Greco reflects this in his dark and somber portraits with their elegant and elongated figures, and in the densely packed group paintings. Faces are sober and joyless; nobody smiles. The eyes that look outward toward the viewer are brooding, introspective and resigned; the eyes turned piously upward gaze sadly at a distant and unattainable heaven. Their flesh has a sickly greyish cast, untouched by the sun.

    Only his saints and martyrs wear colors. His contemporary male figures with their black clothing and white ruffs look decapitated, cut off from their bodies and from their humanity. There is only the life of the mind. In El Greco’s paintings, red is the color of “holiness.” Only church officials, Christ, the Virgin and saints wear red. Ironically to my eyes, he puts the Virgin in red and Mary Magdalene in white, and cloaks both in blue.

    His skies are, with few exceptions, darkly clouded and stormy. Sunlight rarely penetrates the ominous overcast. His interiors are windowless, and oppressively dark and gloomy. Even in his paintings of Toledo, the skies are stormy and dark, and the atmosphere is heavy.

    Yet, in reality, large parts of Spain have a dry, semiarid climate with many days of sunshine, and there is a harsh, bright quality to the light. One sees photographs of Toledo against a brilliant blue, cloudless sky, with its sunlit buildings of buff and golden stone and red tiled roofs. El Greco’s Toledo is hard grey stone under a dark and stormy sky, His palette is limited to black, white, brown and green. The only yellows are those that tinge the lighter greens and there are no oranges or reds.

    If El Greco had painted your sunset, he would have lit the heavens, not with the light of the setting sun, for his is a lightless, sunless world; his sky would have burned red, lit not by the setting sun, but by the flames of hell and burning heretics.

    I think your poem catches that sense of repressiveness and gloom with the “defying the failing light,” “half fearful,” and “rising shadows” and his fear that darkness would blot out a “nascent moon” and “sweet-souled stars,” the only sources of light in the blackness of an all consuming night. “Sweet-souled stars” is the jewel of the piece and that whole last line has a powerful impact. Of what I’ve read of your work, this is one of your best pieces.

    • WOL,

      Recently I mentioned to someone Anais Nin’s remark that “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. Clearly, El Greco’s paintings tell us much about his way of seeing the world in which he lived. In the same way, our interpretation of his work, and our ways of incorporating it into our lives say something (though certainly not all) about the ways in which we see his world – and ours.

      In the note to its online gallery view of “View of Toledo”, the Metropolitan notes that “The painting belongs to the tradition of emblematic city views, rather than a faithful documentary description.” That certainly allows for different views of the same painting. You mention storms and a sense of heaviness in “View of Toledo”. I see it rather differently, with the city bathed in silvery moonlight behind a clearing storm.

      I was interested in your interpretation of the poem, too. You mention various phrases conveying a sense of repressiveness and gloom. For me, those same phrases point to the ephemeral nature of the creative vision, and the occasional compulsion to capture such a vision before it disappears.

      We’re in agreement on “sweet-souled stars”, that’s for sure. I’m glad you like the poem, and thanks for all the information about El Greco’s approach to his subjects. I went back and looked at those dudes in their ruffs, and you nailed it. Decapitation by frou-frou… What a concept!

      Linda

  7. Oh! You’ve taken my feet off the earth, and I’m lost for words – in the nicest of ways of course!

    • eremophila,

      I’m so pleased! Isn’t it wonderful when the world brings us such a gift? The only thing better is being able to share it – I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Linda

  8. Nature does some wonderful art, doesn’t it?

    • SDS,

      Sure does. And she doesn’t limit herself to painting the skies. The wind sculpts the dunes, the birds sing out their dawn chorus, the passing centuries write their stories in the rock. We’re in the midst of a living museum, if only we’d take notice.

      Linda

  9. Beautiful image, Linda. It would make a wonderful painting, indeed.

    • Gary,

      As I understand it, El Greco was one of the first to begin using a palette knife on coarse canvas. It’s another reason to imagine him painting this image – it seems eminently suited to thick oils and perhaps even a palette knife. (The technique and colors do remind me of another, contemporary artist I know!)

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words about the photo. Both the image and the poem pleased me a good bit.

      Linda

  10. Dear Linda, Beautiful, and thank you, Ellen

    • Ellen,

      I so enjoyed your words about routine, but there certainly was nothing routine about this sunset. I’m glad to have been able to share it with you.

      Linda

  11. This flaming Texas sky is arresting. We know that any sky is fleeting and to behold this at this moment…oh my! I love how you have captured the artist’s mission “tips the canvas sunward/to defy the failing light”. He must work quickly to get it. But across the breadth of his work, there is the night. “El entierro del conde de Orgaz”, “View of Toledo”…one has to ask, “Do they render day or night?” Once again we face the metaphor of spiritual light and darkness.

    I can’t help thinking that the urgency you express here reminds me of the gospel of Mark.

    El Greco is as simple as light and dark and complicated as that. He is as simple as primary colors and more complicated than those. The “landscape” of his subjects were surprisingly imbued with a silvery light revealing their spiritual depth.

    “If he had painted a sunset, it might have looked akin to this deeply saturated Texas sky.” El Greco painted as he did for the time he lived. Isn’t it amazing that although he didn’t paint a sunset (that we know of), you make us think of him…the fire, the reds, oranges and dark clouds in contrast?

    • Georgette,

      I love that you bring up that question: “Do they render day or night?” In her comment up above, WOL mentions that she sees “View of Toledo” heavy and stormy – by implication, a daytime view. I see it as a nighttime portrayal, with the silvery light of a still-hidden moon limning the buildings and hills.

      But the sense of urgency – yes, it’s clearly there. Perhaps my own experience while taking the photo found its way into the poem. I’d made the commitment to learn how to use more than my camera’s automatic settings, so as the sunset was fading, I was trying to remember what I’d learned from my manual and and make use of it while I still had the chance. There’s no stopping a sunset, even for art!

      One thing’s certain – the great artists do have their recognizable styles, just as artistic periods have their conventions. El Greco might or might not have painted such a sky, but I’m almost certain that Renior or Seurat never did so. We have our share of Impressionist sunsets, but to have an El Greco? That’s something to treasure!

      Linda

  12. Linda,
    I can’t believe you captured that sunset. It’s beautiful and so is your poem.

    • Bella Rum,

      I’m sitting here being tickled by a sudden thought. I wonder how many spectacular sunrises I’ve missed? My northwest view has turned me into a sunset specialist – if I were suddenly graced with a southeast view, I’d have to adjust my schedule.

      I’m probably going to end up being like one of those old ladies who spends her money on pet food instead of groceries – except I’m going to be the one spending money on the view. After all – how else would I know when the sky is putting on a show?

      I hope you find something beautiful to look at this weekend.

      Linda

  13. We certainly have had amazing sunsets here this past year – sunrises almost as good.

    What a great idea to connect the dots to El Greco. His paintings are one reason I went to Spain – to stand at the foot of those paintings and look up into them – that perspective, the light. There’s still a controversy whether he painted elongated human forms due to a vision issue – at that time the Spanish “experts” were saying vision problem not intentional style – who knows.

    His colors probably looked different originally and in past years as he used lead underpainting with layers of pigments and stains that oxidize and become more transparent as they age.(And those happened to be less costly and more easy to obtain then.)
    Your poem certainly captured the essence of his work – and the man himself.
    (Poetry is so hard – well done!)

    • phil,

      I finally got interested in the arguments about astigmatism playing a role in El Greco’s elongated figures.

      The University of Calgary has a fine site that details the eye problems of assorted artists. Their article titled Art, Vision & the Disordered Eye: El Greco laid out the arguments against vision problems and for artistic decision-making pretty well. In case you’re not convinced by the time you’ve read nearly the whole article, there’s this: ” Lastly, and perhaps most conclusively, X-ray analyses of some of El Greco’s works reveals that the underlying figures were painted in normal proportions.”

      Of course, when we’re in a gallery or museum, utterly entranced by the painting before us, the whys-and-wherefores don’t necessarily matter. That’s one reason I love to visit the MFAH – watching people experience the exhibits is an absolute delight.

      Speaking of – there’s a humdinger of an Impressionist exhibit coming up. Put it on your calendar now – I’m still irked that I missed the Prado exhibit.

      Thanks for the interesting reflections – glad you liked the poem!

      Linda

      • There are probably more theories about El Greco paintings than you can shake a stick at. He probably just wanted to do it that way (like so many other artists?) And then there’s always the issue of the artist must utilize all the available space or the patron might get upset?

        You might as well join the MFAH – they send you emails about all the events/exhibits. You could clearly see the decisions/changes made from the underpaintings to the final version in both the Picasso and Prado exhibits (that paint gets thinner and thinner over years) Quite interesting.

        Poetry has “bones”, too, but years just make poems more complicated and meaning obscured instead of clarified/revealed? (If that light exhibit is still there – you should go. People’s reactions were intriguing there, too – and that big blue room full of infinity.)

        Fighting the ants today…are they mounding up for a reason? Saw one last white jelly fish – guess they are migrating back to the bay – but the gates are closed? Do they just hang around then shoot through when they open?

        • I belonged to the MFAH for years, but last year I cut a few of those “luxuries” from the budget. General admission is free every Thursday, so if I want to go, I can do that. And I don’t go to every ticketed exhibit. If I go to two or three, I break even. I do still get the emails, though. Maybe it’s part of their marketing strategy.

          As for the ants – haven’t a clue. I’ve seen them, too, over the past week. It’s curious – maybe they haven’t gotten the memo from the NHC that they’ve discontinued updates on 92L! If we end up getting more than our 20% chance of rain suggests, we’ll just have to start trusting the ants more!

          • Morning ant patrol over. (Even plants in pots…they are determined.
            DId you get the MFAH email about yoga in the sculpture garden? (It was so easy to get to these thing when we lived inside the loop)

            • No, I sure didn’t, but I added a link in your comment to the “Yoga Jam” they held – two hundred’s a decent crowd. Actually, that’s one email I don’t mind missing. I’ll show up for a lot of events, but anything having to do with yoga isn’t one. Just not my thing.

            • Interesting they are in the sculpture garden (which may be a tad warm as the wind is blocked) But there’s bound to be food trucks waiting outside (veggie ones, probably). So many styles of yoga – can’t beat the postures for flexibility…probably more fun before it was trendy.

  14. Gorgeous picture & fabulous poem! I might have to try that style myself sometime…

    • The Bug,

      I really like the Etheree, and I think you would, too. Its syllabic structure adds to the challenge, and it’s a large enough form that you can walk around in it a little and do some things.

      The other reason I like it is that it’s easy to work with when I’m – uh – at work. Messing around with syllables is easier to do mentally than writing paragraphs – it’s a great way to amuse myself while sanding!

      Glad you liked it!

      Linda

  15. Absolutely breath-taking, Linda! I think art is one of those subjects that everyone needs to take (another is music). Sadly, my own education was primitive in this area and, while I should have been smart enough to rectify that in college, I did not. Two majors and a minor later, I graduated still unschooled in the masters. Perhaps that’s one reason I so love going to museums today!

    Thank you for adding to my education with this post. We, too, have had some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets of late — it’s really hard capturing that kind of beauty in words alone!

    • Debbie,

      Remember Goethe? . He said, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

      We don’t need to re-enroll in college to do that. The opportunities for learning are all around us – provided we’re willing to make just a little effort. Sometimes I think the bigger problem is that there’s so much available. Choices have to be made. People who say we can do it all or have it all are naive – at least in my opinion.

      But everyone can look up at a sunset, or the stars. Everyone can fill their computer desktop with fine art, or use a music service that exposes them to genres they’d otherwise never hear. The real trick is learning how to learn, and coming to experience the joy of learning. After that, it’s all gravy.

      Linda

  16. Beautiful sunset! I can see how a painter, or a poet, could not help but work with that one!

    • montucky,

      Not only that, it’s a good reminder that beauty and natural splendor can appear even in the midst of urban environments. We all drool over your photos of your world, but every now and then it doesn’t hurt to look out the window!

      Linda

  17. Don’t know what made me think of turning my head, but your photograph seems to work as well upside down as right side up. Maybe it was a palindromic sunset.

    • Steve,

      I just opened it up in another window and rotated it, and you’re exactly right. That’s pretty amazing – and fun, too.

      Linda

  18. What saturated colors in that dramatic sunset. I love sunsets, especially those with clouds. Lovely.

    • Rosemary,

      It’s always a treat to discover something in nature that equals or surpasses all the photographic techniques that are available. I was thinking about your commonplace books and smiling – maybe we could call this an analog sunset.

      Linda

      • “The greatest picture in the world is the sunset sky.” — Thoreau, Journals, July 26, 1852
        I had to share this quote, too, because you know how much I find Thoreau a kindred spirit.

        I’ve not learned about the etheree format, and it occurs to me that it’s shape — so like a Christmas tree — would be perfect for a poem celebrating the holiday season.

        • What a lovely and appropriate contribution from you and the good Mr. Thoreau. The only little quibble I might have involves a sunrise phenomenon. The Belt of Venus, those bands of pink and blue that result from the earth itself casting its shadow against the sky, is pretty special, too.

          Here’s a sunrise photo taken from the same place as the one up above, shooting in the same direction but a little lower, and showing what’s missing in the sunset photo. It’s a nice capture of the Belt of Venus and a perigee moon.

          The Etheree would make a nice holiday poem. Because it’s done by counting syllables and not letters, the form can vary a bit. But that would be fine. Not every Christmas tree has perfect branches, after all!

  19. That is a gorgeous gorgeous picture…..Such a breath-taking Sunset! There is nothing like trying to capture a spectacular Sunset with one’s camera…..Over the many years I have lived in my house, there have been some stunning Sunsets, and like this one that you shared with us….they all look unreal—they are so Sublime!!!! Thanks for this Artistry In The Sky!

    • OldOldLady,

      Clearly, you’re a woman who knows her sunsets! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. We don’t get many that are this dramatic, unless there’s a storm lurking round. No storm with this one, but plenty of drama – thanks for appreciating it.

      Linda

  20. Your etheree goes so well with your sunset photo.

    While El Greco is not one of my favorites, I do like his Spanish grandee portraits. Sitting for portraits back then was an occasion; a chance to immortalize yourself and show your social standing and importance. A serious expression would have been expected. The black clothing with white ruffs was very typical of aristocratic Spanish male dress at the time but I like the stark contrasts.

    Out of his religious works, my favorite is one of his Virgin Marys. This one Though many of his paintings are very somber, there is a hint of a smile on Mary’s face in this painting.

    The boy blowing on an ember is charming. Rather un-El Greco-ish, in that the boy is not elongated, as so many of his portraits are and he looks boyish and happy.

    • Gué,

      From what I gather, early photography resembled painting in that regard. It took some time for the image to be captured, so “sitting for a portrait” still was the operative phrase and a reason all those ancestors in the tintypes look so serious and just a little stiff!

      I like that image of Mary, too. Her little smile is fun, but so is the expression in her eyes. That’s very much like the expression my mother used to have when she already knew what I’d done, but was willing to give me a chance to ‘fess up before she confronted me.

      I tried to find an image of my vintage Bozo the clown nightlight, but couldn’t find the exact one. He had a ruff, too – as do many of today’s clowns. I found this really interesting post about the history of the ruff, and how it’s transformed itself over time. The author mentions how it was used by clowns, and what it represented. There are one or two observations about the role of clowns vis-a-vis the upper classes that are pretty interesting, too.

      Like you, I’m not a huge fan of El Greco, but I find some of his paintings appealing, particularly the ones like “your” Mary and the boy. What I didn’t notice until I wrote this post is the position of the hands in so many of his paintings. While his figures “go vertical”, many of the hands are extended horizontally. I haven’t a clue what that’s about, but I’m sure someone has an answer. ;)

      Linda

  21. When I first read the opening words in the reader, I thought they were just beautiful. Then when I opened and realized that they were the beginning of the etheree, I was totally amazed!! That is one of your most beautiful poems!! Such knowledgeable comments are here on El Greco leaving me wanting to educate myself a bit more. I always did like the name El Greco..Definitely has the cool factor!

    The sunset image is gripping and I really do not recall seeing a sunset images with such interesting reflection. Lots of sunset reflections are just perfectly true mirror images and often have a clam shell kind of look. Yours however seems to ‘reflect’ a lighter and darker reality of the same event. Very compelling really!! Perfect pairing too with the poetry.

    • Judy,

      I thought you’d like the photo. What makes it especially amazing is that there’s no water involved – no reflection.

      If I’d tipped the camera down just a bit, I would have picked up the tops of the masts in the marina, and a few roofs. But I wanted nothing in the frame but sky. The darkest clouds across the bottom third do look a bit like a horizon, but it’s a false horizon. There’s nothing here but sky, clouds and light. I can’t remember ever seeing a sunset quite like this one, myself.

      And of course from the moment I saw the sky I was thinking about El Greco. I wondered why I couldn’t remember any of his portrayals of sunsets, and eventually figured out the reason – he didn’t paint them.
      Maybe he just didn’t have the right sunsets. I’ll bet if he’d seen this one, he would have wanted to paint it!

      Linda

      • Even knowing now, the image doesn’t seem like a whole but rather two aspects…but wow a very interesting capture indeed! Well, if El Greco did no sunsets, this one definitely has a dark brooding aspect to it!

        Glad it served as something to show and provide inspiration for your etheree!! Unique all ’round!!

        • That’s part of the beauty of nature. She does what she does without the slightest regard for what we think about it or how we interpret it. She can be a little sassy, too. “Never seen that?” she says. “Well, how about this?” Such fun!

  22. Linda, many thanks for this beautiful image and poem. The colors truly bring El Greco to mind. I remember learning about him in an art class years ago. I love the way his figures are elongated, but his colors truly trump his form, even while these in themselves are remarkable. I love the phrase “tips the canvas sunward” with its evocations of both desire and tenacity. Allen

    • Allen,

      So many of the commentaries I read made your point – that color and light were his primary concern, not form. In a way that seems strange, given his elongated figures, but it’s a fact that it was color that brought him to mind when I saw the sky.

      Living in our light-saturated world, we tend to forget what it meant for the sun to set in earlier times. My grandparents worked from “kin to cain’t” – from when they could see until they couldn’t. The fading of the light for El Greco would have meant not only the loss of his subject – the sunset – but also loss of the necessary light for doing his work. Tipping the canvas was just a final attempt to keep the process going, until the day had reached its end.

      I’m glad you found the photo and poem pleasing!

      Linda

  23. There is something wonderful about how nature paints a sunset or sunrise. No two are ever the same.
    The vibrant colours in your image reminds me of sunset I took at 30,000 feet over Europe when I returned from Nairobi in 1977. I wonder what happened to that photo. At least, in the digital age, we have a better chance of “storing” the photo for longer, one hopes.

    Perfectly composed etheree.

    • Sandi,

      Somewhere along the line I heard the phrase “the infinite variability of nature”. I did a little search and found it used any number of places – mostly among architects, scientists and mathmaticians. I probably didn’t hear it there!

      But it’s a reality, nonetheless, and a delightful one. Sunsets, sunrises, flowers, trees – even people. We search for commonalities, and celebrate variation. And we never, ever know what’s going to turn up next.

      Amazing to think of you winging your way home in 1977 – it was the summer of that year I returned to the U.S. from Liberia.I’ll never forget it – I arrived in Manhattan just ahead of the great blackout that occurred that summer. I remembering thinking how much easier it was to cope in Liberia with no electricity.

      Glad you like the etheree. It’s a fun form. To paraphrase River Rat, “There’s nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing around with words”!

      Linda

  24. El Greco is one of my favorites. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but if I recall correctly “View of Toledo” is the only piece that hangs in the museum in Toledo that houses it. Everyone waits outside and when the crowd is sufficient, someone opens the door and ushers you in to see the painting. I liked that. Museums cluttered with masterpieces can be overwhelming. This place was all about one painting.

    I can see how you’d connect that beautiful photograph to the painting. And your poem is lovely.

    • Actually it is “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” that I’m remembering.

      • Bill,

        Thanks for giving me a good reason to spend a little more time sorting this out. I’d not paid much attention to the “View of Toledo with Plan” that’s in the El Greco Museum in Toledo, and I’d skimmed past the information on “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”. The history is fascinating – especially that Santo Tomé was El Greco’s parish church, and that so many of the portraits in the painting are a “who’s who” of the town.

        I’d read that El Greco had done some icon painting, and there were suggestions that the painting in the church recapitulated some of the techniques he utilized in those early days. It’s a marvelous painting, for sure – although I confess enjoying it primarily for its history.

        I’m glad you like the poem. They always do surprise me a bit when they show up!

        Linda

  25. Ah, the simple pleasure of a sunset and the not-so-simple pleasure of capturing its beauty to share. Just lovely.

    • Hippie Cahier,

      It is a simple pleasure, isn’t it? I’m sure Longfellow won’t mind a little adjustment of his words: “The sun rises, the sun falls, the evening beckons, the moonlight calls…”

      And all we need do is be there. I suppose for most of us, that’s the hard part.

      Linda

  26. How I love the colors in that sunset. So often, my views of sunsets are interrupted by utility poles and telephone lines and street light silhouette. It’s no wonder your view reminded you of the bold colors of a painting.

    • nikkipolani,

      That’s precisely what I love most about my view. It’s straight down a marina fairway that’s wide and as long as about two city blocks. Maybe longer. When I look out, there are no poles, no lines – nothing but some masts and townhomes across the water. It’s absolutely wonderful and ever-changing.

      It would be even a little more wonderful if I got myself out there and washed the windows, but all things in their proper time, I suppose! When something really needs looking at, like this sunset, I just go outdoors.

      Linda

  27. You never fail to teach me something, Linda. Whether it is a new word, a bit of history, or as in this case a poetry type I did not know of. I looked up the word Etheree and was taken to this page that, so far as I can tell, explains the form beautifully.

    Your photograph is gorgeous and I think it deserves to hang somewhere gracing one of the walls of your home.

    Thank you for all the lessons you take the time to tell us, and for taking the time to tell them so well!

    • Lynda,

      The page does a perfect job of explaining the form. I do like the centered page placement more than the all-left or all-right placement, although the double etheree they showed looked nice.

      In any case, I’ve become quite a fan of the form. In some ways it functions much like your one-hundred-word fiction challenges. It sets some limits, and then invites pushing against them as creatively as possible.

      I’m a little short on wall space, but I do have a high-resolution copy for printing. I might tuck it onto a shelf somewhere, or I might just keep looking out the window to see what’s next!

      I hope you have some gorgeous sunsets to decorate the days filled with hard work that await!

      Linda

      • “In some ways it functions much like your one-hundred-word fiction challenges. It sets some limits, and then invites pushing against them as creatively as possible.”

        Which is precisely why I want to try it! ;)

        As for sunsets, I can hardly wait to see my first sunset there. So far, we have had to leave early because the days are so long and we don’t want to get home so late. (OH, and I had an epiphany to day when I saw a picture on This Old House. I now have made a rough layout of how our kitchen is to be done. It looks simple enough… famous last words. ;) )

  28. Dramatic sunset photo, Linda. Wonderful that you are so accessible to the whole sky from your balcony. You must have lots of chances to see beautiful sunsets like this. What kind of camera setting did you use? BTW, did you see the blue moon on Aug. 20?

    • Arti,

      I missed the moon on the 20th. I was distracted and it was cloudy. But I saw it last night – well, early this morning – and it was gorgeous. The nice thing is that in about another month I’ll be able to watch the setting moon from the same windows where I can see the setting sun. Right now, the sun is moving south and the moon is moving north. It still feels like summer, but the season is moving toward a change.

      Thanks to your question, I now know how to find EXIF data! Even though I was trying manual settings, I got a little discombobulated with the sunset because I was time-limited and I was trying different settings. This one had a shutter speed of 1/250 and an aperture of F3.6. The focal length was 26.00 mm, but I haven’t a clue what that means or how important that is for a photo like this. ;)

      What I figured out in the process of getting the info for you is that I also can work backwards – looking at the data from the best photo of a set and using those settings again for a similar situation. Onward!

      Linda

  29. Oh, I hate it when I do that! I type a comment, the post has expired so I go to copy and paste it only I forget to hit copy!

    And I was so eloquent!

    OK — I said how much I loved the sunset — it looked like the sky was afire and so dramatic! Quite stunning. And I loved the poem — when you wrote of tilting the painting sunward in the failing light I couldn’t help but remember how many times I’d done exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason — but I never thought of it so eloquently before!

    And the last thing I mentioned was when you come northward, you should check the Toledo Museum. I can’t remember if this is part of their regular collection or had been a special exhibit, but I remember reading of a significant number of El Greco paintings there. I hope they are permanent!

    And now, to check out etheree!

    • jeanie,

      We have a lot of pretty sunsets here, but rarely anything so dramatic. I do see some remarkable things – upside-down rainbows, tangerine-colored virga, hole-punch clouds – that are real delights.

      It wasn’t until the poem was written, posted and pondered for a while that I remembered how often I saw that “tilting sunward” in Mom’s last years. As her eyes began to fail, she’d often walk over to the window when she was matching yarn, to be sure that she was putting the right colors together. I expect you seek out the light fully as often as any painter – your projects demand it, I would think.

      That’s one of the things I’ve come to understand as I’ve gotten older. My grandma and her friends didn’t sit on the porch and embroider in the afternoons solely because there was nothing better to do. The light was best then, and they could see what they were doing!

      I didn’t realize how close Toledo is to Lansing. Maybe I’ll have to schedule a Midwest Museum tour. I have to get to the Des Moines art center, too. One of my very favorite Edward Hoppers is there – “Automat”.

      Linda

  30. What a stunning sunset! It looks like the type of skies we see when we are in a plane, above the clouds. The colors are reminiscent of El Greco – certainly. I have seen some of his paintings, not sure where. I have been to the NY Metropolitan of Arts, so I may have seen some there. I do like him a lot though. I can see why they shortened his name to El Greco….

    • vagabonde,

      Your comment about flying reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem that begins,

      “How do you like to go up in a swing,
      Up in the air so blue?
      Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
      Ever a child can do!

      I love flying (if not the bureaucracy surrounding it now), and it’s partly because it gives me that same sense of swinging through blue skies and marvelous clouds. Just for fun, I did an image search for “pictures of clouds taken while flying”, and spent a few minutes enjoying some extraordinary views. It’s so nice when we get one of those views while we’re still here on earth!

      And yes – El Greco had a lot of advantages as a name, including a nod to his personal history and an easier time for those addressing him!

      Linda

  31. Given that you like unusual poetical forms like the Etheree, here’s one I’d never heard of till a few minutes ago:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerihew

    Perhaps you’ll be inspired to write one for a future post.

    • I’d not heard of the form, either. I laughed aloud at the one about Descartes. But you had to know this was coming:

      Steve Schwartzman’s eye
      first tends to fly
      then lights to focus
      on the flower’s locus.

      Pure fun!

      • Good of you to have included the two math words locus and focus.

        • Confession – I did have to look up “locus”, just to be sure. Now I know the math definition, too.

  32. Beautiful. Greco, astonished. Just right.

    • Thanks, Susan. Those of us who aren’t geniuses or so talented still can imagine what it’s like for those who are.

      I’ll bet if El Greco had a supply of funnel cakes, his work would have been a little more cheerful.

      Linda

  33. A beautiful image and accompanying poem, Linda. l remember reading that linked post about the form of the poem, before. Thanks also for the link to the El Greco text. There’s a lot more to explore there, too.

    • Andrew,

      We often have our most beautiful sunrises and sunsets during the transition times between seasons, or if a storm is brewing. No storms around just now, so I decided this one was a very early sign of fall.

      In any event, it’s quite a lovely one, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda


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