"Fairer than Most" by Nanette-Rosie Gagnon, plus Jan-u-wine's “The Harvest”.
When jan-u-wine saw the finished Frodo manip I made in October from Ford Madox Brown's The Hayfield, she sighed. How she would like a painting of it, complete with the aged cracked surface of Brown's 1855 work. This led her to propose the project to her artist-friend, Nanette-Rosie Gagnon.
Rosie, or Nan (she goes by both names) painted a commission for jan-u-wine in the past, a folk-art illustration for Jan's poem "Across So Wide a Sea" (which tells of Sam’s coming to Tol Eressëa and his reunion with Frodo - see the post here). As requested, Nan used oils on canvas for her painting based on 'The Hayfield' manip, applying a crackle effect on top. She explained in her own post elsewhere about the piece, "Pippin rests by a bale of hay smoking a pipe, Sam & Rosie work with other hobbits in the field with the hay harvest, and Frodo is contemplating his birthday, after the War of the Ring. Eärendil is shining in the sky near the moon."
As a treat to me, rather than have Rosie send the finished piece directly to her, jan-u-wine had her mail it to me, so I could see it in person. I hung it on the wall (out of the way of kitties). My husband took photos so I could have a virtual copy before I mailed it on to Jan. Upon receiving it, she wrote me an email. I love what she said about seeing it for the first time....
.... [T]hen even the brown paper is off, and there is one more moment of suspense, while you read the title written on the back, smell the good oil paint smell, tell yourself to remember all of it, from the little sounds the paper makes, falling to the floor.....
It has seemed long, this wait. And yet, not so long, as our eyes meet, like friends who'd had tea the day before (and know they should have it again, upon the morrow). We might fall easily into a silence that says more than any speaking could. Or we might laugh and hug, full of delight in the moment, simply because we *can*. Of course.....we....*can't*.....
I'm finding it difficult to really tell you what I'm thinking or feeling. For me, that means that whatever it is, it is too large, emotionally, to be reduced to words. I think......I can't say something like "I love this" because that just seems so...inadequate. If Frodo himself were by my side, to tell him that *would* be inadequate. But what more can I say, what better word might I use? None, I think. When said with honesty, that is the very largest word there is.
I do not have an artist's eye, so I cannot offer an opinion in that sort of a way. I only have my own heart, and this touches me, as if I'd walked into a room, and found him there, waiting for me.
"Of course," I would think, "of *course* he is waiting for me." But, also: "he waited. For me. *He* waited".
A meeting as natural and looked-for as the sunrise, and as unexpected as a solitary bird raising its voice in the dark of night. I can't explain it better.
I wish you might have been here to share this with me, but I do hope that you enjoyed the painting while it was there. It's odd: having it, looking at it.....it's one of those things that does not assuage your longing, only makes the yearning more.....tender.
I think that must mean that Nan did with her brush what people say that I can do with words. And, like the best that I have written, her painting leaves me feeling that there is *more* (not that there SHOULD be more, as if the work were lacking)....a *more* that I might discover, if I but try.
Jan-u-wine wrote an excellent new poem, The Harvest, for this painting. It appears below the images.
The Painting:~Fairer Than Most, by Nanette-Rosie Gagnon.
Image of full painting, reduced for this entry (actual size 24 x 18 inches):
Detail of Frodo's eyes from the full-size image of the painting:
Left side of painting, about 2/3 scale:
Right side, not quite the size of the real painting (24 x 18):
~ by jan-u-wine
An unaccustomed rain there was,
unaccustomed, the thick grey cloak of it
somehow, with Sea-scent,
storm clouds boiling, black,
running like a ship caught
by the hard heel of a careless wind.
Cold it was,
this bitter draught of a rain,
ice-spears sparking and smoking
upon buckthorn-green grass,
the Sun, at the last,
lying down in the West, the tatters and fat fleece of spent clouds
gathered and close-held,
at the warm rose-gold of Her breast,
the swept-clean sky-bowl quieting,
falling and fading to burnt-blue,
the full Moon's watered parchment
close-attended by the gem'd lamp of Eärendil.
All of this.......
all of *this*
within an ordinary day of harvest.....
the broad flanks of the ponies sweated,
even in the quiet cool of dusk,
rising from the muted yellow of the hay,
rain-wetted bales rose-tipped beneath
the moon's wavering light.
All of this.
beating like my own heart
within me, closing my fingers
inside the gentle hand
of memory, filling my mind
with quiet song.
All of this.
Side note, on seeing paintings in person:
Emailing each other back and forth about the piece, I mused on the way a real painting is so different from a copy of it. This is about Nanette-Rosie Gagnon's painting, but could be applied to viewing any painting. I wrote something like this....
I love looking at the vibrant, glowing image of Rosie's painting on my computer screen, but the real painting has its own magic unlike what a person can see on a monitor or even a high quality print. Rosie said something related to it when I was emailing her about making the photographs of it. How hard we worked to get the glare off it, trying to photograph it, I told her. She answered she actually liked the glare its shiny surface made, because it was so like the sheen of an old painting.
This was a little "ah ha" moment for me, helping me see what makes appreciating a real painting so different from a copy of it. Oil paintings have a glossiness to their surface that reflects light. Museums displaying oils use really good indirect lighting, but there is always some glare, some reflection of light. No matter where you stand, some part of the painting (unless it is very small) has a sheen on it and the image is obscured. So the viewer must move around to really see it. As the viewer moves, the sheen moves; the obscured part of the painting becomes clear and a different area becomes hidden. Thus the viewer has to interact with the piece, physically, to really see it in its entirety. Looking at a big painting, one has move in to see the detail and back up to look at the overall composition. But in order to deal with the glare created by reflected light, one has to do some side-to-side movement. A large painting requires taking some steps this way or that, but even a small painting requires some head-shifting.
'Fairer Than Most' is not a large canvas, but it's quite glossy. One must do some accommodating in order to fully see it. If I focus on Frodo's face, the haystack with Pippin disappears. I shift my head to see the haystack, but Frodo disappears behind the light. I shift again, his face reemerges, but there goes the hobbit hole nestled in the hills.
When I look at an oil in person I think I am seeing a whole painting -- which is what a good image file or print shows, having been made in a special setting to remove the glare -- but I'm not. Without noticing it, I am shifting my perspective to deal with the reflected light. I now think that looking at an oil painting is like discovering a picture, area by area, parts of it coming to the fore as other parts disappear. In a way, paintings seen "in the flesh" are alive, like people. To really make their acquaintance you have to enter into a relationship with them. To see Frodo in Nan's painting I must draw near, pull back, change perspectives and continually shift between focusing on Frodo and his world. It's like getting to know a real person. But then Frodo is a real person, at least to some. :)
~ "Reunion" by Nanette-Rosie Gagnon, illustrating jan-u-wine's poem, "Across So Wide a Sea".
~ Brown, Ford Madox: 'The Hayfield', with jan-u-wine's 'A Fairer Than Most Birth-day', 10/30/09.