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Posts Tagged ‘19th Century’

If you walk frequently in the same area, you notice more things.

The other day it occurred to me that Providence has an unusual number of public clocks — and they all have the right time.

The clocks below are in a block or two of one another.

I wondered about the green freestanding clock with curlicue writing spelling out “Shepard.” An Internet search brought up the Providence Architecture website at Brown University.

“A historic, notable element of the Shepard Building is the late 19th century cast-iron clock, which still stands in front of the building on Westminster Street.”

And the Shepard Building? Turns out it’s a former department store that once covered a whole block and now houses the downcity campus of the University of Rhode Island.

The very tall clock is at Johnson & Wales University. My favorite clock is the one that looks like something from Alice in Wonderland. It suggests to me that although “the time is out of joint,” it will all be OK in the end.

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As I mentioned a few posts back, we went to the Metropolitan Museum when we were in New York. We saw a show from the dawn of photography, pictures of a lost Paris by Charles Marville. I greatly admired the angles, the light and shadow, the crispness of the images. Someday I want to try imitating his use of doorways and windows.

Karen Rosenberg writes about Marville in the NY Times, “In the massive construction site that was late-19th-century Paris, the photographer Charles Marville was just a few steps ahead of the wrecking ball. As an official city photographer working under Napoleon III and his controversial urban planner, Baron Haussmann, Marville recorded some 425 views of narrow, picturesque streets that were to be replaced by Haussmann’s grand boulevards.” More here.

The Met’s site adds, “By the end of the 1850s, Marville had established a reputation as an accomplished and versatile photographer. … Marville photographed the city’s oldest quarters, and especially the narrow, winding streets slated for demolition. Even as he recorded the disappearance of Old Paris, Marville turned his camera on the new city that had begun to emerge.

“Many of his photographs celebrate its glamour and comforts, while other views of the city’s desolate outskirts attest to the unsettling social and physical changes wrought by rapid modernization.” More at the website, here.

Catch the show by May 4.

Photo: Charles Marville
Rue de Constantine in 1866, one of a hundred photos of a lost Paris are now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
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I love looking out the upper level of a parking garage at rooftops and chimneys. It makes me think of Dickens novels. And I’ve always been interested in art that shows a view from a window or someone looking out a window.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art must like windows, too, given that it mounted a whole show called Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century. I’m told that the exhibit’s focus was on how a window can frame a subject, but I’m more interested in what the person at the window is feeling.

There is a lovely painting at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts showing a young woman working at a sewing machine and gazing out a window through which a soft, dreamy light is falling. What is she thinking? “The Open Window,” painted by Elizabeth Okie Paxton in 1922, gives me the feeling that the woman is thinking about what other people are doing out in the world or what she might want to do someday.

I got a new insight into gazing-out-windows art from a review of the movie Hugo in the NY Times.

Manohla Dargis writes, “Mr. Scorsese caps this busy introductory section with Hugo looking wistfully at the world from a window high in the station. The image mirrors a stunning shot in his film Kundun, in which the young, isolated Dalai Lama looks out across the city, and it also evokes Mr. Scorsese’s well-known recollections about being an asthmatic child who watched life from windows — windows that of course put a frame around the world. This is a story shared by all children, who begin as observers and turn (if all goes well) into participants. But ‘Hugo’ is specifically about those observers of life who, perhaps out of loneliness and with desire, explore reality through its moving images, which is why it’s also about the creation of a cinematic imagination — Hugo’s, … Mr. Scorsese’s, ours.”

I had not thought about that before — that we all start out as observers.

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