Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekend Reflections

I've always wanted to take a photo of these reflections in the fireplace in one of our favourite cafes in Edinburgh, so today I did! I took a lot more photos today as we wandered round Craiglockhart Hill and Pond and the Union Canal. You can see those over on Crafty Green Poet here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Titian - The Last Days by Mark Hudson

This book is a wonderful, though sometimes slightly confused, mix of travelogue, biography, art history and general history. The subtitle The Last Days is entirely misleading as it looks at most of Titian's life and a large proportion of his paintings and puts his work in context with the other developments in Venetial art at the time.

Large amounts of the narrative is spent detailing Titian's paintings, and where these paintings are shown in the colour plates in the centre of the book this is wonderful reading. I totally enjoyed discovering the depths to paintings that were being discribed to me as well as being available in front of my eyes. Some of the described paintings weren't available in the book though and these long descriptions became slightly tiresome as I wanted to have them in front of me, I'm not sure that the author should be expecting all readers to have a good visual memory for large numbers of paintings!

The book also went into a lot of detail about Titian's methods of working and how he had access to a large number of styles of painting, not to mention his assistants! I found it fascinating that often he would quiet blatantly adapt paintings by other artists, add his own background, paint the head of his model (or patron) onto the existing body and hey presto! another masterpiece! Not to mention the studio copies (mostly carried out by his assistants) of his own works.

There is also a lot of information about the art scene in Venice in the 1500s, the history of the times and the epidemics that periodically swept the city, including the 1576 plague which is believed to have killed Titian.

Added to all this, are a lot of discussions about eroticism in art. Many paintings of the period (including several by Titian himself) used naked people in suggestive poses, that were made respectable by the addition of a mythological tale. Titian seems to have been the first artist to have drawn a naked woman without this justification, and this painting The Venus of Urbino scandalised many people (Mark Twain reportedly described it as 'the obscenest picture the world possesses') while what we see is a beautiful young woman in a pose that is no more suggestive than the poses of many nymphs in many mythological paintings.

Interspered in all this are accounts of the author's travels round Venice in search of Titian's last home and round various art galleries and religious buildings in search of the artists paintings.

It's a totally fascinating book and a must read for anyone interested in art history or in the process of how artists work.

Titian - the Last Days by Mark Hudson, published by Bloomsbury

for Italy in Books

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dean Village Bridge

This is a bridge across the Water of Leith in Dean Village. It was built more or less at the point where the original ford crossed the river when Dean Village was first established as a settlement. You can see more of my photos of Dean Village on this blog here (and that post itself includes more links if you're really interested!).

I posted a photo of another bridge across the Water of Leith today over on Crafty Green Poet. You can see that here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Orangerie

We had a lovely walk through Dalkeith Country Park today. You can read more about it over on Crafty Green Poet here. This building is the Orangerie, built in the mid nineteenth century and currently being renovated.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011

Strong for Potatoes by Cynthia Thayer

Strong for Potatoes follows Blue Willoughby as she grows up in eastern Maine. Blue was one of twins, but her sister died a few days after the girls were born and has haunted Blue ever since. She herself was severly injured in an accident which ended her brief career as a child movie star. This accident haunts her too, as do memories of Maria, her make up lady and guardian during her movie days. Blue's parents are difficult and she turns to her grandfather, a Passamquoddy Indian who teaches Blue how to track wild animals and inspires her to take up basket making, a craft that she learns to imbue with her own distinctive style.

Blue struggles to find her own true identity, as a part native American, as a crafter, as a disabled woman. She also needs to find a true companion as she struggles to leave behind her memories of her sister. Will it be Brian, her childhood friend, Darrel, the handsome boy who takes her to the Prom or Leonora, the beautiful woman whose dog has died?

This is a beautiful, moving novel, that introduces the reader to Passamquoddy culture while exploring human relationships with a great deal of sensitivity.

Strong for Potatoes by Cynthia Thayer, published 1998 by St Martin's Press

For the
LGBT Reading Challenge

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Richard plays the blues
in a lunchtime-crowded Rose Street
Two policemen on the beat
stop to have a chat

No we don’t want to see your license, son
We don’t want to move you on
We’d just like to come back later
To listen to you play

And talk about the blues.

Rose Street is a pedestrianised street in the centre of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Sketcher just posted a sketch of a busker in the Royal Mile, you can see it here.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

St Bernard's Well

Assording to legend StBernard's Well was originally discovered by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of the Cistercian Order, in the 12th Century, who was ill and living in a cave near the Water of Leith. He noticed the spring because so many birds visited it and he drank its healing waters until his strength returned.

The well was re-discovered by three school boys from Heriot's School while they were fishing in the Water of Leith in 1760. A simple well house covered it until 1789, when the current building was commissioned by Lord Gardenstone and designed by Edinburgh landscape painter Alexander Nasymth. The marble statue represents Hygieia, Goddess of Health.

For decades wealthy holiday makers used to visit Edinburgh to take the well's waters. These waters were believed to cure arthritis, back ache, and even blindness. The taste was apparently pretty disgusting though. At one point the pump room apparently resembled a continental cafe and the water was even bottled at one point. The well remained open until 1940. Nowadays you can access the interior only on special occasions such as Edinburgh's Doors Open Day.

I posted a photo of bridges further up the Water of Leith over on Crafty Green Poet. You can see them here.