In his fine old book, The Art Spirit, subtitled “Notes, Articles, Fragments of Letters and Talks to Students, Bearing on the Concept and Technique of Picture Making, the Study of Art Generally, and on Appreciation,” (first published in 1930), Robert Henri, my favorite writer and teacher when it comes to art, has a couple of things to say about houses.
Houses are on my mind these days as my partner, Michael, and I are in the process of buying one a little older than this book.
For me, it will be a new place to work on my paintings. For Michael, who is adept at everything related to home maintenance, it will be a big canvas for his talents with all the things that need to be fixed in the dear old place.
Older places have plenty of charm. In our case, especially for me, it’s the bright bay windows. Henri speaks directly about windows:
“A house has many windows, but a ray of light catches on one. It becomes the window which declares all windows…”
Artists, of course, need the light. Need the windows. But we’re not the only ones. Windows and light are essential to everybody. Van Gogh in Arles in his desperate days sat by the window to watch the rain. A room with a view is not just the title of a novel.
My studio has been a joy for me because of the big windows looking out at the old historic courthouse in my town. I’ll have a different view now from my own home which is almost as old as that courthouse.
Henri says further about houses:
“The old house sits down…People’s houses get to look like them. There is more in a house than the materials it is made of. Humanize the houses.”
Words for artists and any one else who lives in a house. Or apartment. Or cabin, condo, cottage, beach shack. I’ve lived in them all.
At my age, I’m ahead of the game. The house is older than I am, but I’m no glass-walled, polished tile contemporary. I’m wooden all the way – cozy front porch with a climbing rose, built-in bookcase, kitchen shelves, bay windows.
I think about artist William Morris who advised us to “have nothing your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Words to keep in mind as we move into the new/old space.
For the time being, until all papers are signed, my paints and palettes, canvasses and painting tools will be boxed up, waiting for my return. We’ll be mighty glad to see each other when that happy day comes next month, with new plans, new projects, new ideas and fresh energy.
Until then, I’ll continue to write and send the occasional image of a piece of older work. The one here is new and likely the last one completed in the little studio. We’ve had a happy time together.
Let the boxing up begin.
8 thoughts on “Houses, Boxes, and Art”
Yes, there comes a time when small is not only beautiful but just what we need…I’m sure you’ll find the one for you, complete with the garden space you want. When we are busy creating, we do sacrifice some of our housekeeping and gardening time (I was never much for the homemaker role) but I like to fuss with the plants. I am currently babying a hydrangea which has finally bloomed and will find a place in the garden, along with hollyhocks and other cottage favorites. I look forward to reading more about your plans both for the home and for your beautiful work!
Love to you,
Well, aches and pains are part of life every bit as much as houses…It comes with the territory and I’m pretty sure I’ll have those to write about, too, when I’m working on my new studio – sanding, painting, nailing things!
Thanks so much for staying in touch. I miss ya, kiddo!
Molly, you are so inspiring…I’m busy writing about aches and pains and you’re writing about purchasing a new/old home…good on you and Michael. Love the painting.
Stay safe my friend.
Actually our little cottage/bungalow is in Albany in one of the historic districts. We like it over there and it’s almost as full of Beavers as Corvallis! I’ll bet your bungalow is still standing. And if so, probably houses a few fraternity brothers! Corvallis has been a bit too laissez-faire with its historic areas, so we chose to cross the river!
Corvallis has some great old houses. My fifth year in “continuing baccalaureate” studies at OSU, I moved out of the SAE house with two fraternity brothers to a great bungalow just of Ninth Street – good memories.
Your good wishes make it more than just a house! Thank you…sending love
Dear M & M, Congratulations on buying “this old house.” May you relish your time together in your new/old space/place.
I wish you joy on your new adventure, Molly. I am sure it will bring you renewed energy to put into your work. I have lived in so many different houses too and I love how each home allows us to live our life a little differently and gives us new favourite spaces, new windows to gaze from and new views. We are about to move, too. I don’t think we will find anything quite as beautiful again but I want more time in my life now, time that is not being gobbled by a big house and huge garden. I have spent the last eight years doing just what William Morris has advised, slowly letting go of everything that is not used regularly or that I don’t love, anything that weighs heavy on me or makes me sad. I want to travel light.