Saturday, October 21, 2017

Churchill on looking at nature

Once you begin to study it, all Nature is equally interesting and equally charged with beauty. I was shown a picture by Cézanne of a blank wall of a house, which he had made instinct with the most delicate lights and colours. Now I often amuse myself when I am looking at a wall or a flat surface of any kind by trying to distinguish all the different colours and tints which can be discerned upon it, and considering whether these arise from reflections or from natural hue. You would be astonished the first time you tried this to see how many and what beautiful colours there are even in the most commonplace objects, and the more carefully and frequently you look the more variations do you perceive.

Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950).
No painter, I. But this passage makes me think of the way everything looks different after a day at a museum, where you might see Cézanne’s House in Provence or House and Trees or The House with the Cracked Walls. Churchill’s essay is about much more than hobbies and pastimes; it’s about attention.

[This passage so captured me that I didn’t even stop to ask whether a wall should be considered part of nature.]

comments: 2

Slywy said...

That struck me at first, but then his focus turns to colors and reflections, and the mention of "commonplace objects." Colors as a form of nature?

Michael Leddy said...

Maybe so. I don’t think it’s possible to tell from what he wrote.