So I meant to write about something today. Honestly. And as anyone who knows me well will confirm, late night is the absolutely last time of day I should be attempting to write something I hope to be even slightly lucid. However, it’s been one of those days, and I have no assurance that tomorrow won’t be one of those days as well. Thus, here I am sitting on a silent couch and pretending that I know what I’m writing about and that I should be trusted to do so.
Here’s the thing though… I don’t have any brilliant ideas of what to blog about. I’m not a literary critic or an accomplished author, so I need to leave the analytical waters to more experienced (or at least, better rested) minds than mine. But there is one thing I know that I you might not know. I have two history-related degrees under my belt: art history and historic preservation, to be specific. So what does this mean? It means that I can – and will – fall back on historical “stuff” when push comes to shove. And it’s all the better when I can link that stuff to works I’m translating and publishing.
For tonight, it’s Renoir. I’d truck out his full name, but most people only use his last name anyway, so what would be the point? I might not be the biggest Impressionist fan ever, but I do have a soft spot for Renoir and his feathery tulle and soft fabrics. The painting above is his Danseuse (1874), which you could go see in person in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, next time you’re there. (Yes, you really should, in the interest of cultural literacy and all that.) Danseuse was one of seven works that Renoir included in the April 1874 exhibit hosted by the Société anonyme coopérative des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc., but unlike many of the other pieces hung in this exhibit, this particular work was well-received by the critics.
This painting of a young dancer is a pivotal element in Zoë Beck’s story, “A Contented Man,” a tale of obsession and destruction linked closely to this charming figure. What would happen if a girl long dead but immortalized in a famous painting, one you were inordinately fond of, suddenly appeared in the flesh? Edgar Allan Poe could have told you, and so can Zoë Beck. Nothing good… I won’t divulge any more than that, but at least, you can now put a painting with the story once you read it.
That should be enough superficial historical rambling for the night. (I would expound more on the history of Renoir’s painting, but considering the hour, you are better off in the capable hands of the National Gallery of Art curators.