Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Portrait of a Young Woman Reading a Book
I originally purchased a print of A Young Woman Reading by Renoir when I was 29 because it reminded me of a woman that I had known briefly perhaps eight years previously.
I had the habit of falling in love with women who were more mature and generally a little older than me. The picture doesn't really look like Martha, but enough time had gone by that it could remind me of her.
Martha was talented, played the cello and started the day with a classical album.
My interest in classical music began with the albums my sister Winnie left in the front bedroom closet when she departed for one distant place or another.
I regarded them as a treasure when I found them.
Winnie would take me places when I was very young. For example, when I was eight she took me to a rowing pond in Kosciusko Park on Lincoln Avenue. I remember her engaging me in conversation all through the bus trip there.
Several years later, she bought an extra tennis racquet so we could play together and taught me a little about tennis and how to score it.
We practiced when she was back from one of her trips.
She died of a brain tumor while she was living in London in December of 1966 when she was 26.
I was 17 at the time and heartbroken to lose her.
I especially treasured the albums she left because they were hers. She was the first woman I loved and I will never feel that I can love anyone the way I loved her.
Among the gifts she gave me was a love and trust of intelligent and gifted women. She was the basis for the majority of my relationships with women, even the ones that didn't go well for me.
In 1990 my wife Mary and I ventured to Paris, we visited the Musée d'Orsay and I saw the original Renoir "Woman Reading" and it was remarkable to look at it closely and mentally compare it to the print which Mary had helped me get framed.
And with which I had become so intimate over the years.
The differences between the painting, and what I viewed in my mind were remarkable. The original was old, and cracks were visible. I could see the brush strokes. The print was much more like a photograph of the original that had been cleaned up to remove the blemishes.
Mary was instrumental in helping me locate Winnie's grave in the St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley and I was able to see where she was resting for the first time in my life.
The grave had a long cement marker decorated with green glass fragments on the top. A tree was growing at its base.
When I talked to my brother Pat about that we both agreed that Winnie would have liked to have something living growing so close.
One winter's evening when I was seven or eight Winnie asked me if I wanted to wipe her glasses for her when she had came in from the cold and her glasses had fogged up. After I wiped her glasses, she told me in an off hand manner that she would not have a long life. She showed me the palm of her hand and the short line that represented how long she would live.
Since she was about ten years older than me she must have been 17 or 18 at the time. That is the picture of her that stays in my mind. I will always remember Winnie as a young woman with small cat eye black rimmed glasses, coming in from the cold.
Posted by PJ at 4:43 PM