Isn't Sunday meant to be the day of rest? Well, our tree is now up, our very cute Dick Bruna nativity is up and I am making mince pies. I think we still have maths homework to do as well so I better get on with this...
|The Warrior's Daughter or The Convalescent (1878) James Tissot|
Here we have an old man in a bath chair, being pushed around the chilly London streets. Beside him is his daughter, wrapped up warm against the cold. The titles give us alternate focuses for the picture. The Convalescent is obviously the old man, bundled up with fur and blankets, being pushed around by a handy chap. The Warrior's Daughter tells us something about both of them: he was once a soldier, and possibly still thinks of himself in those terms despite being old and infirm. The girl is identified as the warrior's daughter, her cache linked to the status of her father, which possibly was true of all daughters at this time. Behind them is possibly Wellington Arch, placing them in the centre of London, and giving us a hint as to the warrior's past. This old chap was one of Wellington's men in his youth, part of the war against Napoleon. Now he is in a bath chair being cared for by his daughter.
The old chap in the bath chair wasn't the only Tissot painting to carry the title The Convalescent. At least two others come up in a search and possibly more, but these are young women in various stages of illness. At the top we have a girl, sleeping in a sunny garden while an older relative, possibly her grandmother, looks on. In the second picture, a young woman is pulled around in her bath chair by a donkey. According to Mr Walker, Bournemouth had donkey bath chairs you could hire due to the hills in the town. The man leading the donkey has allowed his passenger to pause to admire the rhododendrons. If we go a bit 'Language of Flowers' for a minute, white flowers could signify her innocence and purity, but the rhododendron means danger and caution. White was also a very popular bridal flower colour so by reaching for them, the girl is wishing for a future filled with love and happiness, but her health puts that in peril. The donkey looks a bit nonplussed by all of this.
|Lilian Hervey, Kathleen Newton, Cecil Newton and James Tissot (c.1878-1882)|
Of course, with any of Tissot's images of ill women it is tempting to read in the illness and death of his muse Kathleen Newton. Hers is the face that looks out of a vast number of his works and his love for her was such that after her death his style and subject of art changed quite radically. I wrote a piece about her here if you fancy a bit of a sob, and I think it is also possible to see her likeness in the warrior's daughter above. Illness was ever-present for the Victorians and depictions of it were common. It would be easy to think that as disease and infirmity were so commonplace then people just accepted it but looking at the old soldier you get the sense that he is not entirely comfortable with how his life has ended up. After all, he is a warrior, even if he is in a bath chair.
As it is Sunday, my gift suggestion for you is this - go for a nice walk. Getting out and about at this time of year can make you feel more positive and healthy, gets the blood flowing and makes the pressures and problems of the season seem a little less. The great thing about having a dog is that she gives a great excuse for escaping for a few hours to tromp around the park or over hill and dale when we're in the countryside. It's also a great thing to do with friends and relatives you might have to be with for a while over Christmas, and gives the feeling of space to the whole situation. I'm very much looking forward to our traditional Boxing Day walk. This year we will be retracing woods I roamed when I was little which should be fun. It also is great to walk off all the food you end up eating and heaven knows I need to walk quite a bit off. So there you go, have a little walk and if it's chilly don't forget your muff!
See you tomorrow...