Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ekphrastic Poems and Alfred Maurer

Today Amy and I toured a group from Portland State through the galleries of the Portland Art Museum. The members of the group were part of a graduate poetry class. Their aim in coming to the museum was to see art that they perhaps could write about in the future – ephrasis or ekprhastic poetry. We did look at Maurer's George Washington because this painting is the museum's best example of cubist art, a type of art they were intertested in seeing.

Since today is our last day with Alfred Maurer, I decided to seek out some happier moments in his life. Alfy, as he was known in Europe, was a very happy dapper man, well thought of and considered by many to be a great artist. He loved the night life and painted this scene (Le Bal Bullier), one which he must have loved because he submitted it to many shows. Alfy was well known by Gertrude Stein; she remembered last seeing him in Europe with his "girl" just before he left Europe at the start of World War I. He feared she would fall into enemy hands but felt forced to leave because his father had cut off his money in an effort to have him return to New York. That is the last mention I've found of a time when Maurer smiled and enjoyed himself.

In keeping with the poetic theme of the tour Amy and I gave at the museum today I did find an example of an ekphrastic poem written about one of Maurer's paintings. Since I wasn't able to find the exact painting it was dedicated to, we'll all have to imagine it.
“Suspended Sea” (from What the Blood Knows by Peggy Miller)
I imagine in this boundless sea
hunger is so large it seeps into the salt,
as if hunger invented life and will consume it.
As if hunger will persist when all else goes

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