Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Early Inspirations

As a senior in high school and my first few years of college I did not do much with history. Distracted by grades and friends, I did some of the normal teenage things, but I still dabbled in the historical arts. I took classes in the history of science, which seemed the most engaging and interesting way to study history (high school and Freshman hist. classes are not, generally the most riveting classes.) I still did class projects that involved my own historical interpretations – dressing up as Marie Antoinette, and writing a Hesiod style epic poem on Pandora, with a feminist twist.

And, while working at a local bookstore I picked up a notecard with a painting on it. A painting called “The Shepherdess", that seemed to me to leap off the card and speak to me about a girl and about a place and time in history. I knew enough even then to realize that the painting the notecard depicted was a Victorian representation of a much older time, but I still loved the image. I wanted to step into the image. Even if the girl was only wearing a costume of an older time, well that was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to wear that costume. I wanted to stare soulfully at an artist, walk the path with a herd of sheep. I always pictured it to be set in a dusty corner of France in mid-summer. I purchased the notecard, and pinned it up in several dorm rooms and apartments for years after.

The painting of which I speak is one of many Shepherdess paintings by William Adolphe Bouguereau, this one done in 1889. I still plan some day to make myself that outfit, and try to capture a historical moment akin to what Bouguereau captured, and what drew even my distractible teen-aged self into a world where the past and the present slide a little closer together.

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