….He wiped his narrow brush clean, whitened some Naples yellow and licked up a dab of ocher already mixed, then blotted it on a rag. The sun reflected off Antonio’s cream-colored jacket in pale yellow highlights. He dry-brushed them in on his shoulder, his collar, down his arm. The same color warmed Alphonsine’s back. He made long, gentle strokes, imagining that he was stroking her bare back.
….These were les Symbolistes. A mood was more important than a clear meaning. But I can tell you the feeling they gave me. They made me keenly conscious of mystery in life….
…I’ll explain as well as I can. It has to do with a concrete thing suggesting an abstract idea to the writer personally. Think of x equals y and y equals z. Mallarme only writes x and leaves us to discover the z. He said that to name something outright takes away much of the enjoyment of the poem, which comes from guessing the mystery….
….Can it be this? Those Sunday strollers on the promenade down there with their top hats, x, make me think of a hat shop, y, that hat shop puts me in the mood of sadness, z?
Yes, even though for others it might suggest a happy occasion, buying a new hat. That’s what makes Symboliste poets so difficult in their personal associations, but the words and images you use to describe that hat shop will convey the feeling.”
….you can’t deny people’s interpretations just because you say there is no story….Something’s going on everywhere in the painting too. There will be mysteries to people looking at your painting, but they’ll bring their own feelings to it, and will imagine they know something.
For one week, play the role of a flâneur (see glossary on website; male social observer) or a flâneuse (female social observer) and select one, two, or three items which you consider representative of this time period. Record your observations in detail, choosing words that both describe precisely and reveal your attitude toward the thing observed. End with a comment on how this observation reflects modernity as you see it.