I hear the thwang of Cupid’s arrow near and offer up my favorite painting of love as a target for today’s discussion– Thomas Hart Benton’s Romance, on display at the Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas.
I’m immediately drawn to the intense turquoise blue of the sky, embraced by the tree branch and her vibrant poppy red dress. The statuesque couple contrasts with the dream-like landscape surrounding them. They walk, hand in hand, eyes closed. The the moonlight casts its spell; wafting clouds swirl to the ground.
I’m again caught up in the depth of the jewel-like colors intensifying this dreamy, atmospheric feeling (almost Surrealist with echos of El Greco). His shoes are off, hers are on. Is this a new romance? Are they courting, walking though a neighbor’s backyard, blind to each other’s faults (love is blind)? Each experience intensified yet dreamlike in the thrall of eros. Their feet don’t seem to be firmly planted on the ground.
Or is this an old love, deep and unscarred by time and circumstance. What they have is beyond sight, a heartfelt soulfulness. At peace with each other. Such that they know each other’s thoughts. The hard work of running their farm, a silent testament behind them. Do they walk side by side, even in their dreams?
The mystery here is the mystery of love. What drives it. What sustains it. How we get it; how we keep it. It’s a million immutable questions that must be answered one at a time. With our eyes closed.
I wish I could say this is me reclining naked, in my living room on my red velvet sofa, but alas, only the jungle part is true. I lugged in my plants last night due to a possible freeze. The plant profusion did remind me of this jungle though, sans birds (but I swear I heard lions).
I love the feathered statuesque lilies, waving like plumage. The lioness with her starting eyes, eyeing you– the prey. An elephant trumpets loudly from the brush. A slithery coral hued snake. The full moon, a pearly marble orb.
It’s as if Rousseau took a slice of imaginary jungle, flattened between the pages of a book. The foreground and background are flattened out like a flower that you press in a book and then frame; the plants here are a series of botanical prints all shoved together will-nilly. Rigid and pointy. Very graphic. The bristly plants contrast with the rounded form of the woman’s body. And then, the stare of beady unsettling yellow eyes.
The red couch lady gazes languidly on. Looking, but not seeing. Garden of Eden or Heart of Darkness ala Conrad? (Rousseau painted it right before his death) It’s entirely possible that it is both. I know my living room is.