Unstill Lives: The Wyndham Sisters, by John Singer Sargent

The-Wyndham-Sisters-artist-John-Singer-SargentWhen you look at a painting, do you identify more with the artist, or his subject?

For myself, it's the latter. I'm always wondering what the subject is thinking at any given point in time. I'm sure at first there is some exhilaration at being the subject of such abject scrutiny. Considering the length of time it takes for a painter to finish a work, I'm sure eventually boredom sets in, then eventually impatience for the project to be over and done with. 

The writer in me wants to mine the emotional depths illuminated by the artist: in this case, the incomparable John Singer Sargent.

These women — sisters with the last name Wyndham – came from a wealthy London family. They are (from the left) Madeline Adeane (1869–1941), Pamela Tennant (1871–1928), and Mary Constance, Lady Elcho (1862–1937).

I presume to ease their boredom and to accommodate them in more comfortable surroundings, Sargent chose to paint them in the drawing room of their family home, in posh  Belgrave Square as opposed to his (I presume) much smaller studio.

The painting was complete around 1900.

In it, opulence abounds: in their satin gown, the large flower, the plush sofa where they lounge.

By today's standards, these women aren't beauties per se, but they were considered vivacious social butterflies. No matter. Sargent was known to make his subjects comelier than life afforded them, elongating some features, illuminating  others. The hues and shading are always flattering. When Sargent displayed this painting the Royal Academy's annual exhibition in 1900, the Prince of Wales nicknamed it"The Three Graces." 

In fact, they and their brothers — George, a writer and politician; and Guy, a soldier — were part of politically astute intellectual salon of twenty or so friends, known as the Souls, which gathered to from the 1880 to about the time this picture was painted. They were annointed as such by Lord Charles Beresford, a British admiral and member of Parliament, also affectionately known as Charlie B. His take on the group: ""You all sit and talk about each other's souls — I shall call you 'the 'Souls.'"

What a wonderful starting point for a novel! Considering the times they lived — Irish uprising, Home Rule, the Gilded Age, the Edwardian era — and the smart set  in which they ruled supreme (which included two future prime ministers as well as a writers, artistis, and quite few titled aristocratics)  the sisters' lives must have been quite interesting: and yes, tragic, as some of its members perished in the Great War.

— Josie



F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my all-time favorite authors. His words are prose as poetry, and from that standpoint, The Great Gatsby is considered is best work (albeit I'm partial to the book he was still writing upon his death, The Last Tycoon.

If the film is as good as the trailer, Baz Luhrmann, the director of the cinematic musical Moulin Rouge (talk about a fully encompassing cinematic experience, despite the tongue-in-cheek pop music mashup) may very well consider this his masterwork.

The movie stars Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, and the usually funny Isla Fisher in a very serious role. Oscar nods all around.

Depicting the roaring twenties the way Fitzgerald wrote about it (or, I should say fantasized about it) does the author proud.


— Josie


  HAH Hanging Man V2

The Housewife Asassin's Handbook

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"You've got a book that won't be putdown – so go pick it up now!"  — Cat's Thoughts
"As a housewife myself, this book was a fantastic escape that had me dreaming "if only" the whole way through. The book doesn't take itself too seriously, which makes for the perfect combination of mystery and humor…" –Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea



In-the-armchair_SVT-Bild_ref~160.002274.00_mode~zoom (370x266)
One of my dear, sweet friends found a birthday card with this image. (Ha! Yes, my birthday is due — but don't feel bad about not knowing, since I have quit publicizing it YEARS ago…not to mention that she jumped the gun by SEVERAL weeks.)

You can find it from the greeting card maker Nouvelles Images. Obviously it's from the 1930s, and oui, it is French in origin.  Don't you just love the way her leg flies straight up and out, to signal her shock over whatever it is she is reading?

And look at the fabulous styling! The striped piping on the oversized chair; The way her chocolate catches the light. How her candy dish shines. The pleats of her skirt. The appliques on her top…

And of course, her stuffed dog sidekick.

My friend wrote:

Here's to a good book (written by Josie Brown), a box of chocolates, and a big comfy chair.

I'll drink to that!

Which brings up one item sorely missing from this photo: a glass of red wine.

Ah, well.

The story is in the details, ducky!

— Josie


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The Housewife Asassin's Handbook

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