Lent 3

Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my man and I ain’t together
Keeps raining all the time

When Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler wrote Stormy Weather in 1933 they probably weren’t thinking about the Pathetic Fallacy. The idea that the weather, and nature as a whole, could share the same emotions as us, the human occupants of the planet, was, of course, particularly prevalent for the Romantics in the first half of the 19th Century, when it wasn’t uncommon for clouds to be lonely, especially given that, not so far away, daffodils were clearly so gregarious. The term itself, ‘the Pathetic Fallacy’, was coined by none other than John Ruskin, artist, author and all-round thinker. I’d call him a Renaissance Man if he hadn’t been such an advocate of the pre-Raphaelites (so, an ‘Early Renaissance Man’?), or for that matter, of the Neo-Gothic. ‘Gothic’ was, for him, the only truly Christian form of architecture. But I digress. I had started, though, so I’ll finish. Ruskin introduced the term in Volume 3 of his Modern Painters, published in 1856, which is, I suspect, a little late to be relevant to our Lent painting, given that I have already suggested that the naturalistic details and particular form of modelling in light and shade suggest that it is a work from the 15th or 16th Centuries.

Having said that, I can’t help thinking that these clouds look a little ominous – i.e. ‘giving the worrying impression that something bad is going to happen’ – from ‘omen’, of course. Now, when we say that clouds look ominous, I think we usually mean that it is going to rain. It is possible, though, that this particular meteorological phenomenon could portend some other ‘bad’ event. The Pathetic Fallacy wasn’t the exclusive reserve of the Romantics, after all, going back centuries and lasting – via 1933 and ‘Stormy Weather’ – up until the present day. Here is a completely unnecessary list of the Top Weather Songs of the 21st Century, just to prove the point. Or maybe, as far as our painting is concerned, this is just what the weather was like when the artist went to work.  

Published by drrichardstemp

I talk about art...

10 thoughts on “Lent 3

  1. Rivetting stuff about the Pathetic Fallacy : thank you ! I was not actually in England at the time, but am told that there was a divine ‘portent’ ? So perhaps the Romantics had forerunners ? Was the Pathetic Fallacy connected with panthenism wonder ?
    Loved your ‘ominous cloud’ but need to wait for further clues about the painting. Julia

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  2. So sorry Richard something went wrong with my earlier reply. It was meant to read ‘ I was not in England at the time but am told there was a crashing storm the night before the Brexit vote. In mediaeval times the weather was considered a divine portent. So perhaps the Romantics had forerunners ? Was the Pathetic Fallacy connected with panthenism I wonder ?
    Loved your ‘ominous cloud’ but need to wait for further clues about the painting. Julia

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    1. I wasn’t in England either – I was in Bavaria, looking at the Baroque, with a group of the Dilettanti from AHA… and I’ve never heard of the storm. But yes, the Pathetic Fallacy had a long life, even before it was named. As I said in the blog, going back centuries, and up to the present day. And yes, I’m sure it does have its origins in pantheism, but even in the Christian world God was (is?) believed to have sent portents…

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      1. Thank you so much for your swift and most interesting reply about the long life of the Pathetic Fallacy. I am quite susceptible to the theory of divine portents myself…..

        Your Vermeer talk was wonderful : thank you so much for that. I was wondering whether the fact of Vermeer’s pictures not being as widely known/regarded as some other painters had something to do with his having become a Catholic in a fiercely Protestant country ? I remember how dominant the (Protestant) church in the main square of Delft was on the visit we made there.

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  3. I don’t know if we really have any way of measuring that. He seems to have been successful enough to sell the works he did create, and that fact that he wasn’t better known around the Netherlands may simply relate to his relatively small output. However, his faith might have had something to do with it.

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      1. I just love the misty moisty description. The rhyme is:
        One misty, moisty morning
        when cloudy was the weather
        There I met an old man
        All clothed in leather
        With a cap under his chin.
        How do you do?
        And how do you do?
        How do you do again?
        Perhaps learning about the weather when so young explains our English preoccupation with it?

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  4. And I thought you knew everything. It goes like this:
    “One misty, moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather/ I met an old man clothed all in leather/He began to compliment, and I began to grin/ With how d’ye do? and How d’ye do? and How d/ye do again?”
    But I’ve no idea what it means or refers to. Over to you!

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