Between glamour and gloss: Adam Buck (1759-1833)

The Nine Youngest Children of Richard Bagot, Bishop of Bath and Wells
1825 – Watercolor on card. The Morgan Library Museum NY

De deur openduwen van de Engelse ‘Regency-tijd’ met een portret-tekenaar, miniaturist, die negen van de twaalf bischoppelijke kinderen beetje ordeloos maar fraai gekostumeerd heeft gepenseeld, kan naast een bekoorlijk portret ook een heus statement zijn voor een boeiende tijd die wij via Jane Austen en menig grootschalige televisieserie herkennen. Het begrip ‘elegantie’ is inderdaad een overkoepelend begrip, onmiddellijk aangevuld met ‘vermogend’, of ‘upper class society’. Ene Constance Hussey in haar blog ‘A different time, a different place’ vat het tijdperk samen:

In 1811, King George III, being subject to mental instability,  was deemed unfit to rule. His son, the Prince of Wales, ruled by proxy  as Prince Regent until he became George IV on the death of his father.  Although this time period is the actual length of the Regent’s rule, the  term Regency Era often refers to the years between 1795 and 1830. The  period we think of as the ‘Regency’ was a time of glamour and gloss; a  glittering world renowned for its elegant entertainments, haut couture,  achievements in the arts, sciences and architecture, and characterized  by distinctive trends in fashions, politics and culture. For the  aristocracy, or the ton, as the highest level of society was  known, it was a time of excess; elaborate balls and routs, sumptuous  dinner parties and weeks-long entertainments at splendid stately homes. 
Adam Buck (1759-1833)
Portrait of a Young Gentleman
Watercolour, 13 x 12cm (5 x 4¾”)
Signed and dated 1829
Born in Cork to a family of Irish silversmiths, Buck specialised in painting miniatures from an early age and soon progressed to larger watercolour portraits.  His 1787 family portrait of the Edgeworths includes Maria Edgeworth, Jane Austen’s main rival as a novelist of contemporary manners.  After working in Ireland, Buck emigrated to London in 1795 at the age of 36 and began a long and prolific career as a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy for over 30 years, with over 170 exhibits.
The Edgeworths family
At the centre of the composition is Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) an engineer and inventor from Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford. He faces his eldest daughter, the famous novelist Maria (1767-1849), as he points to a drawing on the table. Richard's third wife, Elizabeth Sneyd (standing holding a baby), and numerous other children look on.
Adam Buck (1759-1833)
Portrait of a Lady, Seated at a Desk
Watercolour and crayon on wove paper,
In 1798, Maria and her father published a two volume treatise, 'Practical Education', which became an acclaimed manual for child-rearing. Key ideas included encouraging hands-on learning and experiment. Above all, children were to be encouraged to 'learn from their own experience a just confidence in their own powers.'

De concurrentie, met name Jane Austen beschreef ook een druk familie-tableau in Persuasion, hoofdstuk XIV.

“On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. (…) Mr Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece”.
Regency Christmas by Cruikshank

In 1795 emigreert Adam Buck naar Londen; zesendertig is hij dan.

‘Buck’s entry into London Society was meteoric.  He soon enjoyed favour with both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York.  He was particularly associated with depicting Mary Anne Clarke (1776-1852), the scandalous and intriguing mistress of the Duke of York.  Her life story has been told with affectionate wit by her great grand-daughter, Daphne Du Maurier.

Mary Anne Clarke (Thompson)

Buck’s love of the Antique, especially the art of Greece and Rome, inspired his life-long project to record images from Greek Vases, resulting in 157 large drawings now preserved in Trinity College Library, Dublin.  His own designs, inspired by classical pieces such as these, were adapted for the decoration of contemporary ceramics and were popular as prints.’

The expiation of Orestes 1812
He came from a family of silversmiths, but began as a miniaturist, along with his brother. The technical skills and focus on detail required for silversmithing were readily transferable. The small scale of his pastels and watercolours and the lack of prestigious history paintings in his oeuvre meant that his many attempts to become an Associate Member of the Royal Academy between 1802 and 1829 were unsuccessful, although he exhibited 160 portraits at the Academy throughout his career. His work demonstrated too much of the ‘mechanic’s’ decorative craft, and not enough of the underlying bone and muscle understood through the life class, too much of the particular and not enough of the universal. The introductory wall panel notes that ‘Even when painting more ambitious subjects, he remained a miniaturist at heart’. (BSECS British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies)
Robert Southey with Daughter and son, Adam Buck

Lees ook:

Of hij de strengheid van BSECS verdient, laat ik aan de lezer over. Hij was een man wiens werk geliefd was in een tijd waarin gegoede jonge vrouwen met miniatuur portretjes van Lord Byron op hun tasjes rondliepen, tijden waarin een auteur op ‘warme verering’ kon rekenen. En of de heren van de Royal Academy hem niet lusten een standaard ter beoordeling mag zijn zal ik met alle plezier in het klassieke midden laten. Zijn werk werd door talrijke uitgevers als ‘prent’ verspreid, een popularisering die alvast voor enig inkomen zorgde, ook al stierf hij vrij berooid zoals dat heet. Ik zie hem vooral als getuige van een merkwaardige tijd waarin hijzelf het liefst terug in het Oude Griekenland wilde leven en werken.

Het was een tijd waarin ‘celebrity’s’ zoals Marie-Antoine Carême astronomische bedragen voor haar diensten vroeg en goed verkopende kookboeken schreef die door Napoleon en de Prince Regent werden gebruikt. Een tijd waarin het £15 kostte -het jaarloon van een stielman- om een balzaal met waskaarsen te verlichten voor één avond. Een tijd waarin plaatsen waar een moord was gebeurd als vermaak bezocht werden, zelfs nog voor de politiediensten ter plekke waren geweest en dus het lichaam mee naar de dichtsbije pub werd genomen tot de lijkschouwer het zou op halen. Een merkwaardige tijd die inderdaad wel eens aan deze tijd doet denken.

Fictional character, the beloved of the wife of Tom Jones, hero of Fieldings novel ‘Tom Jones’

Letterlichtjes voor donkere maanden (2): ‘Home sweet home’

In het door mij zeer geliefde boek ‘The Victorian frame of mind, 1830-1870, beschrijft Walter E. Hougthon diverse terreinen van deze merkwaardige periode waarin de wereld in een vijftigtal jaren werkelijk ‘in transitie’ was: van feodale-landelijke wereld naar een democratische-industriële. Vanuit deze boeiende en zeer leesbare studie belicht ik vandaag de functie van het huis, het ‘home sweet home’ en welke consequenties dat had voor de bewoners en de maatschappij waarin ze functioneerden.

De familie was het centrum van het Victoriaanse leven. Hun rituelen zijn bekend: de verzameling van het hele huishouden voor de familiegebeden, met zijn allen aanwezig in de kerk zondag-morgen, het luidop voorlezen ’s avonds, de jaarlijkse familievakanties.
In de woonkamer vind je de familie-magazines en het familiaal foto-album. Omdat vrouwen steeds bij het huis betrokken waren was een reoriëntering van de mannelijke houding nodig. In de 18de eeuw was het ‘koffiehuis’ het centrum van ’s mans sociale bestaan. Daar rookte, dineerde hij, schreef hij brieven, discussieerde hij er over politiek en literatuur en werd er dronken.

A manual for gentlemen, written in 1778, urged them to beware “of thinking domestic pleasures, cares, and duties, beneath their notice.” ' The radical change which occurred in the next century was recorded and partly explained by Mill in 1869:

 "The association of men with women in daily life is much closer and more complete than it ever was before. Men’s life is more domestic. Formerly, their pleasures and chosen occupations were among men, and in men's company: their wives had but a fragment of their lives. At the present time, the progress of civilization, and the tum of opinion against the rough amusements and convivial excesses which formerly occupied most men in their hours of relaxation-together with (it must be said) the improved tone of modern feeling as to the reciprocity of duty which bindsthe husband towards the wife—have thrown the man very much more upon home and its inmates, for his personal and social pleasures: while the kind and degree of improvement which has been made in women’s education, has made them in some degree capable of being his companions in ideas and mental tastes."(The Victorian Frame of mind)

Voor de jaren vijftig was een vooruitzicht op een betere opvoeding vrijwel onbestaand. Er kwam een zekere evangelisch revival als reactie tegen wat de auteur zo mooi ‘convivial excesses’ noemt. Maar de man werd alvast meer ‘domestic’ dan in vroegere tijden, alleen al maar door het ontstaan van grotere families. Die kwamen er door een betere medische kennis en een betere gezondheidszorg die kindersterfte terugdrong, maar ook door een gebrekkige kennis van contraceptiva, en ik lees tussen haakjes: (because information lay under the severest social and legal restraints)

Men were required to give far more time and attention to the business of the family; and in the middle class that necessity was reinforced by ambition. Now that work had become the means not simply of maintaining a family but of raising it on the social ladder, fathers were pre-occupied with getting their sons into the “best” colleges at Oxford and Cambridge or setting them up in a good profession, and marrying their daughters to gentlemen of birth.(p342)
Opa op kerstbezoek

Maar deze beschrijvingen gaan niet naar ‘the root of the matter’ schrijft Houghton: or the greater amount of family life and thought would not in itself have created “that peculiar sense of solemnity” with which, in the eyes of a typical Victorian like Thomas Arnold, “the very idea of family life was invested.”

Dat idee was het concept het huis als een bron van ‘virtues and emotions’ te beschouwen die je nergens anders kon vinden, allerminst zelfs in ‘business and society’ En net dat maakte het huis als plaats radikaal verschillend met de wereld daarrond. Het was meer dan een huis waar iemand ’s avonds temidden van een drukke carrière een stopplaats vond voor tijdelijke rust en recreatie of procreatie . Het was een aparte plaats en de auteur noemt het ‘a walled garden’ waarin morele standaarden die makkelijk onder de voet werden gelopen in het moderne leven toch werden gehandhaafd en ‘certain desires of the heart too much thwarted be fulfilled.’ Ruskin’s definitie in Sesame and Lillies vind je hieronder.

'This is the true nature of home-it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division. In so far as it is not this, it is not home; so far as the anxieties of the outer life penetrate into it, and the inconsistently-minded, unknown, unloved, or hostile society of the outer world is allowed by either husband or wife to cross the threshold, it ceases to be home; it is then only a part of that outer world which you have roofed over, and lighted fire in. But so far as it is a sacred place, a vestal temple, a temple of the hearth watched over by Household Gods . . . so far as it is this, and roof and fire are types only of a nobler shade and light,—shade as of the rock in a weary land, and light as of the Pharos in the stormy sea;—so far it vindicates the name, and fulfils the praise, of Home.’

(in notitie onderaan: This lecture of Ruskin's is the most important single document I know for the characteristic idealization of love, woman,and the home in Victorian thoughts.)

De rots temidden van de branding om te variëren op Ruskin’s metafoor, wordt door de auteur ‘largely unconscious’ genoemd.

‘The conscious association of family life with security took an other form. The home became the place where one had been at peace and childhood a blessed time when truth was certain and doubt with its divisive effects unknown. In the “strange ways of feeling and thought” that in later life enveloped Pater’s child in the house and left him isolated and alone, he felt “the wistful yearning towardshome.” So did the skeptic in Froude’s essay on homesickness, who looked back to what was literally a paradise:

'God has given us each our own Paradise, our own old childhood, over which the old glories linger—to which our own hearts cling, as all we have ever known of Heaven upon earth. And there, as all earth's weary wayfarers tum back their toil-jaded eyes, so do the poor speculators, one of whom is this writer, whose thoughts have gone astray, who has been sent out like the raven from the window of the ark, and flown to and fro over the ocean of speculation, finding no place for his soul to rest, no pause for his aching wings, turn back in thought, at least, to that old time of peace—that village church—that child-faith—which, once lost, is never gainedagain—-strange mystery—is never gained again--with sad and weary longing!'

Natuurlijk was er ook de impact ‘of modern business’. Al speelde zich alles af in de stad, het huis werd door licht van een pastorale verbeelding voorgesteld. It could seem a country of peace and innocence where life was kind and duty natural.

In a sermon of Baldwin Brown’s, women are told to remember the need of “world-weary men” and therefore to “pray, think, strive to make a home something like a bright, serene, restful, joyful nook of heaven in an unheavenly world.” In the home so conceived, man could recover the humanity he seemed to be losing. Under the intense pressure of competitive life, he felt more and more like a money-making machine, or a cog in the vast mechanism of modem business. He was haunted, as Routh has said, by a specter staring back at him in the mirror, a hard-faced, dwarfish caricature of himself, unpleasantly like the economic man.“ His emotions of pity and love seemed to be drying up; he was losing the sense of relatedness as superiors, inferiors, and equals were becoming actual or potential enemies. But in the home he might escape from this inhuman world, at least for part of every day (which was all he wanted).He might feel his heart beating again in the atmosphere of domestic affection and the binding companionship of a family. It is significant that when Carlyle described the world of big business, he called it “a world alien, not your world . . . not a home at all, of hearts and faces who are yours, whose you are” and said that to live in it was to be “without father, without child, without brother.” But the hour strikes and all that is lost may be found again: “When we come home, we lay aside our mask and drop our tools, and are no longer lawyers, sailors, soldiers, statesmen, clergymen, but only men. We fall again into our most human relations, which, after all, are the whole of what belongs to us as we are ourselves, and alone have the key-note of our hearts.(p345)
For something that abode endued
With temple-like repose, an air
Of life’s kind purposes pursued
With order’d freedom sweet and fair
A tent pitch’d in a world not right
It seem’d, whose inmates, every one,
On tranquil faces bore the light
Of duties beautifully done."

(Patmore 'The angel in the House')
Or at a lower social and economic level, one escapes from a cold, domineering Scrooge to the freedom and warmth of the family hearth. Mark Rutherford was simply a more intellectual Mr. Wemmick when he cultivated a deliberate dissociation of his personality so that his “true self” should not be stained by contact with the self that was subjected to the petty spite and brutal tyranny of an ofice. Then on the stroke of seven he could become himself again: “I was on equal terms with my friends; I was Ellen’s husband; I was, in short, a man.” And he goes on to speak of happy evenings reading aloud with his wife."Small wonder the Victorian home was sentimentalized. In the reaction from a heartless world, the domestic emotions were released too strongly and indulged too eagerly. Indeed, it may be only by the unabashed display of feeling that one can prove unmistakably to all the world, himself included, that he has a heart. Bames Newcome knew his audience when he lectured at the Athenaeurn on Mrs. Hemans and the poetry of the affections:

 'A public man, a commercial man as we well know, yet his heart is in his home, and his joy in his affections: the presence of this immense assembly here this evening; of the industrious capitalists; of the intelligent middle class; of the pride and mainstay of England, the operatives of Newcome; these surrounded by their wives and their children (a graceful bow to the bonnets to the right of the platform), show that they, too, have hearts to feel, and homes to cherish; that they, too, feel the love of women, the innocence of children, the love of song!'
(Thaceray, The Newcomes, chp 66 pp. 687-8)

The Victorian home was not only a peaceful, it was a sacred, place. When the Christian tradition as it was formally embodied in ecclesiastical rites and theological dogmas was losing its hold on contemporary society, and the influence of the pastorate was declining, the living church more and more became the “temple of the hearth.” This was not entirely a metaphor. By the use of Christian Platonism, the home was sanctified. As it was a sacred place for Ruskin because its roof and fire were types of a nobler shade and light, so for Baldwin Brown itwas made by God, like the first man, “after a divine original.” To Kingsley all domestic relations were “given us to teach us their divine antitypes [God the Father, Christ the husband of the one corporate person the Church, and all men children of the same Heavenly Father]: and therefore . . . it is only in proportion as we appreciate and understand the types that we can understand the antitypes.” He was even ready to imply that a bachelor was at some disadvantage: “Fully to understand the meaning of ‘a Father in Heaven’ we must be fathers ourselves; to know how Christ loved the Church, we must have wives to love, and love them.” And to be religious, especially for a woman, we must do good in those simple everyday relations and duties of the family “which are most divine because they are most human.” In this way the moral authority and inspiration of the church was being transferred to the home without any apparent break with the Christian tradition.

For the agnostics, also, the home became a temple-a secular temple. For them the family was the basic source of those altruistic emotions they relied upon to take the place of the Christian ethic. It was there, they thought, that all who had thrown off the trammels of superstition might leam the “sentiment of attachment, comradeship, fellowship, of reverence for those who can teach us, guide, andelevate us, of love which urges us to protect, help, and cherish those to whom we owe our lives and better natures.” No doubt one might, in fact, leam quite different things, as Mill pointed out, but in its best forms he too recognized the family as “a school of sympathy, tendemess, and loving forgetfulness of self.” As such, it was the foundation for the Religion of Humanity. These generous sentiments, once learned in the home, might be extended later to the human race and the future of civilization.”

But whether a sacred temple or a secular temple, the home as a storehouse of moral and spiritual values was as much an answer to increasing commercialism as to declining religion. Indeed, it might be said that mainly on the shoulders of its priestess, the wife and mother, fell the burden of stemming the amoral and irreligious drift of modem industrial society. (p.346-7)

Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind (1830-1870) Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1985

En twee fragmenten uit De Groene Amsterdammer 2012 die een 21st-eeuw-kijk geven op het beeld van de Victoriaan.

Het beeld van de Victoriaan als preutse, puriteinse en azijnpissende onderdaan van een eeuwig rouwende koningin is aan het verdwijnen. In de boekenplanken die momenteel worden volgeschreven over het Victoriaanse tijdperk - met titels als The Good Old Days: Crime, Murder and Mayhem in Victorian London en Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasures in Victorian Britain - komt de Victoriaan naar voren als een energieke, trotse, sociaal bewogen, seksbeluste en voor vrijheid vechtende burger. Uit pas ontdekte dagboeken van een Amerikaanse student bleek bijvoorbeeld dat het nachtleven in het Cambridge van de jaren veertig in de negentiende eeuw een Sodom en Gomorra was. Ook Victoria zelf wordt niet langer gezien als de treurwilg die na de ontijdige dood van haar Albert celibatair leefde.
De Victoriaanse maatschappij, waar bureaucratie minimaal was, functioneerde. Docenten waren de baas in scholen, medici in ziekenhuizen en premier William Gladstone verrichtte met het redden van 'gevallen vrouwen’ een nuttige buitenschoolse activiteit. 'Liever de Victorianen dan de New Labour-knoeiers’, zo luidde een paar jaar terug de kop boven een stuk van cultuurbeschouwer A.N. Wilson. Zijn collega Christopher Howse schreef, in dezelfde trant: 'We renoveren hun bibliotheken maar halen de boeken weg, we bewonderen hun schilderijen maar kunnen zelf niet schilderen en we genieten van hun architectuur, maar bouwen niets dat lang meegaat.’
(auteur: Patrick van IJzendoorn De Nieuwe Victorianen  De Groene Amsterdammer 4 januari 2012)
Bertha Wegmann Visit in the Studio

The memory monster (2)

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Het boek “The Memory Monster, A Novel, Yishai Sarid vertaling uit het Hebreeuws door Yardenne Greenspan, Restless Books Brooklyn, New York, 2020.
De foto’ s bij deze aflevering zijn van de Franse fotograaf Patrick Imbert, niet te verwarren met gelijknamige filmregisseur. Hij vatte ze samen in een boek: Weekend à Oswiecim, de Poolse naam van een stadje dat wij als ‘Auschwitz’ kennen. ‘Il ne s’ agit pas de porter un jugement moral sur la touristique d’un lieu de mémoire, mais de montrer qie les grands événements historiques tendent à se fondre dans la quotidienneté.’ schrijft hij als slotwoord.
Ze vallen in dit geval samen met de inhoud van de novelle zonder dat ze elkaar dadelijk willen becommentariëren, een mooie taak voor de lezer-kijker.

Enkele wereldwijde persstemmen vertellen over de inhoud van het boek:

‘Translated from the Hebrew with a steady hand by Yardenne Greenspan, the entire book takes the form of a letter written to the chairman of the board of Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum. It is an apology, one that demands the writer unspool his entire life story to account for an act of violence that occurs in the final pages. We become acquainted with an impressionable man, yanked through his own life, who finds himself an expert on Nazi killing techniques almost by chance, Holocaust studies being the best way to make a decent living in Israeli academia. Once professorship passes him by, he finds work as a tour guide to the concentration and death camps in what is today Poland, leading high school students and soldiers, occasionally dignitaries and finally anyone who will pay through Sobibor, Majdanek, Treblinka, Auschwitz, in what becomes an increasingly claustrophobic loop.

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The pages of his letter, “overflowing with perversion and self-hatred and emotional vomit,” as he puts it, describe a breakdown. His immersion in the thinking and logic of the Nazis is so obsessive that he loses his bearings and begins to see the world in their zero-sum terms. And, worse, soon he hears these thoughts echo from the young Israelis visiting the camps — an “exposed reflection” — they who walk around wrapped in the flag, singing the national anthem, crying, but also whispering, “That’s what we should do to the Arabs.” It makes sense to the guide: “When they see this simple killing mechanism, which can be easily recreated in any place and at any time, it inspires practical thinking. And they’re still children, it’s natural, they find it hard to stop. Adults think the same things, but they keep it to themselves.” (Gal Beckerman NY Times 08/09/2020)

As the narrator chronicles his path, there is a constant tension between the historical facts that he recounts for others — the almost dry textbook recitation of events and dates, which most history is eventually reduced to — and the visceral, personal, deeply emotional reaction to the horrors, which were, after all, staggering in both scale and atrocity. The narrator is a true scholar of the Holocaust, an expert with all the facts at his fingertips — which also makes him a good guide — but the disconnect between all those ‘facts’ he has learned and deals with daily and the lived horror they represent, between the rational-analytic and the personal-emotional, is, unsurprisingly, something he has difficulty dealing with.

The narrator also explains:
At first, I tried to separate myself from the report and convey it in a clean, academic fashion, without bringing in my own personality or my private life, which, in and of themselves, are nothing worthy of discussion. But after writing only a few lines, I realized that was impossible. I was the vessel inside which the story lived. If I widened the cracks until I broke, the story would be lost, too.

The narrator is disappointed by the lack of engagement of his audience, and their unwillingness or inability to truly peer into the depths of this abyss. He also becomes increasingly troubled by some of the questions that inevitably arise, including what he would have done in the situation the Jews deportees found themselves in. So also the situation of the kapos and Sonderkommandos — prisoners who were part of the machinery — is a problematic one he struggles with.
When his own young son is bullied at kindergarten, he is aggressive in his reaction: “Force is the only way to resist force, and one must be prepared to kill”, he insists (not that the situation escalates to anywhere near that); tellingly, his approach doesn’t prove particularly successful in resolving the issue. (M.A.Orthofer, 6 September 2020 The complete review, Literary Saloon)

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Le narrateur s’interroge sur l’usage de la force et de la violence d’une manière radicale qui remue nos angoisses au-delà même de la tragédie de la Shoah. «Qu’auriez-vous accepté de faire pour survivre?» Ses questions incluent le rôle longtemps tabou des kapos juifs des camps, non pour les accabler, mais pour interroger l’instinct de survie et se persuader qu’il se serait comporté comme eux, aurait transporté les cadavres des chambres à gaz aux crématoires, aurait arraché les dents en or de leur bouche. Et de rappeler ces chiffres sur le «bon fonctionnement de l’extermination à Treblinka»: 30 Allemands, 150 Ukrainiens et 600 juifs y travaillaient. (Le Temps)

Patrick Imbert 14_26

Je häufiger der Erzähler in Sarids neuem Buch die Schüler durch Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz und Birkenau führt, desto klarer formuliert er seine Fragen. Wer wird zum Mörder? Wer nicht? Wer sind ihre Opfer? „Seltsamerweise hörte ich sie gerade in Majdanek, auf dem wenige Hundert Meter langen Weg von den Gaskammern zu Mausoleum und Krematorium, über Araber reden. In Flaggen gehüllt flüsterten sie: Araber, so müsste man es mit den Arabern machen. Nicht immer, nicht bei allen Gruppen, aber häufig genug, um mir im Gedächtnis zu bleiben.“ Und wenig später gibt der Erzähler die Antwort auf seine Frage selbst, warum sich der Hass ausgerechnet gegen die Araber richtet und nicht etwa gegen die Deutschen: „Aber Menschen wie die Deutschen können wir schwerlich hassen. Schaut euch die Fotos aus dem Krieg an, man muss der Wahrheit die Ehre geben, sie sahen total cool aus in diesen Uniformen, auf ihren Motorrädern, entspannt, wie Models auf Straßenreklamen. Den Arabern werden wir nie verzeihen, wie sie aussehen, mit diesen Bartstoppeln und den braunen Schlaghosen, mit ihren unverputzten Häusern, dem Abwasser in offenen Gossen und den Kindern mit Gerstenkorn im Auge, aber dieses helle, saubere europäische Äußere möchte man gern imitieren.“ (Franfürter Alg. Zeitung)

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De auteur zelf:

Né en 1965, fils d’un ancien ministre de Yitzhak Rabin et d’Ehud Barak, époux de la petite-fille de Moshe Dayan, lui-même ex-officier de l’armée israélienne, Yishaï Sarid porte avec force le questionnement de la mémoire de l’Holocauste pour des générations aux liens toujours plus ténus avec l’époque nazie. D’une précision ethnologique, son roman fouille dans les moindres détails l’efficacité mortifère des camps d’Auschwitz-Birkenau, de Treblinka, de Sobibor et de Belzec. Ecrasé par le poids de la mémoire qu’il a défrichée, le narrateur en arrive à douter des effets de sa parole sur les visiteurs qu’il guide.(Le temps)

DW: Your book is entitled The Memory Monster. Why is the memory of the Holocaust a monster?

Yishai Sarid: The history of the Holocaust is something that still has an intense impact on Israeli and Jewish life – both on a personal level, as a family trauma, and on an institutional level. The emotions that stem from it, like hatred and animosities, go in many different directions — and like a monster, you cannot control them.

DW: The main character in your book is a historian at Yad Vashem who guides Israeli tour groups through the death camps in Poland. His thoughts revolve around the Nazis’ cold-blooded mass murder. At times he even imagines he is one of them, while at the same time, he feels the eyes of the victims watching him. What is happening to him?

Yishai Sarid: The Holocaust becomes his personal monster. He relives the extermination process again and again and becomes obsessed by its dark fascination. It is a kind of pornography; evil has a certain attraction. It’s no wonder biographies of Nazis are published around the world. We are fascinated by their actions. We remember the German criminals because they lived on and they were active. That’s not fair. The protagonists should be the victims, not the criminals.

DW: Every year on Yom HaShoah, a siren sounds out across Israel, and life comes to a standstill for a minute as people commemorate the victims. What does Holocaust remembrance mean in Israel?

Yishai Sarid: This is the subject of my book. The lessons we learn from the Holocaust and how we handle this issue are quite problematic. The main lesson is still that the Jewish people need to be very strong and able to defend themselves. But take Yad Vashem. The Holocaust is first of all a Jewish tragedy, but it’s also a tragedy for humanity. They don’t teach young people the universal lesson of the Holocaust: What would you do if you were in the position of a German? How can we make sure that such things will never happen again anywhere? (interview en redactie: Sarah Judith Hofmann)

Een besluit?

Sarid is clearly very scared for Israel. The allegorical rhythms beat too loudly here to ignore. Other writers have described well the reverberations of trauma (like David Grossman in “See Under: Love”) but few have taken this further step, to wonder out loud about the ways the Holocaust may have warped the collective conscience of a nation, making every moment existential, a constant panic not to become victims again. Even considering his young son, bullied in kindergarten by another boy, the tour guide loses all proportion: “Force is the only way to resist force, and one must be prepared to kill.”

At one point, he has the task of helping the Israeli Army plan the logistics of what will be a symbolic invasion of one of the death camps, complete with helicopter landing and soldiers storming the grounds with automatic weapons. This sounds like satire, but in 2003, three Israeli F-15 fighter jets, piloted by the descendants of Holocaust survivors, carried out a flyover over Auschwitz — the once powerless desperate to show off their power, even to ghosts.

Memory is a monster, a “virus injected into these children’s bodies,” the tour guide writes, and he himself cannot escape the camps. He is condemned to visit them again and again; he comes to feel almost “at home” there behind the barbed wire, an offhand but terrifying admission. No longer just chased by the monster, he has been bitten and Sarid demands that we ask: What will he now become? (Gal Beckerman NY Times 08/09/ 2020)

Patrick Imbert 14_29

Tot slot twee bedenkingen van bijzondere denkers:

« La compassion est une émotion instable. Il faut la traduire en action pour ne pas qu’elle s’étiole. La question concerne ce qu’il faut faire des émotions qui ont surgi, du savoir qui a été transmis. Si l’on sent qu’il n’y a rien qu’ « on » puisse faire – mais qui est « on »? – et rien qu’ « ils » puissent faire non plus – et qui sont « ils »? – on commence à souffrir d’ennui, de cynisme et d’apathie. »  Susan Sontag
Patrick Imbert 14_24
"Développé par Foucault, le concept d’hétérotopie parle de « sortes de contre-emplacements, sortes d’utopies effectivement réalisées dans lesquelles les emplacements réels, tous les autres emplacements réels que l’on peut trouver à l’intérieur de la culture sont à la fois représentés, contestés et inversés, des sortes de lieux qui sont hors de tous les lieux, bien que pourtant ils soient effectivement localisables ». Un exemple parlant est le cimetière comme hétérotopie de la mort.
 Et il suffit de se tourner vers Wikipedia pour apprendre que « Un témoin est une personne (ou un objet) neutre, qui a vu ou entendu un fait ou un évènement et qui pourrait donc attester de sa réalité. »
Patick Imbert 14_30

In betere tijden zullen we nog andere aspecten van ‘herinneren’ bespreken. Laat ons deze dagen vooral zacht zijn voor elkaar. Elkaar bijstaan.

Patrick Imbert 14_20
De cette douleur si forte que sa seule expression est le blanc, le silence. Aucun mot, aucun son n’étant en mesure de dire ce qu’il y a à dire sans simultanément en détruire l’intensité. Le photographe n’est pourtant pas un épieur ici, pas plus qu’un voyeur – il est un témoin. Il est celui qui vient partager l’impartageable, lui donner une forme qui la rende saisissable sans l’amoindrir. Et c’est peut-être en ce sens que l’on peut évoquer le terme de démarche artistique. Parce que le témoin n’est pas un scientifique au regard analytique, il est une sensibilité, certes neutre, à la merci des énergies parcourant un lieu. Là pour opposer sa subjectivité au néant qui autrement engloutirait la mémoire. Le terme de documentaire serait donc à entendre dans le sens d’un Primo Levi dont la démarche et l’approche d’une humilité forcément sincère résonnent absolument avec l’oeil de Patrick Imbert: « L’auteur qui écrit sous la dictée intérieure de quelque chose ou de quelqu’un n’œuvre pas en vue d’une fin, son travail pourra lui valoir renommée et gloire, ce sera un surplus. » Et on lui souhaite, enfin, ce surplus.
Patrick Imbert 14_8

Sarah Blesener: ‘…how beliefs are formed.’


Meer nog dan letters zijn beelden onderhevig aan eenzijdige, of zeggen we beter ‘enkelvoudige’ interpretaties. Zo zou je met enkele beelden van deze vrij jonge documentaire-fotografe Sarah Blesener, geboren in Minneapolis Minnesota USA, kunnen denken aan een activiste die het over de kwalijke gevolgen van ‘nationalisme’ zou kunnen hebben, terwijl zij met haar werk meer geïntresseerd is in het ontstaan van wat mensen geloven en hoe ze via hun families, jongerenjaren en toekomstmogelijkheden met allerlei geloofsvormen en overtuigingen in contact komen, gebonden aan het tijdperk waarin zij (wij) leven.

The Historical War Camp in Borodino, Russia.

Sarah Blesener is a documentary photographer based in New York City. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she studied Linguistics and Youth Development. While in University, she worked as a photographer for the organization Healing Haiti based in Port au Prince, Haiti, covering events surrounding the 2010 earthquake. Upon graduation, she studied at Bookvar Russian Academy in Minneapolis, concentrating on the Russian language. She is a graduate of the Visual Journalism and Documentary Practice program at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her latest work revolves around ideologies amongst youth in Russia, Eastern Europe, and the United States. She was recipient of the Alexia Foundation grant for her 2017 work in the United States, and was also a 2017 fellow with Catchlight, working with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. In 2018, she was a recipient of the Eugene Smith Fellowship. In 2019, her personal project, Beckon Us From Home, received a first place prize in the Long-Term Project category of World Press Photo.

Students in the south Bronx of the Mott Haven neighbourhood, New York City.

‘I am interested in how beliefs are formed at a young age, how young people identify in their political atmosphere, and how it shapes them as individuals. On a different note, this also has to do with militarization of youth and the thin line between patriotism and nationalism. While issues affecting youth and youth culture are underreported, I find the same to be true with women and warfare. The reason I decided to photograph women soldiers in Ukraine had to do with the same themes I mentioned: identity, belief, and tradition. However, I also wanted to see a perspective of the story I had not witnessed before – how women were fighting not only in the war, but also for equal treatment as soldiers and for the right to fight on the front line of combat.’

The Historical War Camp in Borodino, Russia.

My interest in “nationalism” as an ideology rather than “Russian nationalism” in particular is what led me to work on this project. I had spent a few years studying the Russian language, and a few years living in Eastern Europe and Russia. At the time when I was studying at the ICP, in the United States we were going through what I would call an historical election year. Rhetoric of patriotism, border protection, xenophobia, and immigration filled the news not only in the United States but also across the globe. I saw a lot of similarities in Russia, and decided to try to photograph, or at least understand, patriotism amongst youth in Russia.

Students at the Inspection of Singing and Marching competition in Dmitrov, Russia.

A few of my Russian friends were very active in politics, and mentioned to me that they had a large number of young friends who were growing increasingly interested in patriotism and the military. In April of 2016, I happened to witness a cadet class that taught students to dismantle AK47s and to quickly dress and undress in biohazard suits. This became the first photograph I took for what would become a long-term project about patriotic education.

School #7

There is nothing inherently wrong with patriotism. However, these two terms (nationalism and patriotism) easily blur, and patriotic rhetoric can lead to nationalistic thinking. This is why I decided to focus on patriotic education, starting with patriotic clubs, patriotic classes and patriotic camps throughout the year. Access was difficult, but I had the advantage of speaking Russian, of having prior experience living in the country, and also I was a student at the time. Being young and a student in New York opened many doors for me. The individuals I met were curious about my life, why I spoke their language, and how I ended up in the middle of patriotic and historical war camps.

Firearm Drill

My aim is to continue along the same theme of my prior project in Russia, but here in the United States, focusing on patriotism among youth. While I was photographing and working in Russia, I saw many parallels to my own country. I think the phenomenon I see happening in Russia is not unique to itself, but it is global and widespread, and something that Americans can relate to. While we do not have the same style of patriotic camps or club, on an ideological level, the rhetoric is very similar, which is why I am dedicating this year and next to work on these themes and topics.

Utah Patriot Camp takes place in Herriman, Utah.

I want to continue to explore motivations and issues surrounding nationalism and patriotic fervor. I want to focus on how youth are taught these ideologies. Personally, I think this year in particular is an incredibly interesting to time to have a conversation about what it means to be patriotic, and how young people are responding to their political atmosphere.

Young Marines in Hanover, PA.

I also believe that in order to create significant media and photographs that create change, it is necessary to engage in long-term research and commitment to a region and topic, and this is my goal in photography – to commit myself to long-term projects and work. This fellowship with Reveal allows for the freedom to do just that.


I grew up fascinated by communication – linguistics and music in particular. Incredibly introverted, I was always interested in listening to those around me, and I think I realized early on in life how easily verbal communication fails. I found what I was looking for immediately with music and literature. As a teenager, I had a friend give me a camera and introduce me to photography. And photography became a different form of listening to those around me, a more private form. Unlike my experience with instruments, my camera became something I used in solitude as more of an escape. I began to experiment with photographing those closest to me, starting with my siblings. My older sister had been struggling with an eating disorder for a few years, and had begun to open up to me about her experiences. I decided to photograph her while she shared her feelings with me, something I was incredibly nervous to do. I was unsure how she would respond, how it would affect our relationship, and how the images would feel. However, the experience of seeing my sister through my camera, the vulnerability on both ends, was monumental for me. It was an experience that allowed me to hear her in a different volume. I could expand on this for a long time – but this, really, is how I became truly fascinated with photography.

The dual messages of “America first” and “Americanism” can be found not only at the forefront of current political movements, but in the pages of literature and education taught at camps and clubs across the United States. Here, in this microcosm of a changing nation, youth straddle the vulnerability of adolescence and simultaneous stripping of individuality. In these settings, around 400,000 American youth are taught annually, often with military subtext, what it means to be an American. Photographed in twelve different states across a divided country, Beckon Us From Home is an ongoing photography project investigating the ideology of patriotism.


This work examines themes surrounding the interplay of statehood and adolescent identity, looking at topics such as the anxiety surrounding high school shootings, the role of social media and empathy, and the impact of coming of age in a polarized nation. The aim is to open dialogue around the nuanced and complicated ideas instilled in future generations of Americans. How are young people responding to our contemporary society, with all of its changes in belief systems?

Haar geloof in ‘long term research’ houdt ons van gemakkelijke krantenkreten en social-media-getwieter verwijderd.  Ze is nu volop Duits aan ’t studeren dus mogen we zeker nieuw werk van haar in die richting verwachten.  Ook in dit kleine landje hebben wij het voortdurend over deze termen en beschieten we elkaar al dan niet met de nodige en vooral onnodige culturele canons terwijl er waarschijnlijk meer verbindingen bestaan dan wij vermoeden. Maar ook dat is long term werk waard.   Misschien wordt het tijd om oudere lijnen die ons verwijderen in meer gemeenschappelijke speel- en werkvelden op te lossen en elkaar beter te leren kennen in allerlei projecten waarvan dit blog hoopt een miniem onderdeel te mogen zijn.

Homeschool family living in Watford, ND.
Curtis, Kate and Jude, siblings, lay in their backyard in Watford, North Dakota. 6 July 2017. The Long family has five children whom they homeschool. Western North Dakota attracted families from across the nation during the recent oil boom. Watford, like other rural towns in the region, is now facing unemployment and overdevelopment since the decline of the oil industry.

Here, in this microcosm of a changing nation, youth straddle the vulnerability of adolescence and the simultaneous stripping of individuality.

Het ‘gebruiken’ van de typische eigenschappen eigen aan de adolescentenjaren is niet nieuw.  We zullen in een van de volgende bijlages het hebben over ‘soldaten’ van 13-17 jaar in de Eerste Wereldoorlog, een bijzondere studie die nauw bij dit onderzoek aansluit.  ‘L’ appel de la guerre, des adolescent au combat, 1914-1918, Manon Pignot, editions Anamosa, 2019.  Het boek opent met een citaat van Victor Hugo uit ‘Les Orientales’:

‘Veux tu, pour me sourire, un bel oiseau des bois,
Qui chante avec un chant plus doux que le hautbois,
Plus éclatants que les cymbales?
Que veux-tu? Fleur, beau fruit, ou l’ oiseau merveilleux?
-Ami, dit l’ enfant grec, dit l’ enfant aux yeux bleus,
Je veux de la poudre et des balles.’

Young Survivalist
Artyom Baklashkin (17), a student of the local secondary school in the village of Diveevo, stands guard in an abandoned building with a group known as the “Survivalists”, 6 Apr 2016, Russia. Survivalists train young adults to survive future wars and post-apocolyptic life and meet weekly for tactical drills. They are using air-soft guns for the practice and competition. Air-soft is a sport that replicates military action, but fires non-metallic pellets

 At the beginning of this project, I was looking for a standard definition of patriotism and nationalism to measure against. In the end, I found a myriad of contradicting perspectives and definitions that greatly differed from one another. I learned that these contradicting viewpoints contribute to a uniquely American perspective on patriotism, and also shows our divide, but at the same time allows room for the many counter-narratives across the country. These counter-narratives directly contradict and complicate the classic binary that is presented in the media. The classic binary of left vs. right /good vs. bad has been further elevated by the use of click-bait and easily digestible social media platforms, as well as the media organizations that have to adjust to ideas of likes, shares, and social redistribution. All of this has, in my opinion, reduced rather than expanded our content creation. This younger generation is incredibly mistrustful of media, questions every source, and is more fluid in their perceptions of politics. In general, they are far less polarized as the adults, and I hope it remains this way.

Marine Military Academy summer camp in Harlingen, TX.
Marine Military Academy, an all-boys institution, hosts a summer camp on their academic campus in Harlingen, Texas, 17 July 2017. The camp hosts boys from around the world, ages 12-18, with around 300 cadets in attendance.

I learned the kinds of questions I am interested in asking, and the kinds of questions I believe are important to be asking, rather than these strictly left vs. right dichotomies that we are often presenting: are we as societies fracturing? Where are we at in terms of empathy? How are youth responding to our contemporary society, with all of its changes in belief systems? The purpose is not to provide answers or to lay out a narrative that can be easily digested. I hope the images and stories are complex enough for my audience to struggle with them. I hope these stories will bridge black and white thinking around these issues, and to bring nuanced to many subjects that remain cloaked in stereotype and presuppositions. I want to encourage dialogue about larger issues at hand and to push back against trends of nationalism and xenophobia. And I want these images to encourage critical self-reflection. I want these images to pose tough questions to our own identities, our own ideas of nationhood, our own childhood and experiences of coming of age, and our own struggles with all of these themes.

Orthodox Warrior Camp, Diveevo, Russia.
A group from Stavropol escapes the heat at a lake in Diveevo during an afternoon off. 2 August 2016. “Orthodox Warrior” camp takes place in Diveevo, the center of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians in Russia. The relics of one of the most revered saints, St. Seraphim, are celebrated on the 1 of August, attracting pilgrims from all across the country. The participants of the camp train not only in martial arts and tactical training, but unite under their Orthodox faith.



Het mooie van bio’s die de oude meesters willen beschrijven is hun variabele gissing naar geboorte- en sterfdatum.

Antwerpenaar Jan Van Kessel zou aldaar geboren zijn tussen 1612-1628 en gestorven rond 1679-1680, de zeventiende eeuw dus, wiens gouden schijn vaak diepe miserie verborg.

Hij was de neef van de fluwelen Breughel (Jan Breughel, de jongere) en zijn grootvader was ook een Jan Breughel, de Oudere. (vader van zijn moeder)

Als ik er dan nog bijvertel dat hij voor dertien kinderen zorgde van wie er ook nog twee schilder werden, dan is het pictoraal milieu in Antwerpen overduidelijk.
Schilder in hart en nieren.

Is zijn zin voor details meteen al een familiekwestie, zijn interesse voor de ‘nature’ genoemd ‘morte’, maar levendig en wel in zijn geval, bleek meer met de tijdsgeest dan met de voorvaderen in verband te staan.


Het was de eeuw van nieuwe ontdekkingen, nieuwe wetenschappen (we naderen de fameuze 18de eeuw met rasse schreden) en gedurende heel zijn leven heeft hij die ontdekkingen met veel belangstelling gevolgd.

In nieuwe landen werden nieuwe diersoorten ontdekt, nieuwe planten werden bestudeerd, en om aan de nieuwsgierigheid van de geleerden te voldoen zocht de Antwerpse uitgever en drukker Plantijn Moretus naar bekwame illustratoren, belegde hij ontmoetingen tussen schilders en wetenschappers om hem bij te staan bij de publicatie van de nieuwe encyclopediën.

Een allegorie van water: een inktvis, een zeehond, een zeeschildpad, palingen, oesters en andere vis en schelpdieren in de duinen van Scheveningen met schepen op de achtergrond. Gesigneerd met: ‘I·V·KESSEL.FECIT’. (Coll.

En het waren deze publikaties die waarschijnlijk Jan Van Kessel de smaak bijbrachten voor zijn studieschetsen.

Denk aan de Historiae naturalis’ van Konrad Gesner, de ‘De Distoria stirpium’ van de Duitser Leonard Fuchs, en de werken van de Nederlander Van Leeuwenhoek, die o.a. belangrijke verbeteringen aan de microscoop aanbracht.

Details uit de bovenste prenten maken duidelijk hoe nauwkeurig Jan Van Kessel zijn ‘kleine’ onderwerpen (de insecten) bestudeerde.


Het uitbundige en volumineuze ‘stilleven’ -op zijn Antwerps, ook toen al- maakt duidelijk dat het hem niet alleen om studiewerk ging, en ook niet om met allerlei symbolen en allegorieën diepere gedachten op te wekken, neen, hier was een man aan het werk die met plezier naar de natuur keek, die wetenschap en poëzie als geen ander kon verenigen.
Levensplezier ontstaan door wetenschappelijk kijken.

Zelfs zijn ‘Heilige Familie’ is maar een aanleiding om volop met bloemen en planten te kunnen bezig zijn.


En om toch nog een beetje de mode van de tijd te volgen zien we in zijn (of van leerlingen of navolgers van hem) ‘Vanitas’ dat ook hier de dood moet wijken voor het levensplezier, voor de kleuren en bewegende vormen van bloemen en planten.

Natuurlijk waren de aartshertogen Albrecht en Isabella geen uitzondering.
In hun cabinetten hingen afbeeldingen van deze nieuwe (wetenschappelijke) kijk op de natuur, een smaak die vele gegoede Antwerpenaars met hen deelden.
Er was dus werk genoeg aan de winkel.

Jan Van Kessel’s plezier om tot in het kleinste detail zijn onderwerpen te schilderen, is ver van het droge tekenen en schetsen dat we later (18de eeuw) zien opduiken.
Kijk naar de subtiele achtergrond, de compositie van zijn onderwerp, de beweging, of de mooie combinaties die hij maakt, het is een waar feest voor het oog.

Stilleven – Museum van Sens

Er is natuurlijk al een Joris Hoefnagels geweest op wie hij zich heeft georiënteerd, dat is zo, net zoals hij voor zijn dieren inspireerde op het werk van Snijders, van Savery en zijn grootvader Jan.

Zijn zin voor het exotische en zelfs het groteske maken de Antwerpenaar helemaal wakker in hem, maar tegelijkertijd blijft hij wetenschappelijke werken bestuderen, raadpleegt hij botanisten en is zijn voorliefde voor vlinders (ook als rups!) een duidelijk teken van zijn levensvreugde.

Klein detail: op het einde van zijn leven moest hij al zijn bezittingen verkopen om zijn schulden te kunnen inlossen.


In Toulouse wordt vandaag, 27 maart, één van zijn werken verkocht.
Een olie op koper, een geliefde ondergrond voor hem trouwens.

Zou nog iemand aan de berooide kunstenaar denken als grote sommen voor kleine vlinders worden neergeteld?

van Kessel, Jan; Insects; The Fitzwilliam Museum;