Yet, the intensity of the art of both creative souls indicates a spiritual and creative affinity. Deep inside, they were kindred spirits, it seems to me - sensitive, emotional, lonely, somewhat embittered and incessantly creating, completely dedicated to their art. Also, they both loved the open fields in the summer...Many of Chopin's letters from rainy, grey Paris to his family in Poland contain notes on nostalgia for the childhood summers in the village - with folk music, sunlight, and fun!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUHmr7ZCSoI (Chopin's Mazurka Op. 7 No. 1, played by Artur Rubinstein)
Chopin loved art and artists - his best friends included Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) who painted the famous double portrait of Chopin and George Sand, later split into two, and Teofil Kwiatkowski (1809-1891) who painted the composer at his death-bed, surrounded by family and artistic friends. He valued highly the art of Auguste Clesinger, a sculptor who later married George Sand's daughter, Solange (Chopin took their side against Sand) and, after the composer's death, designed his tombstone in Paris.
Mentions of painters are rarely found in Chopin's letters to family or friends, though in an early letter, the 15-year old pianist writes about his own artistic efforts. On August 26, 1825 from Szafarnia to family in Warsaw, Fryderyk mentioned his sketch of a folk musician from the village, that he drew after witnessing an impressive harvest performance by villagers. He refers to himself as possibly being a "painter, blinded to the quality of his own work." The most notable part of the letter, however, is its extensive description of the folk performance: hearing the music live in the village provided Chopin with a life-long inspiration for composing mazurkas and stylizing village music into high art.
Another famous letter to family, of 18-20 July 1845, written from Nohant, is filled with descriptions of sculptures as part of artistic news from France. While the letter mentions some artists by name, its title to fame lies in its discussion of nostalgia and remembering Poland's fields in rainy Paris - being in "imaginary spaces" (espaces imaginaires) of the heart. It clearly reveals the homesickness and loneliness of the composer, even surrounded by nature on the beautiful summer estate in Nohant.
Paintings by Van Gogh inspired many poets, most recently gathered in an anthology Resurrection of a Sunflower (2016) edited by Catfish McDaris and published by Pski's Porch. I was thrilled to have three poems included in that almost 600 page brick of a book. It is available at the Van Gogh Museum in Holland and online, if you want to know what paintings most inspired the poets.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvqFOEPgJQU (Mazurka Op. 7 No. 2, by Artur Rubinstein)
My "Mulberry Song" published in "Resurrection of a Sunflower" was reprinted on the Poetry Laurels Blog in May 2017 - and it is found below.
Another poem that I wrote "after" a Van Gogh's painting is entitled "Azure" and was inspired by La Méridienne oú La sieste, d'apres Millet from 1890 - an astounding painting of azure, sapphires and gold yellows that I saw in Paris in 2014 (see the image above). Since, my blog also reports on Monet's Waterlilies with a cycle of poems inspired by those amazing paintings, and contains tons of photos from Paris, I'm reproducing the poem below.
Millicent Borges Accardi
Yellow mustard moss, green white
A blue box learning
Up against the tree
Or perhaps a leather
Each stroke, a finger
A pushing back
The curl of a brush end
And puffs of colorful
There is no blue without yellow and without orange.
~Vincent Van Gogh
The branches flare out. They'll go so dead
in winter that one will think, What can come back
from that? But Lazarus arms surge unbound
in spring. Now the surface blurs orange and yellow,
purple fruit hidden in the air. A cauldron whirls
Deep beyond the woods. Mitten-shaped leaves
paw what the bark stands down, as an autumn
brush heads to closure. What can arise from
this consistent loss? A plain mystery shows itself
in the roots, twisted, Medusa hair swirling
Asps into the cold air. The tree collides with night,
stars and all. Fence posts built from the Mulberry,
haphazard in night air. Fruit bark hues
blaze in a bounty. I hold them in my hands
as well. Precious are the stripes of the wounded tree.
before the last day of autumn
on a cardboard, under the azure expanse of unfinished sky
green – into chartreuse – into amber – into gold
to fall – to fall not – to end – to end not –
I am aglow but for a moment
exploding off the canvas
aflame, all aflame
sic est gloria mundi
once captured in a frenzy of light, becoming
crystallizing at the edge of oblivion
let my song fill your day till it glows –
The Mulberry Tree painting was so inspirational, that I dedicated another poem to this out-of-this-world tree - and it was recently published in the "Eclipse Moon" - an anthology of the Southern California Haiku Study Group edited by William Scott Galasso (2017).
There are no seasons in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, or rather it is always the beginning of autumn, when you approach the blazing mulberry tree of Vincent Van Gogh. It came into being on a piece of cardboard, in a flurry of brush strokes, under the azure expanse of unfinished sky. I see the bare cardboard peek from under the cobalt and indigo traces, layered briskly by Vincent’s paintbrush, in a frenzy of passion. This tree is the brightest star, an ancient supernova: it glows, but for a moment. Yet, it outshines reality with artifice, exploding off the wall, imprinting itself onto my retina, to endlessly flourish in my mind. I come back two months later, and there it is, still exploding, still golden, still dancing in a frenzy of light,
time transfigured into
gold swirls of awareness –
the alchemy of art
The anthology took its title from a haiku by Diana Ming Jeong:
an abyss forged
Now that we have returned to moonlight, it is time to listen to a nocturne (Op. 9 No. 2, illustrated with Van Gogh's "Starry Night"):