|Work in progress
After trying to match a straight forward face with a 3/4's turned body for 10 months, I finally realized a new direction was called for...it is the obvious one . Turn the body straight ahead as well . And so now I'm using a different photo the Tsar in my painting . Here is a photo, but I stress it's still a work in progress and by no means finished
How can one be excited about a picture they have been painting for almost two years?
Because it's never the same painting
And so the work goes on.
Alexi has been waiting patiently for me to solve the problems of his father's portrait for a long time now
and so have the Brontes!
|Bronte portraits in the wings
The good news in the waiting is I know the paintings will be better for it as I'm writing my Bronte book all during this time.
Time ripens ideas and goals and one often becomes more daring
I just counted. I have 80 word documents of scenes in five folders...with lots more to come
Just today I was writing about Emily's funeral. Charlotte's 6 month falling out with Ellen. 1852: CB's trip to Fiely . 1853 : Wit-Sun...I hop about
Recently I've become interested in Margaret Fuller and wrote about her story's impact on my Bronte novel. There are fascinating similarities and differences between these two women of genius . Reading about one offers insights into the other
Charlotte Bronte and Margaret Fuller
The snares of the world are less dangerous than the demons of solitude."
If Charlotte Bronte had written Jane Eye a year earlier and Margaret Fuller had come to England a year later, they would likely to have met as they moved in similar circles.
But by the time Charlotte was seen in London, Fuller was Italy.
Tantalizingly , they were both in Manchester in the late summer of 1846. Charlotte was there nursing her father after his eye operation. She was also writing " Jane Eyre" at his bedside. Margaret was just off the boat from America, visiting schools and other institutions on her way to London .
It's too bad they did not meet. I think these two women of genius would have appreciated each other and I would love to read how each described the other, for they used language like no one else.
Margaret Fuller has been nibbling on the edges of my consciousness for some time. One has to investigate Fuller finally. She is too grand a figure in American literature , women's studies and journalistic history to ignore forever. If she's not well known , the fault is ours, not hers.
As Fuller was making another impingement on my brain, my sister sent me Megan Marshall's new biography of Fuller. I read a page or two and decided I need to learn more about Margaret Fuller before reading so evocative book and so get the most out of it.
I began a general read . As with the Brontes, there are many years of books about Fuller to explore.
Margaret was born with genius and then was schooled arduously in the classics by her father. She learned Latin at 6 . Fuller was such a genius, that mid 19th century American intellectual males had no difficulty admitting it and treating it as a matter of course. As the undergraduates stared, Margaret was allowed the use of the Harvard reading room. The first woman ever to gain that distinction.
She was the first American, man or woman, to be a foreign correspondent for a major American newspaper. She ran a military hospital nearly 10 years before Florance Nightingale. Besides brains, she had a large portion of Yankee grit
It's is fascinating to track Chalotte Bronte and Fuller's travels in the London of their day, like ships in the night . Both knew Harriet Martineau quite well...and both had a falling out with her. Both met G. H. Lews, and both thought little of him. He was saved from the worst from Charlotte because he resembled Emily.
They both saw the French actress Rachael perform and were bowled over. Fuller went back time and again to see her and Charlotte hardly dared to.
As children, both woman found real life such an excruciating bore they created their own inner world which was far more real to them.
After death, both were the subject of a swiftly published biography that sought to smooth out what was deemed as their unladylike rough edges...that is, their genius.
Fuller found she was more of a celebrity author in Europe than in her own country. The likes of Carlye, called on her. Much like Charlotte a short time later, no door of literary London that Fuller cared to open was closed to her.
A difference here though is Fuller had been highly social all her life. Dinners, meetings and such held no terrors for as they did for Bronte. Also Fuller's assent to fame was slow and long. Bronte was famous literally overnight with no chance to grow accustomed to the attention ...besides being a shy Bronte
I soon found out why Margaret Fuller has come swooping on to my radar at this time with such force: because in some respects Fuller's love story is much like Charlotte's own.
Women of genius marry men not deemed their intellectual equal.
In all fairness one cannot compare Fuller's eventual husband, Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, with Arthur Bell Nicholls in matters of education. Rev Nicholls was a graduate of Trinity University and Ossoli was taught his letters by the local priest. Being a minor nobleman and gentleman already , education was not seen as a necessity for Ossoli . Arthur however made himself a gentleman through education.
But when comparing these men with the women of genius they loved ,one can for the sake of discussion speak of them together
Both women knew many would not understand their choice and even had moments of embarrassment when announcing their marriages.
About Ossoli , Margaret writes frankly that he was not in any respect such a man as her friends would expect her to choose.
Charlotte wrote that her match would not be seen as brilliant, yet in it she herself "saw germs of real happiness." Quite an endorsement for Arthur from Bronte's pessimistic pen.
How these men had success where others had failed was found in the great love they had for these woman of genius of course. But it was vital that both gentlemen's view points created a space which contained the accustomed male/ female roles . Both men saw themselves as knights errant to a lady in need. ; as argent rescuers of a damsel in distress.
In Ossoli's case, that was exactly how he meet Fuller. She was alone in St.Peter's having lost her travel companions, and in distress. He offered her his help. At first it was to find Fuller a carriage, but none were available. So Ossoli escorted the fair lady on the long walk home. The next day he was seen under her window . This meeting has the outlines of many a bedtime story
Of course, in Arthur's case, he had for years witnessed Charlotte's suffering from her terrible loneliness , which even world renown was powerless to quell. Finally Arthur could stand no more . He stepped out of the background one December evening to declare himself and , in his mind, recuse Charlotte .Arthur was then embroiled in a 18 month quest to win Charlotte's hand.
Giovanni Ossoli and Arthur Bell Nicholls
Given the role of champion, men of lesser lights could have a firm standing with women of genius. They honored the brilliance, but saw too the costs . This is the benefit of the supposedly "dull" man . They are not dazzled, resentful or in competition with the mentally superior woman like so many others . They just adore them .
Both women were also very passionate. Few people could withstand their emotions at full or even half blast. Nicholls and Ossoli welcomed all the Bronte and Fuller could give and returned it in full measure.
This took the women a bit of time to understand. They were so use to "earning" regard with their brilliance . Just to have it given to them for their "home self," as Charlotte would say , was unusual
They were use to enticing others with that brilliance...yet in one's late 30's, even genius can get tired of that...particularly since it was not working. They found most others could only take so much.
Margaret wrote, .... To some I have been obliged to make myself known; others have loved me with a mixture of fancy and enthusiasm excited by my talent at embellishing life. But Ossoli loves me from simple affinity; he loves to be with me, and to serve and soothe me. . . . In him I have found a home."
I believe Charlotte would have said the same of her "Dear boy."
Both women were Protestants to their marrow, yet both made compromises on that score to the men they married. Ossoli was a devoted Catholic and Arthur was a devoted adherent to the Oxford movement within the Anglican church, which for an Evangelical like Charlotte was almost as bad . But the women finally looked to their husbands' simply piety and goodness , more than what they felt was an erroneous doctrine
While there are many similarities ...their stories contain great differences as well
Fuller had no idea to marry Ossoli in order to be his lover. He was 11 years younger, penniless like herself, a Catholic and with a family who would be outraged at such a marriage to the point of disowning him. The couple kept their alliance a secret on both sides of the Atlantic .
Ossoli asked her to marry him shortly after their affair began. She refused sighting the unsuitability of age, empty purse and religion . Fuller only came to marriage finally because she became a mother , then she grew to love both positions.
In Charlotte Bronte's case it could only be through marriage that she would know physical love ...and sadly motherhood was denied her.
It is interesting how Fuller met and got to know George Sand before arriving in Italy. I believe that meeting helped Fuller to see her way to putting aside her upbringing and enjoy sexual love without marriage.
Margaret saw that Sand, the advocate of free love, was herself a very high minded woman and in no way degraded by loving outside of marriage . That meeting, plus Italy itself, freed Fuller .One can sense the relief as the New England frost melted under these influences
In New England, the levy for a woman pursuing an intellectual life was celibacy. Italy exacted no such price. Being a Protestant was outrage enough...what was one more and a far more understandable one at that? In New England the lack of marriage between lovers was the scandal. In Italy, marriage with a Protestant was the outrage
Bronte greatly admired Sand, but I think even meeting her would not allow Charlotte to so leave behind her upbringing as to take on a lover in the flesh without marriage. Bronte never stopped being her father's daughter, indeed never left his house. It is fascinating that it was while Bronte was away from England she experienced some of her highest romantic emotions. It's as if these 19th century women must be away from their own counties and in foreign lands to try these wings.
While Charlotte's father, Patrick, was ever on the scene. Fuller's father died when she was 25 and Fuller became the head of the family. She saw to her mother's care and that her younger brothers were educated. Fuller was more on her own than Charlotte ever was. Therefore she was able to move beyond her original sphere.
But since Bronte never truly left Haworth's Parsonage, if there was to be sexual love for Charlotte, beyond what she knew in her inner life, it would have to be experienced as a wife.
Politically they were worlds apart. Charlotte was a stalwart Tory and Fuller was a self-described Radical...indeed a hero of revolution as was her husband. But that would not stop either woman from appreciating each other greatly.
I can quite see Charlotte listening to Fuller enthralled . Margaret was one of those geniuses who make you feel smarter yourself after reading their words...and apparently the effect was even greater in conversation.
Charlotte was often too socially awkward to impress in person. She was more comfortable one on one or with pen in hand . But I think they would have recognized something special within each other on sight.
I believe these woman would have had much to say to each other . It's a tragedy both for them and us, that they died so young.
Okay! Back to work!