Monday, 31 December 2012


Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year.
May your lives be full of blessings
and may we all have the wisdom to know what matters.

Monday, 24 December 2012

CELEBRATIONS ~ The Night Before Christmas


The poem which has come to epitomise Christmas Eve and which so many of us have dancing in our heads each year at this time was written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822.
This delightful poem is responsible for the vision of Santa Claus in a  sleigh drawn by reindeers which had not been imagined before Clement wrote his poem.
It's not known why he wrote it, but he had not intended it for publication and it only came to light when the New York Sentinel published it after Miss H Butler, a family friend sent them a copy. Clement was a shy man and it was requested that the wrtiter remain anonymous.

Clement Clarke Moore later claimed ownership and the poem was included with his other work in a book.

The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house 
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away t o the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

CELEBRATIONS ~ A Dream of Christmas Eve

Some beautiful Christmas images from one of our favourite artists, George Hitchcock.

A Dream of Christmas Eve by George Hitchcock

A Dream of Christmas Eve
signed and inscribed 'To A. Fich with the compliments of G Hitchcock' (lower left)
oil on canvas
11¼ x 14¾ in. (28.5 x 37.4 cm.)

This painting was sold on 4 October 2000 by Christies New York for $5,640 from an estimate of between $6,000 and 8,000.  (Sale 8441, Lot 35).

A Dream of Christmas
George Hitchcock
Private collection
Painting - oil on canvas

George Hitchcock (1850-1913)

George Hitchcock is not as well known as he ought to be for his work was enlightening and ethereal. Perhaps because he was an American artist who spent much of his career in the Netherlands he did not become recognised by any one group of admirers. Born in 1850 in Providence Rhode Island,   Hitchcock graduated from Brown University, and from Harvard Law School in 1874. A descendant of Roger Williams (the founder of Rhode Island), he practised law for several years in New York before deciding in 1879 to become an artist. Travelling to Europe he studied in Paris with Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre, in Düsseldorf, and in The Hague with H. W. Mesdag. and in 1890 set up his own Art Summer School in the little-known Dutch village of Egmond-Binnen. He wintered in Paris, and spent the summers in Egmond. He continued doing this until 1905, when he married the English painter Cecil Jay and settled in Paris year round. He died in a houseboat in the harbor of Marken in the Netherlands in 1913.

His friends included Gari Melchers, J. J. Shannon, John Singer Sargent, Fokko Tadama and Thamina Groeneveld. George Hitchcock was a gifted painter. At the time he arrived in the Netherlands artists had yet to record its colorful bulb fields on canvas, which he set out to do. The light of the Lowlands and its effect on his subject matter captivated him. Moreover, Hitchcock was drawn to the Netherlands because of the country and its people, and portrayed its landscape as well as the Dutch in traditional costume. In his day he was a highly regarded artist, enjoying the patronage of the likes of Emperor Frans Joseph and Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi") of Austria.

— read the text about him by Peter J. H. van den Berg from The Victorian Web

He returned to the USA only occasionally in later years. Hitchcock’s style, similar to Impressionism, has been appreciated more in Europe than in the USA. A good example of his style is the Blessed Mother (1892; Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.). He received some recognition in the USA, such as election to associate membership in the National Academy of Design, New York, and he was the first American to be made a member of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, and the first to become an officer of the Order of Franz Josef. He was also a chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.

George Hitchcock, Annunciation Lilies, circa 1887 

The Annunciation Lilies, 1887
Oil on canvas
158.8 x 204.5 cm (62 1/2 x 80 1/2 in.)
Signed, lower left: "Goe Hitchcock/ op xxxvi 1887"

Potter Palmer Collection, 1930.1289
Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago, 1890; bequeathed to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1930.

George Hitchcock, The Flight Into Egypt, 1892

Friday, 14 December 2012

CELEBRATIONS ~ The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas has a complex spirit. It may seem simple. Put up some sparkly ornaments, light the fire, hang the wreath, and switch on the fairy lights. Gifts all wrapped in pretty paper and tied with bows, and love. Time spent on reflection of the year almost gone, merry making with family and friends, and counting our blessings over grand meals shared. But is that all that Christmas is?

Deep at the heart of Christmas are both pagan and Christian beliefs shared over several countries and centuries all of who have added images and tales to the vast tapestry of Christmas.

The star that guided The Three Wise Men

If we separate Christmas from the religious aspects, (and many do) something sacred yet remains. Something you cannot see, or touch. It's there, under the glitter, beyond the price of presents. Perhaps it is within us. Christmas has a heart.

Victorian Christmas illustration

The darkest time of the year is a time to look inward, to be grateful for the gifts we have, both material and spiritual.  To remember and thank those who have brightened our year, and not to forget those less fortunate than ourselves.

The Night Before Christmas
Arthur Rackham

The story of Christmas, in all it's variations is more than a tale for children, which adults will remember.

Something about it reaches out to our own childhood, that tiny remnant of us which has never, and will never quite grow up.

We take delight in all of it's pleasures,  expectations and possibilities. The excitement of the  night before Christmas, the possibility of a  White Christmas in the snow, centuries of songs played each year, the glow of fairy lights in darkness.

Every year I take out the same favourite ornamants and  images. Time does not ever dim them. Those storytellers who told and illustrated the tale live on in our hearts as we pass their words and images down to our children and grandchildren. It may mean something slightly different to each new generation but we can all learn from what came before.

As I said, Christmas has a compex spirit. Bright, but not all light. It is a mysterious magic how some of  the darkest tales can gladden the heart. The German and Allied soldiers who shared a Christmas truce are the perfect example of how Christmas changes our actions and emotions.

The Spirit of Christmas by Frank Adams

The classic Christmas story remains 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. It has a happy ending, and yet, it depicts so much suffering which was common in those days. We see Victorian times as romantic but poverty caused great pain, and death for many.

Probably my very favourite Christmas story is 'The Little Match Girl' by Hans Christian Anderson. As a child I found the Arthur Rackham illustration and wondered who this child was whose face was so illuminated by the Spirit of Christmas. Rackham's vision of her transfixed me then, and still does, but she has been beautifully represented by many artists. 

Arthur Rackham's Little Match Girl

That Christmas I found the story in an old book and read it in a quiet place. I was surprised to find that my cheeks were wet. A sensation which was new to me. We had a shiny fake tree that year, all the rage in the 60s. It was white, covered in tinsel and on a revolving stand which played 'Silent Night' and other songs over and over as the tree and it's pastel ornaments went round and round very slowly. But no matter how modern or plastic our tree was, Christmas was still real. I waited until dinner had been served and crept under the tree to stand alone for a few minutes thinking of all the little match girls the world had known. In my 6 year old heart I knew that she was real and I vowed never to forget her. None of us should.

Illustrated by |Janet and Anne Graham Johnstone


“La cerillera / The Little Match Girl”

from “No tan felices”

by Manuel de los galanes

Kristin over at the wonderful 'Tales of Faerie' has captured her spirit and that of Christmas so well in this post. Take the time to remember her and all of those who live without Hope, yet still believe in it.

The Little Match Girl by Tales of Faerie

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

SEASONS ~ Winter Wonderland

Jack Frost by Arthur Rackham
from "Arthur Rackham's Book of Pictures" published by Heinemann, London in 1913

Jack Frost has come and strung tiny fairy lights and icy jewels in the hedges and trees.  All  glistens with a dewy irridescence.  The Autumn lanterns, spider webs and fence posts, just every day things, are made magical with a wave of the long icy fingers of just one of his his frosty hands.

It is very cold outside but beautiful and so eeriely still that you can hear the sound of your own footfall. You do not have to imagine very hard to think that the tinkling upon the wind is the bells from the carriage of The Snow Queen in the distance in the woods. We put out food for the birds each morning and take it away each evening or it will freeze.

Gerda and The Reindeer by Edmund Dulac
Poem, "Reindeer Presence," by Mario Milosevic.
cards available from Endicott Studio, Here:
Some animals simply by being have a magical mystical quality to them. In the eyes of a child Reindeer inhabit the same realm as Dragons, flying Horses and Unicorns. The Hans Christian Anderson tale of The Snow Queen has frightened and thrilled generations of children all over the world. C.S. Lewis acknowledged that his land of Narnia owed a debt of inspiration to Hans Christian Anderson for his having first gathered the folklore and preserved it forever in his tale.

My favourite characters in the story are Gerda and the Reindeer who is her big friend. Edmund Dulac captured his tears at the distress of his little maiden. This image was dear to me as a child, and then almost forgotten until someone sent me a Christmas card bearing it. So many years after reading the story it still made my heart glad. In this poem by Mario Milosevic the spirit of The Reindeer is captured beautifully. I am as glad today as I was some 50 years ago when I discovered that Reindeer are in fact very real.

"Reindeer Presence," by Mario Milosevic

Reindeer, you are keepers of time,
your souls always moving.
You eat lichen and moss,
swallowing the magic of the Earth.
You know nothing of us
but we see your other–worldly ways,
and we know your wild heart
is the only gift we ever need.

—an excerpt from Reindeer Presence
by Mario Milosevic.
Art by Edmund Dulac. 

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