Showing 1 - 3 of 3 annotations contributed by Daiss, Susan
Vertumnus and Pomona is a story of seduction and deception from Ovid's Metamorphoses, a popular source of imagery for 17th century Dutch painters. Vertumnus, the Roman god of seasons and change, assumed multiple guises as he attempted to woo the recalcitrant wood nymph Pomona. Govaert Flinck has painted the moment in the courtship when Vertumnus, disguised as an old woman, is speaking on his own behalf to a bemused Pomona. The two figures are dramatically pressed to the front of the picture plane in a tightly defined space and are set against a dark background of tree trunks and exposed roots.
While the setting is intimate and the figures are so close that their knees almost touch, the distance between them is unmistakable. Pomona, seated on the right, is portrayed as a ruddy complexioned young woman, elegantly-if curiously for the setting-dressed in white satin, with a richly embroidered bodice. She leans to her left, her check pressed heavily into her hand, her gaze directed off into the distance. Whether she is listening intently to her companion or dreamily lost in her own thoughts is impossible to discern.
On the left, Vertumnus is portrayed in mid-gesture, "her" right hand moving toward Pomona; her left, turning back to herself. In contrast with Pomona's youthful complexion, Vertumnus' coarse skin and features bear the evidence of age. What isn't immediately certain, however, is Vertumnus' gender. While the rust-colored clothing and turban-like headdress suggest a woman's garments, there is a manly quality in both the face and hands. Flinck, exercising his culture's delight in sexual innuendo, solves the riddle for the careful observer who notices the walking stick that leans against the inside of Vertumnus' thigh.
Little-and yet everything- is left to the imagination in Douglas Gorsline's Bar Scene. Seated at a crowded urban bar is a young woman. She is almost elegant in her silk blouse, fur coat and broad-brimmed black hat. Though she sits with her shoulders parallel to the picture plane, and has been placed squarely in the middle of the foreground, her thoughts-and her gaze-are clearly directed elsewhere. Standing behind her, is an older man. As he tips his head back to drink, he, too, is looking off to his left, but with eyes that are conspicuously narrowed. The lengthening ash on his cigarette suggests that his left hand has not recently moved from the woman's shoulder.
Where the smoldering cigarette gives a clue about time lapsed between the two figures in their current position in the painting, the woman's rumpled neckline invites the viewer to imagine what has transpired between the two of them in the time before they came to be seated at the bar. The woman's open blouse is bunched and gaping at her waistline as if mis-buttoned. The pointed blouse collar that is smoothed on top of her fur coat on her right, is tucked beneath on the left side. The man's shirt is also wrinkled, possibly unbuttoned behind the tie, and not tidily tucked in at the belt-line.
This foreground scene is connected with the rest of room by the line of smoke rising from the cigarette and the curve of the bar, along which are seated several single men and another couple. The setting has been recently identified as Costello's, a popular New York City bar that was well-known to the painter. Though the figures themselves are not specific, the attention to the details of the space and the clothing are, suggesting that the moment Gorsline has captured was a moment observed. The painting is dated in the lower right-hand corner: 1942, a complicated period in American and world history. Although it does not take a world at war to foster relationships that are at once intimate and distant, the war certainly complicated many relationships between women and men.
 Marie Via, "Douglas Warner Gorsline Bar Scene , " In: Marjorie Searl, ed. Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery) 2006, pp. 249-253.
Detail by detail, we are drawn into John Koch's painting, done with such precision that we are seduced into believing that he has painted precisely what was before him. His painted world is, however, an artful balancing act of realism and artifice. His interiors are like theatrical backdrops, where his models, like actors, play their roles. The drama of Interlude is actually an entr'acte--a familiar subject in Koch's work--when artist and model are taking a break. In the background, seated on a sofa, looking off to the viewer's right--the painting's "stage left"--is the artist himself. Drink in hand, he gazes intently at a canvas in process.
In the middle-ground, dressed in a brilliant red robe, is his wife, a white-haired older woman, offering the seated young woman-clearly a model because she is not dressed-a cup of tea. The model, seen from the back, sits at the very edge of a day bed. Her dark brown skin is set off against the white sheet beneath her. Especially marked, is the contrast between her outstretched arm and the older woman's red robe. The essential detail-visually as well as symbolically-is the tea cup that is about to pass between them.
In this intimate world of the artist's studio--ten stories above the streets of New York--two women are engaged in an historic reversal: a young black model is being served by an older white woman. The significance of this moment is reinforced by a detail in the setting. What initially appears to be a bank of windows behind the couch is in fact a black-framed mirror. Reflected in this mirror are the canvas in process, the goose-necked lamp that his illuminating his palette, and a bulbous lamp on an unseen table.
Interlude is signed and dated on the painting's lower right: "Koch 1963." It was painted in the same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his "I Have A Dream" speech that culminated the Civil Rghts "March on Washington."
Adapted from: Susan Dodge-Peters Daiss, "John Koch, Interlude (1963). In: Marjorie Searle, ed. Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery) 2006, pp. 275-277.