Short Poem Saturday – A Farm Picture – Whitman

FarmPicture_WhitmanThrough the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sunlit pasture filled with cattle and horses feeding,
And haze and vista, and the far horizon fading away.
Walt Whitman
(1819 – 1892)

Today’s illustration is courtesy of my dear friend and fellow scientist, Ms. Chiara Ricci-Tam. The unique line quality of her illustration comes from the fact that Chiara drew this with light on a large sheet of photographic film. These sheets of film are normally used to visualize proteins from inside cells, but here she has co-opted one for artistic purposes. Chiara has a blog, Chiaroscurale, where she posts her other occasional artistic experiments. I do recommend a visit!

I have one anthology which lists this Whitman poem as an ekphrastic one (typically a poem about another work of art), but there is no specific painting or artwork mentioned. But ekphrasis can also be a vivid description of a scene, and this one certainly clears that bar, reminding me of my hiking trip in the Welsh countryside last year  – as well as so many landscape oil paintings from Whitman’s era. Drawing (light on photographic film) by Chiara Ricci-Tam. Have a wonderful weekend!

14 comments

  1. “Haze and vista” is a marvelous string of words and so well illustrated by Chiara. Lots of opportunities for it to come to my mind here in the hilly, hummocky Driftless Region in the humid summertime…

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  2. I think Walt Whitman was overexposed to us in my school years and I decided to hate him. I need to change that idea after reading this.

    And I love the artwork. Fits perfectly. Atmospheric.

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    1. He does get a bit “overplayed” – especially the same 2 or 3 poems from Leaves of Grass! As I’ve explored his work more, I too have come back to appreciating him.

      Thank you so much! I am always secretly pleased with myself when I cajole Chiara into doing an illustration for me! 🙂

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  3. I have a bunch of books on Whitman, and only one references this poem and paintings, only indirectly. The writer says this poem “recalls the luminous realism of the Long Island genre painter William Sidney Mount, whose work Whitman knew.” There’s also a longer, admiring quote from Whitman about another painter, Walter Libbey, who worked in that style. If there is an artistic source for the poem, those might be places to start seeking it. I wonder if the anthology made the leap from the Libbey painting Whitman was discussing (which by his description, did not inspire this poem) being one he admired to it being the inspiration.

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    1. Thank you so much for the information, Maia! I agree – I don’t think that this was inspired by those (or any) particular paintings. In the case of this anthology, I think it is a sin by omission, as they mention the specific artwork for all of the other poems, but leave that space blank for this one and make no attempt to explain its inclusion in the collection. I decided it must be the secondary definition of “ekphrasis” but I like your explanation better!

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