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Friday, December 1, 2017

December Paintings

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Although I love the month of December, there are several problems with choosing and highlighting paintings representative of that month. First of all there's Christmas. I could fill several pages with outstanding yuletide art. Today I'll try to limit myself to one (okay, maybe two). Second, when one chooses December art the painted landscape is almost always covered with the white stuff--God's means of decorating for the season. The problem is that the same paintings used in December could also do quite well in January and February. That leaves only children and pets decked out for the holidays--trite...ever so trite. So, in the hope of avoiding a boxful of last year's Christmas cards, I'm going to try and break that mold.

Attack on Pearl Harbor, Daniel Lee Hawk. In memory of all the brave men and women who missed Christmas, December, 1941.
"A day which shall live in infamy." It's not the type of art likely to appear for the month of December on any calendar, except that of a veterans group, perhaps. Our family paid our respects at Pearl Harbor in June, 1994. There were no Christmas lights to compete with what we saw and felt. One can hardly imagine the sadness back home that Christmas as military families mourned their losses and prayed for the safety of the survivors of the surprise attack.

Snow, yes, but not about Christmas or
Christmas card material.
For some people, the joy of Christmas grows less and less joyous as they grow older. Even though most parents enjoy giving their kids gifts, the fact that, days, weeks, or months before they have to choose those gifts, and worse still, choose some means of paying for them. That can quickly turn Christmas from a joy to a burden, especially when nine out of ten people are faced with the same activity at the same time. Christmas Shopping (below) by John Falter illustrates that dilemma.  

Christmas Shopping, John Falter. The visual clues suggest this painting dates from the post-war 1940s. If shopping was that hectic then, think how far we've come in the past sixty years.
Santa Claus, Meadow Gist
Santa Claus has long been the personification of Christmas. Art-ists have played no small part in that. However, for many, their love for the jolly old elf may have slipped a few notches once they started becoming Santa Claus. Changing places and becoming Santa has never bothered me. I still believe in Santa Claus, even when he came to strongly res-emble my wife. I've painted Santa several times over the years, but the portrait of Mr. Claus by Mea-dow Gist (left) far exceeds any I've ever done.

The Mystical Nativity, 1500-1501, Sandro Botticelli.
Of course, the real spirit of Christmas comes from God in the gift of his son, whether bestowed in December or during the warmer months earlier in the Palestinian calendar. Sandro Botticelli, in creating his The Mystical Nativity (above), around 1500, was probably not the first to paint a Christmas nativity, his certainly seems to be one of the most thorough. At a time when only the nobility and the evolving middle classes could read (if and when they had the Gospel scripture available). Both in terms of earthly and heavenly beings, Botticelli has his birth of Christ well-populated.

I could find no title for this 1950s Post cover, so make up your own. It's not easy creating a Christmas greeting without Santa. Perhaps that's what Rockwell discovered as well.
What would Christmas be without a Saturday Evening Post cover with a bright and cheery Christmas greeting, not just from Rockwell but the entire Post staff. In his early years, Rockwell very often painted stylized figures of Santa. However, as time past he either grew tired (or burned out) drawing old St. Nick, or he discovered he could wish the world a Merry Christmas without the help of Santa Claus, as seen above.

It's fun to watch at a distance, I just wouldn't want to be there in person.
And finally, what would December be without its final midnight fling when father time tells us all, "Congratulations, you made it through an other year." And what better place to deliver such a joyful message than New Years Eve's American headquarters at Times Square in New York. If Christmas is a December holiday for children, then New Year's Even is one reserved for adults (of drinking age, of course).

The Nutcracker Suite Ballet,
2010, Cheryl Whitestone

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