dual personalities

We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.*

Some months ago, out of the blue, I received an email from an English writer researching a book about Harry Phelan Gibb, an artist who worked in Paris during the early decades of the 20th century. In the course of his research my emailer had discovered that our grandparents, Arthur and Mira Chamberlin, had sublet Gibb’s apartment for a few months in 1921. This fact did not come as a great surprise, since we already knew that our grandparents were abroad at that time. Apparently, Gibb’s apartment proved uninhabitable due to an infestation of bedbugs, so Arthur packed up his pregnant wife and moved her to healthier digs in London, where our father was born a few months later. According to an announcement in the Burlington Free Press, Arthur was working as a correspondent for the “London Morning Express” at the time.

Out of curiosity, I looked up Harry Phelan Gibb (1870-1948) and discovered a perfectly competent English artist, who started out painting pleasing landscapes,

but then fell under the spell of Cézanne and began producing less conventional, post-impressionist paintings.

Unable to find a unique style of his own, Gibb never quite made it in the art world, although Gertrude Stein remained a staunch supporter and friend throughout his adult life. Like many struggling artists, he avoided financial ruin by taking on students. Not long after I received the above-mentioned email, I told my son James about Gibb and his studio, and since he (James) was bored out of his mind working from home due to Covid, he decided to look into the group.

One of Gibb’s students, a Canadian artist named Emily Carr, struck James as particularly interesting. Born and raised in British Columbia, Carr is known for her paintings of indigenous subjects and for the fact that she managed to go to Europe to study art at a time when few young women enjoyed such freedom. She spent 1910 studying in France, and at least some of that time with Phelan Gibb. Here is a photo of her from that period.

You can see a couple of the works she painted in France here. Carr studied with Gibbs only briefly and it seems that she developed her own independent style rather more successfully than he did. I like this painting called Indian Church, don’t you?

All of this brings me to my main point. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered this marvelous article about Emily Carr while exploring a favorite blog, At Sunnyside, whose author is a frequent visitor to this site!

Let us review the chain of relationships. A stranger’s email revealed a connection between our grandparents and an English artist, Phelan Gibb, who lived in Paris. Research into Gibb inspired my son to look into one of Gibb’s students, Emily Carr, and then we discovered Sunnyside’s post about the very same Emily Carr. As anyone can see, it IS a small world and we are all connected in unexpected and wonderful ways – sometimes by a shared past and sometimes by our present interests. We converge through art and literature, people and events. Laugh and call it coincidence if you must; I call it the steady hand of Providence.

*William James

Humble and contrite

I recently watched The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944) starring Frederic March as Missouri’s favorite son. It gives a sanitized look at the great man’s life but it is really pretty good. It inspired me anyway to take down “Life on the Mississippi” from its place on the shelf and I have been reading it.

Not surprisingly, it is very good and extremely readable. Have you read any Twain lately?

I have also been following the Gospel Coalitions’s daily “Read the Bible” plan and so far so good (12 days in!). I am currently reading a chapter a day of Genesis, Matthew, Nehemiah and Acts. (I am taking notes, because my memory is so bad!) Breaking it up this way is a good idea, since you don’t get bogged down in the Old Testament and you also see how everything in the OT points to the fulfilling of its prophesy, the coming of our savior, Christ Jesus. As Don Carson says, “When you read, remember that God himself has declared, ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word’” (Isa. 66:2).

It is easy to see why 19th century American writers were so good–they were immersed in the Bible, steeped in its vocabulary and vivid visualizations. So many of today’s writers write as if they grew up watching made-for-tv movies and not reading much. This does not make for good literature.

I found this article about C. S. Lewis and Billy Graham on the subject of Angels to be interesting. And here’s what Calvin thought about Angels. “Calvin’s view about angels is indeed not spectacular in the sense that it offers new and unexpected insights into the world of angels or presents an impressive and new, reformed angelology. But on the other hand it can be called spectacular in the sense that for Calvin, angels play a greater role in the life of the believer than could be drawn from the spirituality of the average Reformed believer.”

This is an interesting article. “Put simply, cancel culture is a culture of bullying. What starts with a difference of ideas ends with a willful public destruction of other human beings. Those who claimed to be the ones bullied have now become the bullies themselves, all because of a shift of power…Power is the critical concept, here. Cancel culture is based on the assumption that power—not truth—is the only way to drive cultural change.”

I am leaving tomorrow to visit daughter #2, baby Katie and DN in far-off Maryland, so wish me luck and traveling mercies. I’ll be flying…

…no choo-choo trains for me this time! I can’t wait to see everyone and check out their new house!

Love that red jumper made by her great-grandmother!