Monday, October 06, 2008

Into the sunrise

My walk to college in the aftermath of our recent rains was graced by a particularly soft sunrise. The Path wends across meadows toward the rising sun, and I felt rather like the figure in George Inness's Sunrise (1887). Certainly the sky was filled with that same liquidy light, like molten gold. As his life progressed, Inness's work drifted from conventional landscapes toward something more abstract, soft-edged, impressionistic (although he railed against the "Impressionists"). I suppose it happens to all of us as we age; boundaries and definitions that were important to us when we were younger begin to blur, and it is not so much the distinctions between things that concerns us as a growing sense of what all things have in common. This does not, I trust, represent a failure of reductionism, but rather a recognition of that method's limitations. If reductionism was all, then there would be no need for poetry or art. Inness's late work (as represented by the painting here) is all the more powerful because of his earlier analytical precision. Of his stylistic evolution, he said: "The poetic quality is not obtained by eschewing any truths of fact or of Nature...Poetry is the vision of reality."