Commonplace

“In Holland the landscape is the protagonist, and merely human events—even one so extraordinary as Icarus falling head first in the sea because the wax in his artificial wings has melted—are secondary details: next to Breughel’s ploughed field and trees and sailing ship and ploughman, the falling aeronaut is insignificant. So compelling is the identity of picture and reality that all along the path numberless dawdling afternoons in museums were being summoned back to life and set in motion. Every pace confirmed them. Each scene conjured up its echo. The masts and quays and gables of a river port, the backyard with a besom leaning against a brick wall, the chequer-board floors of churches—there they all were, the entire range of Dutch themes, ending in taverns where expected to find boors carousing, and found them; and in every case, like magic, the painter’s name would simultaneously impinge. The willows, the roofs and the bell-towers, the cows grazing self-consciously in the foreground meadows—there was no need to ask whose easels they were waiting for as they munched.”

—Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (1977)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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