At our Maine lake, the only thing keeping me from inhabiting this painting is the rainy weather! So on a visit to the Colby College Museum of Art, I enjoyed this Winslow Homer painting and another by William Merritt Chase.
I had seen Chase’s painting “Boy Eating Apple (The Apprentice)” before. This time I was surprised to notice other details. The freckled boy seems caught in the act, as if he shouldn’t be behind the fence enjoying a green apple. His mouth is stopped in surprise before he chomps the apple. In addition, the bulge in his apron bib is not caused by only his hand. A tell-tail leaf and the end of a twig tell us that the boy has stashed away a whole branch of apples for future eating!
These details seem to illustrate something about character. When we first meet a character, we don’t know all there is to know right away. An action tells us something (boy likes apples, Charlotte’s “Salutations!” evidences an intelligent spider). More detail gives us more insight (boy is sneaking apple, Charlotte can write words). Looking, or reading, further, we discover intentions not known at first (boy is really hungry, Charlotte will save Wilbur).
I’m trying to remember this simple analysis and comparison as I draw out Hildegard’s character – growing her from a fourteen-year-old nun who doesn’t understand her visions to an eighty-one year old abbess who learned to listen to God’s voice. It’s all in the details.