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As though through their own eyes

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I have seen post cards and book reproductions and even one large poster of John Singer Sargent's "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," but nothing quite prepared me for its startling beauty. It's so much more breathtaking in person than I had expected -- indeed so luscious, alive and immediate that my eyes could barely contain their good fortune.

Everything has a rhythmic swing about it, even the title, "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose." My eyes were so filled with this movement that they almost felt forced to whirl around the painting, like a top spinning round and round.

A black and white reproduction unfortunately dilutes the effect, but imagine a splash of agitated colours, activated because of wind disturbance or human interference within the picture. Against a lush green lawn a diagonal of warm, pink roses rushes between and among the girls; a stream of cranberry-coloured carnations flows through the parting between the children and comes out on the other side, with the child on the left wading in among them; bright, white lilies gaily float like flags above their heads; and in among them all, lanterns sway and glow with an incandescent orange light. On one level, it's a study in colour and design that works with such brilliance that I find it difficult not to want to touch the painting.


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