|My parents during their engagement c. 1953|
Theirs was a great love.
And while I'm sitting here thinking of them, a bit in awe of the caliber of their fondness and affection for each other, I find myself thinking of another great love.
The relationship between American painter Joan Mitchell (c.1925) and Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle (c.1923) was the antithesis of my parent's marriage. Mitchell and Riopelle were lovers for twenty-four turbulent, alcohol-infused, volatile years.
|Jean-Paul Riopelle and Joan Mitchell c. late 1950s|
And then Joan Mitchell died.
She died of lung cancer on October 30, 1992.
"A few days after learning of his longtime companions death...Jean-Paul Riopelle would undertake, in her honor, the monumental L'Hommage a Rosa Luxemurg...A narrative sequence consisting of thirty canvases totaling approximately 131 feet wide."(1)
|A panel of "L'Hommage a Rosa Luxemurg" ~ by Jean-Paul Riopelle|
When I read this, my eyes welled.
And when I viewed pictures of this immense sequence of paintings and imagined the pain and passion and love and sorrow that went into their creation, they welled yet more.
So moved was I at the artistic height to which this man's feelings were elevated by the raw passion broken loose by the death of his long-ago lover.
To imagine this elderly artist, perhaps arthritic in his hands, unable to move as easily as in his youth, overcome with the need to paint, to release his throbbing emotions. Swirling paint and colors and shapes into an colossal expression of his heart in a "complex mediation on love and the passage of time."(2) The thought of it moves me to tears.
|"L'Hommage a Rosa Luxemurg" ~ by Jean-Paul Riopelle|
And were my father a painter? I have no doubt he would have painted four times those thirty canvases to express his feelings for his own lover, made his own sixty-one years ago today.