In my feeling, the consciousness of their presence has become a heightening which I can feel even in my sleep; my blood describes it within me, but the naming of it passes by somewhere outside and is not called in.
Rainer Maria Rilke to Clara Rilke
The Salon is closing. This co-creative encounter between Rilke and Cézanne is almost over.
But we still have a week worth of letters ahead of us, to cleanse and enrich our sense of vision.
OCTOBER 22, 1907, Part 1
<…> the Salon is closing today. And already, as I’m leaving it, on the way home for the last time, I want to go back to look up a violet, a green, or certain blue tones which I believe I should have seen better, more unforgettably.
Already, even after standing with such unremitting attention in front of the great color scheme of the woman in the red armchair, it is becoming as irretrievable in my memory as a figure with very many digits.
And yet I memorized it, number by number. In my feeling, the consciousness of their presence has become a heightening which I can feel even in my sleep; my blood describes it within me, but the naming of it passes by somewhere outside and is not called in.
Did I write about it?
A red, upholstered low armchair has been placed in front of an earthy-green wall in which a cobalt-blue pattern (a cross with the center left out) is very sparingly repeated; the round bulging back curves and slopes forward and down to the armrests (which are sewn up like the sleeve-stump of an armless man).
The left armrest and the tassel that hangs from it full of vermilion no longer have the wall behind them but instead, near the lower edge, a broad stripe of greenish blue, against which they clash in loud contradiction.
Seated in this red armchair, which is a personality in its own right, is a woman, her hands in the lap of a dress with broad vertical stripes that are very lightly indicated by small, loosely distributed flecks of green yellows and yellow greens, up to the edge of the blue-gray jacket, which is held together in front by a blue, greenly scintillating silk bow.
In the brightness of the face, the proximity of all these colors has been exploited for a simple modeling of form and features: even the brown of the hair roundly pinned up above the temples and the smooth brown in the eyes has to express itself against its surroundings.
Colors and words. Intercourse of colors
The painting Rilke describes is reproduced here, so we can appreciate, in awe and wonder, the precision with which he remembers it. It is fully alive and present in his memory.
I can barely believe he berates himself for not remembering it better, MORE UNFORGETTABLY.
SEEING PRACTICE: PRESENCE AND MEMORY
For me, this letter is a painful reminder of how little we remember of our life experiences, even the most intense and memorable of them.
Which means, basically, that we bring very little of ourselves, of our presence into the brief and fleeting moments of our short lives.
Just try to look at a painting, and then describe it, for yourself, without looking at it. Or, better still, describe your favorite painting without looking at it, and THEN compare your description with a reproduction.