The Old Violin

Here is one of my favorite paintings. It’s entitled “The Old Violin.” I’ve liked it since first grade, when it hung on the wall of the Music Room at Glendover Elementary School. Our music teacher Miss Haney passed on to us a love of music and even a surprising amount of music theory, such as the melodic themes of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” She had six toes. It’s odd the things we remember. I remember more of my teachers from elementary school than I can the rest of school. She asked the class one day to name their favorite song. The majority said “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” a big hit for B.J. Thomas in  1969.

Glendover was run like a military school by Principal Bess Roberts. She would grab you by the ears and shake the living daylights out of you while administering a deadly Vulcan pinch. I landed in her office on more than one occasion where she proudly displayed her paddle with holes drilled in it to increase the velocity of the swing and ferociousness of the sting.  Once I stole a poor kid’s chocolate bar and sat it on the filmstrip projector, which melted it, ruining both the candy bar and the projector. Another time we filled the heater blowers with those little round circles of paper that you get out of hole punchers. When we suggested to the class nerd that he go turn the heat on, the room was filled with paper punch graffiti. There are many more tales of my “Wonder Years” childhood at Glendover. But enough stream of consciousness babble for now. I’ll just summarize by saying that although we thought Glendover was a harsh place at the time, looking back, I believe I got one of the best elementary educations that I could ask for, er, for which I could ask. Enjoy the painting…

The Old Violin by William Michael Harnett

William Michael Harnett (1848-1892)

Oil on canvas
24″ x 3′ 2″
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Harnett innovated a trompe l’oeil (“trick the eye”) style of painting still lifes, in which he made everyday objects look hyper-realistic.

Let me throw out a question for discussion…Which style of paintings and artists do you admire most–those who lean more torwards realism or towards more interpretive styles, such as impressionism?



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3 responses to “The Old Violin

  1. Ginger

    I remember in college my favorite professor — Paul Munson.

    Never a big one for art, I had put off the obligatory “Arts in Western Civilization” class until my senior year. I entered it with typical senior confidence that I knew what I was in for, and what that would be, I assumed, was a boring semester.

    Dr. Munson proved me wrong.

    I could barely take notes fast enough. His passion for music and art were unparalleled by anything I’ve ever seen. He made the concepts come alive. He imparted knowledge.

    I made a “C” in that course. It’s not my proudest grade. There was so much material to cover, my untrained artistic eye and elementary-level artistic mind couldn’t keep up.

    But I believe I learned more in that class than any other.

    I walked away appreciating something I’d always viewed as trivial before.

    I tend to gravitate towards realism. I’m partial to the soft romance of the Renaissance. My favorite classical painting, I’d have to say is Jan van Eyck’s “Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride.” I love da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bosch. the Baroque is sharp and colorful, but so refined — Caravaggio, Velazquez, Rubens, Vermeer. I do find Goya, Munch, Dali, Pollack interesting, but strange, though I suppose provocation is a desired goal in art.

    Manet, Degas, Seurat, Cezanne — so many great talents to revere.

    But my girly favorite, favorite, favorite — could look at it all day favorite — is Jean Antoine Watteau’s “Pilgrimage to Cythera.”

    Were it not for Dr. Munson, I doubt I would have an appreciation for something that brings me so much pleasure today.

    When the college bookstore gives you cash for those books you’re so ready to get rid of, rarely do college students hold onto a text book. But I still have my copy of “Culture and Values,” along with a large purple notebook of every animated word Dr. Munson uttered that semester.

    I think I’ll go pull it out now, and browse through so many of those dog-eared pages.

  2. Heather

    I remember my elementary teachers the best -Mrs. Marble, Mrs. Wiltrout, Mrs. Norton (I had her for 3rd and 4th grade) and Mrs. Shaner. Some of these teachers had taught my dad and his siblings. They shared some fun stories with me about them. :o) I never spent any time in the principal’s office, though. Boy, Larry, the things we learn about you. )) Glad God got a hold of you.

    Now on to the art. Love the painting. We may do some work in DC so will we make a point to go see it. Hands down, though, my favorite is Monet. I did not take any Art Appreciation class so I missed out on the thrill of learning so much like Ginger.

    Take care. So encouraged to see all that you and Tina are doing. Keep working heartily.


    Glendover Elementary reminds me of Fred Booth Elementary very similar situation. Those were the good old days.

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