Willem Maris, the 19th-century Dutch painter whose two brothers were also painters, spent his whole life painting cows and calves–in meadow settings, with ditches and willows, sometimes in ponds.
He spent the first third of his career, it was said, learning to depict cows and calves in an anatomically correct manner. In the second third of his career, having mastered that, he became more adventurous with color and the effects of mist, etc. In the last third, he occasionally departed from his chosen subject matter to paint ducks and geese.
He is quoted as saying that he did not paint cows, but rather light and shadow.
By the time he was in his sixties, however, “he often seemed tired of life.”
Lydia Davis is the author of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) and most recently a long narrative poem entitled “Our Village” in Two American Scenes (New Directions, 2013). She was awarded the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for her fiction, and a new collection of her stories, Can’t and Won’t, will be published this coming spring by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
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