The Dance of Geometry by Brian Howell
Hardcover: ISBN: 1-902881-47-8 Pages: 214 8¾"x5¾" US$ 19.95
The morning passed with Van Loo circling the boys and delivering assessments of their efforts. In between, he would pick up a volume of Ovid's Metamorphoses and read episodes relating to the subject of their drawing. He said little of Johannes' work but noticed his occasional, nervous turning around towards the interior studio, which he thought must be where Van Loo worked on commissioned paintings.
And it was true. While a dutiful Johannes set about depicting the goddess, little inspired by the violent narrative, another Johannes attempted to fill in the details of the empty canvas in the room behind him. When Van Loo passed by him and looked at his efforts, he did not say anything, but to the others he praised or reprimanded or advised. The day was passed entirely within the studio, with Johannes sketching - in addition to a model - a cream-white plaster putto, suspended from the ceiling and lowered by a pulley, and a skull, placed accusingly on a small table in front of him.
When the others had been sent home, he was invited to dine with Van Loo. The meal had passed in almost complete silence. He surveyed the crisp, frozen eyes and fleshless bones of the fish on his plate, the still glistening slice of lemon to its side; the apprentice had not had the courage to disperse its contents, so uncertain was he of Amsterdam etiquette. From this, Johannes' attention turned to watch a final distended diamond of light edge across the wall behind his master's back. He was curious; it was perhaps the only pure, unfiltered light he had seen that first day and yet the source of its shimmering amber sunburst could not be located.
Uncertain of himself, bewildered by Van Loo's sudden taciturnity, he yearned for the day to end, for a secret to be yielded up. When Van Loo finally spoke, his words disappointed his pupil.
"Do I perceive in you, young Johannes, a lack of patience?"
The question hovered like bittersweet smoke in the air, detached from the issuer, as if Van Loo would have denied responsibility for it if asked.
"Mijn Heer, I want to show things as they are."
"And not as they are meant to be?"
"I want to paint light. Light cannot lie."
|"Drawing is a tedious chore to you, I presume?"
"I like paint."
"You will learn, Johannes, that you will have to discard much of what you do to reach your goal; you will have to throw away gold to achieve even adequacy. There is no shortcut."
Johannes said nothing.
"You talk about light as if it were your brother, or perhaps a young sweetheart that you are determined to possess. You can be too close to such a love. You must learn to approach it ... indirectly, just as it oftentimes illuminates what we ourselves perceive. Remember, if something is a certain colour, blue, let's say, it is so because the material of which it is made says 'no' more forcefully to light than to dark. Yellow, for example, denies dark more than it admits white."
Johannes nodded, but Van Loo asked, "You know this?"
"Yes, Mijn Heer."
On his way to his room, the mystery of the unidentified figure was solved as he climbed the stairs. It was the maid, who, he judged, moved as if to escape light, shielding herself from the lamp that she held. She did not look at him as they passed each other.