My gaze is clear as a sunflower

Paul Nash’s fascination with aerial bombardment led him to an ecstatic vision of “the sky blossoming with floating flowers”. This, and William Blake’s poem “Ah Sunflower”, inspired his late paintings, in which an airborne sunflower glides over imagined landscapes. Nash was seriously ill with asthma (he died of heart failure in 1946) and his growing sense of mortality is reflected in this final work. Broken from its stem, the blackened head of the sunflower and its wilting petals fall away into the smoky darkness. But Nash’s belief in the mythical cycle of death and rebirth gives the viewer a cause for hope. The flower’s head detaches from its stem like a spirit departing from the body. – Alistair Curtis 

Eclipse of the Sunflower, Paul Nash 1945

Étienne Leopold Trouvelot (1827-1895) was another artist with a fascination for celestial phenomena. He was also an amateur astronomer. He traveled with a party from the US Naval Observatory to ‘separation’ – a desolate outpost in Wyoming Territory to observe the Eclipse of July 29, 1878. He produced this image of the 1878 eclipse of the sun by the process of chromolithography that involved applying a water-resistant medium to lithography stones,

More at Total Eclipse of the Art: Trouvelot and the 1878 Eclipse 

My gaze is clear as a sunflower

My gaze is clear as a sunflower.

It is my habit to walk along the roads

Looking right and left,

And from time to time looking back…

And what I see at any moment

Is something that I have never seen before,

And I can notice very well…

I can know the essential wonder

A child knows if at birth

It noticed it was actually being born…

I feel myself born at any moment

To the eternal newness of the World…

I believe in the world like a marigold,

Because I see it. But I don’t think about it

Because to think is to not understand…

The world was not made for us to think about it

(To think is to have pain in the eyes)

But for us to look at it and agree…

I have no philosophy: I have feelings…

If I speak of Nature it is not because I know what it is,

But because I love it, and this why:

Whoever loves knows what he loves

Nor why he loves, or what it is to love…

To love is eternal innocence,

And the only innocence is not to think…

by Fernando Pessoa

Translated by Keith Bosley

Sunflower. Wallpaper. 1875 William Morris 1834–1896

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), from the Flowers series for Old Judge Cigarettes
Issued by Goodwin & Company
Date: 1890

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