When winter finally settles in, I often think of this painting by Boston artist Lilian Westcott Hale. It's called L'Edition de Luxe and depicts a private interior world that makes me long for something I can't quite grasp. Perhaps it is the soft light filtered by the white curtains which seems to bathe the image in a wintery afternoon glow. It magically casts a shell-pink tone that echoes the delicate flowers on the polished table.
Carefully balanced and beautifully rendered, the entire composition is an "edition de luxe", just like the luxurious volume the model is reading and to which the painting seems to refer. It's a large book, perhaps an art book, which calls out to be savored while opened up on a tabletop. How many excellent "coffee table" books like this do we have in our homes that are forgotten and never taken out to be devoured so luxuriously? I know I have a few.
The very phrase "L'Edition de Luxe" describes so many things in this image, such as the pretty quilted mat upon which the flower bowl sits, the dark and restful printed wallpaper, the dish displayed high on the shelf, the cameo at her throat and the tortoiseshell combs in her hair. Why ever not should a young woman such as this exist in such a exclusive world of her own?
I think what I envy most is the time our model has to slowly pour over and turn the pages of her beautiful book, seemingly in the very middle of the day. Now that is the height of luxury and there certainly can't be a better time for such pursuits than in the dead of winter on a random afternoon.
Most of my enjoyment of similar pleasures takes place at night when the day's work at last is done and I am ready to collapse into my bed. And that's perhaps the very thing I long for when I look at this work - the time to indulge...
So maybe this is the winter to dust off those sumptuous tomes and settle in with a distilled light over my shoulder. Or enjoy other luxurious and exquisite things such as warm bubble baths, CD's of arias, or lovely old films.
Lilian Westcott Hale seemed to believe in the importance of beauty and craftsmanship. So many of her paintings were of quiet women engaged in simple pursuits at home. And that just seems so perfect for wintertime, don't you think?