The American Abroad: Frederick Bridgman

Terence McKenna: Who’s the boss?

“Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.”

I hope you enjoy this entry… a bit of art history of a long forgotten master, and some comments from another more contemporary master of words… A taste more of Hafiz and some glorious art.

The weather has finally cooled out a bit here in Portland, finally…

I am hoping for some pictures and commentary on the SheShamans Conference. If you have a story, pics .. please let me know.

Happy Hump Day!



On The Menu:

The Links

The Silent Temple

Just Go To Sleep

The Poetry of Hafiz…

Terence McKenna: Evolution Now

The Art is by: Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Biography: Tuskegee, Alabama, 1847 – Rouen, France, 1928

Frederick Bridgman was born in Alabama, the son of an itinerant doctor from Massachusetts. His father died when Frederick was only three years old and, sensing the north-south tensions prior to the Civil War, his mother decided to return with her two sons to Boston in the north. However they soon moved to New York where Frederick, already showing artistic talent, joined the American Banknote Company as an apprentice engraver. But in spite of his progress and the opportunities for rapid promotion, he preferred to dedicate his time to painting, taking evening drawing classes first at the Brooklyn Art Association, then at the National Academy of Design. It is recounted that he even rose at 4 o’clock every morning to paint before going to work.

Bridgman’s studies soon produced results and in 1865 and again in 1866 he exhibited works at the Brooklyn Art Association. Encouraged by his success he gave up his job and in 1866, with the sponsorship of a group of Brooklyn businessmen, set out for Paris. However he soon found himself in Pont-Avent, the small village in Brittany which was home to an American artist colony under the charismatic leadership of Robert Wylie (1839-1877) who painted dramatic rural landscapes. He stayed there for two summers, thinking also of becoming a landscape painter like Wylie.

In the autumn of 1866 Bridgman joined the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris. But entry was not easy since, officially, the ateliers of the École des Beaux-Arts were all full. His friend the painter Thomas Eakins went to great lengths pulling strings to enable entry of a group of American students, amongst whom were Eakins himself, Earl Shinn, the future Orientalist Harry Humphrey Moore, and Bridgman. He remained there for four years, spending his summers at Pont-Aven with Wylie.

Bridgman was soon exhibiting at the Paris Salons and his A Provincial Circus had much success at the Salon of 1870, so much so that he then sent it to America for exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Association. At this time he also had one of his canvases engraved for reproduction in the journal Le Monde Illustré and began to sell some of his work to the dealer Goupil, Gérome’s father-in-law.

He spent the period of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune painting rural scenes in Pont-Aven and in Spain. The winter of 1872-3 he spent in Spain and North Africa accompanied by an unknown English painter friend. Starting first in Tangiers, which he found picturesque but was apalled by the poverty, they quickly moved on, first by boat to Oran, then by train to Algeria – a country he found more conducive. There they lodged at a hotel in Biskra whilst renting an atelier in the poor quarter. In the evenings they sampled the local nightlife and their afternoons they spent exploring the surrounding villages and oases on horseback. Here they found the local colour they were looking for – the crowds in the markets, the belly-dancers, even witnessing a fencing duel between two soldiers of the Biskra regiment. While there Bridgman worked assiduously, returning to Paris in the spring of 1873 with numerous painted canvases, oil sketches, pencil and ink drawings, together with some costumes and accessories he had used in his atelier.

The favourable response to his Algerian scenes in Paris led him to plan another visit to North Africa the following winter. Accompanying him this time was Charles Sprague Pearce, a student of Bonnat, whom he had met in the south of France the previous winter. Arriving in Cairo in December 1873, they worked in the city producing numerous sketches of the Islamic monuments, but also the street life, which was Bridgman’s main inspiration. Then, encouraged by an enthusiastic English couple they had met at the opera, they set off to travel up the Nile, a journey lasting three-and-a-half months. They sailed as far as the Second Cataract and visited Abu-Simbel. Bridgman brought back to Paris over three hundred sketches and studies and yet more studio accessories.

In Paris he rented an atelier in the same building as Pearce and another American, E H Blashfield. There he commenced painting several ambitious reconstructions of antique Egyptian life, seeming to have forgotten his original ambition of being a landscape artist of the Bretan or Algerian countryside! The first, The Mummy’s Funeral, was exhibited at the Salon of 1877 and was remarkably successful, becoming an exhibition favourite. It was engraved, copied and finally bought by the proprietor of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett. His reputation then made, he married a young heiress from Boston, Florence Mott Baker.

The peak of his career probably came with the mounting of a personal exhibition displaying over three hundred of his works at the American Art Gallery, the major innovation of this exhibition being the inclusion of a large number of his sketches besides the usual new paintings and prints of older works. His work was highly praised not only for the variety of subjects but also the fine quality of their execution, their frankness, fidelity, freshness and beauty. Following this success, Bridgman was elected a member of the National Academy of Design.

In the winter of 1885-6, Bridgman returned to Algiers with his wife, not just to work but because of his wife’s failing health (she was showing signs of a hereditary neurological illness) – the climate there was much kinder and life more peaceful. However he could also return to his favourite compositional subject – daily Algerian life. He lodged his wife and family at a hotel and obtained for himself the services of a guide, Belkassem, who found him a place to work in the Casbah. It was the tiny home of a widow called Baia who lived there with her seven year old daughter, Zohr. He worked from a shady corner of their terrace from which vantage point he could paint both domestic scenes and daily life on the street. He became a good friend of the family and carried on a correspondence with Baia long after his return to France.

In 1888 Bridgman published a long fully illustrated account of his stay in Algiers in Harper’s Monthly Magazine. It was taken from his larger, more complete publication of the same year entitled Winters in Algiers which also described his previous stays in the city and which was sumptuously illustrated with wood engravings of his drawings and paintings.

The next decade was a period of uninterrupted success. He was honoured with having five works displayed at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. The following year a personal exhibition, similar to that of 1881, of about 400 of his pictures took place at Fifth Avenue Galleries in New York. When it moved on to Chicago it contained less than a hundred of these works – evidence of significant sales, enabling him to significantly expand his Parisian home on the Boulevard Malesherbes. Its extravagant decor in classical and oriental style led the artist John Singer Sargent to say that it was one of the two sights worth visiting Paris to see; the other being the Eiffel tower!

There he continued to paint even more exotic North African scenes. However, feeling a need for new subject matter, he later made an attempt at a symbolist style, even turning to society portraiture, and then, in the 1890′s, returning to historical and biblical themes just like his mentor Gérôme. But non of this later work was as successful as his Orientalist compositions of the previous decade.

In 1901 Bridgman’s wife, Florence, finally succumbed to her lengthy illness and died. Three years after this he married again, at the age of 54, to Marthe Yaeger. The marriage was to be long and happy.

In 1907 he bacame an Officer of the French Legion of Honour. However after the First World War, his popularity declined and he moved out of Paris to Lyons-la-Forêt in Normandy where, although continuing to paint, he died in 1928 almost forgotten by his former admiring public.

Along with his fellow-countryman Edwin Lord Weeks, Frederick Arthur Bridgman is considered to be one of the doyens of the American Orientalist school.


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The Silent Temple

Shoichi was a one-eyed teacher of Zen, sparkling with enlightenment. He taught his disciples in Tofuku temple.

Day and night the whole temple stood in silence. There was no sound at all.

Even the reciting of sutras was abolished by the teacher. His pupils had nothing to do but meditate.

When the master passed away, an old neighbor heard the ringing of bells and the recitation of sutras. Then she knew Shoichi had gone.


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Just Go To Sleep

Gasan was sitting at the bedside of Tekisui three days before his teacher’s passing. Tekisui had already chosen him as his successor.

A temple recently had burned and Gasan was busy rebuilding the structure. Tekisui asked him: “What are you going to do when you get the temple rebuilt?”

“When your sickness is over we want you to speak there,” said Gasan.

“Suppose I do not live until then?”

“Then we will get someone else,” replied Gasan.

“Suppose you cannot find anyone?” continued Tekisui.

Gasan answered loudly: “Don’t ask such foolish questions. Just go to sleep.”



The Poetry of Hafiz…



SLEEP on thine eyes, bright as narcissus flowers,

Falls not in vain

And not in vain thy hair’s soft radiance showers

Ah, not in vain!

Before the milk upon thy lips was dry,

I said: “Lips where the salt of wit doth lie,

Sweets shall be mingled with thy mockery,

And not in vain!”

Thy mouth the fountain where Life’s waters flow,

A dimpled well of tears is set below,

And death lies near to life thy lovers know,

But know in vain!

God send to thee great length of happy days

Lo, not for his own life thy servant prays;

Love’s dart in thy bent brows the Archer lays,

Nor shoots in vain.

Art thou with grief afflicted, with the smart

Of absence, and is bitter toil thy part?

Thy lamentations and thy tears, oh Heart,

Are not in vain

Last night the wind from out her village blew,

And wandered all the garden alleys through,

Oh rose, tearing thy bosom’s robe in two;

‘Twas not in vain!

And Hafiz, though thy heart within thee dies,

Hiding love’s agony from curious eyes,

Ah, not in vain thy tears, not vain thy sighs,

Not all in vain



OH Turkish maid of Shiraz! in thy hand

If thou’lt take my heart, for the mole on thy cheek

I would barter Bokhara and Samarkand.

Bring, Cup-bearer, all that is left of thy wine!

In the Garden of Paradise vainly thou’lt seek

The lip of the fountain of Ruknabad,

And the bowers of Mosalla where roses twine.

They have filled the city with blood and broil,

Those soft-voiced Lulis for whom we sigh;

As Turkish robbers fall on the spoil,

They have robbed and plundered the peace of my heart.

Dowered is my mistress, a beggar am I;

What shall I bring her? a beautiful face

Needs nor jewel nor mole nor the tiring-maid’s art.

Brave tales of singers and wine relate,

The key to the Hidden ’twere vain to seek;

No wisdom of ours has unlocked that gate,

And locked to our wisdom it still shall be.

But of Joseph’s beauty the lute shall speak;

And the minstrel knows that Zuleika came forth,

Love parting the curtains of modesty.

When thou spokest ill of thy servant ’twas well–

God pardon thee! for thy words were sweet;

Not unwelcomed the bitterest answer fell

From lips where the ruby and sugar lay.

But, fair Love, let good counsel direct thy feet;

Far dearer to youth than dear life itself

Are the warnings of one grown wise–and grey!

The song is sung and the pearl is strung

Come hither, oh Hafiz, and sing again!

And the listening Heavens above thee hung

Shall loose o’er thy verse the Pleiades’ chain.



A FLOWER-TINTED cheek, the flowery close

Of the fair earth, these are enough for me

Enough that in the meadow wanes and grows

The shadow of a graceful cypress-tree.

I am no lover of hypocrisy;

Of all the treasures that the earth can boast,

A brimming cup of wine I prize the most–

This is enough for me!

To them that here renowned for virtue live,

A heavenly palace is the meet reward;

To me, the drunkard and the beggar, give

The temple of the grape with red wine stored!

Beside a river seat thee on the sward;

It floweth past-so flows thy life away,

So sweetly, swiftly, fleets our little day–

Swift, but enough for me!

Look upon all the gold in the world’s mart,

On all the tears the world hath shed in vain

Shall they not satisfy thy craving heart?

I have enough of loss, enough of gain;

I have my Love, what more can I obtain?

Mine is the joy of her companionship

Whose healing lip is laid upon my lip–

This is enough for me!

I pray thee send not forth my naked soul

From its poor house to seek for Paradise

Though heaven and earth before me God unroll,

Back to thy village still my spirit flies.

And, Hafiz, at the door of Kismet lies

No just complaint-a mind like water clear,

A song that swells and dies upon the ear,

These are enough for thee!


Terence McKenna: Evolution Now

“DMT is a pseudo-neurotransmitter that when ingested and allowed to come to rest in the synapses of the brain, allows one to see sound, so that one can use the voice to produce not musical compositions, but pictoral and visual compositions. This, to my mind, indicates that we’re on the cusp of some kind of evolutionary transition in the language-forming area, so that we are going to go from a language that is heard to a language that is seen, through a shift in interior processing. The language will still be made of sound but it will be processed as the carrier of the visual impression. This is actually being done by shamans in the Amazon. The songs they sing sound as they do in order to look a certain way. They are not musical compositions as we’re used to thinking of them. They are pictoral art that is caused by audio signals.”


Talk Soon!


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