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Beyond poetry: the paintings of E. E. Cummings

Posted in Things We Love

Self portrait
Self portrait

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.
E.E. Cummings

I have always loved the last stanza of the poem “Somewhere I have never traveled”. Like most E.E. Cummings’ poems, and any great poem for that matter, it’s the stark intimacy of an internal dialogue we get to be part of, that draws me in.

Edward Estlin Cummings’ poetry is beloved, or at least well-known, in the English-speaking world. What might not be as common knowledge is that poetry wasn’t Cummings’ only creative outlet. For his entire life, E.E. Cummings painted, drew and sketched – his “twin obsession”, he called it – gaining some fame within the avant-garde movement of the 1920s and ‘30s, a movement he always refused to feel part of on the grounds of its exclusivity.

A corner of Paris
A corner of Paris

After his death, the executors of his estate catalogued drawings and paintings stretching from his childhood to his death: from images of the circus to abstraction, from nudes to portraits.

Drawing from his childhood
Drawing from his childhood

Many are as intimate as his poems, if not as experimental. His nudes are graphic and sensual and wouldn’t go amiss within a revised edition of the Kamasutra (Cummings owned an enormous collection of erotic poetry from all over the world).

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All help in defining a multi-faceted, and at times controversial life.

secret_pagines_pagines_imatge_5353-ee_cummy girl’s tall with hard long eyes


as she stands, with her long hard hands keeping


silence on her dress, ….

Images copyright of the E.E. Cummings Estate 

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6 Comments

  1. EE Cummings wrote and painted extensively at his family’s summer home near Silver Lake, NH. Many of his landscapes depict the mountain views from that property called Joy Farm. The Friends of Madison Library are sponsoring a Barn Tour this summer which includes Joy Farm. You might enjoy the website madisonbarns.wordpress.com Cummings had a stroke at Joy Farm in 19562 and died at the nearby hospital in North Conway.
    Susan

    April 6, 2014
    |Reply
    • That is so interesting Susan. Thank you for adding to the story.

      April 7, 2014
      |Reply
  2. The line drawings are particularly gorgeous. Although the drawing from childhood is beautiful too. I’m not familiar with his poetry so I’m adding it to my list.

    April 5, 2014
    |Reply
    • I agree. Most of them are about couples in the sexual act, and so graphic, I thought best not to include them, for fear of offending. But you should look them up.

      April 5, 2014
      |Reply
  3. Who knew? Artist who are multi-talented never cease to amaze me.

    April 4, 2014
    |Reply
    • And there are a lot more around than we think

      April 4, 2014
      |Reply

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