Although I live in Santa Monica, where the seasons are usually pretty subtle, we've had some stormy weather that's made me feel cut off from ordinary life. That this coincides with the winter holidays set the focus for this post...

The idea of going through mist and fog to a place out of time, a place that changes you, is a compelling theme, familiar in movies  such as Brigadoon, Local Hero, and a favorite of mine, given to me by my mom the last winter she was here, "I Know Where I'm Going". It was directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1945. Wendy Hiller plays Joan Webster, a woman who has always planned carefully, moved forward with determination, and achieved her goals. She is making her way to meet her fiance, a rich industrialist, on a Scottish island in the Hebrides,  Kiloran, to get married. The storms detour her along the way. She first arrives in Port Erraig to meet her boat. Here's a still:

Above: Waiting for her boat, though everyone has told it won't be coming due to the weather.

Above: The itinerary

Above: Giving up on the boat for the moment, she goes to a home where she was told she could stay for the night.


Above: Warming up before the fire with the other stranded passengers, locals, familiar with the unpredictability of the local weather.

Above: The owner of the house, Katrina, is a dog breeder...here she's coming home in the rain.

Above: In from the wet weather...

Above: The chaos of the weather and the big wet dogs and the wildness of the place will have it's impact.

Above: A map of the place she's planning to go.

To enjoy the rest of the story you'll need to rent the movie, though you can see it in pieces on YouTube. It's wonderful.

Above: Winifred Nicholson painted a great deal on the Scottish Isles. This one is "Boat on a Stormy Sea", 1928-9.

Above: Winifred Nicholson, "Isle of Canna", 1951. She may even have seen "I Know Where I'm Going" 6 years earlier.

Above: Winifred Nicholson, "View from my Bedroom", 1960s. The light feels as though it's bouncing off snow.

Stormy gray seas have always been a dramatic and inspiring subject...

Above: John Constable (1776-1837), "Seascape Study with Rain Clouds at Brighton", 1824-8, London, Royal Academy of Arts.

Above: Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), "The Water Spout", 1866, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Above: Winslow Homer (1836-1910), "The Gale", 1883-1893, watercolor

Above: Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840),  "Monk by the Sea", 1808-1810. Double click to see a larger version as the details are worth looking at.

Above: Leon Dabo (1868-1960) "The Seashore", 1900

Above: Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) "Snow Storm- Steam Boat Off a Harbor's Mouth

Above: Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) "Seascape-Rough Seas, a Squall", 1825

Above: Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

Above: Mark Rothko "Untitled" 1969.  Although this isn't a seascape, there is a strong connection to the Turner painting above.

From rough seas to snowy streets...

Above: Jean-Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

Above: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903),  "Nocturne: Grey and Gold-Snow in Chelsea", 1876. Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.

Above: This room by Karin Draaijer (her house) in Belgium is a place I'd love to walk out of the painting above and come home to.

Here in southern California this is what winter means...

Above: Our back yard in the pouring rain

Above: A stump of wood out back, covered with lichen after a few days of continuous rain.

Above: On the Venice canals, (our Venice here at the beach) I took this last December.

Above: My husband, Steven, took this photo with a pinhole camera... a lifeguard tower on a stormy day.

We often drive to northern California in December...to Big Sur, or Inverness...places with wet moss and tall pines and redwoods, wood burning in cabins, and expanses of ocean. The pictures below are in Big Sur.

Above: Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. Hand built in the 1930s by Helmuth Deetjen... the cabins are  pretty much unchanged to this day. Deetjen's was built with reclaimed wood from the canneries in Monterey, and the cabins were designed with echoes of his homeland, Norway. This is one of my favorite places to stay.

Above: This photo was taken in the Dining Room at Deetjen's (found here). We've enjoyed many meals at that table.

Above: Helmuth and Helen Deetjun in front of the main barn they built.

Above: An old photo of a corner of the Dining Room at Deetjun's...it doesn't look very different now.

Above: I took this picture at Pfeiffer Beach on one of our December visits to Big Sur.

Above: Also taken at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur.

Another favorite destination is Inverness...it's about an hour north of San Francisco.

Above: Outside our room at Manka's in Inverness

Above: Wooden steps, Inverness

Above: The huge fireplace in our room, Inverness. A couple of times when we've been there it's been raining, but I never really want to leave this fireplace or the views beyond anyway. When I do brave the rain this is a place that's wonderful to come back to.

Above: Adjacent to Inverness, Point Reyes National Seashore is protected land. At the north end of the peninsula is an old farm...empty now, with the most beautiful group of perfectly simple white buildings. At the end of the day the sunset light glows right through the single rooms inside.

Above: Wide expanse of protected beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

Above: From A.A. Milnes book "Now We Are Six", illustrated by E. H. Shepard. This was always a favorite image of mine...may have been the seed of my window seat obsession...watching the rain from a warm dry place.

Above: Or maybe this picture of a girl sitting on soft cushions, warm in her room with the snow outside is the one.  I do try to include window seats in childrens rooms whenever I can. Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith.

Above: Clarence H. White, "Drops of Rain", 1908, from Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work journal.

Dutch painters created scenes that were like movies telling all sorts of stories when you look closely.

Above: Pieter Bruegel (1525-69) "Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap", 1565. Looking at this painting and the one below you can really imagine what it would have been like to be skating there. Double click to see some of the details. The ice would have been the meeting place as well as the street.

Above: A detail of the bird trap in the painting above it

Above: Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634), "Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters", 1608. I saw this last summer at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Those skaters may have warmed up in places like this...

Above: Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684), "A Woman Peeling Apples", 1663

 Above: Van Brekelenkam "The Tailors Workshop"1661

Above: Jan Steen (1626-1679) "Peasants in an Interior",1661

Above: Joachim Beuckelaer (1533-1574) "Making Waffles", 1565

Above: Pieter Janssens Elinga (1623-1682) "Room in a Dutch House", 1670 

Above: After not freezing since 1997 the Kinderdijk canal finally froze. This is a photo of the skaters out again last winter.

Above: Hans Brinker, Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth

Above: Masao Yamamoto 

Above: Harry Callahan "Weeds in Snow", 1943

Above: Photo by Todd Hido

Above: Photo by Todd Hido

Above: Photo by Todd Hido

Above: Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) "Tanglewood in Winter", 1917. That was a very critical year for Burchfield, when he felt he did his best work. He went back to the paintings done that year when he needed inspiration, and even used them as a core which he added to by attaching panels around the originals to enlarge them.

Above: From the NY Times, photo by Ruby Washington, February 10 2010, taken at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This looks like a fantasy world.

Above: Claude Monet (1840-1926) "The Road in Front of Saint-Simeon Farm in Winter"

Above: Claude Monet (1840-1926) "The Red Kerchief"

The following are a collection of paintings of rooms that would be lovely to warm up in after a walk in the snow...

Above: Anne Redpath (1895-1965) "The Mantlepiece", 1947.

Above: Anne Redpath (1895-1965) "Figure at a Table" 1948-9

Above: Carl Larsson (1853-1919) "Martina by the Fire", 1908

Above: Duncan Grant (1885-1978) "The Stove, Fitzroy Square", 1936. This is Duncan Grant's daughter Angelica reading by The stove in his studio. Duncan Grant was one of the central members of the Bloomsbury group.

Above: Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) "Work Table", 1926/1937. This painting was in a show I saw at the Metropolitan Museum in the spring of 2009 of Bonnard's late still lifes and interiors. It was really a pleasure to look at this one closely.

Above: Edgar Degas (1834-1917) "Interior with a Young Girl Writing", 1905

Above: Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), "Conversation Piece", 1912. She was at the heart of the Bloomsbury group, and designed for Omega Workshops making decorative objects and fabrics. Her sister was Virginia Woolf.

Above: Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) "Interior with the Artist's Daughter", 1935-6

And one photo...

Above: Attic Bedroom from World of Interiors

Above: Wiveton Hall, in Norfolk, where we were fortunate enough to stay for a few days one very cold and wet spring many years ago, as we knew the owner, Desmond MacCarthy.

Above: At Wiveton Hall we made pigeon for dinner, with root vegetables dug from the garden,  and ate it almost inside the huge fireplace on the right. Our friend was named for his grandfather, also Desmond MacCarthy, a literary and drama critic, who was a member of the Bloomsbury group.

William Steig's book, "Brave Irene", is a terrific book about the daughter of a dressmaker who insists on taking the dress her mother has made to the duchess, as her mother is sick and needs to stay in bed. Irene is determined, loyal, persevering, and brave, as she trudges through the snowstorm to reach the duchess.

Above: The wind snatches the box from her hands

Above: After trudging through wind and snow till it's dark, the light from the duchesses mansion is finally visible!

Above: Welcomed inside, Irene is given a good meal and a place before the fire

 Above: And, a ride home the next morning!

Snow in the city....

Above: Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) "Snapshot-From My Window, New York", 1907

Above: Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)"Rooftops Under Snow"

Above: William James Glackens (1870-1938) "Washington Square Winter" 1910

Above: Taken by my son,  at the Fens, in Boston, white with this years first snow.

Above: Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) "The Street-Design for a Poster", 1903

Above: Robert Henri (1865-1929) "Snow in New York", 1902

Above: From the NY Times, by photographer Steve Berman, January 9th 1996

Above: Childe Hassam (1859-1935) "Street Scene, Christmas Morning", 1892
Inside those snow covered apartment houses warm fires and golden light...

Above: Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon from the George Cukor movie "Holiday"

Above: Walter Gay "Elsie de Wolfe's Drawing Room"

Above: Saul Leiter "Canopy", 1958

Above: Saul Leiter "Newspaper Kiosk", 1955

Above: Saul Leiter "Red Umbrella", 1957

Above: Saul Leiter "Snow", 1960

And last of all, Domino and the fire keeping us warm here at home...



  1. What a great post! SO many wonderful paintings. Had never heard of Leon Dabo. Love that.

  2. Laura, you hit on so many personal faves! Especially the whole darned theme -- I love weather! I have a couple shots of Morro Bay from last month... the pairing of the Turner and the Rothko, the warm rooms, Holland in general and one of my all time favorite movies that no one's heard of (or so I thought) Holiday...
    Thanks so much.

  3. Laurie Grotstein1/5/11, 8:52 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I love the diversity of media you pick from, jumping from one to another almost indiscriminately. You make me want to cuddle up by a fireplace, and I just put a pot of hot tea on the stove! love you! -

  5. I love William Stieg, thanks for including him in this excellent post.

  6. Your did it again assembling one evocative image after another. Love the innocence of the children's book illustrations in the middle of everything else.

  7. I love IKWIG - its a fab film and wonderful to have such a fiesty heroine. I spent my childhood summers on the Isle of Mull where it was filmed and it captures its beauty well. The telephone box near the waterfall is now preserved as a historic monument. I adore the paintings of Anne Redpath. She was befriended by my great Aunt Mary Dott when she returned from the south of France having left her husband. She was also friendly with another family friend the cermacist Kaytee Horsman who rescued a sliver of painting which Anne had sawn off (it was a painting on board) so the picture she had painted would fit the frame she had picked up in a junkshop. Decades later I saw the sliver about 2ft heigh x 4 inches wide framed behind a screen - was the most dazzling corner of a table and table leg I've ever seen painted.

    1. So glad to read your note...the idea of spending summers on the Isle of Mull seems so idyllic. I'd love to see more of Anne Redpath's work in person. Someday soon I'd like to spend some time in that part of the world....with a supply of paints and canvases...or maybe boards to paint on. Thanks for writing.

  8. Enjoyed your collection of favorites. Thanks for posting them.