Gifts to Myself

December 26 is Boxing Day in Canada.  Like Black Friday in the US, that’s the time to pick up bargains, and pay half the price you did just two days before.  And like Black Friday, it’s the time for legitimate self indulgence for the common good, our economy.

In recent years I’ve avoided shopping on Boxing Day. I know some people getting up at 5 am to line up for a store opening at 6.  My own experience of the Boxing Day craze had been standing 3 or 4 people deep, stretched out my arm to the sale table and grabbed whatever I could out of it, hopefully something I needed.

Out of curiosity, I gave it a try again this time around… and sure glad I ventured out.  I didn’t have to fight the crowds, and waited just a bit longer in line-ups . But well worth it.  Here are some of the gifts I got for myself at half price: wall calendars which I won’t be hanging up.

I know, prices here are not as low as in the US… we’re always paying a few dollars more in printed products. But just about $10 each, these beautiful art calendars are good buys for me. Best of all, I found all my favorite artists.  Those familiar with Ripple Effects would know.  I’ve posted on Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-75) here, Edward Hopper (US, 1882-1967) here, and images of René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967) here and here.  So I was really excited to be able to find big prints of their works.



The 12 paintings are some of Vermeer’s well known works.  The cover of course is the most famous, The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665).  If you’re interested, you might like to read my reviews of the book based on this painting and the film adaptation here.

I have seen two of the paintings in the calendar, The Lacemaker (1669) and The Geographer (1668-69), both at The Louvre.  Interesting that the calendar prints are about the same size as the originals, or maybe even a tad bigger, for The Lacemaker.  Here are my photos of them hanging on the wall in the Louvre:


But the July print stands out, the only one that has an exterior view.  It’s my favorite of all the twelve months.  The Little Street (1658):



Edward Hopper 16-Month 2011 Calendar


I have 16 prints of some of my favorite Hopper paintings.  A few of them I’ve posted before, asking readers’ opinion on them. Here are a couple more that I’d like to elicit your views:

People In The Sun (1960)




Chop Suey (1929)


Magritte 2011


The cover is the Belgian artist’s work in 1953, Golconda.  Just wondering… is this the origin of the term “rain man”?  Or, are the men going up like balloons?

René Magritte was born just 16 years after Hopper, and died the same year, 1967.  So contemporaries they had been for some years, but a world of difference in terms of style.  I like the realism and existential elements hidden in Hopper’s works, but I also enjoy Magritte’s surrealist and whimsical images, openly challenging our sense of reality:

The Treachery of Images (1929)

Ceci n’est pas une pipe:  This is not a pipe.  Your take on this?


The Interpretation of Dreams (1935)


In the past years, I’ve saved up a lot of visuals just like these calendars, as teaching materials for adult ESL.  But this one definitely cannot be used for vocabulary building.  Just hang on… that may well be what Magritte is saying: ‘In a dream world, a horse can be a door, a jug a bird…’  And for that matter, how do you know you’re not dreaming right now?  Mmm… just wondering, has the movie Inception included Magritte in the credits?





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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

7 thoughts on “Gifts to Myself”

  1. Lovely post, lovely artists Arti. “Golconda” is one of my favourite works by Magritte. I live in a city in which the biggest employer is (and was even moreso when I came here in the mid 1970s) the public (civil) service – and so my husband and I call this work “Raining public servants”. We even have a fridge magnet of it – shock, horror.

    As for “People in the sun”. Hmmm … Hopper’s work always looks so simple but there’s a lot there isn’t there. Of course, I relate most to the man at the back reading who seems to be involved/engrossed in something but … what are those others looking at. One could argue that the reader, by reading, is disengaged from life/people except that the people watching don’t look particularly engaged in anything. There’s the hint of the great outdoors (with its slightly softer edges) that they are looking at contrasted with the very bare example of urban existence that they seem aligned (conveyed by the flat, bare, plain building). The title gives nothing away. does it? I enjoy looking at works like this, despite the fact that they can be a little unsettling.


    1. A fridge magnet of ‘Golconda‘? Interesting. While I was in Europe last summer, I had the chance to see a Magritte at Tate Modern… It’s always exciting seeing the original.

      As for Hopper’s People In The Sun, like you, I was drawn to the man reading in the back seat too. You might like to take a look at my Hopper post and share your views on some of his well-known paintings.


  2. Looks like you purchased a lot of beauty for very little. Enjoy…

    Yes, Ellen you’re right about that. I’ve got some other bargains as well… maybe the next post.


  3. Beauty!! I love calendars of art. Hopper is one of my very favorites.

    My take on the “treachery of images” and “This is not a pipe” is related to conversations I’ve been carrying on with friends about poetry translations, and language for all purposes. To translate a poem from one language into another is a challenge of finding equivalent words (which may not be findable), rhyme, feeling, etc. And it’s the same with all words: we are expressing something of things and experience, ideas and thoughts. They are not the things themselves (a finger pointing at the moon). So my guess is that Magritte is saying “this image of a pipe is not a pipe.”

    I love the post. Thank you.


    As a bilingual person, I can totally appreciate what you’re saying here about translations, esp. of poetry. Often there are no exact word equivalent… meaning lost in translation is so common. Recently, after reading the English version of Kawabata’s Snow Country, I turned to the Chinese translation of the book, and found quite a different reading experience. Since I don’t read Japanese, I can’t tell which version is more faithful to the original though.



  4. Such beautiful images – if I had a space left in my house to hang any more pictures, I’d do the same thing and get hold of some of those gorgeous art calendars to use for their prints. The Vermeer is particularly lovely, I think. The way he painted light was just exceptional.


    I won’t be hanging them on the wall. They will become my collections of art calendars, just for looking at. Since you like Vermeer, you might like to visit my post Inspired by Vermeer. You’ll find interesting images of how he had influenced some of the famous artists after him… even to this day.



  5. My first illustrated calendar was a lovely datebook issued by a museum in New York – probably the Metropolitan. It was a reproduction of a Book of Hours, and I spent hours pouring over its every detail. They provide so much pleasure.

    I just can’t take Magritte seriously – I’m sure he’s important and all that, but his work makes me giggle. I’m convinced it probably made him giggle. Or at least grin.

    As for People in the Sun, the first thing that came to mind was a Robert Frost poem. Granted, there’s no sea in the painting, but the dynamic seems precisely the same:

    The people along the sand
    All turn and look one way.
    They turn their back on the land.
    They look at the sea all day.
    As long as it takes to pass
    A ship keeps raising its hull;
    The wetter ground like glass
    Reflects a standing gull.
    The land may vary more;
    But wherever the truth may be
    The water comes ashore,
    And the people look at the sea.
    They cannot look out far.
    They cannot look in deep.
    But when was that ever a bar
    To any watch they keep?


    1. .

      “I never would have used the word ‘predicament’ to describe the woman in the automat, and ‘existential loneliness’ never would have occurred to me for those few at the lunch counter. Both of those scenes feel almost cozy to me…” Remember these words… yours? I welcome a contrarian, especially an eloquent one. Well since you have very different views on the Automat and Nighthawks, I’m not surprised your mental association will lead you to … a Robert Frost’s poem. I love the title: “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep”. The funny thing is, as you’ve pointed out, there’s no sea or shore, but, what, the blaring sun over a wheat field or grassland? That seems to match the title of the poem. The people looking out don’t have much to see. While the man reading, looking inwardly, may be seeing farther and deeper.

      I’m bemused by this exercise of free association, linking somehow, Hopper’s painting with Frost’s poem… uh … what was that … muse?



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