Monday, September 26, 2011


(The Tiff, Florence Carlyle, 1902, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto)

Two lushly attired young people sit at a table in Florence Carlyle's "The Tiff."

The room they are occupying is finely decorated.

Silky white curtains drape dreamily at the sunlit window in the background.

The floor is covered with a plush rug in shades of dappled gray and white.

A magnificent painted bowl sits in the center of the tray topped table.

We might easily conclude that the families of this couple come from money.

And we would most likely be right.

But there is something amiss in this painting.

The young man, his head propped up by his right arm, faces the window.

Away from the young lady.

She sits languidly, head down, with her right arm hanging heavily like a dead tree limb.


Their body language speaks volumes, doesn't it?

This artwork brought widespread success to Carlyle  in 1902.

That was the year she received the Ontario Society of Artists prize for this engaging but puzzling work.

Let's examine the painting a little further.

I don't know about you, but I  am instantly drawn to the young woman's gorgeous gown.

What woman in her right mind wouldn't want to be seen in a frock such as this?

It oozes glamour and femininity!

Generally, I am not a lover of pink.

But I'm making an exception in this case.

Look at those huge lavender/pink roses scattered over the skirt of her gown.

They bring a bright blush of color to this tonally subdued painting.

I love the coral/pink lining which is seen barely turned up at the hem of her dress.

That peek of vibrant color makes me believe that the dress would be just as beautiful if it was worn inside out!

The young woman's raven hued hair is pulled back into a knot at the nape of her neck.

One perfect pink rose rests upon the knot as it serves to highlight the beauty of her head.

It also acts as a fashion exclamation point for the gown itself.

The gauzy bodice seems to drift like cotton candy in the air.

This is a dress to behold!

Carlyle won the OSA prize for:

1.  the masterly painting of the dress

2.  the ease of the figural arrangement


3.  the subtlety of interpretation

Let's take a closer look at that third point.

There is a lot unsaid in this painting.

Mystery abounds.

For starters, we do not know the exact relationship between these two people.

In addition, we don't know the reason for the couple's quarrel.

Even the domestic interior is a little fuzzy - literally and figuratively speaking.

Recently, I read that Carlyle had a "taste for the unresolved."

I think we can agree with that assessment.

Florence gives little insight into the exact meaning of her painting.

The artist wants her viewers to "fill in the blanks" for themselves so to speak.

Does that fact - if it is true - devalue the meaning and purpose of this work of art?

Obviously not.

Instead, it more than likely heightens our interest.


A month after Bob and I became engaged we had our first serious tiff.

It wasn't a lot of fun.

But we decided to act like mature adults and discuss our differences until they were resolved.

Talking together, after all, is what brought us together in the first place. 

And we're still yakking it up after 40 plus years of discussions, differences and marital negotiations.

Accord can be achieved.

But it takes two willing participants to get the job done.

And each one of the "discussees" will be humbled in the process.

These are the some of the many seeds that sow a successful relationship.

Perhaps our young friends in Carlyle's painting haven't discovered these truths yet.

Bowing to the artist's wishes, I'm going to create my own resolution for this distraught pair.

In my world, this handsome couple will come to a meeting of their minds.

And their bruised hearts as well.


(The following information is taken from the website of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.)

The OSA prize carried with it considerable renown and "The Tiff" was bought by the Ontario Provincial Government for $1000.  Subsequently, in 1904, shown in the Canadian section of the St. Louis World's Fair, the painting received a silver medal, outdistancing the work of Carlyle's outstanding and successful male compatriots in the same exhibition.  

Florence, you rock!

1 comment:

  1. Ohhhhhhh I love this painting and your post!!!! "Tiffing" never looked so lovely.