American Impressionism · Essay

Saying Farewells: Nostalgia, Melancholy and Romance in Charles Y. Turner’s “Saying Goodbye”

CHARLES YARDLEY TURNER (1850—1919) Saying Goodbye
CHARLES YARDLEY TURNER (1850—1919), Saying Goodbye, 1881. Oil on canvas, 27 x 17 inches. Signed with initials “C.Y.T” and dated ’81 lower left.

To Edmund Caldewgate.
New England, 5th October, 1850.

My Dearest,
-I cannot but write you as oft as times permit, for your absence is truly felt in your home and in our hearts . In honest, if I know my own heart, I should as soon neglect myself as to not express the least thought towards you. And when I hear from you, your love enlivens my heart, and faith in reuniting again. I submit to the Providence of God, who hath separated us time and time again, praying and hoping that He, in His good will and timing shall bring our family together once more. I shall praise the Lord’s name that he hath you well under His Grace being far from my embrace, toiling in foreign lands. And you will rejoice in hearing that our Anne is growing lovelier, under His Providence, day by day. And truly my Dear, in her eyes, I envision yours, and draw from them the courage to hope in the Lord’s good Grace. Truly our life is but half a life in your absence. I pray think on us, -yours in all faithfulness,

Your Loving Wife, Amelia

For my beloved Wife Amelia Caldewgate,
England, 17th November, 1850.

My Dearest,

I could not satisfy myself to omit a response to your last post, although I have not much to write. Yet, indeed I yearn to write to my Dear, and to our daughter. I cannot help but express how tightly wound in the strings of my heart you are both. It joys me to hear our Anne prospereth. I pray the Lord increase His favours to our family more and more, and may each day  the Lord grant you the greatest blessing of all: to shine His Light upon your heads and those bout thee. The Lord bless all thy good counsel and example, and hear all thy prayers, and accept thee. And I hope that thou will have good counsel for our daughter as she grows thus far from my embrace. Present my duty to my Father, my love to my Mother.
Still pray for Thine,

Edmund Caldewgate.

Saying Goodbye is a romantic and emotional painting by Charles Y. Turner. He painted it while in France, where he continued to depict figures from American history—Puritans, Revolutionary War scenes, and Indians—but filtered through the aesthetic techniques of his Parisian teachers. Here, we see a mother and daughter from behind—Puritans, as suggested by their modest dress. The mother holds her daughter to her as they gaze into the distance, lingering over their farewell to an unseen individual—perhaps the child’s father? Turner’s palette is dominated by muted tones, a representation of the somber colors of traditional Puritan dress, as well as the ashen light of early morning in colonial America add to the melancholy and romance of the scene. Turner eloquently infused the painting with a poetic sense of longing and resignation, which his choice in presenting the mother and child as Rückenfiguren, or figures seen from behind, heightens.




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