Isolation – 16 March 2020
A woman stands alone – an elderly woman. She looks out of her window, her head thoughtfully tilted to one stand. We cannot see her face, so that her inner world is hidden from us. She is still, her hands clasped together. The picture has a sadness to it.
The loneliness and isolation in this picture are striking. The woman stands off-centre to the right, so that a space opens up behind her. This is brightest part of the room, enhancing its emptiness. In front of her the walls of the room are dark, increasing the feeling that there is a barrier between the woman and the world. There is a window, so although the woman might see out, the sense is that she cannot be seen. There is the possibility that she has been forgotten – ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
In all, what we have here is a careful picture about isolation and old age, of the consequences of being separated from life beyond the interior of this house.
The painting is ‘Old woman standing by a window’ (1885), by Vilhelm Hammershoi.
I think we are and will always
be lonely people in a lonely
world under lonely stars.
We can only hope that by the
company of others
it doesn’t devour us.
Nevertheless I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me with honor.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength
of my heart and my portion forever.