William Van Doren

Metaphysical sunset painter, self-taught. Painted every sunset for eleven years, 1-1-06 to 12-31-16. Experimenting with sunsets since 1995. Author, 47 Minutes on Christmas Eve (Third Edition). Currently completing The Sunset Chronicles: Paintings and Notes from Four Thousand Nights. 


See recent paintings on my Facebook Page@714bastille on Twitter; Instagram @williamvandoren.








Entries in Thomas Jefferson (3)


West of Eden (Sunset, Tuesday, 30 November 2010)

William Van Doren, WEST OF EDEN (Sunset from Rosena, Albemarle County, Va.) Oil on watercolor block, 13 x 19.

Sunset arrived in the rain, in the middle of a three-hour saga involving Laura’s car, a flat tire and a stuck wheel. Thanks to my brother Steve, a shade-tree mechanical genius, for telling me how to free the wheel. (Place my butt down in the pool of water adjacent to the car, put both heels together, kick the sides and the top of the wheel, and it’ll pop right off. After four kicks, I’ll be damned, it popped.)

This all happened at Rosena, a tiny place at the foot of the western side of the Southwest Mountains. During a lull in the action I wandered over to a Virginia historic marker on the roadside and read that Thomas Jefferson considered the Southwest Mountains “the Eden of the United States.” I wouldn’t argue, even while wet and stranded on the slope. 


Sunset, Friday, 2 October 2009

William Theodore Van Doren. Stony Point, Albemarle County, Va. Oil on paper, 16 x 20.

Last night in the din and tumult as Bono was changing a few lyrics here and there to suit the occasion and the place, was I ever happy when, in the middle of “It’s a Beautiful Day,” instead of:

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you

I distinctly heard Bono sing:

See the world in green and blue
See the Blue Ridge right behind you

Wow! For me that was better than the many mentions of our over-referenced and -reverenced ‘Mr.’ Jefferson.

Or would have been. I guess some of us hear what we want to hear. What he sang was:

See the world in green and blue
See Larry Mullen, Jr. right behind you

Larry was behind Bono. But, anyway, ‘Blue Ridge’, ‘Larry Mullen, Jr.’ – they sound pretty similar, right?


Jefferson’s Country

So, my brother Michael, in Texas, and I had this little e-mail exchange today that gave me a chance to rail curmudgeon-like against two of my favorite bugaboos, Thomas Jefferson, and his town, my town (more or less), Charlottesville, Virginia, and environs.

And there already I’ve overstated or misstated things, since, for example, I also greatly admire Thomas Jefferson, read Dumas Malone’s monumental biography, still for example get a kick out of discovering that Jefferson and I share a habit of washing our feet in cold water, in all weathers – but, in any case, it’s great fun to overstate views that aren’t popular.

Mike sent me, without comment, a link to a Maira Kalman illustrated commentary on Jefferson in The New York Times, titled “And the Pursuit of Happiness: Time Wastes Too Fast,” published on the 25th of June.

So I said to Mike:

You know, I had read this when it came out and kinda semi-hated it!

I think it’s partly a thing I had been starting to feel about Kalman as much as anything else.

And I should say here that I also admire and like Maira Kalman specifically – and the ‘graphic novel’ style of writing in general – people like Kalman, Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman, et al. It’s just that this particular post of Kalman’s, along with another I’d read about Barack Obama’s inauguration day, had struck me as veering at times into some sort of ‘cute’ or even ‘lite’ awestruck worship of her subjects. It can be vaguely cloying, but I’m also probably being too critical.

Here in Charlottesville/Albemarle, ‘Mr. Jefferson’ is everywhere. (He has to be referred to as ‘Mr. Jefferson’ – a practice that bugs me and I believe would have to bug him.) We are reminded daily, most often but not always in various commercial slogans, that we live in ‘Jefferson’s Country.’

Kalman’s homage to TJ gave me the chance to sound off to Michael.

Living in ‘Jefferson’s Country’ at some point you want to say “Wake up, people! Is this JEFFERSON’s country or is it OURS?”


Anyway, even though she does mention it, I don’t think she says enough about how he did all these things as part of a system of daily living in which he was a superior being, both in the sense of being born into a landed gentry – this she does NOT mention – and because he had one billion slaves.

One of Kalman’s key Jefferson quotes:

“It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”

I think it’s mostly the slave support system that really bothered me about this, but:

That line about ‘doing’ is something you hear grandmothers say who never did anything much, so I’m not sure how useful it is.

I love to try to scandalize my brother. He’s a graduate of Thomas Jefferson’s beloved creation, the University of Virginia. Mike allowed as to how he was fine with my comments but that, “For most UVa grads, brother, you’re talking trash.” Then he said:

The admiration for TJ runs so thick that people even admire him for his faults.

Sure enough, Kalman:

The monumental man had monumental flaws.

Rephrase that as “The monumental man had awful flaws.” Not quite the same, is it?

We love you, TJ. You deserve better from us.