Three Years on the Blog – Special Post: Things That Make Me Happy

20 Oct

It’s 162th anniversary of Arthur Rimbaud’s birth. And it’s also the day which marks the third year of my blog! I am very excited to be announcing this and I will use this opportunity to thank all of you readers, both old and new, who at least once decided to take a few minutes of your day and read my post, to all who ever commented and shared their thoughts, to all who ever liked my post, or felt inspired after reading it. Also, this is my 275th post.


Of course, this blog means to me more than it could ever mean to you, not only because it is a place to share my interests, but also because it shows the passing of time, which is a thing that saddens me the most. When I started this blog I didn’t know what would become of it, or how long it would last, but now I see that I have created a place of beauty, and I also know now that I never want to differentiate between old and new, Dionysian and Apollonian, posh and trashy. Quite the opposite, I want to share things that inspire me, write about them in a passionate, lyrical and informative way, and make connections between the art as it is classically perceived, and fragments of popular culture. I love making connections between works of art and lyrics from rock songs. And I’d be damned if I’m wrong. Art, literature and rock and roll are three most important things in my life after all!

Still, I have to say that my most popular posts include topics such as 1960s, Syd Barrett and psychedelia. I’ve had quite a few people telling me that my posts are evocative of the sixties, and that’s coming from people who lived in London at the time, so that’s truly a compliment, if I’m allowed a bit of arrogance today. I’ve had nothing but fondest experiences related to this blog, and I’ve had a chance to get acquainted with some really nice people, some I’d even like to meet in person one day. It goes without saying that it’s an immense pleasure writing it.

I’ve made three collages which represent the main themes of my blog. All in all, if you are a faithful follower you already know, and if you’re a new reader you are about to find out; I would call my posts a whimsical mix of art, psychedelia, Romanticism and Rock Music, Pre-Raphaelites and Swinging sixties, Jane Eyre and 1840s, with a bit of poetry, Impressionism, Modigliani, Klimt and Egon Schiele, a few film and book reviews, and a fair deal of broodiness and melancholy because it’s so sweet being sad, and I can’t help it.


I will use this opportunity to share something a bit more personal than it is usually the case with my posts – I will talk about things that make me happy. And here they are: rain, thunderstorms and grey skies. Autumn weather and leaves crackling underfoot. Candles; plain white ones, lighting them makes me feel like I’m in Victorian era, or in a Gothic novel. Discovering art, reading and writing about art. Listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes. Poetry. Long walks. Daydreaming about far-away places, moods, people and architecture. Cappuccino, chocolate, cakes; anything sweet. Being in a middle of a really good book. Listening to groovy music, and any of the following: Syd Barrett, Manic Street Preachers, The Smiths, The Libertines, Echo and the Bunnymen, Velvet Underground, The Stone Roses, Joy Division… Putting new pictures on my wall. Documentaries by Waldemar Januszczak. Writing a good post. Finding a smashing connection between an artwork and lyrics from a song. Being dressed like a sixties dolly.


If you have any suggestions or some good blogging tips, feel free to share them, it would be much appreciated! And of course, share with me what makes you happy if you’d like, I’m always happy to hear.

Fall, Leaves, Fall – Emily Bronte’s Verses on Autumn…

16 Oct

I love this poem by Emily Bronte and since it is Autumn, oh finally, the beautiful season of rains, mists, falling leaves and rich colours, I thought I’d share it with you, my lovely readers, accompanied by an equally beautiful painting ‘Autumn Leaves’ by the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.


John Everett Millais, Autumn Leaves, 1856

Fall, leaves, fall – Emily Bronte

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Season of the Witch – Fashion Inspiration for Autumn

14 Oct

This is my fashion inspiration for the Season of the With, or Autumn; the most beautiful season in my opinion. I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures I’ve chosen, mostly sixties and seventies fashion, a little bit of Sharon Tate and France Gall with her knee-high socks, a bit of Carolyn’s style from Dark Shadows (2012), a bit of late 1970s Joy Division-look from the film Closer (2007), cord trousers with wide belts, Uschi Obermaier’s large necklaces, colourful tights, a bit of 1970s does 1930s and 40s fashion, long dresses with floral prints, and of course the classic sixties mini skirt.

I’m always on the look out for groovy colour combinations, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to share them. I noticed that chocolate brown, warm yellow and raspberry red-pink go really well together. Beware, there’s a lot of pictures.


1960s marianne faithfull 68 1966-brigitte-bardot-in-masculin-feminin1960s marianne faithful 2

16th December 1969: Rainer Langhans and his girlfriend Uschi Obermaier in a Munich restaurant. Two of the founders of the Berlin Commune 1 which was eventually unsuccessful, they are in Munich to try and start a similar venture. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

16th December 1969: Rainer Langhans and his girlfriend Uschi Obermaier in a Munich restaurant




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1969. Charlotte Martin, Photographed by Roger Stowell, March 4


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Antoine Watteau – The Love Lesson

8 Oct

In this post we’ll take a look at Antoine Watteau’s painting The Love Lesson and explore its world of fragile elegance and melancholic serenity.

1700s-antoine-watteau-the-love-lessonJean-Antoine Watteau, The Love Lesson, 1716

A picture of a gentle, innocent afternoon; sky is clear blue with a few clouds that are as threatening as a little dog in the right corner. Sunlight gently hits the sleeping trees in this grove filled with laughter, music and leisure. Trees are captured in flickering, playful brushstrokes. Three ladies in pastel coloured dressed seem to be amused by a piece of paper, most likely a love letter. Two lads are keeping them company; a musician and the other one, with little moustaches, dressed in a blue cloak, pointing at a letter with amusement. The lightness and the seemingly easy-going nature of this painting is typical for Watteau’s style.

Jean-Antoine Watteau, the master of ‘fetes galantes’, was born on 10th October 1684 in Valenciennes but soon settled in Paris where he painted genre scenes for rich bankers and dealers. Today his paintings are considered not only as little masterpieces but also as the pioneers of Rococo style that would rule the majority of 18th century, but during his lifetime they were praised merely for their ornamental, decorative value. Rococo is not my cup of tea because it is a bit too decorative, too flamboyant, and, let’s be frank – too kitschy. Still, Watteau’s paintings are lighter, gentler and a certain melancholic serenity dominates their mood.

Perhaps Watteau deliberately painted the simple pleasures of life and created a world that was so different to the mundaneness of his everyday worries; a world where shepherds hold hands with their shepherdesses, sweet scents and music are always in the air, a world of picnics in magical parks where it never rains, a world of cavaliers and pretty ladies in shiny silks. His reality was so much different; he lacked aristocratic clients and he was of fragile health, dying of consumption at the age of thirty-seven, just five years after The Love Lesson was painted. Still, in his visions of beauty there’s a hint of sadness that’s hard to define. Watteau knew the sweetness and the pleasures of life, but he also knew their short lasting nature. Love that is here today, may be gone tomorrow, beauty that charms the eyes of the beholders may soon vanish, and happiness rarely lingers. Awareness of the transience of beauty gave his art a certain intensity that’s lacking in other Rococo artworks.

Art Nouveau and 1960s: A Psychedelic Dream

6 Oct

I noticed that some sixties posters and film costumes have a strong Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite vibe, so naturally I turned to my art, culture and music bible when it comes to the Swinging Sixties – book ‘Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe’ by Julian Palacios, And here’s what I found. So, in this post we’ll take a look at the influence of Art Nouveau, Aesthetic movement and 19th century Orientalism on 1960s posters, designs, fashion and film costumes. I’ve also chosen some whimsical psychedelic tunes that I love and that fit very well with the mood of the post. Psychedelic Autumn, is it not?!

1967. Flower Power fashion, Photograph by Peter Knapp. Image scanned by Sweet Jane.

Flower Power fashion, Photograph by Peter Knapp, 1967, Image scanned by Sweet Jane

Donovan – Season of the Witch

Around 1966/67 there was a shift in style and mood. A change was in the air, as ‘vibrant coloured clothes and laughter’ filled the drab tube stations. Waning Mod fashion was quickly being replaced by a style more romantic and oriental. The new mood, exhibited not only in clothes but in posters, designs and music, found its inspiration in nostalgic reveries of the past and romantic daydreams about far East. Gone were the days of short skirts and fake eyelashes. Instead, young people – students, artists, musicians, groupies and dollies – traded their black and white geometrical outfits for caftans, vibrant coloured long dresses, long hair and less make up.

1960s fashion illustrations

1900. The Precious Stones (Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, Topaz) - Alphonse Mucha

Do you notice the similarity in colours and composition between the sixties illustration (above) and Mucha’s painting ‘The Precious Stones (Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, Topaz) from 1900.

Cosmic Sounds – The Zodiac

In late sixties, when Mod culture was starting to be looked upon as too commercial, and ‘futuristic themes gave way to exoticism, romanticism and nostalgia’ (1), young people started seeking answers and inspiration in paganism, mysticism and Eastern stuff: I Ching, Bhagavad Gita, The Golden Bough by James George Frazer which explores ‘magic, myths, Druids and Viking lore’, (p. 91), Ouija boards, tarot cards, meditation, vegetarianism and Hindu scriptures. Driven by LSD and hashish, they believed they were creating a new world, and so they delved into mysticism, found beauty in forgotten illustrations and paintings, whether it’s the sumptuous Klimt’s golden paintings or intricate William Morris wallpapers or William Blake’s drawings, laden with spirituality, hidden meanings and symbolism.


1) Baby Doll Cosmetics 1968/ 2) Photo of Cleo de Merode, 1905; similar hairstyles.

Ravi Shankar – Sitar

A quote from the already mentioned book that sums it all:

The underground exhibited a curious nostalgia, unusual in people so young. Living in tattered Victorian flats, smoking dope and rummaging for antiques on the Portobello Road, the underground pillaged their cultural history. Part romantics and part vandals, as they pulled away from their parents’ world, they embraced the shadow of their grandparents’ Victoriana, torn between an idealised future and rose-tinted visions of the past.


1) Flower Love, C.Keelan, 1967/ 2) Painting by Mucha

Just imagine that beautiful asceticism of the sixties; candle lit room with bare floor, mattress, incense sticks, Eastern fabrics for curtains, someone jamming on the guitar, girls in colourful clothes with flowers in their hair, resembling Mucha’s painting, laughter, optimism, mind expanding chatter… General mood of the time could be described as a combination of idealism, hedonism and optimism that eventually exceeded into decadence. Similar were the turn of the century vibes and the art movement that came to define the era – Art Nouveau.


1) 1960s poster/ 2)Alphonse Mucha, ‘Job’, 1898

Art Nouveau demanded artistic freedom, art for art’s sake. Free the colour, the line, the beauty itself, the artists demanded. Similarly, in the sixties, after the drab post-war years were finally over and the economic situation was a bit better, artists and designers demanded the liberty of colour and design. Taking inspiration from the past, in a hope for a better artistic future, designers combined the refinement and elegance of Victorian and Edwardian art; floral prints, aestheticism and playful lines, and combined it with acid-laced colours such as magenta, aqua and bright yellow. Inspiration was often found in flamboyant turn of the century designs by Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley, Mucha and Georges de Feure.


1) Poster for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at UFO, 16 and 23 June, by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, 1967, London (Michael English & Nigel Waymouth / 2) 1897-98. Journal Des Ventes, Georges de Feure, Color lithograph

As you can see above, poster for the UFO designed by Michael English and Nigel Waymouth who worked under the moniker ‘Hapshash and the Coloured Coat’, is truly Art Nouveau in style; whimsical lines, fluid shapes amalgamating one into another, female figure with flowers and different ornamental detailing in her hair and on her body, the whole mood very playful and fit for the new sixties spirit and yet beautiful aesthetically.


Psychedelic poster, Pink Floyd, 15 March 1966

A sixties touch in designs is definitely colour which is often bright, contrasting and eye-catching, whereas the turn of the century style preferred more refined colouring, jewel-like colours being popular but always combined with subtler shades. Klimt, Mucha and Georges de Feure placed the attention on ornamentation, almost Baroque in its heaviness, whereas in the sixties, the designs were made for the tuned-in folk, and colour combination such as mauve and yellow, orange and lilac, red and green appealed to the crowd. Psychedelic flamboyancy owes it all to Art Nouveau (and LSD).

Hapshash and the Coloured Coat’s posters rejected the stark formalism of graphic design in favour of referencing the 19th century illustrators William Morris and Aubrey Beardsley, with opium-laced flora and leaves drawn in interlaced patterns, hypnotic motifs and arabesques.“(p. 147)


1) Barbra Streisand in Edwardian-inspired dress and hairstyle/ 2) Biba drawing


1) Barbra Streisand /2) Edwardian illustration

The book also mentions illustrations by Arthur Rackham, a late Victorian and Edwardian era book illustrator who portrayed subjects from Nordic mythology to scenes from Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland: “Art Nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha and illustrated books by Arthur Rackham, dented silver carafes, spindly umbrellas with ivory handles, and chipped porcelain tea services formed a backdrop for an undulating mass along Portobello, Curving to Landbroke Grove…

And it seems to me that the sixties were one really long Mad Hatter’s tea party with great clothes, music and attitudes towards life and spirituality.


1) Pattie Boyd and Twiggy for Vogue, 1969 / 2) Barbra Streisand in Edwardian dress

Influence of Art Nouveau, Pre-Raphaelites and Edwardian era can be seen not only in visual arts but also in fashion and film costumes. In 1990s there was a Jane Austen revival with films such as Sense and Sensibility. Well, films from the sixties and seventies are all about turn of the century; large hats decorated with roses, Art Nouveau interiors, Edwardian dresses in pastel colours with abundance of ruffles and lace… Some great examples of this aesthetic are films Hello, Dolly (1969) with Barbra Streisand, La Ronde (1964), Morgiana (1972), Viva Maria (1965) with Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau, Baba Yaga (1973) etc.


1) Catherine Deneuve in Edwardian dress / Photo of Emilie de Briand, 1900s

Even in everyday fashion, it’s hard not to see the influence. No, women didn’t return to tight corsets and uncomfortable lingerie, but some designers such as Barbara Hulanicki of Biba took the best of Victorian and Edwardian fashion and incorporated it in sixties style. Think of longer dresses (compared to Mary Quant’s mini dress that ruled the Swinging London), straw hats and lace details, floral prints, velvet, bishop sleeves, heavy dark coloured fabrics, longer hair often with curls (instead of the previous strict bob hair) or soft voluminous buns that were worn by Pattie Boyd and Twiggy for Vogue in 1969, and also Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot. Jane Birkin couldn’t resist the style as well, picture below:


Jane Birkin in Edwardian dress with lace and ruffles, 1970


1) Biba girl with Gibson Girl Hairstyle, 2) Illustration by Alphonse Mucha, 3) Biba illustration

Caspar David Friedrich – Greifswald Harbour: Set sail in those turquoise days…

2 Oct

It’s that time of the year again, when sweet Autumn rains and whimsical winds bring thoughts of Romanticism and Echo and the Bunnymen to my mind. Gloomy, post-punk and a bit psychedelic melodies of Echo and the Bunnymen’s album Heaven Up Here (1981) resonate perfectly with moods of Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings.

1818-20. Greifswald Harbour - Caspar David FriedrichCaspar David Friedrich, Greifswald Harbour, 1818-20

Dreamy and gloomy paintings of Caspar David Friedrich go hand in hand with brooding post-punk melodies of Echo and the Bunnymen’s album Heaven Up Here; this artistic match made in heaven delights me beyond belief, often to the point of tears – tears of beauty. Similar mood pervades Friedrich’s painting Greifswald Harbour and song Turquoise Days; moody melody coming from the distance, from a rocky beach somewhere in Wales, emerging from an ancient Albion mist, coming from the distant Celtic shore… Similar dreamy, yet sombre mood can be found in all of Friedrich’s artworks, specially those portraying a beach or a harbour, where ships appear from the blueish mist, like in a dream.

In ‘Greifswald Harbour’ Friedrich revisits the landscape of his childhood, portraying the harbour of Greifswald; a seaport on the Baltic coast and his birth town. Cold climate and death of close relatives intensified his tendency towards melancholy, his sensitivity and perhaps even a certain sense of isolation that dominates his paintings. Take a look at the painting. I’ll give you a moment to sober up from the beauty of those dusky colours and mystic shades of blue, green, grey and yellow.

Greifswald Harbour was painted between 1818 and 1820, in times when Romantic sensibilities were slowly becoming ‘passé‘, and Friedrich was perceived not as a symbol of a generation and a romantic hero, but as an overly melancholic recluse who spend most of his time alone, wandering woods and meadows, and enjoying the isolation. He said himself: “I am not so weak as to submit to the demands of the age when they go against my convictions. I spin a cocoon around myself; let others do the same. I shall leave it to time to show what will come of it: a brilliant butterfly or maggot.” It goes without saying that the fruit of his life, his oeuvre, is indeed ‘a brilliant butterfly’.

Aesthetically, this is a typical painting of Romanticism. Symbolically, it deals with subjects of transience and painters own mortality. In the dusk, small and large ships appear through a misty veil of Autumn evening. Glimpses of cityscape appear through the grey blueish fog. Shy waning moon shines in the sky. Day is dying in rich warm yellow and orange shades, while fishermen in the foreground are nearing the end of the working day, probably in a hurry to visit an inn or a brothel. Ah, the mood of harbours, with sailors and hookers, goods from the far East, constant change and movement… Friedrich’s harbour is a somewhat desolate place. Those large ships are probably returning from a long trip, or just setting off to a new voyage, but what about the smaller ones? Some ships probably never left the harbour, nothing exciting comes on their path. They could spent a whole existence soaking in the cold sea water waiting for something which never really occurs. It’s like an unlived life. Once again, Friedrich stimulates the viewer to observe the deeper, psychological side of his art.

In Friedrich’s art, human figures are either missing or painted from the back. You may be wondering then, why he decided to include a bunch of fishermen in the foreground? Well, the figures of fishermen and the boat in the foreground weren’t painted by Friedrich himself, but were added later. Infrared photographs of the painting taken in 1974 revealed this two centuries old secret. Why did someone decide to do that, we’ll never know. Perhaps one considered the painting too dull with just ships and sky, and wanted to enliven it with human figures. Indeed, someone who doesn’t appreciate the soft transitional moods of Friedrich’s art would deem this painting non exciting because its beauty and charm are hidden behind layers of gauze veils, just like the face of a Victorian bride. As Ludwig Justi wrote: “We cannot appreciate the secret music of this picture without sensing the inner life of the ship. … The forms, appearing quite sober on first sight, are in fact alive with ardour and longing and dreaming.

I would like to finish this post with beautiful lyrics written by Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen.

Just when the thought occurs
The panic will pass
And the smell of the fields
Never lasts
We’ll put your faith
In those crimson nights
Set sail
In those turquoise days…” (Echo and the Bunnymen, Turquoise Days)

Dear reader, set sail in the beautiful turquoise days and crimson nights of Autumn that are upon us.

My Inspiration for September III

30 Sep

This month I was inspired by Biba fashion, vintage butterfly prints, Marianne Faithfull, 1970s street style, 1920s delicate silk dresses, Baby Face (1933) with Barbara Stanwyck. I’ve read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and biography of Franz Liszt by Barbara Meier. I’ve discovered some interesting tunes: Marble Orchard by The Graveyard Five and Death Bells at Dawn by The Lords.

I’ve watched Twin Peaks, again, after five years, and I loved it even more than I did the first time. It leaves you with so many questions. I definitely recommend it, especially for these Autumn days. I love David Lynch’s aesthetics; 1950s diners, cherry pies and coffee, strange woods, logs, mystery in the air.

I’m in two different moods this Autumn; first includes Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘glamour of doom’, Caspar David Friedrich, photos by Irina Ionesco, distant shores, night sky, rain, roses and veils, sad brides, Moon, Cleo de Merode, and the other is more psychedelic: hippies, astrology, Dark Shadows (2012), warm colours on Millais’ Autumn Leaves, Donovan’s  Season of the Witch, The Zodiac by the Cosmic Sounds (1967), Art Nouveau and 1960s. My days are filled with art, candles and burning incense sticks, listening to psychedelic music, dressed like a sixties dolly, and writing posts. Whenever I’m happy like this, I fear it won’t last. And now some lyrics that are on my mind recently:

Panic on the streets of London,

Panic on the streets of Birmingham

I wonder to myself,

Could life ever be sane again?‘ (The Smiths, Panic)

1968. Baby Doll Cosmetics September 2

1960s pattie boyd 2

1903-cleo-de-merode1901. Cleo de Merode by Boldini1970s-photo-of-eva-ionesco-by-irina-ionesco-6purple-moonecho and the bunnymen heaven up here

1818-20. Greifswald Harbour - Caspar David Friedrich ian-mccullochecho





1974. Illustration by Kasia Charko for Biba, summer

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