Archive | May, 2014

My Inspirations for May

31 May

My darling buds of May or the things that inspired me the most in May were Modigliani, Soutine, Shelley’s essay A defence of poetry, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, book Jane Eyre, 1960s fashion, Manic Street Preachers; especially the songs from their upcoming album, Joy Division, Naked Lunch by Burroughs, Britt Ekland, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, The Repulsion and Catherine Deneuve.

Since the month of May is very dear to me, I can only say:

”Faded the flower and all its budded charms,
Faded the sight of beauty from my eyes,
Faded the shape of beauty from my arms,
Faded the voice, warmth, whiteness, paradise –
Vanished unseasonably at shut of eve…” (Keats)

1960s brigitte bardot 10

Actress Britt Ekland Wearing Coat by Jean Muir

1960s britta eklan 5

1960s britta eklan 7 1960s Jean Shrimpton 10 1960s Jean Shrimpton 4

1960s Jean Shrimpton 2

1960s Jean Shrimpton 11

1960s mod dress, coat and hat

1960s twiggy 32

brigitte bardot

the repulsion 1

the repulsion 2

richey 43

richey 49

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Landscapes in Chaim Soutine’s eyes

20 May

I hope the title sounds intriguing for I shall indeed focus on Soutine’s landscapes painted in late 1910s and early 1920s.

1923. Paysage by Soutine1923. Paysage, Soutine

Chaim Soutine, French painter of Belarusian Jew origin, was a very introverted person; he left only a few letters and no diaries. His life and character are enigma but with his paintings he showed far more than he ever could with letters. An Expressionistic painter, Soutine quickly developed a highly personal vision and painting technique. His rather different look on the world had left us with very sharp, crooked, twisted, strong and lavishing landscapes that depict the houses, trees, meadows and moors in a different way; the way Soutine saw them.

Soutine arrived in Paris in 1913. There he settled in Montparnasse, an artists community, and befriended Amedeo Modigliani, also a Jewish painter, who painted several portraits of him. Amedeo, ten years his senior, embraced Soutine with affection and became both his friend and a mentor. While Modigliani was particularly known for his portraits and nudes, Soutine found inspiration in classic paintings in European tradition, his early works being created under the influence of Rembrandt, Chardin and Courbet. He was particularly influenced by Rembrandt, as he painted several carcasses. However, he soon developed an individual painting style of his own, putting focus on shape, colour and texture over representation – something that served as a bridge between traditional art and Abstract Expressionism.

1923. Le Village by Soutine1923. Le Village, Soutine

While in Paris, Soutine lived completely penniless. In addition to that, he was obsessed with morbid memories of suffering and poverty of his childhood. He believed himself to be hounded by poverty and tried to hang himself; death seemed to be the only solution. These inner sufferings, both psychical and mental, caused him great nervousness and slowly deteriorated his health. Stomach ulcer, which would ultimately lead to his death, did not really come unexpected.

It’s a cliche to say Soutine was a tortured genius, but I feel that’s something all artist share. Still, he stays an enigmatic character and his paintings, expression of the pain and sadness he lived with, are here for us all, perhaps to understand what was going on in Soutine’s mind. He did leave us a diary; his paintings.

1921. Le Gros Arbre bleu by Soutine1921. Le Gros Arbre bleu, Soutine

The thing that instantly caught my attention concerning these paintings was this rather strange perspective and Soutine’s way of applying the paint; in thick and solid layer which makes the painting appear strong, vivid, clear and expressive. I just adore the way he played with perspective for it looks like something that came right from his head, isn’t that exciting?

Look at the tree in the painting above; it looks crooked, wicked and strange, as if the wind that blows its branches is bringing some bad news. The sky is gloomy; painted with sharp brush-strokes in solid layer. Shades of blue and green dominate the sky above this lonely yet mysterious landscape. Even the hills are painted with sharp brush strokes, in green and indigo colour with a hint of red, as if they were burning. Soutine’s landscapes are striking in their colour palette, strange perspectives and remarkable contrasts. If you look a the painting Paysage, the first one, you’ll notice the contrast between vivid blue and vivid green which, in addition to heavy layered coloures, gives the painting hectic and strange atmosphere, as if it was place where no peace, comfort or acceptance can be found.

1920. Les Maisons by Soutine1920. Les Maisons, Soutine

Houses on the painting Les Maisons appear crooked, tall, dark and frightening, like they are giants watching over you. To me, these houses, with their bumpy figures, dark colours and heavy coloured surrounding, resemble the empty souls; those windows look like eyes gazing hopelessly at the viewer, and mouths screaming for help; for salvation from their agony.

Soutin felt like a stranger in Paris where foreigners were overlooked. He often spent his days finding good landscapes to paint and he’d be very disturbed if somebody would observe him while painting. Sadly, his fears of poverty, bad memories and imperishable feeling of loneliness never ended. In fact, he ended his life as a poverty stricken escapee from Nazi regime, wondering through the forests, sleeping outdoors, in great pain, suffering from stomach ulcer and bleeding heavily. In 1943. he left his safe hiding place for Paris where he hoped he’d get medical help. Instead, he died for the surgery failed to save his life.

Consumption – A Romantic Disease

17 May

‘I should like to die from consumption.’ said Lord Byron, helping to popularize tuberculosis as an artist’s disease.

In the nineteenth century consumption was such a popular disease that it was dubbed The White Plague, mal de vivir and mal du siecle. It gained popularity in Romantic era, due to Lord Byron, and was seen as a sign of sensitivity, spiritual purity and temporal wealth. Young ladies begun purposefully paling their skin in order to achieve the consumptive appearance and they also dropped belladonna into their eyes for it dilated their pupils, giving the eyes luminous glow.

The slow progress of the disease meant that the sufferer could have time to arrange his affairs. In those times, one could only hope to die from consumption. Amedeo Modigliani, whom I have written about in my last post, also died from consumption in 1920., though in his times it was not considered so romantic anymore as it took many and many lives in Paris. Chopin had died from consumption, and George Sand doted her lover, calling him her ‘poor melancholy angel’. She also wrote in a letter to her friend ‘Chopin coughs with infinite grace’.

Quite strange, and unbelievable, that once it was popular to die from such a disease. Lord Byron’s wish was not fulfilled for he died from fever.

Modigliani’s Muse

15 May

‘Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice.’

1918. Hébuterne by Modigliani

Jeanne Hebuterne, described as gentle, shy, quiet and delicate, was introduced to to the artistic community in Montparnasse by her brother Andre. There she met charismatic Amedeo Modigliani in spring of 1917. The two had an affair and they soon fell deeply in love. Despite the strong objection from her parents, she soon moved in with him and they got married.

As a beautiful young lady fit for Modigliani’s ideal of beauty, Jeanne instantly became the principal subject for Modigliani’s art. The portrait you see above is the portrait of Jeanne, painted in 1918, just two years prior to Amedeo’s death. Well known for his nudes and paintings of elongated faces, Modigliani was stubborn in not letting his art be labeled as Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism or Futurism, though he worked in a fertile period of ‘isms’. He insisted upon being an individual artist for himself, and his art indeed had its own direction. his nudes, influenced by the Italian Renaissance, were sensual, with elongated features but also quite objective. They were simultaneously abstracted and erotically detailed at the same time.

His portraits are simple, at first glance, but they have an appealing depth to it. I’ll take a portrait of Jeanne for example; that elongated face, full lips, dark eyes full of liveliness that gaze, not at he viewer, but into the distance, softness of her hair that falls on the shoulders, rosy cheeks. Her eyes seem so dark, thoughtful and dreamy but her gaze is full of unbearable sadness, sadness that is realistic, perhaps the sadness caused by the cruel realty which she cannot escape from. Melancholic spirit captivates all his portraits and nudes. Long-faced, sad beauties,that gaze thoughtfully at their dreary and lonely surrounding. Their gaze is not direct, they’re not asking the audience to rescue them from their sad worlds, quite the opposite, they seem to be an inherent part of that world, trapped in it for eternity.

1917. Jeanne Hébuterne in Red Shawl by ModiglianiJeanne Hebuterne in Red Shawl

1918. Portrait of a Young Woman by ModiglianiPortrait of a Young Woman

1918. Seated Nude by ModiglianiSeated Nude

1917. Dedie Hayden by ModiglianiDedie Hayden

1917. Nude Sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Woman) by Amedeo ModiglianiNude Sitting on a Divan

Modigliani died in 1920, aged thirty five, from consumption he masked with alcohol for many years. His epitaph read ‘Struck down by Death at the moment of glory’. Amedeo was a charismatic man who attracted the attention of females. Actually, many of his painting are now lost due to giving them to his girlfriends of the time. With only one solo exhibition held in 1917, which caused a lot of controversy among Parisians, Modigliani, who never longed his work to be regarded as avant-garde, became the epitome of the tragic artist and a posthumous legend of him was created.

Modigliani was an artist who created and painted not in an attempt to shock the audience or outrage, but to say ‘This is what I see.’

Writing a story – 1840s dresses

8 May

I am currently writing a story set in 1840s Yorkshire castle. My protagonist, Amelia, always wears dashing dresses, even if a don’t describe them (unfortunately I can’t describe every single dress) but I can show you my favourite 1840s dresses.

1840s grey silk satin gown 2

I imagined Amelia wearing this dress on a small dinner party for it’s quite casual but still has something glamourus about it; sleeves, detail on the bodice, fabric itself… Besides, I don’t want Amelia to come off as a pompous, spoiled and haughty creature, so she’ll always be wearing simple dresses that show off her natural beauty rather than hide it.

1843. house dress

I love this day dress so much that I’d wear it myself! Naturally, the least thing I could was to have my protagonist Amelia wear it, since I can’t. This will be the day dress she’ll be wearing quite often and it really captures the elements and the spirit of the 1840s fashion; the sleeves, lace fichu, plaid fabric. also, notice how the bodice was decorated; well that was popular in England while in France they preferred having slick bodices with no fabric decorations; ruffles or anything.

1845. evening ensemble

This beautiful but still simple evening dress Amelia wore to a dinner where she had to be more elegant but still the simplicity and purity of her character can be seen in a choice of dress; simple, white silk evening dress with lace details on the sleeves and the neckline. Amelia decorated her hair with white roses to match the dress and that was her only accessorize.

1840. ballgown

1840. wedding dress, ivory colour

Since they’ll be more dinners and evening parties, Amelia will have to wear some other dresses but I still want her to wear white silk or satin dresses because they have a golden glare in the light of a candle. The second dress has some nice embroidery on the skirt and intricate lace details on the neckline. Besides white, I think blue and green coloured dresses would suit nicely to Amelia’s pale skin, blue eyes and ash blonde hair.

1842. Day dress

Though this dress seems kind of odd at first, especially compared to other previous dresses, I can see Amelia wearing it on a more luxurious ball and she really does wear silk shawls very often, not just with evening dresses.

1845. Dress and mantle, England

Amelia is randomly walking around the moors where the cold wind blows the crooked willow trees. Though I’ve set my story in August, the weather in Yorkshire is still pretty cold and harsh so Amelia hast to wear a warm cape and dress and also a bonnet to protect her from the wind. This ensemble is very elegant, but still practical. As soon as I saw it I imagined Amelia’s pretty face peeking from the bonnet while her blue eyes, full of liveliness and kindness gazed wistfully at the lonely moors.

The Luncheon on the Grass

2 May

Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe or The Luncheon on the Grass is a very well known painting by Edouard Manet created in 1863. Without this painting there wouldn’t be Impressionism and without Impressionism there wouldn’t modern art. Every painting has a story, and I’m going to tell you this one.

1863.  Luncheon on the Grass by Manet small

Edouard Manet was born in 1832. in Paris. His family was affluent and well-connected. Auguste Manet, his father, being a judge, wanted the same career for his first born but Manet showed interest in art from an early age. He was especially encouraged by his uncle, Edmond Fournier, who took the little boy to Louvre. However, it is rather strange that his conservative father had not opposed his choice of career and in fact financially supported him.

Auguste Manet may have had a secret he did not want the young Manet to discover. Suzanne Leenhoff, a young piano teacher, was employed by Auguste to teach his sons, including Edouard, piano. She may have been Auguste’s mistress, we’ll never know for sure, but in 1852. she gave birth out of wedlock, to a son named Leon whose father may have been either of the Manets. After the death of his father, Manet married Suzanne in 1863.

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This painting shows much more than a naked woman having breakfast with two dressed men on a lawn. Described as idiotic, childish, shocking and incoherent by the newspapers, this painting was despised by the audience; they disliked the composition, the nude, the colour scheme,  the theme… But the thing that upset them the most was this provocative way that men were dressed and the woman was not. Shocking thing was that this naked lady wasn’t embarrassed about it; quite the contrary, she stares at her audience daring them to disapprove. Almost as if she was accusing them!

Scene depicted on the painting would have been illegal in those days; men having a luncheon with a naked woman who must have been a prostitute, no other women would do that. Imagine her reputation. However, nudity was acceptable when presented in roman style where women were dressed, or undressed as goddesses. That was acceptable, Manet’s painting was shocking.

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Perhaps motivated by the hypocrisy of his father, Manet had deliberately painted Luncheon on the grass to mock the old masters, tease the law and false morals and reveal insincerity of the society. To bad that Auguste died a year before this was painted. Perhaps Manet was disappointed in his father whose aura of respectability had no foundation. Who was August to preach about values and morals when in fact he wore a false mask of virtue. This painting expresses Manet’s disappointment with his father and the hypocrisy of the society in general.

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Two men on the portrait are Manet’s brother (on the right) and his brother in law, Suzanne’s brother, who are playing roles of an art students when in fact they were a real life artistic types. In those times students loved wearing silly hats and the man on the right is wearing one. Model for a nude lady who is having lunch with two dressed students was Victorine Meurent, a young Parisian girl, model to painters since the age of sixteen and a muse to Edouard Manet. When Manet found her, his art found direction. Victorine appears in many of his paintings such as Olympia, Woman with parrot, Street Singer and The Railway which proved to be her last sitting for Manet.

In the painting’s pyramidal composition we see another lady, in the background, who looks as if she was grabbing a water. Manet is mocking the old masters again for the lady would have been a muse in a mythological scene and here she is shamelessly having a pee. Parisians who lived in those times knew exactly what she was doing, so Manet is realistic in a way, portraying things as they were, not hiding immorality and closing his eyes; he also expressed this is his later painting such as Olympia and Woman with a parrot.

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Manet got the idea from the painting by Titian or Giorgione called The pastoral concert where the two man, musicians are dressed and they’re having a lovely  afternoon with two nude muses. The mood of the painting is luxurious and sensuous, slightly decadent, whereas Manet depicted typical Parisians from the time, having an orgy and behaving improperly, but sincerely; something that society had lost.

However, the actual composition is based on an engraving Judgement of Paris by Raimondi made on Raphael’s design. That’s called fighting the system from within. Manet used their weapon and shocked the audience with the finished painting. His nude is realistic, a new type of Venus, he portrayed the truth.

1510. The Pastoral Concert by Giorgione or Titian1510. The pastoral concert by Titian or Giorgione.

NO_USAGES =1515. Judgement of Paris by Raimondi made on Raphael’s design.

Maybe he intended to shock the audience, we’ll never now. However, this painting represents Manet’s loss of faith in society and morals, he felt betrayed by his father who set himself as an example of virtuosity when he was the opposite. With this painting Manet shows that he sees the society as it is; hypocritical and insincere.