Archive | Dec, 2014

My Inspirations for December

31 Dec

December, especially its wonderful last days, was, for me, a time of ballerinas, fairy tales and Godard. I’ve painted intensely in the last few days, listening to Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd, totally immersing myself in ’60s Psychedelia. In between, I’ve watched Godard’s Breathless, Band of Outsiders, Le Mepris, Une Femme Mariee and Masculin Feminin. There’s a certain magic to the last days of December, isn’t it?

P.S. This is my 100th post 🙂

syd barrett cover

the madcap laughs 5

syd 113

syd 117

syd 118

syd 14

1960s Carnaby Colors cosmetics by Tangee


1960s Swinging London 1

Band of Outsiders 9

Godard - A Bouf de Souffle

Godard -  Le Mepris

Godard - Une Femme Mariee

Godard - Feminin Masculin

1840. Portrait of Two Sisters (Louis-Edouard  Dubufe, 1819-1883 French)

1840s Olga Nikolaevna of Russia (1822-1892), daughter of Nicholas I of Russia and his wife Charlotte of Prussia

1840s Portrait of Yekaterina Scherbatova  - Joseph-Desire Court

Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Lady Lilith

24 Dec

Beware of her fair hair, for she excells
All women in the magic of her locks,
And when she twines them round a young man’s neck
she will not ever set him free again.

1866. Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti1872-73. Lady Lilith, with Alice Wilding as model.

Alexa Wilding (born Alice), a beautiful young girl with auburn hair captivated Dante Gabriel Rossetti with her elegance and charms ever since he first sat eyes on her in 1865. At the time they met, Alice, approximately twenty years old at the time, was working as a dressmaker but dreamed of becoming an actress. Dante spotted her one evening in the Strand in 1865. and he was immediately struck by her beauty. Naturally, he proposed her to sit for him, which she accepted but failed to arrive at his studio the following day. The reason for her absence may have been the moral dilemma of being a model in the Victorian era.

Rossetti was devastated for he had been looking for a model with distinct looks for so long; the beauty he found in the face of young Alice. Weeks later, he spotted her again and jumped from the cab he was in and convinced her to follow him to his studio the very instant. She finally accepted and Dante began paying her a weekly fee to sit for him as he was so afraid that some other painter might want to hire her as a model. Alice eventually modeled for more of his finished paintings than any other of his models, but still she is less known due to the lack of romantic connection with Rossetti. Nevertheless, the two shared a deep bond and Alice is said to have visited Rossetti’s grave and placed a wreath on it.

Rossetti first painted ‘Lady Lilith‘ in 1866-68. using Fanny Cornforth as a model, but in 1872-73. he altered it to show the beautiful face of Alice Wilding. Alice’s features were considered more refined compared to Fanny’s which were considered too earthy. In addition, Rossetti saw in Alice’s features the ability to express both virtue and vice. Who could be a better model for Lilith, beautiful yet evil woman, than Alice with her lovely face and massive golden auburn hair? Alice was described as having ”a lovely face, beautifully moulded in every feature, full of quiescent, soft, mystical repose that suited some of his conceptions admirably…” Her features are easily recognised in Rossetti’s art; red hair, long neck, Cupid-bow lips and soft, dreamy eyes.

1867. Lady Lilith, watercolour replica, showing the face of Fanny Cornforth.

Lilith was the first wife of Adam, according to Judaic myth, and is a symbol of power, temptation and seduction. Rossetti’s version of Lilith was however a modern interpretation rather than a mythical figure. It represented ‘body’s beauty‘ according to Rossetti’s sonnet. This ‘Modern Lilith‘ contemplates her own beauty in a hand-mirror. Although Rossetti painted many ‘mirror scenes’; a trend which other artists accepted, ‘Lady Lilith‘ stays the epitome of the type.

Even though the focus is the beautiful Lilith, the painting is filled with overt flower symbolism and the cluttered, depth less space. The mirror in the background shows just how unreal and bizarre the space is; it shows the reflection of both the candles in the room and the exterior nature scene. The white roses tending to Lilith, admiring her beauty perhaps, symbolise cold, sensuous love and may reflect tradition that roses first ‘blushed‘ upon meeting Eve. Flowery background was the final part of the painting. White roses were, according to Rossetti’s assistant Dunn, gathered in large baskets from John Ruskin’s garden in Denmark Hill (area of Camberwell, London) from where they were brought to Rossetti’s studio in Chelsea. Red poppy in the lower right corner symbolises sleep and forgetfulness, and may indicate Lilith’s languid nature.

Rossetti also added a feminist dimension to the painting by emphasizing Lilith’s characteristics; her powerful, threatening and seductive attitude and resistance to male domination. She’s beautiful and she’s aware of it. Her massive luxurious red hair, undisguised sensuality and ‘clothes that look as if they’re soon to be removed‘ all make her irresistible to man. The painting represents ‘beauty gazing at itself‘. Lilith is an unobtainable beauty filled with power.

A Review – ‘Rococo: Travel, Pleasure, Madness’

20 Dec

rococo - travel, pleasure, madness

I can’t describe how enlightening and inspiring this three-part documentary was to me. Simply the way Waldemar Januszczak presents art, without affectation, patronisation or stiffness in attitude, is very appealing to all the viewers I suppose, not only me. I’m on cloud nine every time Waldemar makes a new documentary but I was delighted even more for the Rococo art had been puzzling me for a long time. Waldemar opened my eyes with his documentary; I too have always considered Rococo to be a frivolous and unserious, but this documentary dismissed all those ideas that were unfairly fixed in my head. ‘What I want to do in this series‘, said Waldemar, ‘is to convince you in its wider achievements – its punch, its determination, its intoxicating beauty. ‘ In this documentary Waldemar revealed the depth and meaning behind Rococo art. It was frilly and pink, but not always, he explained.

The first part, ‘Travel‘, explores the influence travel had on art in Rococo era. The world was getting smaller; ventures into exotic lands, new discoveries, Bavarian pilgrimage and Canaletto’s romantic vision of Venice all made an impact on art, architecture and tastes. ‘Travel as life’s most exciting pleasures was Rococo idea.

1717. The Love Song - Watteau

The second part, ‘Pleasure‘, focuses on pleasures in life; things usually connected to Rococo. For the first time in history, emphasis was put on pleasure and pursuit of happiness which were seen as the most important things in life. Pursuing happiness, giving in to the pleasures and indulging oneself in every possible way were now seen as unalienable human rights, and reflected in art of Watteau, Boucher, Gainsborough and Tiepolo. This is the aspect of Rococo that people first think of; indulgences, frilly pink dresses, cakes, luxurious balls and endless optimism.

1814. Francisco Goya, El entierro de la sardina (The Burial of the Sardine) 3

The third and final part, ‘Madness’, focuses on Rococo’s descent into madness and eventual decline. Darkness and madness of Rococo seem to have been inevitable for a century focused on enjoyment more than any before. Known as an era of frivolity and decadence, the 18th century produced artists that gave a satirical and cynical dose to a century obsessed with pleasure; Hogworth’s brutish satire, mysterious Longhi’s masked figures and Goya’s macabre. I admit; the third part is my particular favourite.

After watching this documentary, I felt overwhelmed with new ideas, inspirations and visions. It has fulfilled all my expectation, not that I had any doubts, and out of all Januszczak’s documentaries, this one is my second favourite, for The Impressionists can’t be removed from the throne.

The Lady of Shalott – John William Waterhouse

17 Dec

Magical and dreamy quality of this painting simply draws you into its world of melancholy, hidden symbols and the inevitable darkness that pervades the atmosphere.

1888. John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott, 1888, after a poem by Tennyson; like many Victorian paintings, romantic but not Romantic.1888. The Lady of Shalott

Elaine of Astolat, a figure in Arthurian legends, apparently died of unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. Her body was placed in a small boat, one hand holding a lily and the other clutching her final letter. She them floated from Thames to Camelot where they discovered the body, calling Elaine ‘a little lily maiden‘.

Legend about Elaine was very popular among Victorian artists and poets, as were many other Arthurian and Medieval legends, but this legend about a frail and delicate lady who faces her own destiny sparked a special interest of John William Waterhouse, a famous Pre-Raphaelite painter. This sad and unusual fate of the poor maiden fascinated Pre-Raphaelites, and Waterhouse painted many scenes inspired by Elaine. The legend also awakened the attention of other Pre-Raphaelite painters such as William Holman Hunt and Gabriel Dante Rossetti.

It was however, Lord Tennyson’s poem called ‘Lady of Shalott‘, first version being published in 1833. and the second in 1842, that gave a new vision of Elaine’s destiny which the artists accepted. In the poem, nineteen stanzas long in the second edition, Lord Tennyson explores Elaine’s life in isolation in the tower and the longing to live a real life among real people. Her suffering is caused by a curse that has been cast upon her; a mysterious curse that forces her to weave images on her loom without ever looking directly out at the world. She looks in the mirror instead, yearning to see the busy streets and the people of Camelot directly. ‘I’m half-sick of shadows.‘ said The Lady of Shalott; the shadows being a metaphor for the reflected images in the mirror which the Lady feels are a poor substitute for seeing people directly.

The inevitable thing happened, one day a handsome and charming knight passed by, Sir Lancelot, and The Lady of Shalott discarded her weaving and looked out of the window towards Camelot bringing about the curse. The Lady of Shalott then left the tower, found a boat, wrote her name on it and floated down the river to Camelot where the ladies of the court and the knights found her. Lancelot considered her appearance of particular beauty and grace.

”Who is this? And what is here?”
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,

All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,

The Lady of Shalott.”

 1915. I am half-sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott - John William Waterhouse1915. ‘I am half-sick of shadows’, said the Lady of Shalott

Mysterious curse, beauty of this maiden, isolating life in the tower, reality seen through the mirror; all these elements inspired John William Waterhouse in painting ‘The Lady of Shalott’ in three different versions; first in 1888, then in 1894. and 1915. respectively. The first painting, painted in 1888. is the most appealing to me, and it’s also considered one of Waterhouses’ most popular works due to many reasons. The Lady of Shalott is presented here in a boat after escaping the tower in an autumn storm, inscribing ‘The Lady of Shalott‘ on the prow. As she sailed towards Camelot and her certain death, she sang a lament, lying resigned with her fate yet full of deep melancholy. Waterhouse captured this moment of Tennyson’s poem:

And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance –
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

This painting is the epitome of the Pre-Raphaelite style due to its sympathetic notion towards the subject portrayed; he was so tender in portraying a vulnerable yearning woman, the Pre-Raphaelite aspect of nature, along with the vivid colour and detail characteristic for Pre-Raphaelite painting style. Despite the captivating, almost magical quality of the painting, the atmosphere is engulfed in darkness; the certainty of Lady’s death, her sad resignation, life and reality she wanted to experience but never did, the romantic love she hoped for but never sensed it. This painting is romantic but only at the first sight. While looking at the painting, the first thing you see is a beautiful long haired maiden, immersed in tranquility, sitting in a boat surrounded by her possessions, but Waterhouse portrayed the scene with much more complexity. One could get lost in this nature, bursting with beauty and details as it was a character itself.

The painting is filled with metaphoric references; the lantern at the boat suggests it will soon be dark, a crucifix positioned near the front of the bow, and three candles, two of which are already blown out signifying that her death is soon to come. Also, the detailed approach of Waterhouse’s painting style is evident in the tapestry draped over the side of the boat; it is the tapestry that The Lady of Shalott had been vowing in her isolation and solitary in the tower.

1894. The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot - John William Waterhouse1894. The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot

Lord Tennyson’s poem, main inspiration for Waterhouse’s paintings, prompted the modern critics into believing that is represents the dilemma the artists, writers and musicians face; ‘to create work about and celebrate the world, or to enjoy the world by simply living in it.


Gone, But Not Forgotten…

16 Dec

1873. Gone, but not forgotten - John William Waterhouse

Inspiration – Long Haired Maidens, Ophelia and Pre-Raphaelites

11 Dec

1860s Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) - Hamlet and Ophelia

1860s Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881) - Silent Persuasion (Romeo and Juliet)

1861. Henry Peach Robinson, The Lady of Shalott

1864. Thomas Francis Dicksee - Ophelia

1865. Ophelia - Arthur Hughes

1870. Ophelia By Thomas Francis Dicksee

1870s Konstantin Egorovich Makovsky - Ophelia

1880s Romeo And Juliet by N. Riccardi

1870s The Sensitive Plant, study, Sir Frank Dicksee. English Pre-Raphaelite Painter

1873. Frank Dicksee - Ophelia

1877. Juliet by Thomas Francis Dicksee

1879. Romeo and Juliet by Hugues Merle

1880s Harmony - Frank Dicksee

1890s Joseph Kirkpatrick - Ophelia

1890s The Crystal Ball - John William Waterhouse

1896. Hylas and the Nymphs - John William Waterhouse

1900s Clytie - Louis Welden Hawkins, Clytie was a water nymph in Greek mythology whose unrequited love of Helios, the Sun god, is symbolized by the sunflowers in this painting

1900s John William Waterhouse - Painting

1900s Maude Fealy 3

1900s Maude Fealy 5

1900s Maude Fealy 6

1900s Maude Fealy as Ophelia

1910s Actress Ophelia in Hamlet


Miranda - The tempest, by John William Waterhouse1888. John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott, 1888, after a poem by Tennyson; like many Victorian paintings, romantic but not Romantic.

1872. Undine - John William Waterhouse

1894. The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot - John William Waterhouse

1852. Ophelia by John Everett Millais

Vlada Roslyakova for Vogue China, January 2007

Pierrot – A Rococo Invention

6 Dec

Pierrot; a figure pure and sad, a figure as lonely as the Moon above, a figure naive yet immensely trusting; trusting in the goodness of man, a figure always in the shadow of the showy and cheerful Harlequin, a figure destined for the eternal tranquility.

1888. Mardi gras (Pierrot et Arlequin) - Cezanne

I recently became intrigued by Pierrot, after watching the amazing three-part documentary ‘Rococo: Travel, Pleasure, Madness‘ by Waldemar Januszczak. His documentaries always intrigue me to find out more about the subject, but this one also gave me a new vision of Rococo. If you’ve considered it light and kitschy, well, maybe you should think again. Part of Rococo is like that, but Rococo in general gave art much more than Boucher’s ladies in silk pink dresses. One of the Rococo inventions was Pierrot itself.

Pierrot or ‘The Sad Clown‘ is a stock character in Italian Commedia dell’Arte which originated in the late seventeenth century in the Italian troupe of players performing in Paris. Dressed in a loose white blouse with large buttons, wide white pantaloons, with a face also painted in white, Pierrot, with a sad face expression, is a startling contrast to cheerful and colourful Harlequin. Pierrot is sad because Colombine rejects him, and she rejects him over and over again because he is not as interesting or daring as Harlequin. Pierrot is vulnerable and sad just like a human. He is naive, often seen as a fool, but nevertheless trusting.

1718. Antoine Watteau - Gilles (or Pierrot) and Four Other Characters of the Commedia dell'arte

One of the first artists who was sympathetic towards poor Pierrot was Antoine Watteau. He portrayed him as a human; sad, vulnerable and played out, over and over again. How solitary Pierrot looks, always left out, always rejected. Even in the crowd, he stands out, dressed in loose satin garment, as white and fragile as it was made out of tears. Pierrot, although officially one of the actors, feels separate, lovelorn possibly. Even his clothes don’t fit properly; his sleeves are too long, they’re ruffled at the elbow because he has pulled them up, and his trousers are too short, exposing his ankles. His face radiates deep sadness, unease and innocence. Unlucky in love, unlucky in everything, Pierrot is presented as humanly as any character can be.

Watteau’s Pierrot is without a mask. He stares directly at the audience; knowing and disillusioned. He feels at unease due to his position; he was designated to be a sad clown for eternity, he did not chose that. Pierrot, in his discomfort and alienation, rebels against his position in the comedy, and in his position in the painting as well. Sad and beat, Pierrot represent the sad human and the impossibility of finding true happiness. Pierrot’s identity troubles him; he’s not sure who he is any more than we do.

1719. Antoine Watteau - Italian Actors

In Romanticism, for the Post-Revolutionary people, Pierrot was not a fool but a symbol of a tragical struggling to secure a place in a bourgeois world.  Pierrot was a reflection of all the sadness, melancholia, alienation and disappointment the modern man felt in those changing times. Romanticists embraced Pierrot so much that they considered him their own invention. All the artistic/cultural movements after also loved Pierrot and he was soon embraced as a symbol of the artist himself.

The Decadents turned him, like them selves, into a disciple of Schopenhauer, an opponent of women and a callow idealist. The Symbolists saw him as a fellow-sufferer, ‘crucified upon the rood of soulful sensitivity‘, his only friend the distant Moon which shines above, as sad and lonely as Pierrot himself, but at least the silvery moonbeams give him comfort.

The Modernists turned him into a Whistlerian subject for canvases, faithfully devoted to colour and line. From the first Watteau’s painting of Pierrot, this tragic figure became an alter-ego of the artist, specially of the alienating late nineteenth and early twentieth century artists. His physical isolation, his poignant lapses into mutism (the legacy of the great mime Deburau), his white and fragile garment, face painted in white suggesting not only innocence but death paleness, his constant longing for Columbine and her constant refusal, along with his unwordly naivete have all added to the myth of Pierrot. Much of those mythical characteristic are popular and recognisable even now. David Bowie epitomised the Pierrot for the song ‘Ashes to Ashes’; Pierrot’s popularity in modern times has not withered.

I dedicate these Shelley’s verses to Pierrot; a figure as lonely as the Moon…

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth, –
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

If you want to see more of the paintings, photos, anything culturally or artistically related to the sad Pierrot, you can visit my Pinterest board ‘Pierrot‘ –

1857. Jean-LĂ©on GĂ©rĂ´me - Duel after a Masked Ball1857. Jean-LĂ©on GĂ©rĂ´me – Duel after a Masked Ball

1883. Pierrot With A White Pipe (Aman Jean) - Georges Seurat1883. Pierrot With A White Pipe (Aman Jean) – Georges Seurat

1889. Pierrot et le chat - ThĂ©ophile Alexandre Steinlen1889. Pierrot et le chat – ThĂ©ophile Alexandre Steinlen

1908. Maxfield Parrish - The Lantern-Bearers, Appeared as frontispiece of Collier's Weekly, December 10, 1910.1908. Maxfield Parrish – The Lantern-Bearers, Appeared as frontispiece of Collier’s Weekly, December 10, 1910.

1914. Vasilij Suhaev and Alexandre Yakovlev - Harlequin and Pierrot (Self-Portraits of and by Suhaev and A. Yakovlev)1914. Vasilij Suhaev and Alexandre Yakovlev – Harlequin and Pierrot (Self-Portraits of and by Suhaev and A. Yakovlev)

1921. Gris - Pierrot1921. Gris – Pierrot


1923. Ilustração Portuguesa cover by Melendez Pierrot1923. Ilustração Portuguesa cover by Melendez Pierrot

1923. Pierrot with guitar, Gino Severini1923. Pierrot with guitar, Gino Severini

1960. Duilio BarnabĂ© - Pierrot1960. Duilio BarnabĂ© – Pierrot