Archive | February, 2015

My Inspirations for February II

28 Feb

In February I’ve really been inspired by two artists; Kees van Dongen and Kandinsky, and other things such as Manic Street Preachers (anniversary!), peacocks, films such as The Young Victoria and The Invisible Woman. Japanese sakura trees, beautiful gardens and temples were also very inspiration, perhaps due to this late winter days when I long for flowers and spring the most.

I’ve also read The Lord of the Rings I and II this month, and I’ve started reading the third part.

richey 2

richey 3

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1920s Marchesa Casati by Kees van Dongen

1910s La Casati by Kees Van Dongen

young victoria blue gown 5

1863. Olympia - Manet

The Invisible Woman Cover 2

1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, duchesse d'Aumale by W.

drawing idea peacock 6

1898. Vlaho Bukovac

the lord of the rings book covers

Japanese White-Eye Hiding in Sakura

Himeji castle with cherry blossoms in Japan

1925. Swinging - Wassily Kandinsky 'The title conveys the painting’s sense of dynamic movement, suggestive of the rhythms of modernity. One of the pioneers of abstract painting, Kandinsky championed a mystical approach to art

Kandinsky – A Poet of Colours

24 Feb

‘Each colour lives by its mysterious life.’ – Kandinsky

1925. Swinging - Wassily Kandinsky 'The title conveys the painting’s sense of dynamic movement, suggestive of the rhythms of modernity. One of the pioneers of abstract painting, Kandinsky championed a mystical approach to art1925. Swinging – Wassily Kandinsky

In these grey days, in times between winter and spring when there’s no snow but no flowers either, my heart longs for colours and joy. I must say that I’ve found a tremendous joy in immersing myself in Kandinsky’s world of colours.

Wassily Kandinsky was deeply absorbed by colours; their meanings and mystical values. He argued for art that was purified from all references to the material world, and colour was essential for liberating the inner emotions of an artist, and transferring those emotions on canvas in a form of whimsical, dynamical and modernistic compositions.

My particular favourite these days is the painting ‘Swinging‘; the title itself suggesting dynamic movement, a certain rhythm and playfulness. The reason behind this sense of dynamic movement is Kandinsky’s deep study of colours and their connections. Even as a child he was drawn to colours, and the delight he felt on first seeing fresh paint come out of tube was indescribable. (…emotion that I experienced on first seeing the fresh paint come out of the tube… the impression of colours strewn over the palette: of colours – alive, waiting, as yet unseen and hidden in their little tubes…) Colours possessed a secret meanings for Kandinsky and they evoked different emotions for him. While blue colour symbolised spirituality and coolness to him, and yellow spiritual warmth, he seemed to really despise green colour, if it’s even possible to connect such intense emotion to colours, associating it with narrow minded and self-satisfied people, believing that it possesses nor joy, nor grief nor passion. Still, green is evident in his art, although not as frequently as blue.

Painting ‘Swinging‘, painted around 1925, during his ‘Bauhaus’ period, is overwhelmingly rich in dynamics, vividness, and it almost has a mystical dimension to it. First glance at this painting instantly brightness anyone’s day. How can something so strict in composition appear so playful, vivid and full of joy at the same time? I especially adore how despite all the strong and vibrant colours, transitions between shades are so soft. It’s that magical, mystic quality of Kandinsky’s paintings that really appeals me strongly, and there’s a certain vibe of innocence about them, like a childhood exploration.

1930s Several Circles, Vasily Kandinsky1930s Several Circles, Vasily Kandinsky

1913. Vassily Kandinsky - Color Study, Squares with Concentric Circles1913. Vassily Kandinsky – Color Study, Squares with Concentric Circles

1923. Circles in a Circle - Vassily Kandinsky1923. Circles in a Circle – Vassily Kandinsky

1910-11. 'Cossacks' was made during a transitional period, when Kandinsky retained some representational elements, such as the two Russian cavalrymen in tall orange hats in the foreground1910-11. ‘Cossacks’ was made during a transitional period, when Kandinsky retained some representational elements, such as the two Russian cavalrymen in tall orange hats in the foreground.

Nevertheless, Kandinsky’s exploration arrived from the inability to face the world that was becoming more and more obsessed with materialism, while the values of the ‘old world‘ were vanishing forever right before his eyes. Kandinsky escaped into a world of his own; a world of colours and abstraction, ecstatically enjoying the mystical qualities of colours.

The true work of art is born from the Artist: a mysterious, enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real existence of being.‘ (Kandinsky)

Caillebotte’s Effect

22 Feb

Out of all the Impressionists, Caillbotte’s paintings evoke the spirit of the new modern Paris the most.

1877. Paris Street, Rainy Day - Gustave Caillebotte1877. Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street, Rainy Day, Art Institute of Chicago.

Gustave Caillebotte is nor the most famous of the Impressionists, nor the most interesting, nor the most scandalous one, but still some of the paintings he painted remain the best examples of the everyday life in Paris, and are influential even today. His paintings ‘Paris Street, Rainy Day‘ and ‘The Floor Scrapers‘ remain his most intriguing and most outstanding paintings.

Gustave Caillebotte was rich and rather pampered, having inherited the great fortune of his father which meant he was financially independent for the rest of his life. Painting was primary a hobby for him, as was photography later on. It was Edouard Degas who introduced him to the Impressionists, which were also called ‘Independents‘ and ‘Intransigents‘ at the time, having been aware of his money. He supported his fellow artists and became a sort of patron and a collector. Claude Monet, Renoir and Pissarro’s work held a special place in Caillebotte’s collection.

This painting, ‘Paris Street, Rainy Day‘ was painted in 1877. and it depicts the Place de Dublin, known in 1877. as the Carrefour de Moscou. On the first sight, the painting depicts a city scene, nothing unusual for the Impressionists, but it is the background information that makes this painting so special. The couple seen strolling around Paris on a rainy day are actually newly rich Parisians, members of the bourgeoisie. They’re enjoying themselves, strolling around and flaunting in a new, modern Paris which looks so bright, so fresh, so open and clean with those wide boulevards and broad streets. Caillebotte played with perspectives and purposefully presented Paris wider and higher than it really was, painting it in a wide angle. That’s the Caillebotte’s Effect’.

Still, Caillebotte’s figures appear cold and lifeless, mirroring the alienating mood of the city.

Kees van Dongen – ‘Painting is the most beautiful of lies’

18 Feb

Painting is the most beautiful of lies.’ – Kees van Dongen

1910s La Casati by Kees Van Dongen1918. La Casati by Kees Van Dongen

Kees van Dongen was a Dutch born French Fauvist painter famous for his sensual, somewhat gaudy female portrait, infallibly permeated with avant-garde and mystique. Out of all the Fauvists, Kees van Dongen’s work is the most appealing to me. His paintings have a great charisma for me; the decadency, the sultry face expressions of van Dongen’s ladies, palette of cold and vibrant colours, and those brilliant blue-greys, it’s all just enchanting to me. The close line between banality and glamour, clash between elegance and eroticism makes a powerful combination which draws the viewers in a world of false glamour and bleakness; a prelude to the Roaring twenties. Kees van Dongen’s female figures have often been described as ‘half drawing-room prostitute, half sidewalk princess‘.

1920. Kees van Dongen, La violoniste1920. Kees van Dongen, La violoniste

Kees van Dongen’s paintings have a strong erotic, modernly sensual vibe, which is not strange as he was a ‘ladies man‘. The combination of eroticism and vibrant colours made his paintings very popular in the First World World and the years immediately after the war. Still, some found his paintings too repetitive and his best work is considered to be done before 1920. Even at the age of fifteen, while he was still in the Netherlands, he used to visit the docs and sketch sailors from afar, and courtesans that gathered there too. In 1899. Kees left for Paris for good. He participated in the exhibition and Salon D’Autumne in 1905; the exhibition was controversial but it set a scene for a new art movement; the Fauvism.

Kees was one of the painters of the new generation of artists with avant-garde tendencies and an enormous elan for improvement. Main characteristics of Fauvism were vibrant colours and strong brush strokes; raw energy thrown on canvas, each brush stroke overwhelmed with emotions and passion. The combination of the two proved to be a particularly powerful one as the works of Fauvists are still valued today, and, although Kees van Dongen isn’t the most popular of them, his painting evoke the spirit of the time better than anyone elses, at least for me.

1920s Marchesa Casati by Kees van Dongen1917. The Bowl of Flowers – Kees van Dongen

This particular painting ‘The Bowl of Flowers‘, shown above, captivated me the most these past days. The painting shows a rich and eccentric heiress, Luisa Casati. She was an Italian heiress, muse, patron of arts, and in the first place an extravagant society hostess, a femme fatale who scandalised and delighted European high society for three decades. Luisa is the epitome of decadency and eccentricity and she lived her life with passion, relishing in abundance. It won’t come as a surprise that she commissioned many portraits of her to be painted from artists such as Giovanni Boldini, Romaine Brooks, and Kees van Dongen as well.

On this painting, Kees van Dongen used his tested technique of elongated figures, large eyes and strange vibrant yet mystical colours. As he was famous for portraying rich and fashionable ladies and society hostesses, he commented one time ‘The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished.‘ I especially love the composition, how Luisa was placed on the far left instead of the usual central position common for portraits, and find it very interesting how she turned her back on the viewers, intriguing them even more. Her figure is elongated, her hands are thin, her waist is tiny, and that greenish skin colour, that sickly absinthe shade of green. Her pearl necklace, red high-heel shoes and thin flimsy shawl are here only to round off her mystical, sensuous and dreamy figure with all its decadency and avant-garde mood which is so appealing even today.

1920s Luisa Casati, Kees Van Dongen.1920s Luisa Casati, Kees Van Dongen

1913. Kees van Dongen - Tamara, The Painter’s Muse1913. Kees van Dongen – Tamara, The Painter’s Muse

1910. The Lace Hat, Kees van Dongen1910. The Lace Hat, Kees van Dongen

Kees van Dongen’s ‘Femme Fatales‘ live in their own world; trapped in avant-garde, bursting with beauty and modern kind of sensuality, living at the clash of glamour and decadence. They are mythical creatures, divine and garish at the same time, living at the verge of dreams and reality; they are the fruit of Kees van Dongen’s imagination, so wonderful, so timeless, and so surreal.

Marie Spartali Stillman – A Grecian Muse

14 Feb

Marie Spartali Stillman was a British Pre-Raphaelite painter of Grecian descent, but she was also a muse and a model to other Pre-Raphaelite painters, enchanting them with her elegant stature and classical features, resembling a Grecian or a Roman goddess.

1868. Marie Spartali Stillman, Photo by Julia Cameron1868. Marie Spartali Stillman, Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron

Marie studied painting for several years from 1864, as a pupil of Ford Madox Brown, an English painter whose painting style resembles the Pre-Raphaelite version of Hogarth’s work. She studied alongside other pupils Georgiana Burne-Jones and Brown’s daughter Lucy Madox Brown, both of whom would grow up to be a painters in their own right.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti soon found out that Marie had become Brown’s pupil and he wasted no time writing to him, on the 29th April: ‘I just hear Miss Spartali is to be your pupil. I hear too that she is one and the same with a marvellous beauty of whom I have heard much talk. So box her up and don’t let fellows see her, as I mean to have first shy at her in the way of sitting.‘ Marie indeed sat for Rossetti very soon, in 1867. Her head proved to be a hard one for portraying, as Dante had wrote to Jane Morris.

Marie possessed the kind of beauty which was perfect for modelling, and in Dante’s eyes she resembled a goddess with her tall figure, elegant gestures, long hair and a gaze that was straightforward and dreamy at the same time. She embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty, as did Jane Morris before.

1871. Self-Portrait - Marie Spartali Stillman1871. Self-Portrait – Marie Spartali Stillman

That Marie became a painter, a muse and a model to artists, choosing a bohemian life in a way, is not a coincidence for she came from a cultural and refined background; art was valued in Spartali’s household. Her father, Michael, was a wealthy merchant, principal of the firm Spartali & Co, who moved to London in 1828. Her mother, Euphrosyne, known as Effie, was a daughter of a Greek merchant from Genoa. Her heritage, along with later life abroad, is woven in her works, all of which burst with sensuality and richness in colour.

Spartali family lived in a Georgian country house, known as ‘The Shrubbery‘ with a huge garden and views over the Thames and Chelsea. Marie’s father was fond of lavish garden parties so he invited young artists and writers of the day at the gatherings in his blossomed garden. Growing up in artistic environment meant that Marie and her younger sister Christine had many opportunities to meet famous artists of the day. One time, in the house of a Greek business man A.C. Iodines in south London, they met Whistler, an American-born but British-based artist, and Swinburne, an English poet and playwright. Swinburne was overwhelmed with emotions upon meeting Marie, that he said of her ‘She is so beautiful that I want to sit down and cry.

1884. Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni by Marie Spartali Stillman1884. Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni by Marie Spartali Stillman

Upon marrying American journalist and painter William J. Stillman, against the wishes of her parents, she divided a lot of time between London and Florence from 1878 to 1883, and then Rome from 1889 to 1896, as William was a foreign correspondent for The Times. Her time spent in Italy proved to be fruitful for her painting style in a way that she entirely absorbed the aesthetics of Italian Renaissance. Her fascination with Italian landscapes and females figures with their unhidden sensuality, vividness and liveliness, along with studious depiction of nature, place Marie’s paintings side by side with works of great Pre-Raphalite painters such as Rossetti, Hunt, and Millais.

Perhaps my favourite painting by Marie is ‘Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni‘ shown above. It dazzled me with its charming and detailed depiction of nature, and the visual equalization of nature with the woman who is actually a character from Dante’s poetry. She is described as a lady in green, very heartless, but very pretty, her moss green robe merged with the nature in the background. She’s holding a crystal ball reflecting the figures of Love and Dante. The depth of the landscape is magnificent, one could feel that is goes on and on, never ending, through the trees, bushes, all the way up to the hills.

Influence of Rossetti’s later period is evident in Marie’s paintings, ‘Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni‘ being no exception. In later phase of his work Rossetti was influenced by the Italian High Renaissance, especially the painters such as Titian and Veronese, representatives of Venetian school. Marie continued Rossetti’s tradition with this painting for she painted the lady half-length in a Renaissance manner, but still, it remains a completely personal painting reflecting the beauty of the Italian landscapes Marie had observed, admired and cherished.

Inspiration – The Young Victoria

13 Feb

Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria in her wedding dress.

young victoria light blue teen dress 1

young victoria light blue teen dress 4

young victoria grey embroidered dress 2

young victoria grey embroidered dress 5

young victoria grey embroidered dress 8

young victoria pale blue dress 1

young victoria pale blue dress 2

young victoria yellow gown 5

young victoria yellow gown 2

victorian champagne and pink dress 1

victorian champagne and pink dress 3

victoria coronation dress 3

young victoria black mourning gown 4

young victoria black mourning gown 8

young victoria nature 1

young victoria plum dress 1

young victoria gold ballgown 2

young victoria gold ballgown 4

young victoria gold ballgown 6

young victoria red dress 4

young victoria beige and coral striped dress 2

young victoria beige and coral striped dress 3

young victoria lilac and orange gown 2

young victoria plaid dress and dark turqoise jacket 2

young victoria strawberry gown 2

young victoria strawberry gown 4

young victoria wedding dress 3

young victoria wedding dress 5

young victoria riding habit 1

young victoria riding habit 2

young victoria lavender and silver dress 2

young victoria green dress 7

young victoria turkish rose dress 1

young victoria turkish rose dress 2

young victoria duchess of kent 15

young victoria green dress 1

young victoria purple gown 1

young victoria purple gown 3

young victoria green dress 3

young victoria green dress 4

young victoria plaid dress and dark turqoise jacket 1

young victoria nature 2

young victoria burgundy red dress 1

young victoria blue gown 5Photos found here.

1840s – Paris at the Dusk of Romanticism

11 Feb

My enchantment with the 1840s cannot be put in words for it is a decade that inspires me, fires my imagination, makes me quiver, and enriches my daydreams with its dark romantic aesthetics, beautiful portraits, saloon parties, sentimentality and melancholy, that atmosphere of the changing times; the fleeting nature of Romanticism which defined a whole decade.

1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, duchesse d'Aumale by W.1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, Duchesse d’Aumale by Winterhalten

In the 1840s Paris was still a rabbit warren of narrow, dark and dirty medieval streets, though some parts such as the boulevards and the quays of the Seine were clean and spacious. It was only in 1848. that Georges-Eugene Haussmann started with his gigantic public work projects for new wide boulevards, parks, a new opera house, a central market, new aqueducts, and sewers.

Politically, France was a liberal constitutional monarchy under Louis Philippe I, which lasted from July Revolution of 1830 to the French Revolution of 1848. This was Balzac’s Paris with the rise of the bourgeoisie, ambitious but poor students, filthy boarding houses, corrupted and greedy aristocrats, and poor old people who are unable to adapt to a new age, very different from the one they grew up in.

In these fleeting times when idealism was fading, slowly replaced by materialism (positivism), heroes vanished and common people took their place with common sorrows and troubles, exotic landscapes were replaced by cityscape; illusions were lost for a generation of young Romanticists and a new epoque illuminated Paris like a ray of sunshine. Still, there was an oasis of Romanticism in that half old-half new Paris, over and above, Romanticism developed quite late in France, but this place assembled the heroes of the evanescent times.

(c) National Trust, Mount Stewart; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation1847. Lady Elizabeth Jocelyn (1813–1884), Marchioness of Londonderry

Charlotte Rothschild, aged only eighteen in 1843 when she married her English-born cousin Nathaniel Rothschild, was at the center of cultural events as her parents were very wealthy and artistically inclined, and, as such, they patronised a number of artists, writers and musicians such as Frederick Chopin, Honore de Balzac, Eugene Delacroix, Heinrich Heine and Gioacchinno Rossini. Frederick Chopin enchanted Parisian aristocratic saloons upon arriving in Paris in 1831, at the age of twenty one, after the ‘November 1830 Uprising‘ or the Polish-Russian war took place. Although homesick, Chopin was never to return to his dear homeland.

His new home was Paris, the center of Romanticism at the time, and the capital of European culture in general. His Parisian debut took place on 26 February 1832 at the Salle Pleyel. Liszt, who attended Chopin’s debut, later remarked ‘The most vigorous applause seemed not to suffice to our enthusiasm in the presence of this talented musician, who revealed a new phase of poetic sentiment combined with such happy innovation in the form of his art.‘ Soon after arriving in Paris, Chopin befriended E.Delacroix, Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. He led a luxurious life, bohemian, but still dressed rather elegantly and showed some vain habits such as wearing a new pair of white gloves every day and riding in his own carriage. He loved the sophisticated Parisian lifestyle.

1840. Claire de Bearn, Duchess of Vallombrosa by W.1840. Claire de Bearn, Duchess of Vallombrosa by Winterhalten

Young Charlotte had a privilege of being Chopin’s piano pupil in 1841, and he even dedicated his celebrated Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. John Ogdon, twentieth century English composer and pianist later commented ‘It is the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful of all Chopin’s compositions … It is unbelievable that it lasts only twelve minutes, for it contains the experience of a lifetime.‘ Charlotte was very lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up in a wealthy and culturally inclined family which allowed her to meet many famous artists and writers.

Growing up around the artistic friends of her parents left a lifelong mark on Charlotte who later befriended many other artists too, such as Edouard Manet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Henri Rousseau. Her passion for art did not stop there for she became a painter in her own right. She studied with Nelie Jacquemart and produced many profound watercolours and landscapes which earned her respect. Past weeks I’ve been wondering and daydreaming, then wondering again, how splendid would it be to spend your teenage years at the very center of Parisian Culture in Romanticism, and meet the legends such as Chopin, Victori Hugo, Balzac, Delacroix etc. I’m completely absorbed in these thoughts lately.

1840s Portrait of Yekaterina Scherbatova  - Joseph-Desire Court1840s Portrait of Yekaterina Scherbatova – Joseph-Desire Court

This is just one of the many aspects of the 1840s that I adore. There’s so much more about this beautiful decade: Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters, first years of Queen Victoria’s reign, founding of the Pre-Raphalites Brotherhood in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning…

The atmosphere, the portraits of ladies, the fashion, it all deeply engulfs me, enchants me, inspires me unutterably. The 1840s aesthetics are the epitome of the word ‘romantic’ for me; those ladies with their shiny silk dresses with sloping shoulders, slight gothic touch, their wild curls decorated subtly with a rose or two. Sentimentality and melancholy seem to pervade every pore of art and culture in the 1840s.

If you want to immerse yourselves in this Late Romanticism epoch, you can visit my Pinterest board for the visual part of my inspiration.