Archive | December, 2015

My Inspiration for December

31 Dec

December’s magical last days were, for me, a time of ballerinas, psychedelia, fairy tales, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett and reveries about Swinging London. One film that I have to recommend to you is Crimson Peaks (2015); the atmosphere, aesthetics and costumes are brilliant!

syd 113

syd barrett cover

Source: Miss Pandora

1897. Dancer and Tambourine - Edgar Degas

1877. Degas - The Green Dancers1905. Edgar Degas (1834-1917, France) - Two Dancers, Pastel1960s marianne faithful 2

ballet The Australian Ballet in The Dream, 19691960s marianne faithfull 51965. Veruschka and David Bailey by Bert Stern, Vogue March 1, 1965XXX CRIMSON PEAK MOV JY 1217 .JPG A ENTballerinaspete doherty and ballerinas1966. Blow Up 161965. Jean Shrimpton having breakfast in bed1960s anna karina 1561892. John William Waterhouse - Circe Invidiosafactory girl 22Vogue Italia December 2015, Rebel Riders by Tim Walker 4Vogue Italia December 2015, Erin O'Connor by Tim Walker 11918. Amedeo Modigliani - The Black Dress (1918) 
1820s nice dress, low cut back1960s jane birkin 2121960s jane birkin 224Somber Circus 41925. Federico Beltrán Massés ‘Carnaval’ ca.1925.1906-07. Ball Gown with Embellished Tulle Overlay 31920s El Circo by Federico Beltran Masses (1885–1949)

A Little Bit About Pollock, Kerouac and Beatniks

29 Dec

To whom shall I hire myself out? What beast should I adore? What holy image is attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lies shall I uphold? In what blood tread?‘ (Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell – The Drunken Boat)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAJackson Pollock in 1949

If you’d take a moment to think about the 1950s culture (in USA), I bet that the first things that would pop up in your mind would be film-stars such as Marylin Monroe and James Dean, drive-in cinemas, television, milkshakes, baby boom, suburban homes… Today, the 1950s seem like an idyllic decade, especially if we observe the cultural products of the time. Well not really. It was quite a restrictive and claustrophobic society to live in. Below the surface, this perfect society was hiding the beginning of the cold war, nuclear threats, McCarthysm, racial segregation etc. American reality of the 1950s was a picture of duality and hypocrisy. Medias portrayed it as they wished it to be, but something deviant and magical lay hidden beneath the surface. Every society has outsiders, the misfits, individuals that don’t belong. As an alternative to the perfect ’50s world, a different reality emerged, mostly related to artists, musicians, writers, actors and bohemians from the East and West coast of the States. This group was later named Beat generation, after a quote by Jack Kerouac.

1950. Lavender Mist Number 1 - Jackson PollockLavender Mist Number 1 – Jackson Pollock, 1950

World of Beat generation was a forerunner of the hippie counterculture that characterised the 1960s. World of Beatniks is a world of real characters immersed in Jazz, Be-Bop, marijuana, opium, amphetamine, Native American tradition of enjoying hallucinogenic substances, Mexico, prostitution, race mixing, reveries about Europe; it’s a world whose members have a strong desire to live, and are thus in conflict with the Western world which is striving for possession of material goods. Besides the well known beat generation authors such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, there were other artists unrelated to Beat generation who lived and created in the same spirit and embraced same ideas.

1948. Jackson Pollock, No. 6, 1948 - Jackson PollockJackson Pollock, No. 6, Jackson Pollock, 1948

One of those young people was Jackson Pollock, an important figure in abstract expressionism or ‘action painting’. He believed in the necessity of spontaneous impulse.The way Pollock painted is specific; he would put large canvases on the floor, meditate over them, and finally he would drip fluid paint on the canvas. As the canvases were large, he would walk right into them, becoming a part of the painting, rather than the creator of it. He said himself: Every good painter paints what he is.

Just like Chinese calligraphy, these paintings needed to be painted fast. They mustn’t be pre-devised, on the contrary, they must resemble a spontaneous outburst. Behind this requirement of artists and critics lies the influence not only of Chinese art, but the influence of all Far East mysticism, especially of Zen Buddhism. Part of the doctrine of Zen Buddhism is that one can’t be enlightened unless one is radically kicked out of routine of rational way of thinking. Opening quote by Arthur Rimbaud was written on the wall of studio of Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife and a fellow painter. Poets like Rimbaud never go out of fashion because what they wrote can be translated in any era. Unfortunately, Lee neglected her career in order to help Pollock in his.

Whilst writing this post, Kerouac’s long poem ‘Mexico City Blues’ lingers in my mind. I am about to read it, and I thought it would be interesting to get in the mood of Beatniks for the occasion. Here are some pictures that remind me of beatniks and Kerouac’s novels:

1946. Café Scene - Raphael Soyer Café Scene, by Raphael Soyer, 1946

1940s Beatnik style ladyBeatnik style lady, 1940s

1953. Joyce Holden 'Girls in the Night', Universal, beatnikJoyce Holden ‘Girls in the Night’, Universal, 1953

1958. London Beat girl~ baggy jumper and pencil skirt to the knee. Late 50s-early 60s style, beatnikLondon Beat girl, 1958

1946. Too much liquor in Kansas, beatnikToo much liquor in Kansas, 1946

1950s Parisian Beatniks Hanging Out on Bank of the SeineParisian Beatniks Hanging Out on Bank of the Seine, 1950s

1950s Jackson Pollock and Lee KrasnerJackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, 1950s

1950s Helen Frankenthaler and her paintingsPainter Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art in her studio. Location New York, 1956

For the end I’d like to share a quote by Helen Frankenthaler, a fellow abstract-expressionism painter who died a few years ago: There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.

James McNeill Whistler’s ‘Nocturnes’

22 Dec

When James McNeill Whistler first exhibited his Nocturne series in 1877 at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, he enraged John Ruskin who wrote of the exhibition that Whistler was “asking two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face”.

Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge circa 1872-5 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1903James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Blue and Gold; Old Battersea Bridge, 1872-75

Whistler sued Ruskin, and their little ‘art quarrel’ reached the court in 1878. Ruskin couldn’t understand why Whistler asked for 200 guineas for a painting which needed merely two-days work. On that question Whistler cunningly replied that the amount of money wasn’t for the two-days of work, but for the knowledge he had been acquiring all his life. This is a wise thought which could easily be applied to all artist; all the emotions, memories, thoughts and associations which the artist imbued in his artwork will forever remain a mystery. What is known, what I write here, is only scratching the surface, and endless interpretations which are subjective. Just like Marcel Proust said: ‘An hour is not just an hour, it is a vessel full of perfumes, sounds, plans and atmospheres.‘ (In Search of Lost Time) A painting is all those things as well.

Another thing that angered Ruskin, and majority of art critics, were the titles of the paintings, such as ‘Nocture’ in this case. Other typical Whistler-style names were ‘harmony’, ‘symphony’, ‘study’ and ‘arrangement’. In 1872, he wrote to Frederic Leyland, an amateur musician who inspired Whistler for his musically inspired titles: I say I can’t thank you too much for the name ‘Nocturne’ as a title for my moonlights! You have no idea what an irritation it proves to the critics and consequent pleasure to me—besides it is really so charming and does so poetically say all that I want to say and no more than I wish. As for the composition, it was clearly derived from Japanese woodblock prints which Whistler loved just like his contemporaries, the Impressionists.

This case symbolically represents the deep gap that divided artists in the second half of the 19th century. Ruskin, who was older, hoped he could raise an awareness of beauty among people by appealing to their morals, while Whistler, who later became the leading figure in ‘aesthetic movement’, argued that the artistic sensibility is the only thing in life that has value. As the 19th century progressed, both viewpoints gained in importance. Which viewpoint is more your cup of tea?

Winter in Art

21 Dec

A little review of winter scenes in art history.

1610. Winter Landscape - Denis van AlslootWinter Landscape, Denis van Alsloot, 1610

1826. Graveyard under Snow - Caspar David Friedrich Graveyard under Snow, Caspar David Friedrich, 1826

1824-25. Johan Christian Dahl - Megalith Grave in WinterJohan Christian Dahl, Megalith Grave in Winter, 1824-25

"Gebirgsschlucht im Winter" Mountain Gorge in Winter (Gebirgsschlucht im Winter), Carl Blechen, 1825

1900s Charles Bridge in Winter - Tavík František Šimon (1877 - 1942)Charles Bridge in Winter, Tavík František Šimon (1877 – 1942)

1857. Dutch winter landscape with skaters and a horse-sledge - Andreas Schelfhout (Dutch, 1787-1870)Dutch winter landscape with skaters and a horse-sledge – Andreas Schelfhout (Dutch, 1787-1870), 1857

1861. The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church demonstrates the aesthetic of the sublime. The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church demonstrates the aesthetic of the sublime, 1861

1870. Cliffs by the Sea in the Snow, Gustave CourbetCliffs by the Sea in the Snow, Gustave Courbet, 1870

1870. St. Petersburg, The Ferry Across the River - Ivan AivazovskySt. Petersburg, The Ferry Across the River – Ivan Aivazovsky, 1870

1870s Gustave Caillebotte - snowy roofsGustave Caillebotte, Snowy roofs, 1870s

James M. Nairn, Winter morning, Wellington Harbour, 1900

1907. Budapest, Hungary 1 1907. Budapest, Hungary 2 1907. Budapest, Hungary 3 1907. Budapest, Hungary 4 Budapest, Hungary, 1907

1903. Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935), The Shortening Winter’s Day is near a CloseJoseph Farquharson (1846-1935), The Shortening Winter’s Day is near a Close, 1903

‘Found Drowned’ by George Frederick Watts

19 Dec

One more Unfortunate
Weary of breath
Rashly importunate,
Gone to her death!
Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!‘ (The Bridge of Sighs, by Thomas Hood, 1844)

1850. Found Drowned is an oil painting - George Frederic WattsFound Drowned, George Frederic Watts, 1850

Painting Found Drowned was painted in c. 1850 by the famous Victorian painter George Frederic Watts, who is usually associated with the Symbolist movement. In this case however, he employed his talents in social realism genre. The painting depicts the dead body of a woman washed up beneath the arch of Waterloo Bridge, her body still immersed in the cold, dirty water of the River Thames. She is presumed to have drowned after throwing herself in the river in despair, trying to get away from the stigma of ‘fallen woman’: a term used in Victorian era to describe women who had lost their innocence. The painting was inspired by Thomas Hood’s poem ‘The Bridge of Sighs‘, published in 1844. The poem tells a story of an anonymous young woman, desperate and abandoned by her lover, pregnant and thrown out of her home, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.

In the foreground we see her dead body, her torso and arms in the shape of a cross. The simplicity of her orange-coloured gown suggests that she belonged to the lower class, perhaps she was a servant. Some parts of the poem directly describe her appearance: ‘Look at her garments/Clingling like cerements; /Whilsts the wave constantly/drips from her clothing…‘ and ‘Loop up her tresses/Escaped from the comb,/Her fair auburn tresses…‘ and ‘And her eyes, close them,/Staring so blindly.‘ As a contrast, the background is painted in dark shades of blue and grey, portraying the gloomy London night sky and industrial cityscape. City sleeps, and so do the people, in their quiet and cozy homes, sitting by the fireplace; chatting or reading. Questions arise: Will she be missed? Will anyone even notice that she’s gone? What will they say when they find her body in the morning? Will anyone’s heart be filled with regret? And yet there’s a star in the sky, could there be hope? Hardly, I’d say.

1859. found - Dante Gabriel RossettiFound, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1859

Subject of ‘fallen women’ was particularly popular in Victorian art and literature, and, I’d have to say it’s a rather compelling subject to write about. As you will see later, many artists such as John Everett Millais, Augustus Egg, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Richard Redgrave decided to portray the sad and hopeless circumstances that tormented those fallen women after their innocence was lost. As expected, moral authority was almost always limited to women, nobody questioned the chastity of men. This is just one of many hypocrisies of Victorian society.

Fallen” was therefore an umbrella term that was applied to a variety of women in a variety of settings: she may have been a woman who had had sex once or habitually outside the confines of marriage; a woman of a lower socio-economic class; a woman who had been raped or seduced by a male aggressor; a woman with a shady reputation; or a prostitute. Furthermore, prostitution was defined in a range of ways and the “reality was that hard economic times meant that for many women, prostitution was the only way to make ends meet. Many … were only transient fallen women, moving in and out of the profession [of prostitution] as family finances dictated.’(*)

Rossetti’s painting ‘Found’ (unfinished) was inspired by fallen women, and he also wrote a poem on that subject:

There is a budding morrow in midnight:’ –
So sang our Keats, our English nightingale.
And here, as lamps across the bridge turn pale
In London’s smokeless resurrection-light,
Dark breaks to dawn. But o’er the deadly blight
Of love deflowered and sorrow of none avail,
Which makes this man gasp and this woman quail,
Can day from darkness ever again take flight?

Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge,
Under one mantle sheltered ‘neath the hedge
In gloaming courtship? And, O God! today
He only knows he holds her; – but what part
Can life now take? She cries in her locked heart,-
‘Leave me – I do not know you – go away!’

Picture 920The Bridge of Sighs, Sir John Everett Millais, 1858

Millais’ etching truly captured the alienation of the individual in the big city, a sense of hopelessness, while the question of ‘what shall I do next?’ lingers in her mind. Even though its colourless, it holds a certain warmth and vividness; city lights and the bridge seem so lively, the river glitters. Woman’s weary body is tightly wrapped in a shawl, her eyes tired, her face gloomy. A feeling of destitute pervades the atmosphere. She reminds me of Lou Reed’s Femme Fatale: ‘Where shall she go, what shall she do…’ There is no turning back, and yet the future brings nothing but uncertainty. A chance of finding a decent job was unlikely. Fantine, a character from Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables, is a good example of the poor treatment of fallen women. She was left with a small child, Cosette, after her lover abandoned her. Initially she worked in the factory, but lost her job after everyone found out she is an unwed mother.

For me, Millais’ visual interpretation of Hood’s poem really captured these verses:

Where the lamps quiver
So far in the river,
With many a light
From window and casement,
From garret to basement,
She stood with amazement,
Houseless by night.

The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver
But not the dark arch,
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life’s history,
Glad to death’s mystery
Swift to be hurl’d–
Any where, any where
Out of the world!

1879. George Elgar Hicks, On the Seashore,1879George Elgar Hicks, On the Seashore, 1879

The lady above is undoubtedly facing completely different problems and dilemmas than the unfortunate woman in Millais’ etching or Hood’s poem. Her gown is black, but opulent, her hair lush and restless, her gaze wistful. All together she seems groomed and proper, on her face life has not yet left any traces of sadness and disappointment, everything awaits her, unlike Millais’ heroine who was forced to encounter the ‘real world’.

Augustus Egg’s triptych ‘Past and Present’, 1858, shows the downfall of a bourgeois family, the effects of adultery not only for the ‘guilty’ woman but for the children as well, and the whole reputation of the family. Third painting, Past and Present, No. 3, Despair’, is the most interesting one because it shows the same motifs as Found Drowned by George Frederic Watts. Woman, who had played he cards wrongly, now sits under the bridge, and, helpless and alone, oh, completely alone, gazes at the moon, as if expecting salvation from the stars. One wrong step gambled away her future. Was it worth it?, she asks herself, but the night doesn’t respond. All is silent, and Thames is asleep. The scene again leads me to Hood’s poem:

Whilst wonderment guesses
Where was her home?

Who was her father?
Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
Had she a brother?
Or was there a dearer one
Still, and a nearer one
Yet, than all other?

Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun!
Oh! it was pitiful!
Near a whole city full,
Home she had none.

1858. Augustus Leopold Egg, 'Past and Present, No. 1, Misfortune'Augustus Leopold Egg, ‘Past and Present, No. 1, Misfortune’, 1858

Past and Present, No. 2 1858 by Augustus Leopold Egg 1816-1863Augustus Leopold Egg, ‘Past and Present, No. 2, Prayer’, 1858

Past and Present, No. 3 1858 by Augustus Leopold Egg 1816-1863Augustus Leopold Egg, ‘Past and Present, No. 3, Despair’, 1858

1851. Richard Redgrave - The Outcast Richard Redgrave – The Outcast, 1851

Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

16 Dec

I’ve already shared Harry Clarke’s illustrations with you, and I’m doing it again because these illustration are so irresistibly magical, colourful, vivid and psychedelic. I really enjoyed gazing at them, and I hope you’ll feel the same.

Harry Clarke, Fairy Tales By Hans Christian Andersen 3 Harry Clarke, Fairy Tales By Hans Christian Andersen 5 Harry Clarke, Fairy Tales By Hans Christian Andersen 4 Harry Clarke, Fairy Tales By Hans Christian Andersen 2 Harry Clarke, Fairy Tales By Hans Christian Andersen 1

New York’s Young Design Scene 1967

10 Dec

WAY-OUT FASHION IN A BIZARRE YOUNG WORLD

”Canary lips, chalk-white skin, flaming hair – is this really what’s happening, baby? Not quite. The clothes are designed to be worn by young people under 21, but the colours are something else. They are the doing of an inventive photographer, himself equally young, who achieved his bizarre effect by using infrared film. As if seen under the madly shifting lights of a discotheque, red turns to yellow, blacks to red, blues to purple and reality to fantasy. Fledgling fashionmakers some not yet out of school, are responsible for the designs shown here. Produced by their creators on a one-of-a-kind basis, they are sold at a New York boutique called Abracadabra.” (Life Magazine, August 1967)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 1 1967. New York's Young Design Scene 2

And what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow’s parties
A hand-me-down dress from who knows where
To all tomorrow’s parties
And where will she go and what shall she do
When midnight comes around
She’ll turn once more to Sunday’s clown
And cry behind the door.” (The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 3

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 4

Here she comes, you better watch your step
She’s going to break your heart in two, it’s true It’s not hard to realize
Just look into her false colored eyes
She builds you up to just put you down, what a clown
‘Cause everybody knows (She’s a femme fatale)
The things she does to please (She’s a femme fatale)
She’s just a little tease (She’s a femme fatale)
See the way she walks
Hear the way she talks
You’re put down in her book
You’re number 37, have a look.” (The Velvet Underground – Femme Fatale)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 5 1967. New York's Young Design Scene 6

There she goes again
She’s out on the streets again
She’s down on her knees, my friend
But you know she’ll never ask you please again
Now take a look, there’s no tears in her eyes
She won’t take it from just any guy, what can you do
You see her walkin’ on down the street
Look at all your friends she’s gonna meet (…)

She’s gonna bawl and shout
She’s gonna work it
She’s gonna work it out, bye bye
Bye bye baby
All right” (The Velvet Underground – There She Goes Again)

1967. New York's Young Design Scene 7 1967. New York's Young Design Scene 8

These photos were scanned by Sweet Jane from Life Magazine August 1967, and the photographs were taken by Barry Kaplan. Besides the fact that I adore the 1960s fashion, I think these photos make a great art statement, and the use of infrared film is so avant-garde, at least for that time, and so is the Velvet Underground which inevitably comes to my mind when I think of the ’60s New York. Therefore I decided to include their lyrics too, and hopefully you’ll give their music a try, in case you still haven’t.