Archive | February, 2016

My Inspiration for February III

29 Feb

Words for February: Marc Chagall, Russia, and blue: piercing Kees van Dongen blue, spiritual Rothko’s blue, Chagall’s soulful and dreamy blue, hints of night blue on paintings of Georges Rouault… blue… I’ve been inspired by Manic Street Preachers, two very good books; Fathers and Sons by Turgenev, and The Return of Philip Latinowicz by Miroslav Krleza. Two brilliant films as well: Good Bye, Lenin (2003), and Sonnenallee (1999); the latter is story of teenagers crazy for rock music and girls, on the East side of Berlin in the 1970s. The clothes, the music, superb!

1877. Nana is a painting by French painter Édouard Manet

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richey 7richey 2NPG x87840; Manic Street Preachers (Richey James Edwards; Nicky Wire (Nick Jones)) by Kevin Cummins

1911. Sunflowers, by Egon Schiele

1866. Gustave Moreau - Venus Rising from the SeaSonnenallee cast 11834. Lady in front of a Mirror. Ferdinand von Lütgendorff-Leinburg

1878-79. Woman fastening her garter - Edouard Manet

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1911. I and the Village by Marc Chagall1912. Marc Chagall - The Fiddler1913. Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers is an oil painting by Belarusian painter Marc Chagall,1913. Ida Rubinstein as Zobeide and Vaslav Nijinsky as the Golden Slave in Schéhérazade by George Barbier 1 1910. The Blue Sultana by Léon Bakst 1913. Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne by Marie Laurencin 1890s Carnival in Flanders - James Ensor 1928. Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel (The Wedding Party on the Eiffel Tower) by Marc Chagall1906. Georges Rouault - Girl at the mirror (Fille Au Miroir)

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Visual Companion to Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin

26 Feb

I think some of you already know how much I loved Pushkin’s novel in verse ‘Eugene Onegin’. Well, this is my visual companion to this book, these are just some pictures (mostly portraits) that come to my mind when I think about Tatiana, Olga, Lensky and the main character – Eugene Onegin. By the way, the film Eugene Onegin (1999), with Ralph Fiennes, Toby Stephens and Liv Tyler, is brilliant. I think all three are superb actors. If you can’t be bothered to read the book, you must see the film.

1834. Lady in front of a Mirror. Ferdinand von Lütgendorff-Leinburg

1899. Ilya Repin - Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky's duel 1830. Alexandra Feodorovna by Alexander Brullov 1830s lady wearing a Kokoshnik! 1830s russian lady 1 1830s russian lady 3 1830s russian lady 5 1830s russian lady in blue dress 1830s russian lady 1830s S.A. Lvova by A. Brullov 1830s Zhanetta Ivanovna Lopukhina - Karl Briullov 1835. Lady, said to be a member of the Olenin family 1836. Svetlana Guessing on her Future by Karl Bryullov 1838. Elena Zavadovsky by Alfred Chalon 1838. grand duchesses olga nicolaievna et maria nicolaievna 1 1820s Evdokia Bakunina by Alexander Pavlovich Brullov 1840s Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna by Ivan Makarov Lidia Timoshenko, Illustration to the verse novel ‘Eugene Onegin’ by Alexander Pushkin - Tatiana and Onegin

Robert Delaunay – Joie de Vivre

23 Feb

1912-13. Robert Delaunay - Le Premier DisqueRobert Delaunay, Le Premier Disque, 1912-13

If colours were emotions, this painting would be pure joy, euphoria, ecstatic rapture… Delaunay’s painting Le Premier Disque exudes playfulness, mainly because colours are in charge, and geometrical composition isn’t that dominant.

Delaunay’s colours are art therapy for me. This painting resembles a musical symphony, with colours instead of notes; deep red, cherry red, blue as the sky, the sea, then green, green like woods, yellow, van Gogh’s yellow, mystical shades of purple. Delaunay was a lyrical colourist, and after experimenting with Cubism, he returned to his greatest love – colour. He said himself: ‘This happened in 1912. Cubism was in full force. I made paintings that seemed like prisms compared to the Cubism my fellow artists were producing. I was the heretic of Cubism. I had great arguments with my comrades who banned color from their palette, depriving it of all elemental mobility. I was accused of returning to Impressionism, of making decorative paintings, etc.… I felt I had almost reached my goal.‘ It was necessary for him to experiment in order to find his own path, and he did, in 1912, when he finally succumbed to his passion for bright and dynamic colours. But his aim was different than those of Impressionists and Fauvists who still painted portraits and landscapes but with sometimes unnatural colours. Delaunay, like Kandinsky, wanted the paint to became valuable for itself.

Whenever I see this painting, it reminds me of Mayakovsky’s poem ‘But could you?’; in it Mayakovsky splashes a pot of colour on the trivialities of daily life, work-hours and boredom. Delaunay’s painting has the same effect on me; it stands as a spiritual border between school obligations and free time which I cherish immensely.

I blurred at once the chart of trite routine
by splashing paint with one swift motion.‘ (‘But could you? by Vladimir Mayakovsky)

For me, this painting is a true visual representation of ‘joie de vivre’, and therefore reminds me of Renoir’s paintings. While Renoir painted people dancing and laughing, Delaunay here uses nothing but colours, but provokes the same feeling from the viewer – joy of life. This is a painting which brings happiness, do you need more?

A Vision of a Russian Artist by Nikolai V. Gogol

21 Feb

A few days ago I read a story by Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) called Nevsky Prospekt (or Nevsky Avenue), first published in 1835. It was very interesting all together, not merely because I love Russian literature and Gogol’s other stories, but because the main character is an artist! The story begins and ends with a description of Nevsky Prospekt; firstly, readers get acquainted with the sorts of people who can be seen there, and lastly, lies and superficiality of all those ‘creatures’ are revealed. Gogol himself wrote: ‘But strangest of all are the incidents that take place of Nevsky Avenue. Oh, do not trust that Nevsky Avenue! (…) For all is a deceit, all is a dream, all is not what it seems. (…) It lies at all times, does Nevsky Avenue, but most of all when night hovers over it in a thick mass, picking out the white from the dun-coloured houses, and all the town thunders and blazes with lights  and thousands of carriages come driving from the bridges, the outriders shouting and jogging up and down on their horses, and when the devil himself lights all the street lamps to show everything in anything but its true colours.

The story evokes the mood of the 18th century Sentimental novels, so it’s filled with irony, and mocks the pathetic and romantic main character and his final disillusionment. I highly recommend you to read it, and if you don’t, it’s your loss. And now the part of the story which describes Russian artists at the time:

1830-33. The Last Day of Pompeii is a large canvas painting by Russian artist Karl Bryullov in 1830-33.The Last Day of Pompeii by Russian artist Karl Bryullov in 1830-33.

This young man belonged to a class of people so rare in our country as to be looked upon as phenomenon. These people are no more citizens of St.Petersburg than the people we see in a dream are part of the world of reality. This quite exceptional class of people is particularly uncommon in a city where the inhabitants are either Civil servants, shopkeepers, or German artisans. He was an artist. A strange phenomenon, is it not? A St.Petersburg artist! An artist in the land of snows! An artist in the land of the Finns, where everything is wet, flat, pale, monotonous, grey, misty!… These artists are not at all like the Italian artists, proud and fiery, like Italy and her skies; on the contrary, they are mostly inoffensive, meek men, shy and easygoing, devoted to their art in an unassuming way, drinking their tea with a couple of friends in a small room, modestly discussing their favourite subject, and satisfied with the minimum of food and comfort. They employ some old beggar woman for their model, keeping her posing for six full hours just to transfer her impassive, numb and miserable expression on the canvas. They like to paint interiors of their rooms with every kind of litter lying around: plaster-of-Paris hands and feet, coffee coloured with dust and age, a broken easel, a discarded palette, a friend playing the guitar, walls covered with paint, and an open window through which you can catch a glimpse of the pale Neva and fishermen in red shirts. Everything they paint has a greyish, muddy tint – the indelible imprint of the north. But for all that they labour over their pictures with enjoyment. They are very often men of talent, and if they were breathing the air of Italy their talent would probably have opened up as freely, as widely, and as splendidly as a plant that has been taken out into the open air after being kept indoors for a long time. They are generally rather timid folk…

1876. Viktor Vanetsov - Moving HouseViktor Vanetsov, Moving House, 1876

I couldn’t really decide which painting should accompany the text, so I put both. The first painting, The Last Day of Pompeii, was painted by Karl Bryullov, at the same time the story was published, and it was much appreciated by both Gogol and Pushkin. And the other evokes the sentence ‘Everything they paint has a greyish, muddy tint – the indelible imprint of the north‘, which makes it relevant as well.

Paul Delvaux – The Strollers

16 Feb

I believe in the future resolution in these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.’ (Andre Breton)

1947. The Strollers, Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)Paul Delvaux, The Strollers, 1947

Female bodies, classical architecture, night setting – it must be a work of Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), a Belgian Surrealist painter. Despite the realistic character of objects in his paintings, the all together effect is extraordinary. In compositions of Paul Delvaux, this strangeness arises from the mysterious and alluring dimension of a dream. As if the atmosphere in his paintings and the characters in it are referring solely to the space of dreams. Presumable coldness of the marble contrasts the pale, soft-skinned, nude bodies of two women, and, because of this contrast the painting seems both real and excitingly fantastical an the same time.

Scene depicts two strollers, walking around, what seems to be, an abandoned city. Behind them is a Greek or Roman temple, its white marble shining in the light of a full moon. While the blonde woman is taller, more voluptuous, and seems older and experienced, the other one seems younger and more maiden-like. It seems as if the blonde woman is explaining something to the younger one, and introducing her in a certain trade. However, both of them have lowered their tunics, or pieces of fabric, just enough to reveal their pubic hair. They have a matching headdresses, blue capes, and Egyptian-styled collar necklaces with intricate pattern.

NOTE: All text is referring only to the painting The Strollers, however, I’ve put additional paintings just so you can see Delvaux’s work in general.

1948. In Praise of Melancholy, Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)Paul Delvaux, In Praise of Melancholy, 1948

Still, underneath all that beauty, they seem cold, unattainable, distant figures lost in their own thoughts, aloof and mysterious like some of Catherine Deneuve’s roles. They even look identical, physically, just like all of Delvaux’s females in paintings, they have large almond-shaped eyes, long noses and mocking smiles. Their appearance definitely places them in a realm of dreams. The question arises: is it the artist’s dream, or the dream of those women? Those are the two ways you can observe Delvaux’s art.

Stillness of the temples, blueness of the night sky, loneliness of the square, along with these sensual, ideal, but unattainable female figures, all make this painting a bizarre one. Moon has a significant place in Delvaux’s paintings, and here it’s the full moon, which carries connotations by itself. Full moon is ‘symbolic of the height of power, the peak of clarity, fullness and obtainment of desire.* Even without the symbolism, full Moon is a lovely sight, but, as large and white as it is, it cannot shine with such intensity to lighten the whole city. Contrast of lightness and darkness are particularly interesting in Delvaux’s work; women’s bodies are luminous, but the rest of the space is in shadow. There’s a town square behind the women, a desolate place with pieces of stones scattered around. On the left, there’s a reclining woman, half-covered with purple fabric, with a matching headdress. There are two more women gracing the background; two elegant, slender, ghost-like figures in long white dresses with a bluish gleam.

1947. Delvaux The Great Sirens (1947)Paul Delvaux, The Great Sirens, 1947

I feel like there’s a sense of irony in the title of the painting. Title The Strollers evokes a mood of a lazy and carefree spring afternoon, and it’s a perfect title for a work of Impressionism, but Delvaux’s women here appear rather static, and frozen in the moment. It’s important to bring out a few facts in order to fully understand Delvaux’s art. First of all, he didn’t always paint like this. In the 1930s he was influenced by a Belgian Surrealist painter Rene Magritte, and around 1933 he encountered the Metaphysical art of Giorgio de Chirico, which proved to have an even greater influence on him. A hint of anguished and slightly disturbing mood of Chirico’s paintings is evident in Delvaux’s work as well, but their styles are different.

1967. Paul Delvaux (1897-1994). ‘’Le Canape Bleu [The Blue Sofa]Paul Delvaux, ‘Le Canape Bleu’ (The Blue Sofa), 1967

In Chirico’s desolate and ominous cityscapes, Delvaux added an ever-appealing sensual female figures,thereby achieving that hedonistic and dreamy atmosphere. That specific mood, present in all of Delvaux’s paintings, reminds me of Sergei Rachmaninov’s music, in particular his composition ‘Isle of the Dead’. Delvaux’s frequent depiction of classical architecture can be traced back to his childhood days, spent reading Homer’s poetry, along with studying Greek and Latin language. He even travelled to Rome at one point. Also, for a while Delvaux studied architecture, but didn’t enjoy it, and dropped out after failing a maths test, but it was worth it in the end, because his skill in painting architectural scenes in unquestionable.

Alexander Golovin’s Costume designs for ‘The Firebird’ (1910)

14 Feb

Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird was written for the 1910 season of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. Premiered on 25 June 1910, it was an instant success. The Firebird was one of the three ballets composed for Ballets Russes by Stravinsky, along with Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). It was based on a story from Slavic folklore about a magical Firebird – a bird that can be both a curse and a blessing to its owner. Although the bird is described as having glowing eyes, feathers ‘brightly emitting red, orange, and yellow light, like a bonfire that is just past the turbulent flame'(*), in  Stravinsky’s ballet, the creature is half-woman, half-bird. Most of the costumes were designed by Alexander Golovin, but some were done by Leon Bakst. Diaghilev also said that ‘Art… is important only as an expression of creator’s personality‘.

This page here has a lot of pictures of costumes, dancers etc. for Ballet Russes, in chronological order! I was mesmerised for hours after seeing all those gorgeous costumes and illustrations. I read somewhere this phrase which best sums up the greatness and importance of Ballet Russes: ‘Serge Diaghilev – The man who introduced the world to the beauty and originality of Russian culture.‘A few more pages about this ballet: here, here. I originally found the pictures on a tumblr called russian-style.

Marc Chagall – The Mystical Seven

10 Feb

1913. Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers is an oil painting by Belarusian painter Marc Chagall,Marc Chagall, Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1913

Despite the luminous yellows and deep red colours dominant in Chagall’s self-portrait, it’s impossible not to notice that his left hand has seven fingers, which means there’s two fingers too many, unless you’re in a psychedelic state of mind. There are many interpretations that explain why he painted seven fingers, but truth is, only Chagall knew. I believe it is connected to his fondness of number seven, and belief it its mystic qualities. Officially, Marc Chagall was born in Liozna, near Vitebsk, on 7 July 1887.

It’s likely that Chagall’s father modified the year of Chagall’s birth, changing it from 1889 to 1887, because in that case Chagall’s older brother would receive some kind of benefits. Chagall himself wrote that he was seventeen years old when he arrived in St. Petersburg in 1906, which could serve as an argument for this thesis, but he eventually decided to keep the year of his birth which was written in his passport, 1887 that is. And I believe that he modified his date of birth just for the additional number seven. I think he was actually born on 6 July, but wilfully changed it to 7 July. His real name was Moishe Segal, but, upon changing it, he added a second ‘l’ – Chagall, which makes it seven letters long. That mystical seven!!!

Marc Chagall painted this self-portrait during his ‘Paris Years’, in times when he ‘flirted’ with Cubism and tried to incorporate its elements, such as geometrical shapes and multiple points of view, in his work. Still, the mood of the painting isn’t Cubist. Warm, vibrant colours evoke his childhood, and his home town Vitebsk, a ‘picturesque city of churches and synagogues’. We can see Eiffel Tower through the window, while the right side shows a scene from Vitebsk, small wooden houses and a synagogue. Torn between two worlds, he even inscribed ‘Paris’ and ‘Russia’ in Hebrew letters on the top of the canvas, right above his head. Belorussia and his family were in his mind always. Even if we didn’t know that this was Chagall’s ‘official’ self-portrait, we could recognise his slightly feminine features, his curly hair, large eyes and long nose.

In this orgy of colours, yellow stands out. Luminous, radiant, translucent yellow. This potent yellow could only be compared to Vincent van Gogh’s yellow. Whereas his yellow had an undertow of franticness, like an eerie laughter, Chagall’s yellow is energetic and cheerful. And it dominates, almost shining through the artist, peeking from his shirt, appearing on his trousers, invading the palette. An the most beautiful wooden floor; a bit crooked and surreal luminous yellow floor. Cover 0f Syd Barrett’s ‘The Madcap Laughs’ evokes the allure of Chagall’s floor.

And if you’re wondering which painting is Chagall pictured painting, it’s the one called ‘To Russia, Donkeys and Others’, painted in 1911.

Marc Chagall, To Russia, Donkeys and Others, 1911

…more of that luminous, radiant, translucent yellow…

1950-52. La Danse by Marc ChagallMarc Chagall, La Danse, 1950-52