Tag Archives: 1910

Gustav Klimt – Valley of the Dolls

5 Mar

In a transitional period from his ‘erotic-symbolist Golden phase’ to his highly decorative and vibrant Japanese inspired phase, Klimt painted these gorgeous and aloof femme fatales: a subject so popular in fin de siecle. These two ladies are not mythical creatures, they look like real Viennese women and they’re impatient, they’re waiting, wrapped in their fur, adorned with the finest Art Nouveau jewellery, they’re glancing at you with disdain, they’re throwing darts in the eyes of their lovers.

1909-gustav-klimt-lady-with-hat-and-feather-boa-1909-4Gustav Klimt, Lady with Hat and Feather Boa, 1909

End of the first decade of the twentieth century brought some changes for Klimt; his gorgeous studies in gold with intricate details and stylised forms were slowly becoming passé. Rise of the Expressionism denoted the end of his ‘golden phase’. In his paintings such as ‘The Kiss’, Klimt painted his figures in shining yellow fabrics, decorated with tiny golden leaves, against luminous golden backgrounds, floating in a highly decorative world of his imagination. This excessive decorative element in his art prevented him from delving into psychological depth and achieving the emotional intensity of the portrayed figure, and that’s something that painters like Schiele and Kokoschka did very well . In 1909, Klimt travelled to Paris where he discovered the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Fauvists. These encounters with the new streams in the artistic world, as well as his friendship with the younger artist Schiele, all inspired him to reinvent his style.

La Belle Epoque fashion looks as if it was made for femme fatales – it’s exuberant, it’s glamorous; wide-brimmed hats with feathers, fur muffs, voluminous hairstyles, large choker necklaces, long flowing dresses with lace details… Klimt was very much in tune with the fashion of the day because his life companion Emilie Flöge happened to be a fashion designer. Klimt also helped in designing the dresses by making the patterns. In this transitional period, Klimt dressed his femme fatales not in gold but in lace and perfumes and jewels and rouge; he tamed them, he made them into fashionable little dolls who are impatiently waiting to be played with, to be admired. These creatures are vain and aloof but not as sinister and destructive as Franz Stuck’s dark female figures filled with lust and anxiety. Klimt also tamed his lust for excessive ornamentation by painting the background in one colour instead of the usual vibrant kaleidoscope of shapes and patterns.

Painting Lady with Hat and Feather Boa has a strangely dark colour palette, unusual for Klimt’s typical vibrant pinks, yellows and greens. The lady has an amazing face expression; her downward tilted eyes are fixated on something on her right which we can’t see, and her eyebrows are sharp and angry. Her face has been haunting me for weeks! And that peacock blue line on her hat, and the feathers, painted in swirling, near abstract motions. Her wild red hair, and gorgeous lips peeking from that feather boa, oh she’s a real femme fatale. You can imagine her getting out of the carriage, somewhere on the streets of Vienna, opening her parasol, blind to every eye she meets, with a gaze that says: ‘You’re not fit to polish my boots!’

1910-gustav-klimt-black-feature-hat-1910Gustav Klimt, Black Feather Hat (Lady with Feather Hat), 1910

On the other hand, Black Feather Hat (Lady with Feather Hat) is somewhat different in mood and style. Our redhead beauty above looks gorgeous and vivacious like Klimt’s women usually do, but this one looks a tad different – there’s a subtle nihilism in those white-grey shades, a hint of Egon Schiele and the fin de siecle nervousness. Look at her angular face and the way her hand is painted; it looks like something you’d see on Schiele’s paintings. Truth is, Schiele was initially inspired by Klimt, but Klimt also learner something from his young independent-minded pupil. Again we see this gorgeous La Belle Epoque fashion, and again this femme fatale is looking into the distance, we don’t know what occupied her attention, or whose face lingers on her mind.

Shadow – A. G. Matos

3 Mar

Short story ‘Shadow’ was written by Antun Gustav Matos (1873-1914), a central figure in Croatian modernism. It’s written in style of Symbolism, and when I read it, it reminded me of Mannucci’s painting, I think the atmosphere is compatible. Also, Matos was occupied by themes of love, death and beauty, his other stories often feature bizarre subjects and characters. It’s interesting to note that he lived in Belgrade, Vienna, Munich, Genova and spent five years in Paris. He was influenced by Baudelaire and E.A. Poe. I stumbled upon his work on wiki.cultured. The page also features art and literature from different cultures, which is very interesting.

1910. Cipriano Mannucci - Verso la luce1910. Cipriano Mannucci – Verso la luce

I love the mournful shadow, the dozing light: light which dreams of the night. I love the shadow, twin sister of the warm sun and of the cold moon. I love the shadow, my eternal adopted sister and companion which slumbers beside me, walks near me, my dark picture and my caricature. Yes, I love the shadow, yellow, grey, black; the shadow, sad and silent as death.

All, all is shadow. The world is a shadow. And the sun is a shadow of a mystical sun. And life is the shadow of a mystical life. The shadow is a cradle. The shadow is a grave. Before my existence I was but a shadow. And, when I cease to be, I shall be a shadow. I am the shadow of that which I was and of that which I shall be: a shadow between two eternities of haze. All is shadow.

The shadow is larger than light, as it is greater at evening than the fields of my grandfather. Wheat and grain spring up in the shadow and die in shadow. Life arises from shadow, wanders in the shadow, and disappears into the shadow.

We are shadows.

O, Shadow, child of the day and the night! Shadowy morning and purple evening! Shadow, child of darkness and light, pale daughter of enigma, opening melancholy silent weary eyes, and through them life peers wonderingly into mysterious death! Last night, my love, you were trembling against my breast with the moist eyes of affection and happiness. I named you beauty, happiness, and woman, but there remained a handful of ashes in place of honey. Love, you also are a shadow.
I am a shadow, and I love the quiet still shadows of the affliction which awaits the new Titans and the new twilights of the gods.

The shade told me, the shade which grew larger and larger behind the old oak beneath the moonlight whilst awaiting the dew and the dark song of the nightingale under the shrubbery of the hawthorn and brier rose, such shady, foggy and grey fables. The shade was whispering to me this morning as well, as it walked under the fleecy cloud across the field of stubble, caressing the larks’ and the quails’ nests, and kissing the quivering tops of the field flowers.

Shadow, thou soft pillow of light: Shadow, thou black bed of life! And when once the planets extinguish, you will remain the empress of life.

I love you, Shadow, pure silent goddess: lift up your soft mantle of fog streaked with golden secrets, and cover my weary eyes, to close them to embrace my shadow.

(Translated by Carolyn Owlett Hunter)

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.