Tag Archives: 1920s

Joan Miró – Blue Is the Colour of My Dreams

20 Aug

Spanish painter and sculptor Joan Miró (1893-1993), whose work is usually classified as Surrealism, painted many beautiful paintings that show the vividness of his imagination, bursting with bold colours and intricate shapes. Still, his painting This is the color of my dreams has a special place in my heart: it is simple, just a blue fleck on white background, and underneath it Miró elegantly wrote the words that serve as the title of the painting, in French. Those words, the idea behind them, gives this simple blue a poetic, dreamy, mystical dimension.

Joan Miró, This is the color of my dreams, 1925

Isn’t it just a beautiful idea, to paint the colour of your dreams? And different dreams come in different colours, shades, different fragrances, melodies and moods. Miró dreamt in blue. And here’s what Jean Cocteau had to say about blue colour in “The Secret of Blue”:

The secret of blue is well kept. Blue comes from far away. On its way, it hardens and changes into a mountain. The cicada works at it. The birds assist. In reality, one doesn’t know. One speaks of Prussian blue. In Naples, the virgin stays in the cracks of walls when the sky recedes. But it’s all a mystery. The mystery of sapphire, mystery of Sainte Vierge, mystery of the siphon, mystery of the sailor’s collar, mystery of the blue rays that blind and your blue eye which goes through my heart.

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Magical Nocturnal World of Federico Beltran Masses

27 Dec

Deep midnight blues, cold and distant femmes fatales entranced by the melodies from afar, silver stars and guitars, hints of Spanish folklore, aloof guitar players with closed eyes, luscious full red lips, shining golden fabrics, nocturnal somnambulist atmosphere; welcome to the magical worlds of Federico Beltran Masses and Federico Lorca.

1925. Federico Beltrán Massés ‘Carnaval’ ca.1925. Federico Beltrán Massés, Carnaval, ca.1925

I think that the visual companion to the magical world that Federico Lorca has created in his poems, particularly those from his poetry collection ‘Gypsy Ballads’ (1928), can be found in paintings of Federico Beltan Masses, not just because they are both Spanish and are named Federico, but because the mood, poetic images, and characters from Lorca’s poetry all found their way in Masses’ paintings. Although Beltran wasn’t officially inspired by Lorca, I feel that their wellspring of inspiration is somewhat similar; it’s deeply rooted in Spanish tradition, and similar motifs occur in their poems/paintings, such as moon, nocturnal atmosphere, guitar. In Lorca’s poetic world, passion is the initiator of everything, and the atmosphere rises to that of immense ecstasy and beauty, somnambulism, enchantment, and the feeling of trance and being utterly lost in time and space.

1920s-federico-beltran-mases-the-venetian-sistersFederico Beltran Mases, The Venetian Sisters, 1920

Lorca’s perception of the word was more sensual and passionate than rational, and his poems are the result of his deep experiences of the life of Spain, its landscapes and its people. He was inspired by tradition, but he leaned to avant-garde, and he is usually associated with Surrealism. As you’ll see further on, his poems are often based on metaphors and symbols, and are very musical and acoustic, because he enjoyed works of Chopin, Debussy and Beethoven, and perhaps subconsciously inter weaved his poems with this charming musicality. Characters in Beltran’s paintings often seem entranced by some melodies that we cannot hear, but are pervading their nocturnal landscapes painted in deep shades of blue that often appears blackish with a few silver stars in the sky.

1934-federico-beltran-masses-tres-para-uno-c-1934-oil-on-canvas-98-x-100-cmFederico Beltran Masses, Tres Para Uno (Three For One), c. 1934

In ‘Tres Para Uno’ a tanned gentleman entertains three ladies with a guitar while the gondolas sway dreamily in midnight water of the silent Venice that sleeps in the background. ‘Three maidens of silver’ with pale, ghostly, almost greyish complexions, shiny sensual red lips and large elongated eyes. Something about their appearance frightens me, especially the woman on the right, with a grey streak in her hair. Beltran modelled her on his wife. All four seem strange, like vampires, wondering through the lonely streets of Venice at night, half-drugged half-mad, searching for a victim to entrance with their dead-cold gazes and melodies from the guitar.

Guitar as a symbol leads me again to Lorca and his poem ‘Riddle of the Guitar’:

At the round

crossroads,

six maidens

dance.

Three of flesh,

three of silver.

The dreams of yesterday search for them,

but they are held embraced

by a Polyphemus of gold.

The guitar!

1920-luisa-casati-federico-beltran-massesLuisa Casati, Federico Beltrán Masses, Luisa Casati, 1920

Beltran Masses loved painting at night, and the story goes that Luisa Casati, a rich and extravagant Italian heiress once turned up in his studio in Venice and demanded that to be painted instantly, he indulged her happily. Nocturnal setting is present in most of his paintings, and this specific dreamy, dark, sensual blue is often called ‘Beltran blue’, because it pervades his canvases. Imagine a world where night would rule, with moon and stars – that would be really magical. Notice the attention Beltran places on details such as the shine of Casati’s dress.

Beltran was popular amongst Hollywood actresses and actors, but his popularity unfortunately waned when the World War II broke out; that’s because that world of glamour, decadence and frivolity disappeared over night. Some have drawn parallels between Beltran and Kees van Dongen; both painted glamorous worlds of rich people, but van Dongen was a Fauvist and his style of painting is more stylised.

1932-passion-by-federico-beltran-masses-1885-1949Federico Beltran Masses (1885–1949), Passion, 1932

Neither Lorca nor Beltran presented the real world in their poems and paintings, but a nocturnal fantasy, led by passions, enchantments, moonwalking, ecstasy… In Passion we can see that famed Venice gracing the background. In all of Beltran’s paintings there’s a sense of escapism, whether through dreams and fantasy, eating exotic fruit, listening to sounds of guitar, surrounded with pretty women, riding a gondola through Venice and daydreaming about elegance and luxury.

And now for the end, Lorca’s guitar again:

The Six Strings

The guitar
makes dreams weep.
The sobbing of lost
souls
escapes through its round
mouth.
And like the tarantula
it spins a large star
to trap the sighs
floating in its black,
wooden water tank.‘ (*)

1920s-pola-negri-and-rudolf-valentino-by-federico-beltran-masses-1885-1949Pola Negri and Rudolf Valentino by Federico Beltran Masses (1885–1949), 1920s

Marc Chagall – The Colour of Love

18 Dec

“In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love.” (Marc Chagall)

1915-marc-chagall-birthdayMarc Chagall, Birthday, 1915

Earlier this year, in February, I was mesmerised by Chagall’s paintings and wrote two posts about him, The Paris Years (1910-1914) and Mystical Seven, this post – The Colour of Love – was an idea I had but never got round to. Well, these days I found myself daydreaming about Chagall’s portraits of lovers, and the mystic blueness of his paintings again, so consider this the third part of my Chagall trilogy.

Marc Chagall is one of those people who are full of love; love for life, colours, people, nature, memories, dreams, art, love towards sky, and night, and his village, and houses and his parents, composition and form, and colours, oh, he adored colours! Chagall’s paintings are landscapes of love, dreams and poetry. With Chagall, everything starts and ends with love – it’s pervading in his choice of subject, as he was fond of paintings his wife Bella and dreamy lovers flying above Paris, and always in his approach.

There’s a hint of Romanticism in his way of thinking, he said himself: ‘If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.‘ His paintings are so whimsical, dreamy and psychedelic really, that it’s hard to place them in a specific art movement; he was neither a Cubist nor a Surrealist and even though he always painted surrealistic scenes; lovers, cows and houses flying in air, fiddler on the roof, bodies and objects painted without respect for form, he steered clear from all formal classifications and manifestos. He stood as a loner and a dreamer.

1928-les-maries-de-la-tour-eiffel-the-wedding-party-on-the-eiffel-tower-by-marc-chagallLes mariés de la Tour Eiffel (The Wedding Party on the Eiffel Tower) by Marc Chagall, 1928

Love at first sight that started in 1909 when a beautiful daughter of a rich jeweller met a poor aspiring painter who worked as an apprentice for Leon Bakst, lasted thirty five years. What ended their love affair was not the change of feelings, but Bella’s death. In his autobiography ‘My Life’, which I highly recommend you to read, he poetically writes about her: ‘Her silence is mine, her eyes mine. It is as if she knows everything about my childhood, my present, my future, as if she can see right through me; as if she has always watched over me, somewhere next to me, though I saw her for the very first time. I knew this is she, my wife. Her pale colouring, her eyes. How big and round and black they are! They are my eyes, my soul.’

Bella, although seemingly a quiet, pale and withdrawn girl, was enthusiastic about Chagall as well, and later wrote about being mesmerised by his ethereal pale blue eyes: ‘When you did catch a glimpse of his eyes, they were as blue as if they’d fallen straight out of the sky. They were strange eyes … long, almond-shaped … and each seemed to sail along by itself, like a little boat.‘ She also wrote of their first meeting: ‘I was surprised at his eyes, they were so blue as the sky … I’m lowering my eyes. Nobody is saying anything. We both feel our hearts beating.

1917-bella-with-white-collar-by-marc-chagall-1917Marc Chagall, Bella with White Collar, 1917

After years spent in Paris, between 1910 and 1914, Chagall and Bella finally married on 25 July 1915, despite having a hard time convincing her parents that he would make a good match. They didn’t care about their love, but were more worried about his career and social status. Still, less than a year later, on 18th May 1916, their first and only child, Ida, was born and the arrival of this little bundle of joy softened the bourgeois hearts of Bella’s parents.

Chagall was absolutely besotted with Bella, he thought about her all the time while in Paris, and when they finally married, he expressed this endless amount of love and joy that suddenly overwhelmed him through his art. In painting ‘Birthday’, we see figures of Bella and Chagall in a kiss, the strength of their love allows them to defy gravity; he is already flying of happiness, while she seems ready to join him, carrying a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Chagall painted their room with religious devotion to details, and the space seems oddly real; notice the intricately woven fabric on the right, then the knife and a little purse on the table, and the view from the room. Chagall describes his new-found happiness in a way a poet would, just using colours instead of words, and he tells us: it’s real and it’s here, for the first time.

1949-marc-chagall-blue-landscapeMarc Chagall, Blue Landscape, 1949

Reading ‘My Life’ and observing his paintings from that period, you can sense his utter rapture and adoration for Bella. He even seems surprised that she could love him, this poor and clumsy boy who dreams of being a painter. He writes:

“In the mornings and evenings she would bring to my studio cakes she had baked with loving care, fried fish, boiled milk, colourful fabrics, and even boards of wood to use as an easel. All I had to do was open my window and in streamed the blueness of the sky, love and flowers with her. Dressed all in white or all in black, she has long been haunting my paintings, the great central image of my art.” (My Life)

1917-18-marc-chagall-the-promenadeMarc Chagall, The Promenade, 1917-18

You can really imagine him painting cows, fiddlers, lovers and poets in serenity all day, immersed in colour, meditating in every brushstroke, and the sparkle in his sky blue eyes when she’d enter the room. If only this beautiful dream, painted indeed in the colour of love, lasted forever. In both paintings, ‘Birthday’ and ‘Bella in White Collar’ we see Bella’s dress as he’d described it in the book. In painting ‘The Promenade’, he’s holding her hand like a balloon, with a wide smile on his face, while the town shaped in a Cubist style and painted in emerald green sleeps in the background.

It must have been wonderful to be loved by this gentle and humble dreamer with a vivid imagination. Lucky Bella.

1926-marc-chagall-lovers-with-half-moonMarc Chagall, Lovers with Half Moon, 1926

Chagall often paints lovers surrounded by a mystical blue colour, with a moon in the background, perhaps referring to his own love story with Bella again. In ‘My Life’, which is not a typical autobiography but a vibrant kaleidoscope of memories, he writes of kissing Bella at night, and also, one time, her parents locked the house and she couldn’t get outside to meet him so she got out through the window. Naturally, neighbourhood was gossiping, that’s not unusual for a small town like Vitebsk, and nobody would believe Chagall that his fiancee remained even more pure than Raphael’s Madonna, to quote Chagall himself. A reminder: this all takes place in 1909, and people tend to think that modern world is completely different, well I guess it isn’t. Love was love, and dreams were dreams – two main forces behind Chagall’s work.

1914-blue-lovers-marc-chagallMarc Chagall, Blue Lovers, 1914

Chagall’s anti-rational approach to art, typical for Surrealists, is perhaps best noticeable in his portrayals of dreamy lovers bathed in mystic blues. After his Parisian period (1910-1914) during which he flirted with Cubism, and enjoyed adding hints of geometry here and there, he suddenly freed his art even more, because it wasn’t stern to begin with. He felt an attraction for free forms, and purposefully employed the language of fantasy and games to develop a distinctively dreamy mood that still makes his paintings stand out.  It’s that playful quality of Chagall’s art that drew me to it in the first place, but it’s not a shallow playfulness because it’s always tinged with a transcending appeal of the mystical blue colour he loved using in abundance. If you take a look at the paintings ‘Blue Lovers’ or ‘Lovers in Green’, it’s hard not to feel that dreamy, ethereal quality that lingers through his paintings.

1914-15-marc-chagall-lovers-in-green-1914-1915Marc Chagall, Lovers in green, 1914-1915

After living in Vitebsk and St Petersburg, he left Russia for good in 1922 and settled in Paris, soon followed by Bella and Ida. Because of the political situation in Europe, he moved to New York in 1941. Unfortunately, a love dream that started in 1909, ended all too soon – Chagall and Bella didn’t grow old together.

A muse that filled his life and canvases with love for more than three decades vanished from this material world on 2 September 1944. When she died, Chagall turned all his canvases back to the wall and stopped painting for six months; it was the only period of his life, since he started painting, that he didn’t pick up a brush. He did remarry, in 1952 to Valentina ‘Vava’ Brodsky, but in every painting there’s a spirit of Bella’s light and warmth. She died, but she continued to pervade his thoughts and his canvases, and memories of her love guided his art like a star guiding the sailors.

1960-marc-chagall-le-bouquet-damour-c-1960Marc Chagall “Le bouquet d’amour”, c. 1960

What is the colour of love, then? It depends on the painter. For Chagall it seems to have been – blue.

My ‘Midnight in Paris’

15 Jan

Do you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain? Imagine this town in the ’20s. Paris in the ’20s, in the rain. The artists and writers!

1889. The Starry Night - van gogh

This film delighted, fascinated and inspired me beyond belief! It seeded a hundred ideas in my head, fired my imagination and the already existing nostalgia for the times that passed away. Woody Allen is a brilliant director, my mother’s favourite, and Owen Wilson is a very natural actor with appealing face expressions, gestures and voice; is there a better combination? The very idea of the movie, coined in Allen’s head, is very alluring to me; traveling through time to the ‘golden era‘; an era one considers one would be happier living in. I can’t count the times I’ve been daydreaming about another era, another place, oh, the characters I’ve created, and the places, just to escape the reality, the sad present that always leaves you tired, gloomy, washed out and full of longings that cannot be fulfilled.

For Gil, a disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter who travels to Paris with his fiancee Inez and her posh parents, a ‘golden era’ of Paris are the 1920s. It’s a decade he dreams of; the bohemian atmosphere of Paris, strolls in the rain, warm light of street lamps, cafes, his literally idols… On the other hand, he’s living a life of bourgeois dulness, conflicted with financial success and self-fulfillment. Gil is a romantic and nostalgic soul, and the vivid Parisian night fires his wish to become a serious writer. Inez, his shallow, materialistic and posh bride-to-be, always turns eyes on his fantasies and dismisses his preference for bohemian lifestyle and pleasure over financial prosperity. She does not give him any support, she dismisses him being a serious artist in front of her pseudo-intellectual friend Paul, and in fact, I don’t see why are they even together. Gil is so idealistic, imaginative, ready to go and taste life, live for his writing and not his paycheck, whilst Inez is focused merely on their future house, expensive furniture and the biggest engagement ring.

1888. Cafe Terrace at Night -van Gogh

One night while strolling in Paris at midnight, Gil sees a mysterious antique vehicle. Dazed and confused, Gil jumps in and unknowingly travels back in time. The antique vehicle and his occupants, dazed from champagne and laughter, take him to the bohemian 1920s Paris where he meets Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway and Cole Porter. Gil is amazed by this event, but Inez naturally isn’t impressed. Gil returns again only to meet Gertrude Stein, Picasso and his charming mistress Adriana, played by the beautiful Marion Cotillard, along with Dali, Man Ray and Luis Bunuel; all the prominent figures of the era he admires. Dali is extraordinary. Upon seeing him in the movie I realised that all those painting could have been painted only by a person who behaves like that. Still, Gil finds out that he’s not the only person struck by nostalgia; Adriana says how the past has always had a great charisma for her. Both share a mutual feeling they’re born too late; count me in.

For me, La Belle Epoque Paris would have been perfect‘, says Adriana, ‘The whole sensibility; the street lamps, kiosks – the horse and carriages. And Maxim’s then.‘ Her ideal Paris is the ‘Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Can-Can’ Paris of the 1890s. It seems unbelievable to Gil for he adores the ’20s Paris but this leads to a greater dilemma; were all those eras really that ‘golden‘ and exciting, or, is the dissatisfaction with the present and the idealisation of the past an inevitable part of the human nature?

midnight in paris 3

Upon arriving in the ‘La Belle Epoque‘ Paris, Gil and Adriana meet Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge, and Degas and Gauguin who soon join them too. Degas and Gauguin were just talking about how that generation is empty and without imagination. They believe that living in the Renaissance would have been better. Gils and Adriana’s nostalgic natures are conflicted at that moment; to Gil, the 1920s Paris; Charleston, Hemingway, Dali is amazing; he adores it, but for Adriana, it’s just her present, as dull and boring as the present is.The two split up; Gil realises that the present is dissatisfying because life is dissatisfying, and decides to live in his own time, enjoying the advances of it, such as antibiotics.

On the other hand, Adriana’s flair and idealisation of the ‘Golden age‘ of Paris is much stronger and she decides to stay in the 1890s, at the beginning of the Belle Epoque. She was happy to escape the 1920s; a decade so romanticised and idealised by Gil. I think I would act the same way Adriana did; for me, the golden age were the 1960s; London, psychedelia, vividness of life, optimism, carefree atmosphere, living for the moment, and that sweet naivety long lost in today’s cynical and opportunistic society,  integrity was valued back then. That’s the reason I named this post ‘My Midnight in Paris‘; I deeply sympathise with Gil and I respect his final decision. I often wonder whether my visions of the past are idealised as well, but you know what, I don’t care; if I give up my romantic and naive daydreams, then what is left of life?

Gil returned to the present, and, on a midnight stroll across the Seine at midnight, he meets Gabrielle, an antiques dealer he had met earlier. The two walk in the rain, she doesn’t mind getting wet, for ‘Paris is the most beautiful in the rain.‘And what isn’t?

Rain is the most poetic thing in nature; it is the sky’s song of tranquility and serenity.

Egyptian influenced jewellery

8 Jan

Egyptian culture was extremely inspirational for 19th century jewellery. Nineteenth century saw Egyptian influence coming in vogue two times – at the beginning of the century (Regency era) and again in the second half of the century. Archeological discoveries were instrumental in introducing new trends, mainly in jewellery. Second half of the 19th century saw revival of many styles; Renaissance, Etruscan, Rococo, Ancient Greek and Egyptian. Egyptian influenced jewellery came back in style in 1920s after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Characteristics of Egyptian influenced jewellery are vast usage of gold, vibrant coloured jewels, motifs such as tombs, bird ibis, scarab, sphinx, cobra, feathers… These motifs were combined with style at the moment; such as Art Deco in the 1920s and that created something even more fabulous.

1800s Egyptian Revival Sphinx Brooch

1800s Egyptian Revival Sphinx Brooch

1880. A sapphire and enamel scarab brooch, the cabochon-cut sapphire with rose cut diamond details, curved wings with green and white enamel and rubies, Austro-Hungarian

1880. A sapphire and enamel scarab brooch, Austro-Hungarian.

1890. LATE 19TH CENTURY GEM-SET EYGPTIAN REVIVAL BROOCH

1890. Egyptian revival brooch.

1890s Fabergé, Russian, Scarab Brooch, Egyptian revival

1890s Fabergé, Russian, Scarab Brooch, Egyptian revival.

1890s Magnificent French Belle Epoque Egyptian Revival Brooch

1890s French Belle Epoque Egyptian Revival Brooch.

1900. An Egyptian Revival gem set scarab brooch, circa 1900. Emeralds, sapphires, pearls, rubies and rose-cut diamonds in yellow gold, partially silver-topped

1900. An Egyptian Revival gem set scarab brooch, Emeralds, sapphires, pearls, rubies and rose-cut diamonds in yellow gold, partially silver-topped.

1920s Egyptian Revival Brooch

1920s Egyptian Revival Brooch

1925. A French Egyptian Revival Art Deco beetle brooch

1925. A French Egyptian Revival Art Deco beetle brooch.