Tag Archives: Anna Karina

Thomas Sully and E.A.Poe – The Oval Portrait

23 Oct

In this post I’ll explore Sully’s refined portraits, their connection to Edgar Allan Poe’s pale, ghostlike and mournful literary heroines, and also Poe’s story The Oval Portrait and the way it influenced Jean-Luc Godard in his film Vivre sa Vie (1962).

1844-the-coleman-sisters-by-thomas-sully-1783-1872Thomas Sully, The Coleman Sisters, 1844

When I first set eyes on Sully’s paintings, I couldn’t help noticing a slight Gothic, eerie element to them, especially in the painting The Coleman Sisters. Three pale, raven hair beauties with large, dark velvety eyes, dressed in lavender and buttercup yellow coloured dresses seem like they came from one of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. One of Coleman sisters could easily be mistaken for Poe’s Ligeia, Eleonora, Annabel Lee or Madeline Usher; pale, mournful brides, intensely beautiful and intelligent, transcending even death.

Poe actually mentions Sully in his short story ‘The Oval Portrait’, where the protagonist spends a night in a grand and gloomy castle and an old portrait on the wall captures his imagination. It is one of my favourite stories by Poe because, along with typical Poe qualities, it deals with subjects of art and life; a combination which Oscar Wilde later studied to the finest detail. And now a bit of the story which always reminds me of the painting by Sully:

The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque. As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. But it could have been neither the execution of the work, nor the immortal beauty of the countenance, which had so suddenly and so vehemently moved me. Least of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person.

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Thomas Sully, Sheet of Figure Studies, 1830-1839

Thomas Sully (1783-1872), just like Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, is one of those painters that bring something fresh, original and lasting in the world of portrait painting. He was born in England, but at the age of nine moved to the New World with his parents who were actors, first to South Carolina before finally settling in Philadelphia. His style is often compared to that of Thomas Lawrence; it’s a style of refinement, elegance and flattery so you can only guess that he was popular with rich ladies. Sully also painted that famous portrait of young Queen Victoria in 1837.

And yet, in some portraits, like the one of the Coleman sisters, there’s a hint of something darker and dreamier than in Lawrence’s portraits which are pure refinement. Although in this post I decided to focus on the connection between his portraits and Poe’s heroines, I felt a need to add Sully’s Sheet of Figure Studies because it offers an intimate insight into his art. A finished portrait can appear cold and distant, but a piece of paper where you can actually see the artists sketches, feel his brush as it touched the paper, dipped in colour – that’s something truly special and heart-warming.

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Thomas Sully, Mary and Emily McEuen, 1823

Now we’ll go back to that portrait of the Coleman sisters and Poe’s story ‘The Oval Portrait’. If you haven’t already read the story, you should because it’s really short and thought-provoking. It deals with themes of art, life and sacrifice. The unnamed young maiden of ‘rarest beauty’ is wedded to a painter who is utterly absorbed in his work, and sees his young wistful bride only as a subject of his art, not as a human being with a desire for love and companionship.

This story seems to have been particularly appealing to the French Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Luc Godard because in his film Vivre sa Vie or My Life to Live (1962), a young man reads the fragment of the story to the main character Nana, played by Anna Karina who was Godard’s wife at the time, but their marriage was already falling apart because he was apparently too absorbed to even notice her or anything besides his films. Everything he wanted to say, he expressed through the art of film. Just like the painter in the story, Godard saw Anna, his beautiful blue-eyed wife only through the camera lens. You can watch the clip here if you’re interested.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. And, oh my, I’m so glad that I finally wrote it because I’ve been carrying the idea in my mind for the third autumn now.

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Fashion Icons: Anna Karina

4 Aug

1960s anna karina in Band a part

Anna Karina is a Danish-French film actress and for a while, in the 1960s, she was the muse of director Jean-Paul Godard. In his films such as Une Femme est Une Femme (1961), Bande a Part (1964), Vivre sa Vie (1962), Pierrot le Fou (1965) and Made in U.S.A. (1966) Anna Karina can be seen wearing beautiful yet simple outfits. Her costumes in Une Femme est Une Femme are especially eye-cathing; she wore red and blue skirts and dresses against the grey backdrop of Paris.

Her style is very chic, tailored and Parisian. If you want to dress like her, be sure to wear some coloured tights, I have them in all colours – blue, red, yellow, green, purple, and all thanks to Anna Karina. Her classic look would include grey knee-length skirt with red tights, cardigan and a trench coat. Whenever I wear something like that, I feel like I’m in one of Godard’s films. Now all you need is Jean-Paul Belmondo or Sami Frey and a book by Camus.

Let my collages speak for themselves.

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Films with Brilliant Costumes

24 Apr

Two Aprils ago, I wrote a similar post. As expected, I watched a lot of films in the mean time. Costumes in films are an interesting topic, and I’m afraid they tend to captivate my attention quite a lot. This list is rather different then the previous one, which consisted mostly of period dramas set in Georgian and Victorian era.

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1. Factory Girl (2006)

‘Poor little rich girl’, Edie Sedgwick, led a short, but turbulent and glamorous life. In Factory Girl she was portrayed by Sienna Miller, I loved her performance. Her look is equally alluring as unattainable – gold and silver mini-dresses, Beatnik-style no-trousers-look with black tights and kitten-heel boots, large earrings, cigarette and an amethyst ring. Regrettably, Edie’s chic ’60s wardrobe is more suitable for Andy Warhol’s Factory, than for a lifestyle of a schoolgirl like me.

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2. Lolita (1962)

Despite the film’s subject being more or less controversial, the clothes that Sue Lyon wears are rather nice, and I’m not even a fan of 1950s fashion. Thanks to Bern Stern’s publicity photos of Sue Lyon wearing heart-shaped sunglasses, they became a symbol for nymphets (both the book and film), even thought in the film Lolita wears only the simple cat sunglasses. I think Sue Lyon was brilliant as Lolita. She seems so mature considering that she was only 14 years old by the time filming started.

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3. Eight Miles High (2007)

This is a biographical film about the life of a West German groupie Uschi Obermaier played by Natalie Avalon. Appropriately, the clothes Uschi wears are in tune with the late ’60s and 70s fashion, which means plenty of mini skirts, sequins, messy bed-hair, gypsy skirts, jeans… Uschi’s life was really wild, and she had a wardrobe to accompany it.

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4. Darling (1965)

Interested in what an elegant lady climbing up the social ladder, in 1965 London, would be wearing? Well, you should watch Julie Christie in Darling. A very classic, elegant 1960s style with chic tweed suits, long evening dresses with sequins, kerchiefs, skirts with knee socks. I’d call this film a portrait of London’s society in the mid 1960s.

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Michelle Pfeiffer as Léa de Lonval in CHERI 3

5. Cheri (2009)

Michelle Pfeiffer plays a retired courtesan in this costume drama set in La Belle Epoque. Her costumes are so evocative of fin de siecle; wide-brimmed hats, roses, black gloves, silks, beautiful silks, white lace and pearls. Michelle Pfeiffer must have signed a deal with the devil because she doesn’t seem to age, she’s still simply drop dead gorgeous.

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6. Irma La Douce (1963)

Another charming courtesan, Irma La Douce, played by Shirley MacLaine, in a comedy set in 1960s Paris. Irma is mad about green colour, and her costumes prove that. She often wears a black skirt with green stockings, green shirt, green bow in her hair, green eyeshadow, even a green bra.

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7. Une Femme Est Une Femme (1961)

Anna Karina’s vivid red and blue outfits in ‘A Woman is a Woman’, perfectly match the grey backdrop of Paris. And the costumes are just one tiny bit of this film’s brilliance. I confess, I’ve been very keen on colourful tights ever since I first watched this film, I have them in all colours.

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8. Dark Shadows (2012)

I’ve always wondered how would Tim Burton mix ‘Victorian Gothic’ and Psychedelic aesthetics, and this film answered my question. I already wrote a post for itself discussing costumes and my opinion about this film, so I’ll quote myself: I can imagine myself having Carolyn’s bedroom; a psychedelic style decorated room with yellow carpet, vivid purple walls covered with posters of Iggy Pop and various other musicians of the time. It’s very bright, groovy, colourful and inspirational. I really loved the fact that every character has its own distinct style.

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9. Little Dorrit (2008)

This adaptation of Dickens’ novel is set in the 1820s, thought it has that doll-like 1830s vibe in some costumes, specially those worn by Fanny Dorrit. You can see her costume in the photo, on the left: that extravagant hairstyle with feathers, lace mittens, and wide sleeves – quite a theatrical flair about her character.

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10. An Education (2009)

A film about a bored schoolgirl who meets a charming (and married) man who introduces her to a life of luxuries, parties, art auctions. Carey Mulligan plays this little modern Emma Bovary, and her quote says it all: ‘You have no idea how boring everything was before I met you.’ Most of the film she wears her school uniform, but when she goes out in the evenings she’s clad in classic and elegant 1960s style.

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11. A Little Chaos (2014)

This is the most recent film from this I’ve watched, starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. Winslet is dressed rather plain throughout the film because she’s a gardener, but there one scene near the end, at the court, where everyone’s dressed in late 17th century/ Restoration era finery. Cream coloured silks, lace, wide sleeves, and the hairstyle are so romantic and carefree.

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12. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Vivian Leigh as a withered Southern Belle with fragile nerves who doesn’t want ‘realism, but magic’, and is always dressed in fine silks, lace and fur, adorned by the finest perfume, of course never in the daylight because it would reveal her true age and looks. I so empathise with her.

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1938. Bette Davis in 'Jezebel' (1938) 1

13. Jezebel (1938)

This film, starring the beautiful Bette Davis, is a proof that rustling of taffeta petticoats and silks skirts is the sweetest sound in the world. I thought the plot and the ending were a bit vague, but costumes absolutely delighted me.

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Have you a film you’d add on the list?

Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Silent Films and Frilly Dresses

9 Apr

America’s sweetheart, The girl with the curls, Little Mary – these are some of the nicknames for Mary Pickford, a silent film actress who recently captivated me.

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Before I started writing this post, I gave myself a task of watching a documentary about her called Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (2012), which is really interesting and you can watch it on YouTube. It’s a good quality documentary; amusing with plenty of information, and the narrator has a pleasant voice. I liked that the focus was not only on Mary Pickford’s personality and different stages of her career, but on the development of Hollywood as we know it today, film industry and ‘flickers’, as the early films were known back then.

I utterly recommend you to watch the documentary as it is a great introduction into the glamorous world of Hollywood – a topic which has, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, captivated me recently. Like majority of people, I like watching films, but I’ve never been a massive ‘Old Hollywood’ fan like my mum, for example. Films of the 1930s and 1940s somehow never captured my attention, and I always wondered, with a slight dose of envy, what my mum saw in them. Then, a few weeks ago, out of nowhere, I’m ill with a disease called ‘Old Hollywood glamour’, and the only cure is to watch as many films as you can!

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As you might have guessed by the title, a Hollywood phase I became fixated on is the Silent era and its main star, actress Mary Pickford. Her eyes are her most charming feature; two bright stars surrounded by long eyelashes, with the ability to express every emotion; from sadness and resignation to gratitude and rapture. Then her gorgeous curls, her famous curls, which she cut off in 1928 much to the dismay of her fans. Bobbing her hair happened as a sort of ritual of transition: her mother had just died, and she found herself incapable of playing little girls now that she wasn’t anyone’s ‘little girl’. Her phase of playing child-parts was over.

That’s a personality trait I liked about Mary Pickford – she knew how to end things while they were still good. She was a woman who achieved everything she set her mind to. A remarkable person, not just a great actress. Her ‘rags to riches’ life story continues to captivate people’s imagination. ‘America’s Sweetheart’ was born as Gladys Smith in Canada, on 8th April 1892, in a poor family with an alcoholic father. Not the best starting point for someone who’d later be the first Hollywood actress to earn a million dollars.

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1917. Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)

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‘When Mary smiled, you could hear the angels sing’, said Lillian Gish, a fellow silent film actress and Mary’s lifelong friend.

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1916. Mary Pickford 1916 advertisementAdvertisement in ‘Moving Picture World’, September 1916

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Mary Pickford’s life story is interwoven with the life story of another silent film actress – Lillian Gish. In 1905, the Smith family shared quarters with the Gish family. Namely, Lillian Gish (14 Oct 1893-1993) had a younger sister Dorothy (11 March 1898-1968) who was also an actress. Similarly, Mary Pickford was the eldest sibling, her sister Charlotte ‘Lottie’ and brother Jack were actors as well, though both had succumbed to alcohol and died fairly young. Both families led bohemian lives which are as rich as they are hard to endure. Mary and Lillian became lifelong friends.

Starting in theatre, both girls quickly transferred to films or ‘flickers’. Early films were sensationalistic (does anyone sense a revival these days?), and often close to being pornographic. Targeted audience was the working class. After a long day’s work at the factory or a construction site, they could go and a watch a film, which was cheap as chips, travel in their imagination and escape the greyness of their lives.

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1920s Mary Pickford being paintedMary Pickford being painted, c. early 1920s

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Even though both were great actresses, Mary Pickford’s name stayed synonymous with the era of silent films. Early cinematography produced a great deal of actresses and icons such as Louise Brooks, Norma and Constance Talmadge, Theda Bara, Clara Bow, Pola Negri – all of which played very seductive and flirtatious roles. Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford had a different quality about them – they played more virtuous, innocent and girlish characters. They looked like dolls with their large expressive eyes and lush curls.

Lillian said herself: “I played so many frail, downtrodden little virgins in the films of my youth that I sometimes think I invented that stereotype of a role.” (source)

Lillian Gish plays a ‘frail, downtrodden little virgin’ Lucy Burrows in the filmBroken Blossoms (1919). Brilliantness of the film comes from the combination of Lillian’s poignant portrayal of a ‘fragile waif’, gloomy and decaying Limehouse district of London as the setting, and the opium-laced mood and Eastern flair brought by Cheng Huan – a Chinese lad who came to London with a dream ‘to spread the gentle message of Buddha to the Anglo-Saxon lands.’ Lillian’s performance was remarkable, and the ending truly brought tears to my eyes, and I’m not someone who cries easily at films. Somehow, when watching a silent film, you focus all your attention at the face expressions, gestures, eye movements; everything is intensified. Some quotes from the title cards, Cheng Huan’s thoughts about Lucy.

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1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 1

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Blue and yellow silk caressing white skin – her beauty so long hidden shines out like a poem. (at 50.50 min)

Breathing in an amber flute to this alabaster cockney girl her love name – White Blossom. (at 55.18)

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1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 3 1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 4

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I reckon Lillian has a naturally melancholic face, perhaps it is because her eyes are large and her lips really small, I dunno, but most of the photos of her have a slightly morbid appeal, at least for me. She’s a true Ophelia.

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1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 11

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Mary Pickford played a variety of roles, and often performed the stunts herself as a matter of fact, but her most memorable films are those where she plays a role of a little girl, something she successfully did up until the age of thirty-something. Up to now, I’ve watched four of such films, in this order: Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) where she stars as Gwendolyn, Pollyanna (1920) as Pollyana Whittier, The Little Princess (1917) as Sara Crewe, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917) as Rebecca Randall. There’s more films where she plays child roles, but the next thing I want to watch is ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ (1929) – it’s a ‘talkie’ she performed with her then-husband Douglas Fairbanks. That should be smashing!

There’s something so appealing about Mary Pickford’s roles in these particular films; a mixture of naivety and innocence, enhanced by her costumes and curls, and a courage and generosity. Goodness always wins in the end: in Poor Little Rich Girl she unites her previously money-and-success-distracted parents, in The Little Princess she finds a wealthy foster parent and brings her friend along, in Pollyanna she brings optimism to everyone she encounters. If audiences of the time saw a hope for the better world in those films, I fully understand them.

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The Taming of the Shrew (1929)Mary Pickford in The Taming of the Shrew (1929)

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Isn’t it strange, back then, a twenty-five year old actress could play a little girl, while today fourteen year old girls are encouraged by the media to look much older and ”attractive”.

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Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish’s expressive eyes reminded me a great deal of Anna Karina, just because I watched her films first. I noticed a certain ‘silent film’ quality about Anna Karina’s acting. Others did too: With her expressive, luminous eyes and radiant presence she had the looks of a silent movie star while simultaneously embodying the self-confident spirit of the 60s generation.” (source) This correlation is especially prominent in Godard’s film Vivre sa Vie (1963) where Anna Karina ironically plays – an aspiring actress. Really, even if you excluded the speaking parts, her eyes would reveal everything.

Another thing I wanted to discuss was the costumes. Mary Pickford has a marvellous wardrobe in her child-roles: straw hats or flowers in her lush curly hair, knee-long white dresses with lace and frills, worn with white tights, then her cute polka-dot dress with several petticoats and a parasol as an accessory in the role Rebecca, her cute one piece pyjama in ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’. Even in others pictures I’ve shown here, she looks elegant like a spring day – in frilly white dresses, wide hats, string of pearls, empire waist for a girlish appeal, lots of lace. Is it a charming 1910s revival of Rococo and Marie Antoinette countryside style, or a prelude to modern Japanese Lolita style?

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Gaylen Studlar - Precocious Charms

My Inspiration for June II

30 Jun

Past two weeks have been very inspirational for me, I’ve discovered lots of new films, books, albums, painters…. I’m on cloud nine!

I’ve written a new reading list because I’ve read everything from the previous one, and I’ve already read four books: Three Sisters by Chekhov, The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac, Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel. The last three books were really captivating. ‘Rules of Attraction’ was really interesting to read, it is not a romantic novel as the title suggests, but rather a critic of consumerism, materialism, shallowness and promiscuity. The characters are very self-obsessed, shallow, careless, promiscuous and bored with life. If that’s what student life looks like, I’d rather skip uni.

Films I’ve watched are The Double, Naked (1993), Godard’s Made in USA, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Rope (1948), Dragonwyck (1946) starring Vincent Price and Gene Tierney, Tonight or Never (1960), And God Created Woman (1956) with Brigitte Bardot, and finally Suddenly Last Summer (1959) with Elizabeth Taylor. I was really impressed with And God Created Woman. Naked is also a really good film; bleak, depressive and sadistic at parts, but striking nevertheless.

I’ve listened to four ‘new’ albums: Journal for Plague Lovers – Manic Street Preachers (2009), Muddy Waters – After the Rain (1969), Marianne Faithfull – Strange Weather (1987), Nico – Camera Obscura (1985). Don’t you just love it when characters in books make references to other cultural things. I adore that! In the book ‘The Rules of Attraction’ you can know precisely what the characters are listening to almost every moment, and the playlist includes cool stuff such as The Smiths, REM, Echo and the Bunnymen, Talking Heads…

Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?‘ – Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

vivien leigh as blanche 11916. Modigliani 'Female Nude' 1950s brigitte bardot 1Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Merlin Morgana Dress 1 Yorkshire Dales made in USA 4 made in USA 3

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utagawa-toyokuni-i-1769-1825-woman-bathing-under-flowers-uki 1957. Brigitte Bardot by Jack Garofalo 1937. Woman In A Purple Coat or The Purple Coat by Henri Matisse,  It depicts Matisse's assistant Lydia Delectorskaya Mark Rothko 1 1943-44. Henri Matisse, The Horse, the Rider and the Clown 1957. And God Created Woman 4 1957. And God Created Woman 8 1957. And God Created Woman 11richey interview green on bed 1901. The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva richey 204

heather moors yorkshire 1 utagawa-toyokuni-i-1769-1825-komachi-at-sekidera-ca-1810-fro 1948. Rope prozac nation 1910. Girl with black hair - Egon Schiele 1959. Elizabeth Taylor in 'Suddenly Last Summer'Burne_Jones_Dornroeschen_Pr

My Inspirations for October

31 Oct

My biggest inspiration for October was 1970s Berlin; David Bowie, Christiane F. and all that decadency and avant- garde. Cold weather somehow always reminds me of Berlin and more deeper, depressive subjects. At the same time, I’ve been really obsessed with Mirbeau’s novel Torture Garden. Not to mention Yukio Mishima’s ‘Thirst for love‘ which I’ve read this month too. My other inspirations were Anna Karina, especially movies ‘Une femme est une femme‘ and ‘Pierrot le feu‘, both by Godard, Poe with his themes of love and death, movie The Crow (1994), Pre-Raphaelite ladies and Fuselli’s painting ‘The Nightmare‘.

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christiane f. bahnhof zoo

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1781. The Nightmare - Henry Fuseli

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1870s victorian women, pre-raphaelite style

My Inspirations for June

30 Jun

Things that have inspired me this month were paintings by Boris Kustodiev, Echo and the Bunnymen, 1960s psychedelic fashion, Brigitte Bardot, Kate Moss and the amazing movie Une Femme est Une Femme; not to mention that I’ve been quite inspired by Anna Karina’s lovely outfits. I’ve also watched the movie The Libertine and I quite liked it.

I’m having my Swinging London summer of love this summer, I’m listening to Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Yardbirds, llittle bit of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles’ album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Jimi Hendrix Experience all the time while gazing longingly at the beautiful dresses worn by Pattie Boyd, Marianne Faithfull and Twiggy. I’ve relished in movies such as A Hard Day’s Night and Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London. If you love the ’60s you must see them! For me, right now it’s 1967. and I’m enjoying.

1918. Merchants Wife - Boris Kustodiev

1910s By the green lamp - nikolai bogdanov belsky

1882. Nude with a Japanese Umbrella - Aimé Morot

1968. Christian Dior, Couture in Vogue UK, March, by David Bailey

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1968. Vogue, March, Sue Murray, Photo David Bailey

1960s tweed suits

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1960s The women of the Beatles, Patty Harrison, Cynthia Lennon, Maureen Starr, with Jenny Boyd

1964. Pattie Boyd with The Rolling Stones

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