Truman Capote Through the Looking-Glass

Truman Capote at his Black and White Ball in 1966

 
 

“…My eyes distractedly consult it – are drawn to it against my will, as they sometimes are by the senseless flickerings of an unregulated television set. It has that kind of frivolous power. Therefore, I shall overly describe it – in the manner of those “avant garde” French novelists who, having chosen to discard narrative, character, and structure, restrict themselves to page-length paragraphs detailing the contours of a single object, the mechanics of an isolated movement: a wall, a white wall with a fly meandering across it. So: the object in Madame’s drawing room is a black mirror. It is seven inches tall and six inches wide. It is framed within a worn black leather case that is shaped like a book. Indeed, the case is lying open on a table, just as though it were a deluxe edition meant to be picked up and browsed through; but there is nothing there to be read or seen – except the mystery of one’s own image projected by the black mirror’s surface before it recedes into its endless depths, its corridors of darkness.

 
 

Self-Portrait by Paul Gauguin, 1885

 
 

Young Woman at the Window (Jeune femme devantune fenêtre), Paul Gauguin, 1888

 
 

Clovis, Paul Gauguin, 1886

 
 

“It belonged,” she is explaining, “to Gauguin. You know, of course, that he lived and painted here before he settled among the Polynesians. That was his black mirror. They were a quite common artefact among artists of the last century. Van Gogh used one. As did Renoir.”

“I don’t quite understand. What did they use them for?” “To refresh their vision. Renew their reaction to colour, the tonal variations. After a spell of work, their eyes fatigued, they rested themselves by gazing into these dark mirrors. Just as gourmets at a banquet, between elaborate courses, reawaken their palates with a sorbet de citron.” She lifts the small volume containing the mirror off the table and passes it to me. “I often use it when my eyes have been stricken by too much sun. It’s soothing.”

Soothing, and also disquieting. The blackness, the longer one gazes into it, ceases to be black, but becomes a queer silver-blue, the threshold to secret visions; like Alice, I feel on the edge of a voyage through a looking-glass, one I’m hesitant to take…”

 
 

Excerpt from Music for Chameleons
Truman Capote

Artist’s Room

Bedroom in Arles (La Chambre à Arles) is the title given to each of three similar paintings by 19th-century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh’s own title for this composition was simply The Bedroom (La Chambre à coucher). There are three authentic versions described in his letters, easily discernible from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

The painting depicts Van Gogh’s bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as his Yellow House. The door to the right was opening to the upper floor and the staircase; the door to the left served the guest room he held prepared for Gauguin. The window in the front wall was looking to Place Lamartine and its public gardens. This room was not rectangular but trapezoid with an obtuse angle in the left hand corner of the front wall and an acute angle at the right. Van Gogh evidently did not spend much time on this problem, he simply indicated that there was a corner, somehow.

 

Sketch from a letter to Theo

 

Van Gogh started the first version during mid October 1888 while staying in Arles, and explained his aims and means to his brother Theo:

This time it simply reproduces my bedroom; but colour must be abundant in this part, its simplification adding a rank of grandee to the style applied to the objects, getting to suggest a certain rest or dream. Well, I have thought that on watching the composition we stop thinking and imagining. I have painted the walls pale violet. The ground with checked material. The wooden bed and the chairs, yellow like fresh butter; the sheet and the pillows, lemon light green. The bedspread, scarlet coloured. The window, green. The washbasin, orangey; the tank, blue. The doors, lilac. And, that is all. There is not anything else in this room with closed shutters. The square pieces of furniture must express unswerving rest; also the portraits on the wall, the mirror, the bottle, and some costumes. The white colour has not been applied to the picture, so its frame will be white, aimed to get me even with the compulsory rest recommended for me. I have depicted no type of shade or shadow; I have only applied simple plain colours, like those in crêpes.

 

Sketch from a letter to Gauguin

 

Van Gogh included sketches of the composition in this letter as well as in a letter to Gauguin, written slightly later. In the letter, Van Gogh explained that the painting had come out of a sickness that left him bedridden for days. This version has on the wall to the right miniatures of Van Gogh’s portraits of his friends Eugène Boch and Paul-Eugène Milliet. The portrait of Eugène Boch is called The Poet and the portrait of Paul Eugène Milliet is called The Lover.

In April 1889, Van Gogh sent the initial version to his brother regretting that it was damaged by the flood of the Rhône while he was interned at the Old Hospital in Arles. Theo proposed to have it relined and sent back to him in order to copy it. This “repetition” in original scale (Van Gogh’s term was “répetition”) was executed in September 1889. Both paintings were then sent back to Theo.

 

First version, October 1888

 

Second version, September 1889.

 

Third version, end September 1889

 

Schiele’s Room in Neulengbach (Das Zimmer des Künstlers in Neulengbach), Egon Schiele, 1911

 

In his early years, Egon Schiele was strongly influenced by Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. Although imitations of their styles, particularly with the former, are noticeably visible in Schiele’s first works, he soon evolved into his own distinctive style. He also painted tributes to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers as well as landscapes and still lifes.

Tribute to Van Gogh on the Catwalk

Yves Saint Laurent, Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1988

 
 

Detail of a jacket embroidered by François Lesage

 
 

Saint Laurent and Mr. Lesage recreated the irises and sunflowers of  Van Gogh’s paintings

 
 

Widely known for his use of watercolor, Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous artwork has been transformed into garments and adapted into fashion trends. Van Gogh’s paintings are not always clear and may even appear distorted in order to drag the 19th century art into current times. Although his work may not be directly printed on garments, designers tend to use his color palette in product design and production. Four of his famous creations included the Sunflowers still life series,Blossoming Almond Tree, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and Starry Night.

the sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy from Rodarte, sent out a collection that was one part Sleeping Beauty and another part Vincent Van Gogh. They explained that they fell for the greens and purples of the 1959 animated Disney classic, and asked themselves who else uses colors like that. They found their answer in the Dutch postimpressionist painter beloved by millions.

Those sunflowers appear woven into elaborate Lyons brocades of the type favored by the great mid-century couturiers such as Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior, although the Mulleavys seem to have washed and treated them to deflate some of that sumptuousness. Those optimistic, life-affirming blooms also appear in delicate silk-floss embroideries, scattered over fragile tulle ruffles.

There is more mid- and late-century couture influence in some of the gala shapes: swathed fichu necklines and bodices erupting into buoyant skirts, for instance, and even a Reine Margot bodice or two that seems plucked from the Christian Lacroix archive. But the fertile and poetic Mulleavy imagination grafts these touches onto modernistic effects. Mediterranean skies are lit by a full moon, and a brilliant Milky Way is evoked in gleaming metallic brocades, crystals nestling in the folds of knits, and clunky heeled sandals in reflective-mirror silver. Meanwhile, ruched glove leather, and exaggerated layered peplums and winged sleeves suggest the princess in an Alex Raymond‘s Flash Gordon story.

 
 

Rodarte, Spring-Summer 2012 Ready-to-Wear Collection

 
 

Textures from Rodarte SS 2012 collection