The Shoe Affair

“He made the shoes larger than life and gave them a personality,” said Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. “He makes them into portraits without a face and turns them into objects of desire. He understood how images drive the world.”
Donna De Salvo
(about Andy Warhol’s obsession for shoes)

Heels, flats, boots. Whatever. And like his later obsessions with soup cans, Brillo boxes and Marilyn Monroe, his footwear fetish became the stuff of art.

During the 1950s, Warhol gained fame for his whimsical ink drawings of shoe advertisements. These were done in a loose, blotted-ink style, and figured in some of his earliest showings at the Bodley Gallery in New York. With the concurrent rapid expansion of the record industry and the introduction of the vinyl record, Hi-Fi, and stereophonic recordings, RCA Records hired Warhol, along with another freelance artist, Sid Maurer, to design album covers and promotional materials.

Warhol was an early adopter of the silk screen printmaking process as a technique for making paintings. His earliest silk screening in painting involved hand-drawn images though this soon progressed to the use of photographically derived silk screening in paintings. Prior to entering the field of fine art, Warhol’s commercial art background also involved innovative techniques for image making that were somewhat related to printmaking techniques. When rendering commercial objects for advertising Warhol devised a technique that resulted in a characteristic image. His imagery used in advertising was often executed by means of applying ink to paper and then blotting the ink while still wet. This was akin to a printmaking process on the most rudimentary scale.

 

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04 1958 _ Andy Warhol, I_ Miller advertisement, The New York Times, 24 August s

 

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By the beginning of the 1960s, Warhol had become a very successful commercial illustrator. His detailed and elegant drawings for I. Miller shoes were particularly popular. They consisted mainly of “blotted ink” drawings (or monoprints), a technique which he applied in much of his early art. Although many artists of this period worked in commercial art, most did so discreetly. Warhol was so successful, however, that his profile as an illustrator seemed to undermine his efforts to be taken seriously as an artist.

Since he considered him a great inspiration for his works, David Bowie introduced a B-side on his album Honky Dory (1971) called Andy Warhol.

In his 2003 interview with Performing Songwriter magazine, Bowie explained that he had not met Warhol when he wrote this song and he got an interesting reaction when he played it for him. Said Bowie: “I took the song to The Factory when I first came to America and played it to him, and he hated it. Loathed it. He went [imitates Warhol’s blasé manner] ‘Oh, uh-huh, okay…’ then just walked away (laughs). I was left there. Somebody came over and said, ‘Gee, Andy hated it.’ I said, ‘Sorry, it was meant to be a compliment.’ ‘Yeah, but you said things about him looking weird. Don’t you know that Andy has such a thing about how he looks? He’s got a skin disease and he really thinks that people kind of see that.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ It didn’t go down very well, but I got to know him after that. It was my shoes that got him. That’s where we found something to talk about. They were these little yellow things with a strap across them, like girls’ shoes. He absolutely adored them. Then I found out that he used to do a lot of shoe designing when he was younger. He had a bit of a shoe fetishism. That kind of broke the ice. He was an odd guy.

A renegade who created alter egos to complement his music, Bowie never stopped experimenting with avant-garde clothes and footwear. Where others were measured or manufactured, he was a fearless original who shot from his slim androgynous hip, using a special shoe or statement ensemble as an extension of his indelible art. His early ’70s incarnation, Ziggy Stardust, had a love of star-spangled and glittery boots. Bowie had said he took cues from sci-fi novels and Japanese theater. Everyone from Tommy Hilfiger to Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier has shown their version of Ziggy. On the red carpet and off, Cara Delevingne and Chiara Ferragni have worn looks in this vein.

In 1976, Bowie unveiled The Thin White Duke, which inspired a whole generation to embrace a more sleekly suited and booted sensibility with a futuristic twist. Runways from Celine to Chanel and Balmain have shown collections that riffed on this theme. And Carine Roitfeld often dresses in a style not unlike this. The footwear was often all-white, block-heeled or platformed. Laurence Dacade did a pair of boots in an apparent homage for spring ’16.

 

Andy Warhol, Diamond Dust Shoes

From the series: Diamond Dust Shoes (1981)

 

 

Warhol ought to have solarized Bowie using one of his patent silk screening techniques, but Bowie was already a solarized image, a diffraction of light infusing every pore of artistic life of his time. Bowie was a shoe aficionado and when he met Warhol they found a common ground. A ground made of stardust on which to walk and leave the foot-marks of their art.

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Minotauromachy

#PrayForParis

 

Minotauromachy, Pablo Picasso, 1935

 
This stunning etching is a portentous milestone in Pablo Picasso’s career as the themes of bullfighting and the mythological Minotaur are symbolically examined in metaphysical and political terms. Minotauromachy is always critically recognized as a major forerunner to Guernica (1937).

Like other works of this period, the Minotaur is transformed to bestial man with a predatory, Bacchanalian devouring of nubile girls. Whether symbolic of Picasso’s own sexual potency, masculine ascendancy, or of evil overpowering innocence, this aggressive motif assumes varying roles and creates a web of sub-texts; making it unsurprising that many psychoanalysts have agitated over its implications.

Here, purity and innocence calmly win over aggression and adversity. The small, neatly dressed girl, in the bullring, holds up a symbolic protective candle, the image of the spiritual light of life from religious paintings, its light reaching out expressively in a halo. Around her are death, chaos and destruction. The Minotaur, with its muscular male torso and horrific, super-enlarged animal head, is an echo of Bullfight: The Death of the Toreador (1933). Here the disemboweled horse is bearing a dying female matador. As a frightened man escapes up the ladder, the girl remains serenely fearless and smiling. The reductionist use of black and white, light and shadow, wonderfully enhances aesthetic and philosophical concepts of simplicity, purity and truth.

 

Links with the previous post:

* https://thegenealogyofstyle.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/within-you-in-the-labyrinth/

*Plus, on 2003 David Bowie included a version of Pablo Picasso (written by John Richman for the proto punk group The Modern Lovers) on his album Reality.

The Duke Who Fell to Earth

Station to Station (1976)

 

Station to Station is the tenth studio album by English musician David Bowie. Commonly regarded as one of his most significant works, Station to Station was the vehicle for his last great “character”, the Thin White Duke. The album was recorded after he completed shooting Nicolas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the cover artwork featured a still from the movie.

It was on the set of his first major film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, that Bowie began writing a pseudo-autobiography called The Return of the Thin White Duke. He was also composing music on the understanding that he was to provide the picture’s soundtrack, though this would not come to fruition. (At Bowie’s recommendation, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas would write and produce all the original music for the film instead.) Director Nicolas Roeg warned the star that the part of Thomas Jerome Newton would likely remain with him for some time after production completed. With Roeg’s agreement, Bowie developed his own look for the film, and this carried through to his public image and onto two album covers over the next twelve months, as did Newton’s air of fragility and aloofness.

The Thin White Duke became the mouthpiece for Station to Station and, as often as not during the next six months, for Bowie himself. Impeccably dressed in white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat, the Duke was a hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonised intensity, yet felt nothing—”ice masquerading as fire”. The persona has been described as “a mad aristocrat”, “an amoral zombie”, and “an emotionless Aryan superman”. For Bowie himself, the Duke was “a nasty character indeed”.

 

Low (1976)

 

Low is the eleventh studio album by British musician David Bowie, co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti. Widely regarded as one of Bowie’s most influential releases, Low was the first of the “Berlin Trilogy”, a series of collaborations with Brian Eno (though the album was mainly recorded in France and only mixed in West Berlin). The experimental, avant-garde style would be further explored on Heroes and Lodger. The album’s working title was New Music Night and Day.

The genesis of Low lies in both the foundations laid by Bowie’s previous album Station to Station, and music he intended for the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth. When Bowie presented his material for the film to Nicolas Roeg, the director decided that it would not be suitable. Roeg preferred a more folksy sound, although John Phillips described Bowie’s contributions as “haunting and beautiful”. Elements from these pieces were incorporated into Low instead. The album’s cover, like Station to Station, is a still from the movie: the photographic image, under the album’s title, formed a deliberate pun on the phrase “low profile”.

Although the music was influenced by German bands such as Kraftwerk and Neu!, Low has been acclaimed for its originality and is considered ahead of its time, not least for its cavernous treated drum sound created by producer Visconti using an Eventide Harmonizer.

An Interest in Music and Art

 

George Underwood (born Richard George Underwood, 28 January 1947, Bromley, Kent) is an artist and musician. He is best known for designing album covers for numerous bands in the 1970s.

George Underwood attended Bromley Technical School where he developed an interest in music alongside classmates David Bowie and Peter Frampton. Underwood and Bowie’s band, George and the Dragons was short-lived due to Underwood punching Bowie in the left eye while wearing a ring on his finger, during a fight over a girl, causing paralysis in Bowie’s left pupil and his distinctive mismatched appearance. But the injury did not affect their friendship in the end, and Underwood went on to record one album with Bowie (in their band The King Bees) and also a solo record under the name Calvin James.

After deciding that the music business was not for him, Underwood returned to art studies and worked in design studios as an illustrator. Initially, he specialized in fantasy, horror and science fiction book covers, but as many of his colleagues were in the music business, they began asking him to do various art works for them. This led to him becoming a freelance artist. Underwood established himself as a leading art illustrator doing album covers for such artists as Tyrannosaurus Rex (Futuristic Dragon), The Fixx (Phantoms, Reach the Beach and Calm Animals), Procol Harum (Shine On Brightly), Mott the Hoople (All the Young Dudes) and David Bowie (Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars). Over this period, he produced hundreds of book covers, LP and CD covers, advertisements, portraits and drawings.

He appears in the 2012 documentary David Bowie & the Story of Ziggy Stardust (BBC Cymru Wales).

To watch an album about George Underwood’s artwork, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/The-Genealogy-of-Style-597542157001228/?ref=tn_tnmn

As If in The Act of Blessing

«…Dürer portrayed himself as the Christus. Robert often fantasized and photographed himself as the Christus.»

Jack Fritscher
Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera

 

Portrait of Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1986

 

Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar, Albrecht Dürer, 1500  

 

Painted early in 1500, just before his 29th birthday, it is the last of his three painted self-portraits. It is considered the most personal, iconic and complex of his self-portraits, and the one that has become fixed in the popular imagination. The self-portrait is most remarkable because of its resemblance to many earlier representations of Christ. Art historians note the similarities with the conventions of religious painting, including its symmetry, dark tones and the manner in which the artist directly confronts the viewer and raises his hands to the middle of his chest as if in the act of blessing.

 

Blessing Christ, Hans Memling, circa 1433–1494  

 

Dürer chooses to present himself monumentally, in a style that unmistakably recalls depictions of Christ—the implications of which have been debated among art critics. A conservative interpretation suggests that he is responding to the tradition of the Imitation of Christ. A more controversial view reads the painting is a proclamation of the artist’s supreme role as creator. This latter view is supported by the painting’s Latin inscription, composed by Celtes’ personal secretary, which translates as; “I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in appropriate [or everlasting] colours aged twenty-eight years”.

Kafka’s American Novel

Cover designed by Alvin Lustig in 1946

 

Amerika is the incomplete first novel of author Franz Kafka (1883–1924), written between 1911 and 1914 and published posthumously in 1927. The novel originally began as a short story titled The Stoker. The novel incorporates many details of the experiences of his relatives who had emigrated to the United States. In the story, the Statue of Liberty is holding a sword, and some scholars have interpreted this as a “might makes right” philosophy Kafka may have believed the United States holds.

In conversations Kafka used to refer to this book as his “American novel,” later he called it simply The Stoker, after the title of the first chapter, which appeared separately in 1913. Kafka’s working title was Der Verschollene (The Man Who Disappeared or The Missing Person) . The title Amerika was chosen by Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, who assembled the uncompleted manuscript and published it after his death. Brod donated the manuscript to the University of Oxford.

Kafka was fond of reading travel books and memoirs. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was one of his favorite books, from which he liked reading passages aloud. Although he always had a longing for free space and distant lands, it is said that he never travelled farther than France and Upper Italy. Despite this, a rare photo shows Kafka with an unknown man at Marielyst beach, in Denmark.

Kafka, at the time, was also reading, or rereading, several novels by Charles Dickens and made the following remarks in his diary: “My intention was, as I now see, to write a Dickens novel, enriched by the sharper lights which I took from our modern times, and by the pallid ones I would have found in my own interior.”

Shots in the Dark

By Patty Smith
from Details, November 1992

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985

 

“When Robert and I were young, scarcely twenty, we’d sometimes go to Coney Island, have a Nathan’s hot dog, sit on the long pier, and dream about the future. Robert wanted to be a rich and famous artist. (He did it.) I wanted to do something great. (I’m still working on it.) We’d cast our wishes like the shoeless kids and old men who cast out their fishing lines. We’d sit there until dawn, then head back into Brooklyn. We were never afraid. New York was tough but kind. We were always all right. Maybe just a little hungry.

It was the summer of 1967. I had left the security of family, cornfields, and billowing New Jersey skies to seek my fortune in New York. I met Robert, a smiling, barefoot kid as misfit as myself. That fall, we got a place on Hall Street in Brooklyn, across from Pratt Institute, where he was a student. The streets were run by painters and poets. Everybody had a vision. Everybody was broke. Nobody had a TV.

Ours was a bleak little apartment that he brightened with Indian cloths, religious objects, and his own work. I tacked pictures of Rimbaud over my writing desk, played my Juliet Gréco records, and read Illuminations. Robert had a Timothy Leary book–one of the few books he actually read. (He often fell asleep in foreign movies. It was the subtitles, he said.) He was always working on a drawing, an installation, or a new piece of sculpture. He’d work twelve hours straight, listening to the same Vanilla Fudge album over and over. His work was asymmetric, psychedelic, and he was always scavenging for materials. I had to hide my best stuff, for many a wolf skin, brocade, or crucifix was sacrificed on the altar of art.

At twenty, we were still learning about ourselves, trying to make sense of what was going down. Assassinations, Vietnam, universal love, where our next meal was coming from. New York was going though its own changes–the Beat residue of the early ’60s was giving way to the divine disorder of 1968. All this was new to me–beaded curtains and LSD were not big sellers in South Jersey.

Robert and I rarely fought. We did bicker, though, like siblings, over everything. Trivial things. Who would do the laundry. Who would get the last sheet of drawing paper. Who was the better dancer. (He refused to acknowledge the superiority of my South Jersey over his own Long Island style.) What to eat. All he ever wanted was spaghetti and chocolate egg creams.

Our main preoccupations were art and magic. Magic was an intuitive thing you either had or you didn’t, and Robert was sure he had it. It was a gift from God, and he pinned his faith upon it. I always admired his confidence. It wasn’t arrogance, it was just there, unshakable. And he was generous with it–if he believed in what you were doing, he somehow infected you with it. His major source of anxiety was money, because executing his ideas required it and he loathed employment.

We were not the hippest people. That was not the thing. The thing was to develop a vision that would be worthy of remembrance, or even a bit of glory.

Sometimes we’d pass the night by sitting on the floor, looking at books. Some my mother gave me: The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera, Brancusi, The Sacred Art of Tibet. And his own big coffee-table books on erotic art, Tantric art, and Surrealism. I’d plait my hair like Frida Kahlo, he’d stretch out in an old black turtleneck and dungarees, and we’d find refuge in the pages and emerge inspired, full of resolve.

Robert loved the large-format book. He wasn’t much of a reader, but he’d study the plates–the work of Michelangelo, Blake, Duchamp–and extend what he saw in works of his own. He dreamed of having such a book someday, devoted to his own particular vision that was, in the late ’60s, still forming.

This was on my mind recently when I opened the package containing the unbound sheets of his forthcoming book, Mapplethorpe. A large, exquisite book, admittedly not for every coffee table, but coffee-table size, just as he wanted. It forms a visual diary of his life, opening not with his name, nor a text, but with an image of a proud, frayed American flag. The stars block, and are therefore illuminated by, the sun. Toward the end of the book is one of his last self-portraits, in which he is aged considerably from physical suffering, stubborn, stoic, and a bit frayed, like the proud and weathered flag.

Robert took his first pictures in 1970. We had parted as a couple, but we stayed together as friends. We tackled Manhattan: The Chelsea Hotel. Max’s Kansas City. The Factory. The ’70s. Robert loved Manhattan, its perpetual twilight. He felt alive there, free. He loved socializing-even though he was shy–and he loved Andy Warhol, who was also shy and loved to socialize.

Like many exploring their sexual identity at that time, he cased the emerging frontier. Christopher Street. Forty-second Street. The leather, bars. The baths. He shifted identities, not out of crisis, but out of delight. One month, the sailor; the next, the hustler. “How do you like this new image!” he’d ask, pleased with himself in a black net T-shirt, tight pants, and a piece of red silk tied around his throat. In that same black net tee he hung out on Fifty- third Street, where he observed the hustlers, photographed the hustlers, and perhaps hustled himself. He wore the T-shirt executing art. And when he finally took it off, he stretched and mounted it on a frame and exposed it as art itself.

He was using at this time an old Polaroid. A pack of film was costly and might take the place of a meal, so each shot was important. Robert never took snapshots. He always knew beforehand the image he was after. He followed me around with that Polaroid constantly, issuing simple commands. “Can you stand in that shaft of light?” “Slowly face the wall.” Each shot taken with a studied economy, an economy he employed throughout his working life. Even later, as his work developed, he never used a motor drive, never shot roll after roll. His process was not a passionate one. His work was the result of a contemplative, deliberate act. He never drew lines; he crossed them, without apology, to create something present, new. A contact sheet would reveal just twelve images. They were all alike, except for the one he had marked, the perfect one. “The one with the magic,” he’d say.

I admit I hoped his photography was a passing phase. Somehow, being shot with a cheap Polaroid didn’t correspond to my notion of the role of the French artist’s model. But he took it seriously. He liked the speed, the immediacy. He was convinced that the common Polaroid print, in his hands, was a viable work of art.

He drew his subjects from life’s walk, and his work reflected change–both personal and social. Many of his models were biker boys, call boys, men of the street. His form was classic, stylized–“I’m not after beauty,” he would say, “I’m after perfection, and they’re not always the same.”

In the early ’70s he began to use the large-format camera, and he committed himself to photography, championing its elevation and exploration. Portraits, still lifes, early flowers, the S&M suite. At first I found the S&M photographs, which were difficult by most standards, frightening. I once asked him what it was like being there, observing, immortalizing the private rituals of these people. He said it was “somewhat scary. But they know what they’re doing. And so do I. It’s all about trust.” He used these photographs, which caused such a stir years later, to tease me relentlessly. He knew I was squeamish about them, and he’d slip prints into my books. So on a rainy Sunday, I’d open a beautiful copy of Peter Pan or Arabia Deserta and be assaulted by an image of a bloodied member in a vice grip. “Robert!” I’d yell. And I could hear him, through the wall that separated our studios, giggling.

I think the furor his work caused after his death would have amused him. But the attention paid to just the sexual aspect would have surely dismayed him. He was not intentionally political. He was not an activist. He shot what he saw–just as Genet wrote what he experienced–with grace. All his work–from the translucent skin of a lily to the arched torso of a black male–represented him, his vision of the world. Just as Pollock hated being called an Abstract Expressionist and Manet deplored the title Impressionist, Robert never wanted to be pegged. Not even as a photographer. The true artist desires, and deserves, to be remembered only as an Artist.

Shortly before he died, I sat with Robert in his studio. He still worked, despite terrible bouts of coughing, vomiting, and excruciating pain. With the aid of his youngest brother, the photographer Edward Maxey, he was able to produce some final, perfect images. We sat amongst large, exquisite prints. A cluster of deeply ripe grapes. A single rose. And a marble portrait of Hermes. The skin of the white statue burned and seemed to emit its own light against a field of black. It was as if, through Robert’s eye, it had glimpsed life.

“I think I’ve done everything I can with the photograph,” he said. “I think I’ll go back to sculpture.”

He had on that day the anxious, fervent gaze he often wore when he worked. I remember that same look as he photographed me in Burbank, California, in full sun before a drying palm. It was 1987, I was six months pregnant and feeling the strain. Robert was not well. His hand trembled and, as he worked, he dropped and broke his light meter. But we took the picture anyway, barely saying a word. He checked the image and drew the camera closer. “Can you raise your head just a little!” It was much like the first pictures. High concentration. Simple and direct. Within that modest photograph is all our experience, compassion,, and even a mutual sense of irony. He was carrying death. I was carrying life. My hair is braided and the sun is in my eyes. And so is an image of Robert, alive.”

Homage to Manet

A Studio at Batignolles (also called Homage to Manet), 1870

 

Les Batignolles was the district where Édouard Manet and many of the future Impressionists lived. Henri Fantin-Latour, a quiet observer of this period, has gathered around Manet, presented as the leader of the school, a number of young artists with innovative ideas: from left to right, we can recognise Otto Schölderer, a German painter who had come to France to get to know Gustave Courbet‘s followers, a sharp-faced Manet, sitting at his easel; Auguste Renoir, wearing a hat; Zacharie Astruc, a sculptor and journalist; Émile Zola, the spokesman of the new style of painting; Edmond Maître, a civil servant at the Town Hall; Frédéric Bazille, who was killed a few months later during the 1870 war, at the age of twenty-six; and lastly, Claude Monet.

Their attitudes are sober, their suits dark and their faces almost grave: Fantin-Latour wanted these young artists, who were greatly decried at the time, to be seen as serious, respectable figures. Only two accessories remind the spectator of the aesthetic choices of the new school: the statuette of Minerva bears witness to the respect due to the antique tradition; the Japanese style stoneware jar evokes the admiration of this entire generation of artists for Japanese art.

In this group portrait exhibited at the Salon of 1870, each man seems to be posing for posterity. The painting confirms the links between Fantin-Latour and the avant-garde of the time and Manet in particular. It echoes Zola’s opinion of Manet: “Around the painter so disparaged by the public has grown up a common front of painters and writers who claim him as a master”. In his diary, Edmond de Goncourt sneered at Manet, calling him “the man who bestows glory on bar room geniuses”.

Homage to Delacroix

Study for Homage to Delacroix

 

When Eugène Delacroix died on August 13, 1863, the modesty of his funeral was seen as an insult by all those who considered him to be one of France’s greatest artists. Henri Fantin-Latour, especially, was outraged that no official tribute had been made. As it was common in the 19th century to celebrate prominent figures, he wanted to raise this monument himself with a manifesto painting that reunited the tenants of the modern movement, which he exhibited at the Salon of 1864. This sketch bears witness to the first project, in which six artists are gathered around the bust of Delacroix, crowned by one of them.

 

The Apotheosis of Homer

 

While it is clear that Fantin made deliberate reference to the coronations of the great men of theater on stage, the most striking source of inspiration for this artwork remains the 1827 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Apotheosis of Homer. The artist made use of the same pyramid composition, with the bust of Delacroix placed in the center. Fantin, who depicts himself in the lower right of the composition with his palette and painter’s smock, draws the viewer’s eye to the object of veneration. By making reference to the painting by Ingres, he thus renders the significance of his work more easily understood: Delacroix, like Homer, embodies the genius that will be passed on to the next generations. The identities of the other figures in the sketch are more difficult to ascertain. They can nonetheless be deduced from the first list on a preparatory drawing with the names Legros, Whistler, Manet, Bracquemond, Duranty, Cordier, Myrionnet, and Régamey.

After producing a number of sketches for this painting, Fantin eventually decided on a final version that is housed at the Musée d’Orsay and far removed from this drawing. The final composition removes Myrionnet and Régamey, replacing them with Baudelaire, Champfleury, and Balleroy. The contemporaries are now positioned around a painted portrait of Delacroix, and no longer a bust.

 

Homage to Delacroix

Seated: Louis Edmond Duranty, Fantin-Latour himself, Champfleury et Charles Baudelaire.

Standing: Louis Cordier, Alphonse Legros, James Whistler, Édouard Manet, Félix Bracquemond et Albert de Balleroy.

Portrait of An Artist as A Flâneur

Édouard Manet, Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour, 1867

 

Édouard Manet photographed by Félix Nadar, circa 1867-70

 

Édouard Manet was at the peak of his notoriety when the young Henri Fantin-Latour exhibited this portrait at the Salon of 1867. Manet himself chose not to submit any work that year, having had his submission rejected by the 1866 Salon jury. In this commanding image of the great French artist, Fantin portrayed Manet not as a painter, but as a flâneur, a sophisticated man-about-town whose eyes are open to every nuance of modern life. The background of the painting is almost completely blank, both in homage to works by Manet and in emulation of photographic portraits of the period.

In 1867, having been regularly rejected by the official Salon, Édouard Manet decided to present a private exhibition of 56 of his works in an independent pavilion close to the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Henri Fantin-Latour’s decision to submit this portrait of his friend—signed “To my friend Manet”—to the Salon that year may have been calculated to play off Manet’s increasing notoriety. A critic admitted that it was hard to reconcile the elegant figure in the portrait with the long-haired bohemian he had imagined Manet to be.

The Perfect Moment

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980

 

James Franco photographed by Mariano Vivanco, 2012

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1983

 

James Franco, also by Mariano Vivanco, 2012

 

In 2012 it was announced that funding had been received by The Tribeca Film Institute for Ondi Timoner‘s Robert Mapplethorpe biopic. At that same time, it was also confirmed that James Franco would star as Robert Mapplethorpe.

While we hadn’t heard much on the film since then, some photos were released that showcase Franco channeling the famous photographer. Also, it’s been revealed that the film is under the working title The Perfect Moment, the same title as Mapplethorpe’s 1989 traveling exhibition.

 

The photos were done by GQ Germany and they feature Franco pulling some of Mapplethorpe’s iconic poses. The film was expected to get underway later 2012

The War of Vaslav Nijinsky

Portrait of Vaslav Nijinsky, by Jacques-Émile Blanche, 1910

 

“…Then, I said to myself:

“HISTORY IS HUMAN NATURE—;

TO SAY I AM GUILTY

IS TO ACCEPT IMPLICATION

IN THE HUMAN RACE. . .”

—Now, for months and months,
I have found

ANOTHER MAN in me—;

HE is NOT me—; I

am afraid of him …”

Frank Bidart

 

The Sacrifice, released in 1983, received widespread praise. Central to the volume is a thirty-page work titled The War of Vaslav Nijinsky, As with most of his poetry, The War of Vaslav Nijinsky went through a series of revisions as Bidart experimented with language and punctuation. “The Nijinsky poem was a nightmare,” he remarked in his interview. “There is a passage early in it that I got stuck on, and didn’t solve for two years.” David Lehman praised Bidart’s technique of alternating portions of the dancer’s monologue with prose sections on Nijinsky’s life. According to Lehman, “the result combines a documentary effect with an intensity rare in contemporary poetry.”

Bidart’s poem consists almost entirely of a first-person confession by Nijinsky; it takes place after the break with Diaghilev, during the height of war in Europe. We are privy to the dancer’s ideas and musings about, among other things, the second section of The Rite of Spring, called The Sacrifice. Nijinsky’s inner rantings are clearly schizophrenic. He imagines himself the sacrificial victim of the corrupt world that is putting itself through the bloodbath of World War I. The dance is an act of expiation. (The fact that The Rite of Spring was originally the conception of a perfectly sane Stravinsky is glossed over by Bidart.) The Rite of Spring, then, will be an ode to the planet’s renewal after the war, which Nijinsky sees himself as having been chosen by God to enact. But Nijinsky’s (and Stravinsky’s) version will not be the traditional spring ode of birds, trees, and light. It will be the tumultuous, violent, modernist ode to spring, full of blood and death and suffering, for spring involves the death of the old as much as the birth of the new.

 

 

Frank Bidart (born on May 27, 1939) is a native of California and considered a career in acting or directing when he was young.In 1957, he began to study at the University of California at Riverside, where he was introduced to writers such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and started to look at poetry as a career path. He then went on to Harvard, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. He began studying with Lowell and Reuben Brower in 1962. He has been teaching English at Wellesley College since 1972, and has taught at nearby Brandeis University.

He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he is openly gay. currently maintains a strong working relationship with actor and fellow poet James Franco, with whom he collaborated during the making of Franco’s short film Herbert White (2010), based on Bidart’s poem of the same name.

What Nijinsky Wrote About Diaghilev

Vaslav Nijinsky and Sergei Diaghilev in Nice, 1911

 

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939

(Excerpt)

“…The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have, Not universal love
But to be loved alone.”

Wystan Hugh Auden

 

The poem was written in 1939, just as German troops invaded Poland and began the Second World War. It was published in The New Republic that year and included in the collection Another Time the following year.

Auden came to dislike this work, finding it “dishonest” and a “forgery.” He had his publisher include a note that the work was “trash he was ashamed to have written”; he also tried to keep it out of later collections of his poems. It is unclear why he felt so embarrassed by the poem.

In January, 1919, Vaslav Nijinsky began scribbling in a notebook. Seven weeks later, Swiss doctors studied four notebooks full of his writings and promptly interned him in a sanitarium for the mentally ill. He was only 29 at the time; he was schizophrenic; and while his fame as the greatest dancer of his time never faded, he lived the last 31 years of his life in seclusion and incoherence. For the next 30 years, Nijinsky was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums. During 1945 after the end of the war, after Romola had moved with him to Vienna, he encountered a group of Russian soldiers in an encampment, playing traditional folk tunes on a balalaika and other instruments. Inspired by the music and hearing his first language, he started dancing, astounding the men with his skills. Drinking and laughing with them helped him start to speak again. He had maintained long periods of almost absolute silence during his years of illness.

His 1919 notebooks contained his final words addressed to the world. These notebooks were his diary. They were published in 1936; however, more than half of the diary was omitted. In 1999, The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky: Unexpurgated Edition, by Vaslav Nijinsky, Joan R. Acocella (Ed.), Kyril FitzLyon (Trans.) was published in English by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Below are a few quotes from the diary relating to Serge Diaghilev, the Russian impresario who took the 19-year-old Nijinsky as a lover and made him the star of his Ballets Russes. Five years later, when Nijinsky left to marry Romola de Pulszki, Diaghilev threw him out of his dance company and tried to destroy his career.

“I loved him sincerely and, when he told me that the love of women was a terrible thing, I believed him.”

“Diaghilev dyes his hair so as not to be old. Diaghilev’s hair is gray. Diaghilev buys black hair creams and rubs them in. I noticed this cream on Diaghilev’s pillows, which have black pillowcases. I do not like dirty pillowcases and therefore felt disgusted when I saw them.”

“Diaghilev has two false front teeth. I noticed this because when he is nervous he touches them with his tongue. They move, and I can see them. Diaghilev reminds me of a wicked old woman when he moves his two front teeth…”

“Diaghilev liked to be talked about and therefore wore a monocle in one eye. I asked him why he wore a monocle, for I noticed that he saw well without a monocle. Then Diaghilev told me that one of his eyes saw badly. I realized then that Diaghilev had told me a lie. I felt deeply hurt…”

“I began to hate him [Diaghilev] quite openly, and once I pushed him on a street in Paris. I pushed him because I wanted to show him that I was not afraid of him. Diaghilev hit me with his cane because I wanted to leave him. He felt that I wanted to go away, and therefore he ran after me. I half ran, half walked. I was afraid of being noticed. I noticed that people were looking. I felt a pain in my leg and pushed Diaghilev. I pushed him only slightly because I felt not anger against Diaghilev but tears. I wept. Diaghilev scolded me. Diaghilev was gnashing his teeth, and I felt sad and dejected. I could no longer control myself and began to walk slowly. Diaghilev too began to walk slowly. We both walked slowly. I do not remember where we were going. I was walking. He was walking. We went, and we arrived. We lived together for a long time…”

Portrait of Duncan

“He (Duncan Grant) is so incredibly full of charm, his genius as an artist seems to overflow so into his life and character & he is so amusing too and odd and unaccountable that lots of people I think don’t see clearly what to me is really his most adorable quality – his honesty – disinterestedness absolute sincerity & simplicity of character which make me depend upon him always.”

Letter from Vanessa Bell to his son Julian Bell, 7 Mar 1937

 

Portrait of Duncan Grant,  Vanessa Bell, c. 1917

 

Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell worked closely on artistic projects and, though Grant would have many parallel relationships with men, they remained close companions for the rest of their lives. In 1918 Vanessa gave birth to Duncan’s child, Angelica.

Flush or A Faunus

In 1930, after Virginia Woolf attended Rudolf Besier’s play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, she began to reread Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry and letters. Woolf’s fanciful biography of the Brownings, seen through the lens of their cocker spaniel, was published in 1933, with four drawings by Vanessa Bell.Pinka, the cocker spaniel that Vita Sackville-West gave Virginia Woolf in 1926, was photographed for the dust jacket and frontispiece of the first edition.

 

Virginia and Vita at Monk’s House in 1933 (as photographed by Leonard Woolf)

 

Virginia Woolf with Pinka

 

The original sketch of The Back Bedroom, on display, shows Elizabeth Barrett languishing in the back bedroom of her father’s house.

 

The Back Bedroom,Vanessa Bell, c. 1932. Graphite drawing for Flush

 

FLUSH OR A FAUNUS

 

“You see this dog. It was but yesterday
I mused, forgetful of his presence here,
Till thought on thought drew downward tear on tear;
When from the pillow, where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head as hairy as Faunus, thrust its way
Right sudden against my face,—two golden-clear
Large eyes astonished mine,—a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek, to dry the spray!
I started first, as some Arcadian
Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove:
But as my bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness; thanking the true Pan,
Who, by low creatures, leads to heights of love.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning