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.

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Reflektor

“The Orpheus myth is the original love triangle, Romeo and Juliet kind of story. Lyrically, it’s not literally about my life. I feel like I’m kind of a bit of a sponge in a way. Like, if people around me are going through things, I find it very hard not to be empathetic.”
Win Butler

 

Reflektor is the fourth studio album by the Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire, released on October 28, 2013.

The album’s artwork features an image of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice

 

A poster for Arcade Fire’s “not-so-secret” secret show as The Reflektors at Salsatheque in Montreal

 

Influenced by Haitian rara music, the film Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959) and Søren Kierkegaard‘s essay, The Present Age, Reflektor‘s release was preceded by a guerrilla marketing campaign inspired by veve drawings, and the release of a limited edition single, Reflektor, credited to the fictional band, The Reflektors, on September 9, 2013.

The eponymous first single was produced by James Murphy, Markus Dravs and the band itself, and features a guest vocal appearance by David Bowie and was released on a limited edition 12″ vinyl credited to the fictional band, The Reflektors. The music video was directed by Anton Corbijn.

 

The music video can be seen on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus and Eurydice, Auguste Rodin, modeled probably before 1887, carved 1893

 

This mythological subject was very popular in Auguste Rodin‘s times. The sculptor, inspired by the opera Orfeo ed Euridice from Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1762 that was performed in Paris by the end of the 19th Century again, turned to this motif in the 1880’s. Re-using the body of Paolo Malatesta (best known for the story of his affair with Francesca da Polenta, portrayed by Dante Alighieri in a famous episode of his Inferno ) as featured in Fugit Amor (Fugitive Love), he had by 1887 created Orpheus’s torso and head.

According to Georges Grappe, the first group was composed in 1892, although some contemporaries dated it 1894 – probably mixing it up with Orpheus and Eurydice Leaving Hell, executed in marble in 1893 for the American collector Charles T. Yerkes. This latter version, purchased by Thomas P. Ryan on 22 January 1910 and presented to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, shows a walking Orpheus with his left hand before his eyes, followed by Eurydice.

 

 

The now isolated male figure, named Orpheus Imploring the Gods, shows the singer in the moment he realizes that he will never see his lover again. The brutally severed hand of Euridyce on the harp, remnant of the former group constellation, underlines the tragedy of this situation.

 

 

In Orpheus and the Furies, the rather coincidental juxtaposition of the Kneeling Fauness and The Martyr, as seen in the tympanum of  The Gates of Hell – is employed again by Rodin to present the last stage of Orpheus’s fruitless quest. Changing the gender of the kneeling figure, he shows a rather frail Orpheus cracking under the weight of the raging Maenads.

This Come from Far Away

Rilke with the painter, Elisabeth Dorothée (Baladine) Klossowska and her son Balthasar (who would become known as the painter Balthus). Picture taken in 1922

 

Baladine Klossowska and her husband Erich Klossowki had first met the poet Rainer Maria Rilke in 1907, the year before Balthus was born. This is who her lover was. When they met he was thirty-two years old, while she was twenty-one. He had been brought to the Klossowskis’ house in Paris by Ellen Key, a Swedish psychologist who had written The Century of the Child, which Rilke had reviewed enthusiastically. Except for an occasion when Baladine and Erich had visited Rilke in his apartment on the Rue Cassette and he had stood at his writing desk and read to them out loud from his Livre d’heures, they had only seen each other once, in a chance meeting when Baladine told the poet that she now had two “ravishing” young sons, until 1919, when Rilke decided to pay a visit to Baladine. Nostalgic for pre-war Paris, he looked up the tall, dark Baladine, whose name was the first in his address book. Having separated from her husband two years earlier, she had moved there to a modest flat. Rilke planned to be in Geneva for five days, but stayed for fifteen.

On one of the rare interludes when they were both staying at Muzot and enjoying a respite from the tumult of their separations, Rainer Maria Rilke and Baladine Klossowska made a journey through the mountains, in the course of which they decided to collaborate on a book in which his poems and her illustrations would appear side by side. Its theme was windows. The slight, elegant volume was not published until 1927, the year after the poet’s death. But with its fifteen poems dedicated to Baladine, and her ten etchings, it preserved the essence of their bond. The women created by Balthus’s mother are all locked in trances. The first. in profile, is framed by window mullions. Fixing her hair, she is completely detached from the ad, as if absorbed in private thoughts.

Another woman rests with her hands on a windowsill, and looks off absently into the distance. She is in a spell, possessed by intense emotions of which we will never know the specifics. In one plate, a nude woman sprawls, seemingly overwhelmed, in a daybed. She is in a sensual paradise, with a vase of flowers at her side and birds visible through the skylight above. Elsewhere women lean and wave, or shutters remain closed keeping the vistas unseen. The subjects are all transfixed. The women could have been uttering precisely what Baladine wrote Rilke during her own windowsill musings:

 

Often I dream in my dreams, and I see myself with

you-far, far away on a long journey. Oh Rene,

Rene, blessings on you! For seeing me before you

when you leave me: as a fountain, as a tree, as a

flower in your star shining above you-for you-1

have kissed Balthus and told him, “This comes from

far away.”

No One Among All Artists

Rilke, Rose Beruet, Rodin and their dogs. Photo by Albert Harlingue. Meudon, France

 
Rainer Maria Rilke first approached Auguste Rodin while writing a book-length essay on the sculptor. Rilke spent much time with Rodin and in correspondence with him and worked as his personal secretary for a year or so. And his wife, Clara Westhoff, was a sculptress and had been a student of Rodin’s.

In the second letter of his highly celebrated Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke wrote:

 

“If I were obliged to tell you who taught me to experience something of the essence of creativity, the depth of it and its enduring quality, there are only two names that I can name: that of Jacobsen, the very greatest of writers, and Auguste Rodin, the sculptor. No one among all artists living today compares with them.”

 

What was the source of the famous sculptor’s powerful hold on the fledgling German poet? Apart from artistic and philosophical considerations, some have seen personality factors at work here, primarily in Rilke’s attraction to character traits of Rodin’s that he admired and perhaps wished to emulate. Kent Nerburn, in his foreword to the New World Library edition of the Letters quoted above, writes:

 

“Rodin was everything Rilke was not — confident, robust, sensual, an older man who was secure in his artistic identity and accomplished in his artistic voice. He was an elemental presence, with a chiseled brow, a laborer’s broad physique, and piercing eyes that seemed to see through the artifice and brittle surface of anyone on whom he chose to focus his attention. He was also a man of few words who worked with unceasing diligence, and thought, felt, and spoke not through his words but through the creations of his hands. As Rilke himself said, Rodin lived inside his art; he did not have to constantly seek it and court it from amongst the intrusive distractions of daily affairs.

Contrasted to this was Rilke, the fragile, often sickly young man of delicate sensibilities and uncertain artistic direction, who suffered long periods of artistic aridity and terrifying self-doubt. Slim, slight, easily led astray from his artistic tasks, he lived in constant fear of days when all inspiration failed him and he was left with nothing but ‘dead words …corpse heavy’. How could he not stand in the presence of Rodin without seeing before him the embodiment of all he desired to be as an artist, as well as a mirror of all his own artistic deficiencies and insecurities? And, in fact, this is exactly what happened. In the person of Rodin, Rilke found the model for the artistic authority he wished to possess.”

At Rodin’s Studio

“. . . Yesterday, Monday afternoon at three o’clock, I was at Rodin’s for the first time. Atelier 182 rue de l’Universite. I went down the Seine. He had a model, a girl. Had a little plaster object in his hand on which he was scraping about. He simply quit work, offered me a chair, and we talked. He was kind and gentle. And it seemed to me that I had always known him. That I was only seeing him again; I found him smaller, and yet more powerful, more kindly, and more noble. That forehead, the relationship it bears to his nose which rides out of it like a ship out of harbor . . . that is very remarkable. Character of stone is in that forehead and that nose. And his mouth has a speech whose ring is good, intimate, and full of youth. So also is his laugh, that embarrassed and at the same time joyful laugh of a child that has been given lovely presents. He is very dear to me. That I knew at once. We spoke of many things (as far as my queer language and his time permitted). . . . Then he went on working and begged me to inspect everything that is in the studio. That is not a little. The “hand” is there. C’est une main comme-ça (he said and made with his own so powerful a gesture of holding and shaping that one seemed to see things growing out of it).”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Letter to his wife Clara on September 2, 1902

 

Rilke in Meudon, Rodin’s studio and residence

The Brotherhood and The Darkness of God

 

Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours) was written between 1899 and 1903 in three parts, and first published in Leipzig by Insel Verlag in April 1905. With its dreamy, melodic expression and neo-Romantic mood, it stands, along with ‘The Lay of the Love and Death of Christoph Cornet’, as the most important of Rainer Maria Rilke‘s early works.

The work, dedicated to Lou Andreas-Salome, is his first through-composed cycle, which established his reputation as a religious poet, culminating in the poet’s Duino Elegies.

In arresting language, using a turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau aesthetic, Rilke displayed a wide range of his poetic apparatus. The suggestive musicality of his verses developed into the hallmark of his later lyric poetry, to mixed criticism.

It consists of three sections with common themes relating to St. Francis and the Christian search for God.

The sections are:
*The Book of Monastic Life (Das Buch vom mönchischen Leben)
*The Book of Pilgrimage (Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft)
*The Book of Poverty and Death (Das Buch von der Armut und vom Tode)

 

The Crucifixion, p.87, Rossdhu Book of Hours, between 1460 and 1470

 

The collective title comes from the book of hours, a type of illuminated breviary popular in France in the later Middle Ages. These prayer and worship books were often decorated with illumination and so combined religious edification with art. They contained prayers for different times of the day and were designed to structure the day through regular devotion to God.

 

Lou Salomé, Paul Rée und Friedrich Nietzsche

 

The work is influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and contemporaneous philosophical ideas, and shows Rilke’s search for a meaningful basis for living, which he identifies as a pantheistic God.

Rilke’s journeys to Russia in the summer of 1899 and 1900 form the biographical background to the work. He undertook these with Lou Andreas-Salome, and began work on the cycle after their conclusion. The vastness of Russia, the fervent devotion of its peasantry to their Orthodox religion, and its culture little touched by Western civilization – all formed a backdrop which, deepened by personal encounters with Leonid Pasternak and the renowned Leo Tolstoy, developed over time into a spiritual home. As he wrote retrospectively twenty years later, the country had revealed to him “the brotherhood and the darkness of God”.

 


Rilke’s imagery of walls and devotional pictures finds its inspiration in the typical Russian Orthodox Iconostasis

In War and Peace with Tolstoy

Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé in Russia, 1900

 

As Rainer Maria Rilke approached his 50th birthday, he was frequently asked to name influences on his career and literary work. In 1924, in response to a letter from the Swiss literary historian Alfred Schaer, Rilke mentioned to the Russian writer Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Nekrasov, Ivan Turgenev, and Afanasij Fet. The name of Leo Tolstoy was conspicuously absent from his list. Several months later, in his answer to another biographical inquiry, he flatly denied that Tolstoy had had any literary effect on him whatsoever. Tolstoy’s role was a strictly cultural one, Rilke explained, and it would have been false to attribute to his visits with the Russian novelist any influence on his work at that time. Tolstoy, after all, only confirmed the discovery of Russia which became decisive to him. Tolstoy’s image captivated Rilke’s imagination as an artist who was struggling against his own creative genius.

Rainer Maria Rilke expressed resentment of Tolstoy’s moralizing aesthetics and failed to produce a monograph or an essay about the Russian novelist. Nonetheless, Tolstoy’s role was consequential: he provided Rilke with an anti-model for living and writing. After years of anxiety and indecision, Rilke became reconciled with Tolstoy in the fictional images of his novel Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge). Maxim Gorky‘s literary memoirs helped him articulate those feelings more precisely, and only as an established writer was Rilke able to find a compromise between his filial affection for Tolstoy the artist and his rejection of Tolstoy the preacher.

Lou Andreas-Salomé’s memoir Lebensrückblick (1931-33) corroborated Rilke’s assertions. She recalled that at the time to their travels in Russia, Tolstoy served as an archetype of the “eternal Russian” (der ewige Russe) and that his role was primarily symbolic. The image of the novelist formed for them, so to speak, a point of entry into Russia.

Despite Rilke’s public denials of Tolstoy’s importance for his work, he privately spoke about the Russian master in reverential tones. He was young and diffident at the time of his journeys with Andreas-Salomé and had no access to the language in which he which he could convincingly explain the complex phenomenon of Tolstoy’s personality and its impact.

Total Eclipse

Total Eclipse is an intelligent look at the relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine and shows considerable insight into the bourgeois and artistic societies of the period as well as a moving understanding of homosexuality.

Christopher Hampton was only 22 when he wrote this play. He studied Rimbaud’s work at Oxford. Hampton became involved in the theatre while at that University where OUDS performed his play When Did You Last See My Mother?, about adolescent homosexuality, reflecting his own experiences at Lancing College. He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses and the awarded film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and also more recently for writing the nominated screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s Atonement.

 

 

Long before there were rock stars, there was rock star attitude, as displayed with spectacular insolence by the teen-age French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s long shadow reaches not only into academe, where the writing he did before abandoning poetry at 20 is still much admired, but also into popular culture, where Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison or Patti Smith would not have been possible without him.

Total Eclipse is a 1995 film directed by Agnieszka Holland, based on a 1967 play by Christopher Hampton, who also wrote the screenplay. Based on letters and poems, it presents a historically accurate account of the passionate and violent relationship between the two 19th century French poets Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio), at a time of soaring creativity for both of them.

River Phoenix was originally attached to the project, but the part of Rimbaud went to Leonardo DiCaprio after Phoenix’s death. And John Malkovich was initially attached to play Verlaine, but pulled out. This movie has Leonardo Dicaprio’s first onscreen kiss (with costar David Thewlis).

Over the Short Grass

SENSATION

“Par les soirs bleus d’été, j’irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l’herbe menue :
Rêveur, j’en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien :
Mais l’amour infini me montera dans l’âme,
Et j’irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la nature, heureux comme avec une femme.”

Arthur Rimbaud

Mars 1870

 

_______________________

 

“On the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths,
And walk over the short grass, as I am pricked by the wheat:
Daydreaming I will feel the coolness on my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head. I will not speak,
I will have no thoughts: But infinite love will mount in my soul;
And I will go far, far off, like a gypsy,
through the countryside – as happy as if I were a woman.”

 

Holland, David Thewlis and Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of Total Eclipse (Agnieszka Holland, 1995)

Simultaneously Old and Young

“William Burroughs was simultaneously old and young. Part sheriff, part gumshoe. All writer. He had a medicine chest he kept locked, but if you were in pain he would open it. He did not like to see his loved ones suffer. If you were infirm he would feed you. He’d appear at your door with a fish wrapped in newsprint and fry it up. He was inaccessible to a girl but I loved him anyway.

He camped in the Bunker with his typewriter, his shotgun, and his overcoat. From time to time he’d slip on his coat, saunter our way, and take his place at the table we reserved for him in front of the stage.”

Patti Smith
Just Kids

 

William Burroughs with Patti Smith at his Home, Franklin Street, NYC. Photo taken by Kate Simon on Patti Smith’s 29th birthday, 1975

A Dream, Not a Nightmare

“It was a dream, not a nightmare, a beautiful dream I could never imagine in a thousand nods. There was a girl next to me who wasn’t beautiful until she smiled and I felt that smile come at me in heat waves following, soaking through my body and out my finger tips in shafts of color and I knew somewhere in the world, somewhere, that there was love for me.”

Jim Carroll
The Basketball Diaries
1978

 
 

Patti Smith and his friend Jim Carroll. Photo (possibly) by Robert Mapplethorpe, ca. 1969-70