Monument to Balzac

Photograph by Edward Steichen, 1911

 

Monument to Balzac is a sculpture by Auguste Rodin in memory of the French novelist Honoré de Balzac. According to Rodin, the sculpture aims to portray the writer’s persona rather than a physical likeness. The work was commissioned in 1891 by the Société des Gens de Lettres, a full-size plaster model was displayed in 1898 at a Salon in Champ de Mars. After coming under criticism the model was rejected by the société and Rodin moved it to his home in Meudon. On July 2, 1939 (22 years after the sculptor’s death) the model was cast in bronze for the first time and placed on the Boulevard du Montparnasse at the intersection with Boulevard Raspail.

The Société des Gens de Lettres (Paris, France) considered four different artists for the sculptural work before it was given to Rodin. The first was French neoclassical artist Henri Chapu, however, Chapu died in 1891 before the work could be finalized. Marquet de Vasselot was the next artist considered for the sculpture and provided a bust of the writer for the Societé. At the same time artists Millet and Coutan also applied for the commission.

Rodin was not initially considered for the work because at that point in time, around 1885, his career had not become as prominent. After the death of Chapu, the recently elected president of the Societé, Émile Zola strongly supported Rodin for the job and, so, the artist submitted a proposal to have a completed three-meter statue of the French novelist within an eighteen-month period which was approved.

The commission was in response to the elevated importance of Honoré de Balzac after his death. Balzac was one of the founders of the Societé as well as the second president of the organization. Upon his death in 1850 interest in creating a statue to commemorate the writer quickly developed under the leadership of Alexandre Dumas, père.

In 1894, the Societé threatened to step in legally with the commission, turn the job over to artist Alexandre Falguière and take away Rodin’s payment. Yet Rodin continued to ask for extensions on time making over fifty studies and continuously distanced himself from a true physical portrayal, tending towards a more psychological representation. The artist became infatuated with capturing the essence of the author’s strength. In a message to writer Charles Chincholle in May, 1898, Rodin explained his artistic pursuit:

“The only thing I realize today is that the neck is too strong. I thought I had to enlarge it because according to me, modern sculpture must exaggerate the forms form the moral point of view. Through the exaggerated neck I wanted to represent strength I realize that the execution exceeded the idea.”

Finally in 1898, Rodin presented a plaster study of the Balzac statue in the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. The sculpture was not received well by the critics; Rodin took the negativity as a personal attack. Many disliked the grotesque stature of the figure while others criticized the work to be very similar to that of the Italian impressionist Medardo Rosso. As well, reports surfaced before the unveiling of the sculpture regarding anticipated dismay over the final outcome of the artwork. The Société des Gens de Lettres decided to disregard the commission to Rodin and not accept the sculpture.

Regardless of rejection from his commissionaires, contemporaries such as Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Claude Monet supported Rodin in his point of view. A backlash against the rejection along with a petition signed by supporters in the artistic community proceeded, yet in the end, Rodin decidedly declined any bids for the work and placed the plaster artwork in his home at Meudon.

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The Son of Man in Popular Culture

The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) movie poster

 
 

René Magritte‘s The Son of Man appears in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film The Holy Mountain, on a wall in the house of Jupiter. The film was produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein of ABKCO Music and Records, after Jodorowsky scored an underground phenomenon with El Topo (The Mole) and the acclaim of both John Lennon and George Harrison (Lennon and Yoko Ono put up production money).

 
 

Robin Williams in Toys (Barry Levinson, 1992).

The set design, costumes, and promotional poster reflect the painting’s style.

 
 

A parody of the painting, with Bart behind the floating apple, can be seen briefly at the start of The Simpsons episode No. 86  Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

 
 

The painting appears briefly on the video for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s song Scream , on the “Gallery” section:

 
 

Still from Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s Scream music video (Mark Romanek, 1995)

 
 

The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999)

 
 

The Son of Man appears several times in the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, especially in the final robbery scenes when men wearing bowler hats and trench coats carry briefcases throughout the museum to cover Crown’s movements and confuse the security team.

 
 

Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)

 
 

This is not an Apple, illustration by John Cox, 2007

 
 

In the film Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Zach Helm, 2007), the painting is seen hanging on the wall half finished; at the end of the film Mr Magorium is seen to be painting the rest of it.

 
 

This painting also shows up at the end of the film Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008). British prisoner Charlie Bronson takes a hostage and turns him into this particular portrait

 
 

 In the movie 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009), the bowler hat and green apple can be seen in Summer’s apartment

 
 

The cover of the book Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business (2009) has a version of the painting, with a pomegranate

 
 

In Jimmy Liao’s illustrated book Starry Starry Night (2011), the protagonist girl, with the painting illustrated behind her, imitates the painting to express her protest against her parents’ long term fighting.

 
 

In Gary Braunbeck’s novel Keepers (2005), the antagonist figures (the “Keepers” of the title) resemble the nattily-dressed, bowler-hatted figures of Magritte’s painting. Also, in the opening scene of the book, the reference is directly made and explained to this resemblance because of an apple-scented car air freshener printed with the image of the painting hanging in the protagonist’s car.

In Lev Grossman’s 2009 novel The Magicians the antagonist is a man wearing a suit, with his face obscured by a leafed branch suspended in midair.

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

 
 

Proust Was a Neuroscientist is a non-fiction book written by Jonah Lehrer, first published in 2007. In it, Lehrer argues that many 20th and 21st-century discoveries of neuroscience are actually re-discoveries of insights made earlier by various artists, including Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, Auguste Escoffier, Paul Cézanne, Igor Stravinsky, and, as mentioned in the title, Marcel Proust.

The New York Times described it as “a precocious and engaging book that tries to mend the century-old tear between the literary and scientific cultures.” A review in The Daily Telegraph stated, “Lehrer is a dazzlingly clever young man whose writing bears witness to both the clarity of his scientific training and the humanity of his literary studies. The Whitmanesque electricity of all the thought and heart he has put into this book fizzes from each sentence.”Salon.com, by contrast, described it as being written “arbitrarily and often inaccurately”.

Jonah Richard Lehrer (born June 25, 1981) is an American author, journalist, blogger, and speaker who writes on the topics of psychology, neuroscience, and the relationship between science and the humanities. He has published three books, two of which, Imagine and How We Decide, were withdrawn from the market by publishers after it became known that Lehrer had fabricated quotations. This led to his resignation from his staff position at The New Yorker following disclosures that he had recycled earlier work of his own for the magazine. A later investigation at Wired.com, where he had previously worked, found instances of recycled content and plagiarism. He was fired from that position as a result of the investigation.

Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker on July 30, 2012, less than two months after he had joined the staff, after an article by Michael C. Moynihan appeared in Tablet Magazine exposing him as fabricating quotes attributed to singer Bob Dylan in his book Imagine.

 

A Renowned Art Collection

 
 

Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo shared living quarters on the Left Bank of Paris at 27 rue de Fleurus from 1903 until 1914, when they dissolved their common household. Their residence, located near the Luxembourg Gardens, was a two-story building with adjacent studio. It was here they accumulated the works of art into a collection that would become renowned for its prescience and historical importance.

The joint collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein began in late 1904 when Michael Stein announced that their trust account had accumulated a balance of 8,000 francs. They spent this at Vollard’s Gallery, buying Paul Gauguin‘s Sunflowers and Three Tahitians, Paul Cézanne‘s Bathers, and two Renoirs.

Leo Stein cultivated important art world connections, enabling the Stein holdings to grow over time. Bernard Berenson hosted Gertrude and Leo in his English country house in 1902, facilitating their introduction to Paul Cézanne and Ambroise Vollard‘s art gallery.

The art collection increased and the walls at Rue de Fleurus were rearranged continually to make way for new acquisitions. In “the first half of 1905” the Steins acquired Cézanne’s Portrait of Mme Cézanne and Eugène Delacroix‘s Perseus and Andromeda. Shortly after the opening of the Salon d’Automne of 1905 (on October 18, 1905), the Steins acquired Henri Matisse‘s Woman with a Hat and Pablo Picasso‘s Young Girl with Basket of Flowers.

 
 

To watch some of the paintings mentioned in this post, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

A Poem to Cézanne

Self-portrait with Palette, Paul Cézanne, 1885-7

 
 

CÉZANNE

The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can say that
every day is to-day and they say that every day is as they say.
In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met because
he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant settled to stay.
When I said settled to stay I meant settled to stay Saturday. In this
way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if in as a mouth if in as a
mouth where, if in as a mouth where and there. Believe they have
water too. Believe they have that water too and blue when you see
blue, is all blue precious too, is all that that is precious too is all
that and they meant to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did
nearly in this way. Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did.
And was I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was
surprised and in that patient, are you patient when you find bees.
Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does honey. Honey
and prayer. Honey and there. There where the grass can grow nearly
four times yearly.

Gertrude Stein

Hommage to Paul Cézanne

Charles Wright (b. 1935) poses in his study

 
 

At night, in the fish-light of the moon, the dead wear our white shirts
To stay warm, and litter the fields.
We pick them up in the mornings, dewy pieces of paper and scraps of cloth.
Like us, they refract themselves. Like us,
They keep on saying the same thing, trying to get it right.
Like us, the water unsettles their names.

Sometimes they lie like leaves in their little arks, and curl up at the edges.
Sometimes they come inside, wearing our shoes, and walk
From mirror to mirror.
Or lie in our beds with their gloves off
And touch our bodies. Or talk
In a corner. Or wait like envelopes on a desk.

They reach up from the ice plant.
They shuttle their messengers through the oat grass.
Their answers rise like rust on the stalks and the spidery leaves.

We rub them off our hands.

Each year the dead grow less dead, and nudge
Close to the surface of all things.
They start to remember the silence that brought them here.
They start to recount the gain in their soiled hands.

Their glasses let loose, and grain by grain return to the riverbank.
They point to their favorite words
Growing around them, revealed as themselves for the first time:
They stand close to the meanings and take them in.

They stand there, vague and without pain,
Under their fingernails an unreturnable dirt.
They stand there and it comes back,
The music of everything, syllable after syllable

Out of the burning chair, out of the beings of light.
It all comes back.
And what they repeat to themselves, and what they repeat to themselves,
Is the song that our fathers sing.

In steeps and sighs,
The ocean explains itself, backing and filling
What spaces it can’t avoid, spaces
In black shoes, their hands clasped, their eyes teared at the edges:
We watch from the high hillside,
The ocean swelling and flattening, the spaces
Filling and emptying, horizon blade
Flashing the early afternoon sun.

The dead are constant in
The white lips of the sea.
Over and over, through clenched teeth, they tell
Their story, the story each knows by heart:
Remember me, speak my name.
When the moon tugs at my sleeve,
When the body of water is raised and becomes the body of light,
Remember me, speak my name.

The dead are a cadmium blue.
We spread them with palette knives in broad blocks and planes.

We layer them stroke by stroke
In steps and ascending mass, in verticals raised from the earth.

We choose, and layer them in,
Blue and a blue and a breath,

Circle and smudge, cross-beak and buttonhook,
We layer them in. We squint hard and terrace them line by line.

And so we are come between, and cry out,
And stare up at the sky and its cloudy panes,

And finger the cypress twists.
The dead understand all this, and keep in touch,

Rustle of hand to hand in the lemon trees,
Flags, and the great sifts of anger

To powder and nothingness.
The dead are a cadmium blue, and they understand.

The dead are with us to stay.
Their shadows rock in the back yard, so pure, so black,
Between the oak tree and the porch.

Over our heads they’re huge in the night sky.
In the tall grass they turn with the zodiac.
Under our feet they’re white with the snows of a thousand years.

They carry their colored threads and baskets of silk
To mend our clothes, making us look right,
Altering, stitching, replacing a button, closing a tear.
They lie like tucks in our loose sleeves, they hold us together.

They blow the last leaves away.
They slide like an overflow into the river of heaven.
Everywhere they are flying.

The dead are a sleight and a fade
We fall for, like flowering plums, like white coins from the rain.
Their sighs are gaps in the wind.

The dead are waiting for us in our rooms,
Little globules of light
In one of the far corners, and close to the ceiling, hovering, thinking our thoughts.

Often they’ll reach a hand down,
Or offer a word, and ease us out of our bodies to join in theirs.
We look back at our other selves on the bed.

We look back and we don’t care and we go.

And thus we become what we’ve longed for,
past tense and otherwise,
A BB, a disc of light,
song without words.
And refer to ourselves
In the third person, seeing that other arm
Still raised from the bed, fingers like licks and flames in the boned air.

Only to hear that it’s not time.
Only to hear that we must re-enter and lie still, our arms at rest at our sides,
The voices rising around us like mist

And dew, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right …

The dead fall around us like rain.
They come down from the last clouds in the late light for the last time
And slip through the sod.

They lean uphill and face north.
Like grass,
They bend toward the sea, they break toward the setting sun.

We filigree and we baste.
But what do the dead care for the fringe of words,
Safe in their suits of milk?
What do they care for the honk and flash of a new style?

And who is to say if the inch of snow in our hearts
Is rectitude enough?

Spring picks the locks of the wind.
High in the night sky the mirror is hauled up and unsheeted.
In it we twist like stars.

Ahead of us, through the dark, the dead
Are beating their drums and stirring the yellow leaves.

We’re out here, our feet in the soil, our heads craned up at the sky,
The stars streaming and bursting behind the trees.

At dawn, as the clouds gather, we watch
The mountain glide from the east on the valley floor,
Coming together in starts and jumps.
Behind their curtain, the bears
Amble across the heavens, serene as black coffee …

Whose unction can intercede for the dead?
Whose tongue is toothless enough to speak their piece?

What we are given in dreams we write as blue paint,
Or messages to the clouds.
At evening we wait for the rain to fall and sky to clear.
Our words are words for the clay, uttered in undertones,
Our gestures salve for the wind.

We sit out on the earth and stretch our limbs,
Hoarding the little mounds of sorrow laid up in our hearts.

Charles Wright

The New Yorker, December 19, 1977

An Imagined Encounter

 

Верлен и Сезан

(Fragments)

“Я стукаюсь
о стол,
о шкафа острия –
четыре метра ежедневно мерь.
Мне тесно здесь
в отеле Istria –
на коротышке
rue Campagne – Premiere…

…Мне жмет.
Парижская жизнь не про нас –
в бульвары
тоску рассыпай.
Направо от нас –
Boulevard Montparnasse,
налево –
Boulevard Raspail….”

Владимир Владимирович Маяковский

 

___________________________________

 

Verlaine and Cézanne

“I bump into
the table,
against the edge of the cupboard-
measure out four meters for myself each day.
I am short of space here in the hotel Istria-
at the fag-end of rue Campagne Première…

…I’m oppressed
Parisian life is not ours-
You just scatter your melancholy
Over the boulevards.
On the right of us
The Boulevard Montparnasse,
On the left-
The Boulevard Raspail…”

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

 

Verlaine and Cézanne (1925) is an imagined encounter with two great artists reduced to the proportions of a casual, but inwardly weighty, conversation over a table in the Rotonde. It reflects the boredom with Paris that we find expressed in Mayakovsky’s letters, and the imagined conversation with the great men is concerned exclusively with the current problems of poets in Moscow. In a line of this poem they both claim Vincent Van Gogh was their God during a season.

All Hung Up on Cézanne

“Cézanne picked up a box in the hall [of his studio] and took me to his motif. It was two kilometers away with a view over a valley at the foot of Sainte-Victoire, the craggy mountain which he never ceased to paint[…]. He was filled with admiration for this mountain.”

Émile Bernard

 
 

Bathers at Rest, Paul Cézanne, 1876-77.

The Mont Sainte Victoire (located at Aix-en-Provence, the hometown of Cézanne) can be seen behind the monumental figures of this painting.

 
 

Allen Ginsberg first became engaged with the work of Paul Cézanne as an undergraduate at Columbia University. In an art history class taught by Meyer Schapiro, who published numerous books and essays on the artwork of Cézanne, Ginsberg was introduced to the work of the French post-impressionist. In his interview with the Paris Review, he claims that in 1949, during his last year at the University, he “got all hung up on Cézanne.” He recounts tales of smoking marijuana, going to the basement of the Museum of Modern Art, and staring at Cézanne’s watercolors—transfixed by the way Cézanne “built up space.”

This mode of “building up space” took Cézanne years to develop. After working extensively with the impressionist Camille Pissarro, Cézanne began attempting to capture the “unchanging element underneath” what he observed in the three dimensional world. Towards the end of his career, he often executed series of paintings of the same subject in order to focus on form. This is seen in the paintings of Mont Sainte Victoire, on which he worked on from 1900 until his death. In his interview, Ginsberg quotes the journals and letters of Cézanne, specifically a famous paragraph where Cézanne describes his theory of replicating the eternal element of what he saw: “There’s a long, long, long paragraph where he says, ‘By means of squares, cubes, triangles, I try to reconstitute the impression that I have from nature.’” Ginsberg says he was “mystified” by Cézanne’s mission to reconstitute what he saw through the use of shape, color and line. He goes onto profess that the last part of Howl is, in fact, an homage to Cézanne in that he attempted to adapt the artist’s mode of representation to the written word:

“I had the idea, perhaps overrefined, that by the unexplainable, unexplained nonperspective line, that is, juxtaposition of one word against another, a gap between the two words—like the space gap in the canvas—there’d be a gap between the two words that the mind would fill in with the sensation of existence.”

This juxtaposition is seen not only in Howl’s structure, but in the complex imagery that Ginsberg uses. For Ginsberg, Cézanne’s method of reconstituting space and experience through juxtaposed lines and colors, as seen in Mont Saint-Victoire, is inherently tied to the way he wrote Howl—by juxtaposing words, images and phrases to reconstitute the “sensation of the Eternal”— or the nature of existence.

In the first part of Howl, Ginsberg directly quotes a concept important to Cézanne’s thought process which is often included in his letters:

“who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus.”

Cézanne concept of “Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus” is directly translated as “omnipotent, eternal father of god” but more accurately speaks to what Ginsberg refers to as Cézanne’s immense achievement of “reconstituting the whole fucking universe in his canvases.” By attempting to represent the eternal and lasting form of an object, Cézanne attempted to capture the true nature of experience. In Howl, Ginsberg has a similar aim, which he attempts to achieve by joining “the elemental verbs and set[ing] the noun and dash of consciousness together” to construct an authentic account of human experience.

As Cézanne preoccupation with execution of form, space and shape heavily influenced Ginsberg, it also had much to do with the development of artistic modernism. Cézanne’s fixation with form influenced the development of Cubism and Fauvism. For this reason, Cézanne is often regarded as an important precursor for the evolution of modern painting. Just as Cézanne influence is present in Ginsberg’s Howl, it can also be seen in the work of the artists who made up New York’s Avant-garde during the 1950’s and ‘60’s.

Cezanne’s Ports

“In the foreground we see time and life
swept in a race
toward the left hand side of the picture
where shore meets shore.

But that meeting place
isn’t represented;
it doesn’t occur on the canvas.

For the other side of the bay
is Heaven and Eternity,
with a bleak white haze over its mountains.

And the immense water of L’Estaque is a go-between
for minute rowboats.”

Allen Ginsberg

 
 

L’Estaque View from The Trees, Paul Cézanne, 1879

 
 

L’Estaque with Red Roofs, Paul Cézanne, 1885

 
 

The Bay from L’Estaque, Paul Cezanne, 1886

 
 

L’Estaque is a small French fishing village just west of Marseille.Many artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods visited or resided there or in the surrounding area. Many of them painted village scenes, the road leading to the village, and the view of the Bay from the village. Paul Cézanne painted many views of the water from his room in L’Estaque, showing the changing seasons, the shifting light of day, and the changes in the village itself over time.

Embracing Sunflowers

 
 

Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago in 1925 and died in Paris in 1992 at the age of 67. She came to attention in the early 1950s, exhibiting at the Stable Gallery in New York alongside Joseph Cornell and Robert Rauschenberg. In the summer of 1955 she travelled to France, settling there permanently in 1959. There have been numerous gallery and museum exhibitions of Mitchell’s work, including two major shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974 and 2002, which toured across the United States. Her paintings can be seen in museums and important private collections worldwide.

 
 

Sunflower III, 1969

 
 

Sunflower, 1972

 
 

Untitled (Sunflower), 1987

 
 

Sunflowers, 1991

 
 

Joan Mitchell’s Sunflower works count amongst the most experimental and vibrant of all her pieces. Hung in the upstairs gallery, six canvases, etchings and drawings dating from the 1960s to the year before her death, host an extraordinary diversity of marks with compositions whose ungovernable vitality refuse to comply to the rules of image making. Mitchell considered sunflowers to be ‘like people’ — subjects to empathise with whose life cycles were played out with exuberance but brutal swiftness. ‘If I see a sunflower drooping, I can droop with it,’ she explained, ‘and I draw it, and feel it until its death.’ Like Vincent van Gogh whose precedent she was brave enough to summon, she embraced sunflowers for their hopefulness as much as for their assertive and undeniable splendour. Her images do not much resemble the plants themselves: they are blue and red as well as golden, erratically dancing sweeps of colour that communicate internal as much as external landscape.

Mitchell began the Sunflower works after relocating from Paris to Vétheuil, a town 60 kilometers north of the capital. They grew out of a particularly difficult time in the artist’s life, following her mother’s death in 1967 after a seven year struggle with cancer. The paintings from this earlier period are dark and foreboding, roiling tempests of paint. In Calvi (1964) named after a Corsican fishing port Mitchell visited on a sailing trip, a central area of densely worked impasto sits on top of a haze of translucent layers of pigment which conjures a landscape distance. The impression of solid weight achieved through the tactile physicality at the heart of this canvas recalls Paul Cézanne, yet rather than suggest the volume of actual objects, Mitchell’s build-up of paint makes emotion palpable.

Untitled, 1968-1969, and the drawing Untitled (1967) convey a different, brighter mood, whilst etchings the artist made in the early ’70s establish a whiplash fluency of line. As the critic and poet John Yau has noted, the works of this period grant the viewer ‘an intimate encounter with a sumptuous but harsh lyricism that constantly courts but never succumbs to chaos.’ In these pieces, Mitchell’s marks possess a fresh looseness, their brio asserted in opposing colours and unexpected positionings. Nature is conjured at its most unruly and oppositional: frenzy co-exists with calm, flux results in disruptiveness.

In Untitled (1969) Mitchell pursues this diversity of painted gesture and unevenness of composition to magnificent extreme. Thick areas of red and yellow paint reveal a frenzy of working whilst elsewhere the canvas is marked only by faint washes of green. Drips slide down the picture and snarls of paint grow glistening and creamy where they collide with white. According to the writer Dave Hickey, Mitchell’s ‘manner is at once too varied and specified to ever be “a style”. She could make any mark but she never fell in love with one, just the speed of it.’ Her works make lasting passion, movement and energy, describing not the appearance of the world nor transcendent revelation, but the nature of being in it, its transient, intense pleasures and pains.

In the final years of her life Mitchell returned to the subject of sunflowers with renewed focus. These often multi-part canvases are assured, employing a carefully edited palette and calligraphic energy conveyed through lavish brush marks. In these, a potential self-containment of individual rosettes is countered by the sideways spreading from one into several canvases allowing for a range of inter-related expressions that are vast and open-ended. ‘I want them to hold one image despite all the activity,’ Mitchell has said of her works. ‘It’s kind of a plumb line that dancers have; they have to be perfectly balanced the more frenetic the activity is.’

Overcoming Temptations

The Temptation of Saint-Anthony, by Max Ernst

 
 

In 1946 the David L. LoewAlbert Lewin film production company held a contest for a painting on the theme of Saint Anthony’s Temptation, with the winner to be used in the film The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Albert Lewin, 1947). The movie is in black and white except for the one shot of Max Ernst’s Temptation in color. Various artists produced paintings on this subject, and contest was won by Max Ernst, whose work was duly shown on-screen. However, the most well-known of these paintings is a failed contestant, Salvador Dalí‘s version. This was the only art contest in which Dalí participated during his lifetime.

 
 

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Salvador Dalí, 1946

 
 

Besides Dalí and Ernst, Ivan Albright, Eugene Berman, Leonora Carrington, Paul Delvaux, Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini, Louis Guglielmi, Horace Pippin, Abraham Rattner and Stanley Spencer, were also invited to create a work on the theme. Fini did not produce a painting, but the others were paid $500 for their submissions, with an additional $2,500 prize for the winner.

 
 

The Torment of Saint Anthony, attributed to Michelangelo, c. 1487–1488. Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Artists noted that Michelangelo had painted St. Anthony after a print by Martin Schongauer

 
 

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch (triptych, c. 1501)

 
 

Throughout history, artists and authors (including Paul Cézanne and Hieronymus Bosch) have used the temptation of St. Anthony as subject matter for creative works. Dalí’s depiction is classical, erotic, and surrealist.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (French La Tentation de Saint Antoine) is a book which the French author Gustave Flaubert spent practically his whole life fitfully working on, in three versions he completed in 1849, 1856 (extracts published at the same time) and 1872 before publishing the final version in 1874. It takes as its subject the famous temptation faced by Saint Anthony the Great in the Egyptian desert, a theme often repeated in medieval and modern art.

The temptations of Saint Anthony were:

Frailty
The Seven Deadly Sins
The Heresiarchs
The Martyrs
The Magicians
The Gods
Science
Food
Lust and Death
The Monsters
Metamorphosis

In September 1849, Flaubert completed the first version of a novel, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He read the novel aloud to Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp over the course of four days, not allowing them to interrupt or give any opinions. At the end of the reading, his friends told him to throw the manuscript in the fire, suggesting instead that he focus on day-to-day life rather than fantastic subjects.

Flaubert exercised an extraordinary influence over Guy de Maupassant, Edmond de Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet,  Émile Zola and Franz Kafka. Even after the decline of the Realist school, Flaubert did not lose prestige in the literary community; he continues to appeal to other writers because of his deep commitment to aesthetic principles, his devotion to style, and his indefatigable pursuit of the perfect expression.

He has been admired or written about by almost every major literary personality of the 20th century, including philosophers and sociologists such as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Paul Sartre whose partially psychoanalytic portrait of Flaubert in The Family Idiot was published in 1971. The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is another great admirer of Flaubert.

Suppressed Human Emotions

Stills from Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)

 
 

Federico García Lorca crowded his thoughts onto a sheet of stationery from a Barcelona cafe. “I want to weep,” he wrote to Salvador Dalí. “I’ve behaved like an indecent donkey’s ass with you, you who are the best thing in the world for me. As the minutes go by I see it clearly and I am truly sorry. But this only increases my affection for you and my attachment to your way of thinking and your human quality.” Lorca avoided saying more about what had taken place between the two men.

The friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the erotic advances of the poet. With the success of Gypsy Ballads, came an estrangement from Dalí and the breakdown of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén. These brought on an increasing depression to Lorca, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. He felt he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured, authentic self, which he could only acknowledge in private. He also had the sense that he was being pigeon-holed as a “gypsy poet”. He wrote: “The gypsies are a theme. And nothing more. I could just as well be a poet of sewing needles or hydraulic landscapes. Besides, this gypsyism gives me the appearance of an uncultured, ignorant and primitive poet that you know very well I’m not. I don’t want to be typecast”. Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Luis Buñuel collaborated on their film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog). García Lorca interpreted it, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack upon himself. At this time Dalí also met his future wife Gala. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca’s family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929–30.

 
 

 
 

Un Chien Andalou is a 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel’s first film and was initially released in 1929 with a limited showing at Studio des Ursulines in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months. The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes. The film was financed by Buñuel’s mother, and shot in Le Havre and Paris at the Billancourt studios over a period of 10 days in March 1928.

The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.

The film opens with a title card reading “Once upon a time”. A middle-aged man (Luis Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony.

 
 

There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the man slits the woman’s eye with the razor, and the vitreous humour spills out from it.

 
 

The shot of the eyeball (actually that of a dead calf) being slit by Buñuel

 
 

The subsequent title card reads “eight years later”. A slim young man (Pierre Batcheff) bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun’s habit and a striped box with a strap around his neck. A cut occurs to the young woman from the first scene, who has been reading in a sparingly furnished upstairs apartment. She hears the young man approaching on his bicycle and casts aside the book she was reading (revealing a reproduction of Vermeer’s The Lacemaker). She goes to the window and sees the young man lying on the curb, his bicycle on the ground. She emerges from the building and attempts to revive the young man.

 
 

An image from Dalí’s dream, part of the inspiration for the film

 
 

The idea for the film began when Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein in France. Buñuel told Dalí at a restaurant one day about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half “like a razor blade slicing through an eye”. Dalí responded that he’d dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. Excitedly, Buñuel declared: “There’s the film, let’s go and make it.'” They were fascinated by what the psyche could create, and decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions.

 
 

Jaime Miravilles and Salvador Dalí as the confused priests

 
 

In deliberate contrast to the approach taken by Jean Epstein and his peers, which was to never leave anything in their work to chance, with every aesthetic decision having a rational explanation and fitting clearly into the whole,  Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was: “No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” He also stated: “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.”

 
 

 
 

Over the course of his long career Dalí associated his work with a wide range of predecessors (including Paul Cézanne, Le Corbusier, Giorgio de Chirico, Arnold Böcklin, and later Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci), but none of them came close to rivaling Johannes Vermeer. Throughout his life Dalí remained entirely unwavering in his belief that Vermeer was the greatest painter who ever lived and the artist whom he most dearly wished to emulate.

The first screening of Un Chien Andalou took place at Studio des Ursulines, with an audience of le tout-Paris. Notable attendees of the première included Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Christian Bérard and George Auric, in addition to the entirety of André Breton‘s Surrealist group. The audience’s positive reception of the film amazed Buñuel, who was relieved that no violence ensued. Dalí, on the contrary, was reportedly disappointed, feeling the audience’s reaction made the evening “less exciting.” Buñuel since claimed that prior to the show, he had put stones in his pockets “to throw at the audience in case of disaster”, although others had no recollection of this.

 
 

A death’s-head moth

 
 

Against his hopes and expectations, the film was a huge success amongst the French bourgeoisie, leading Buñuel to exclaim in exasperation, “What can I do about the people who adore all that is new, even when it goes against their deepest convictions, or about the insincere, corrupt press, and the inane herd that saw beauty or poetry in something which was basically no more than a desperate impassioned call for murder?”

Modern prints of the film feature a soundtrack consisting of excerpts from Richard Wagner‘s “Liebestod” from his opera Tristan und Isolde and a recording of two Argentinian tangos sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Olé guapa.” This is the same soundtrack that Buñuel chose and played live on a phonograph during the original 1929 screening in Paris. They were first added to a print of the film in 1960 under Buñuel’s supervision.

Film scholar Ken Dancyger has argued that Un Chien Andalou might be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video. Roger Ebert had called it the inspiration for low budget independent films.

Symbols of the Transcient of Life

Composition with Skulls, 1908

 
 

Skulls, Urchins and Lamp on a Table, 1943

 
 

Skulls and Leeks, 1945

 
 

Black Jug and Skull, 1946

 
 

Skulls, traditional symbols of the memento mori in Western art history, fascinated Pablo Picasso throughout his life. Throughout World War II in occupied Paris, Picasso produced many skulls and still lifes that captured the tense and uncertain mood of the city. While they may represent allegories of human mortality in art, the immediacy of Picasso’s paintings and sculptures transform his skulls into poignant emblems of human vulnerability, death, and the senseless destruction of war.

 
 

Skull, 1943

 
 

Picasso created Skull during the Nazi occupation of Paris, which he may have modeled off of skulls kept in his studio as many artists did, such as Paul Cézanne who stored several on his mantelpiece.

 
 

Naturaleza muerta Vanitas (Still-life Vanitas), Antonio de Pereda, 1650/1660

 
 

Along with Cézanne, Picasso must have drawn inspiration from Antonio de Pereda’s Vanitas (1660) paintings, in which the artist has rendered the bone structure of carefully crafted craniums in a meticulous manner. These skulls are but sober reminders of the body’s demise and universal symbols of the expiration of man’s existence and the transience of life, which Picasso has rendered in his own inimitable fashion.

The Only Laughter to Still Make Sense

Skull, Candlestick and Book, c. 1866

 
 

Still Life Skull and Waterjug, c. 1870

 
 

Still Life with Skull, 1898

 
 

Pyramid of skulls, c.1900

 
 

The Three Skulls, c.1900

 
 

Three Skulls on a Patterned Carpet, c.1900

 
 

Working in isolation in the last decade of his life, Paul Cézanne frequently alluded to mortality in his letters: “For me, life has begun to be deathly monotonous”; “As for me, I’m old. I won’t have time to express myself”; and “I might as well be dead.” It is possible that the death of his mother on October 25, 1897—she had been a protective and supportive influence—accelerated his meditations on mortality, a subject which had obsessed the artist since the late 1870s, but did not find pictorial form for another twenty years.

 
 

Young Man With a Skull, 1896-98

 
 

Cézanne’s interest in the subject may have had roots in thoughts other than the contemplation of death. He could have been drawn to the skulls’ volumetric forms, just as he was to those of fruits and vases, and he supposedly exclaimed “How beautiful a skull is to paint!” They also share physical similarities with his self-portrayals: “the skulls confront the viewer straight-on in a manner reminiscent of the artist’s portraits.” There would have been further reason for the subject to interest Cézanne: skulls were prominent in the homes of Catholics, and Cézanne was a devout Catholic knowledgeable in ancient Christian texts. Human skulls had also long been common accessories in artists’ studios. Indeed, the contents of Cézanne’s studio were known to include “three skulls, (and) an ivory Christ on an ebony cross” near one another on the mantelpiece.

Joachim Gasquet, a friend of the artist, later recalled “on his last mornings he clarified this idea of death into a heap of bony brain pans to which the eye holes added a bluish notion. I can still hear him reciting to me, one evening along the Arc River, the quatrain by Paul Verlaine:

“For in this lethargic world
Perpetually prey to old remorse
The only laughter to still make sense
Is that of death’s heads.”

Lobster and Cat

Nature morte avec chat et homard (Still life with cat and lobster), Pablo Picasso, 1962

 
 

Le homard et le chat (Lobster and Cat), Pablo Picasso, 1965

 
 

Lobster and Cat attests to the artist’s unbreakable energy during the last few years of his life. The oil painting demonstrates Pablo Picasso’s skill at depicting apparently humorous subjects in a serious manner: both animals are, potentially, as innocent as they are dangerous. The cat looks threatening, and is confronted by a crustacean in attack mode. Some art critics point out that the subject’s predecessor was La Raie (The Skate, 1728, Musée du Louvre, Paris), by French artist Jean-Baptiste-Simeón Chardin.

The surprising thing about Picasso’s painting is that he is able to retain the humorous anecdote of an eighteenth-century painting while focussing on and highlighting the encounter between the cat and the lobster, in an effective metaphor of aggression and defence, both provoked by fear. Picasso worked a number of times on transforming the monumental to the miniature, the trifling to the significant, and vice versa.

Lobster and Cat became part of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum collection in 1991 thanks to the legacy of Hilde Thannhauser, the second wife of Justin K. Thannhauser, who had worked with his father, Heinrich, at the famous Munich gallery that bore his name. Strong supporters of the Avant-garde art movement with their excellent and eclectic programme of exhibitions, the Thannhausers put on the first major Pablo Picasso retrospective in 1913, at their Moderne Galerie. This was the start of a close relationship between Justin K. Thannhauser and the artist which was to last until Picasso’s death in 1973. The top left-hand corner of Lobster and Cat carries a dedication, “Pour Justin”, signed by his “ami”, Picasso. Under the terms of the Thannhauser legacy, the holdings are to be on display almost permanently in the galleries devoted to the collection at the museum building in New York. This is why Lobster and Cat has very rarely been seen outside New York.

 
 

La Raie (The Skate), by Jean-Baptiste-Simeón Chardin, 1728

 
 

A renowned French artist of the 18th Century, Chardin was well known for his still-life works and genre paintings. His refined and realistic style had a lasting influence on some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries, including Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906), and of course, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). His depictions were of simple subjects, but masterful in their execution.