You Who Never Arrived

Rainer Maria Rilke photographed by George Bernard Shaw, 1906

 

DU IM VORAUS VERLORNE GELIEBTE

 

Du im Voraus
verlorne Geliebte, Nimmergekommene,
nicht weiß ich, welche Töne dir lieb sind.
Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommende wogt,
zu erkennen. Alle die großen
Bilder in mir, im Fernen erfahrene Landschaft,
Städte und Türme und Brücken und un-
vermutete Wendungen der Wege
und das Gewaltige jener von Göttern
einst durchwachsenen Länder:
steigt zur Bedeutung in mir
deiner, Entgehende, an.
Ach, die Gärten bist du,
ach, ich sah sie mit solcher
Hoffnung. Ein offenes Fenster
im Landhaus -, und du tratest beinahe
mir nachdenklich heran. Gassen fand ich, –
du warst sie gerade gegangen,
und die Spiegel manchmal der Läden der Händler
waren noch schwindlich von dir und gaben erschrocken
mein zu plötzliches Bild. – Wer weiß, ob derselbe
Vogel nicht hinklang durch uns
gestern, einzeln, im Abend?

Rainer Maria Rilke

1913-14

Paris

 

_________________________________________

 

“You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt
landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and
unsuspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house– , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and,
startled, gave back my too-sudden image.
Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening… “

Translation by Stephen Mitchell

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Kafkaesque Chain of Events

George Harrison on the set of A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, 1964)

 

Among George Harrison‘s biographers, Simon Leng views All Things Must Pass as a “paradox of an album”: as eager as Harrison was to break free from his identity as a Beatle, Leng suggests, many of the songs document the “Kafkaesque chain of events” of life within the band and so added to the “mythologized history” he was looking to escape. Ian Inglis notes 1970’s place in an era marking “the new supremacy of the singer-songwriter”, through such memorable albums as Simon & Garfunkel‘s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Neil Young‘s After the Gold Rush, Van Morrison‘s Moondance and Joni Mitchell‘s Ladies of the Canyon, but that none of these “possessed the startling impact” of All Things Must Pass. Harrison’s triple album, Inglis writes, “[would] elevate ‘the third Beatle’ into a position that, for a time at least, comfortably eclipsed that of his former bandmates”.

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.’

The Difference Between Performing Arts and A Painter

“That’s one thing that’s always, like, been a difference between, like, the performing arts, and being a painter, you know. A painter does a painting, and he paints it, and that’s it, you know. He has the joy of creating it, it hangs on a wall, and somebody buys it, and maybe somebody buys it again, or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft somewhere until he dies. But he never, you know, nobody ever, nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man!’ You know? He painted it and that was it.”

Joni Mitchell
1974

 
 

Turbulent Indigo (1994). The album takes inspiration from Vincent van Gogh for Mitchell’s self-portrait on the cover and the song Turbulent Indigo also references the post-Impressionist Dutch painter

For the Other Half of the Sky

Front cover for the 45rpm vinyl single Woman by John Lennon. The photograph was taken by Jack Mitchell

 
 

Woman is a song written and performed by John Lennon from his 1980 album Double Fantasy. Lennon wrote it as an ode to his wife Yoko Ono, and to all women. The track begins with Lennon whispering, “For the other half of the sky …”, a paraphrase of a Chinese proverb (“women hold up half the sky”), once used by Mao Zedong.

This song was chosen by Lennon to be the second single released from the Double Fantasy album, and it was the first Lennon single issued after his death on 8 December 1980. The B-side of the single is Ono’s song Beautiful Boy.

 
 

 
 

In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine on 5 December 1980, Lennon said that Woman was a “grown-up version” of his song Girl (which was, by the way, the last complete song recorded for Rubber Soul) . On 5 June 1981, Geffen re-released Woman as a single as part of their Back to Back Hits series, with the B-side “(Just Like) Starting Over“. In 1965, Lennon’s then-songwriting partner and fellow Beatle band mate, Paul McCartney, had written a different song entitled Woman for Peter & Gordon using a pseudonym. Thus, both Lennon and McCartney have individual credit for writing different charting songs with the same title.

Thwarted by Outside Forces

Romeo and Juliet as depicted by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1929

 
 

“Star-crossed” or “star-crossed lovers” is a phrase describing a pair of lovers whose relationship is often thwarted by outside forces. The term encompasses other meanings, but originally means the pairing is being “thwarted by a malign star” or that the stars are working against the relationship. Astrological in origin, the phrase stems from the belief that the positions of the stars ruled over people’s fates, and is best known from the play Romeo and Juliet by the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare. Such pairings are often but not always said to be doomed from the start.

The phrase was coined in the prologue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” (5–6).

It also refers to destiny and the inevitability of the two characters’ paths crossing each other. It usually but not always refers to unlucky outcomes, since Romeo and Juliet’s affair ended tragically. Further, it connotes that the lovers entered into their union without sufficient forethought or preparation; that the lovers may not have had adequate knowledge of each other or that they were not thinking rationally.

 
 

Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939)

 
 

Examples of famous star-crossed lovers vary in written work. Pyramus and Thisbe are usually regarded as the source for Romeo and Juliet, featured in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights are considered one of the greatest love stories in literary works. In Wuthering Heights, the narrative tells the tale of the all-encompassing and passionate, yet thwarted, love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them.

 
 

The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1874. Albumen silver print from glass negative. David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1952

 
 

Lancelot and Guinevere are often remembered for their affair. Guinevere was the queen of Camelot and wife of King Arthur, while Lancelot was a trusted knight of Arthur’s Round Table. In some versions of the tale, she is instantly smitten, and when they consummate their adulterous passion, it is an act which paves the way for the fall of Camelot and Arthur’s death.

 
 

The End of The Song,  Edmund Leighton, 1902

 
 

The legend of Tristan and Iseult (also known as Tristan and Isolde) is an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with as many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the lovers. The narrative predates and most likely influenced the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, and has had a substantial impact on Western art and literature since it first appeared in the 12th century. While the details of the story differ from one author to another, the overall plot structure remains much the same.

Hero and Leander is a Greek myth, relating the story of Hero (Greek: Ἡρώ), a priestess of Aphrodite who dwelt in a tower in Sestos, at the edge of the Hellespont, and Leander (Greek: Λέανδρος, Leandros), a young man from Abydos on the other side of the strait. Leander fell in love with Hero and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way.

 
 

Sarah Bernhardt in Pelléas et Mélisandre

 
 

Pelléas and Mélisande (French: Pelléas et Mélisande) is a Symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck about the forbidden, doomed love of the title characters. A classical myth, was a common subject for art during the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. The play (also described as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays) is not a conventional tragedy, since its protagonist (Troilus) does not die.The play ends instead on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus and Cressida.Venus and Adonis is classical myth during the Renaissance. Heer Ranjha is one of the four popular tragic romances of the Punjab.

 
 

The fainting of Laylah and Majnun, Author unknown, c. 1550-1600

 
 

Layla and Majnun ( by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi) is a classical Arabian love story . It is based on the real story of a young man called Qays ibn al-Mulawwah from the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the Umayyad era during the 7th century. There were two Arabic versions of the story at the time. In one version, he spent his youth together with Layla, tending their flocks. In the other version, upon seeing Layla he fell passionately in love with her. In both versions, however, he went mad when her father prevented him from marrying her; for that reason he came to be called Majnun Layla, which means “Driven mad by Layla”. To him were attributed a variety of incredibly passionate romantic Arabic poems, considered among the foremost examples of the Udhari school.

 
 


The Butterfly Lovers is a Chinese legend about the tragic romance between two lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. The legend is sometimes regarded as the Chinese equivalent to Romeo and Juliet.

 
 

Other classic star-crossed lovers include Devdas and Paro (Parvati) in Devdas, Paris of Troy and Helen of Sparta in The Iliad, Oedipus and Jocasta in Oedipus the King, Mark Antony and Cleopatra during the time of the Roman Empire, Khosrow and Shirin during the time of Sassanid Persia, Heloise and Peter Abelard during the Middle Ages, and Emperor Jahangir and Anarkali, Cyrano and Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac, Hagbard and Signy and Maratha Peshwa (Prime Minister) Bajirao and Mastani during the peak of Maratha Empire.

The Blonde and the Brunette

Marilyn Monroe in Jackie wig. Photos: Bern Stern, 1962

 
 

MARILYN AND JACKIE’S 11-YEAR ITCH

Text by Wendy Leigh

The Observer,  Sunday 22 June 2003

 
 

At first glance they couldn’t have been more different. Jackie, the pristine American princess born into East Coast high society, who glided effortlessly into marriage with multi-millionaire’s son Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and then into the White House as First Lady. And Marilyn, the bleached blonde bombshell from the wrong side of the tracks, illegitimate daughter of a mother who went insane and a father she never knew, with a sexual radiance so white hot that it catapulted her from pleasuring ageing Hollywood tycoons, on to the silver screen and into immortality.

Yet while researching my novel, The Secret Letters of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy, I discovered that, like many wives and mistresses who share the same man, in reality Marilyn and Jackie were sisters under the sheets. It became clear to me that Marilyn was Jackie’s equal and that her illicit affair with Kennedy was significant. For years, that affair has been was painted as brief, fumbling – a one-night stand which might, mainly because of Kennedy’s fascination with Marilyn’s dizzying status as America’s reigning sex goddess, have only temporarily transcended his usual hit-and-run amorous encounters.

But their liaison was far from brief. The future President met the actress in 1951, at the house of Marilyn’s agent and Jack’s friend, Charles K Feldman. Kennedy was an up-and-coming senator, a bachelor playboy whose political campaign was funded by his father’s vast fortune. Marilyn was on the brink of stardom. Their affair was to last 11 years, ending with one final meeting in Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel just hours after Marilyn had sung ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ in such an erotically charged way that the columnist Dorothy Kilgallen noted: ‘It seemed like Marilyn was making love to the President in front of 40 million Americans.’

If their affair lasted for 11 years, it was also far from superficial, as a cache of letters from Kennedy to Marilyn, now in the possession of Marilyn’s heirs, attests. Monroe was Kennedy’s long-term mistress, a serious rival to his wife.

Yet below the surface, Marilyn and Jackie shared many similarities. Growing up, they both adored Gone With the Wind, worshipped the Empress Josephine and idolized Clark Gable – Marilyn kissing his picture goodnight as a child, fantasizing that he was her father, and Jackie insisting that her own father, Jack Bouvier, was Gable’s double. Both women retained whispery, baby-doll voices as adults, often playing ‘Daddy’s girl’ with the men in their lives. Even when she was in her late fifties, Jackie simulated a little-girl quality around Maurice Templesman, the last man in her life. And Marilyn actually addressed her third husband, Arthur Miller, as ‘Daddy’. Both had difficulties conceiving a child.

They shared a love of salacious gossip. According to Truman Capote, Jackie was set on discovering what a mutual friend was like in bed. Capote was also Marilyn’s confidant of choice, revealing to him how she witnessed Errol Flynn playing ‘You Are my Sunshine‘ on the piano with his penis.

Naturally, their jetset lifestyles rocketed Marilyn and Jackie into the same orbit. When Jackie met Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gabor gave her skin-care advice. Marilyn met Zsa Zsa in less felicitous circumstances, on the set of All About Eve, in which she starred with George Sanders – with Gabor, his then wife, ever present. Zsa Zsa’s reasons were clear. She later recalls George telling her: ‘The doorbell rings and there stands Marilyn in a beautiful sable coat. I asked her what she wanted and she opened the coat. Marilyn was stark naked underneath. Who am I not to make love to a woman like that?’

Marilyn and Jackie each met and flirted with Krushchev and Sukarno; Aristotle Onassis acted as a go-between for Prince Rainier when Rainier wanted to marry Marilyn. And while Onassis never met Marilyn, he did, of course, meet Jackie, whereupon, according to Onassis’s biographer, Willi Frischauer, ‘he compared her to a diamond – cool, sharp at the edges, fiery and hot beneath the surface’.

Jackie and Marilyn both favoured Chanel; Jackie wore Chanel designs, Marilyn slept in Chanel No 5. Their hairdresser of choice was Kenneth, who created Jackie’s trademark bouffant, and advised Marilyn to dye her pubic hair blonde so that it didn’t show through her clinging clothes. Marilyn and Jackie shared a number of lovers and admirers. British actor Peter Lawford, Jack Kennedy’s friend and sometime pimp, was one of them.

Robert Mitchum also appealed to both women. Jackie enthused that he had always been her favourite movie star. Marilyn, who co-starred with Mitchum in River of No Return, said: ‘Mitchum is one of the most interesting, fascinating men I’ve ever known’, but drew the line at a threesome with Mitchum and his stand-in, Tim Wallace: ‘Ooh,’ said Marilyn, ‘that would kill me.’ ‘Well, nobody’s died from it yet,’ Wallace snickered. ‘Ooh, I bet they have!’ Marilyn told him, ‘but in the papers they just say the girl died of natural causes.’

After Kennedy’s death, rumours raged that Jackie and Frank Sinatra had an affair. Their relationship dated back to the Inauguration Ball, to which Frank escorted Jackie. Watching the footage of that night, the chemistry between them is palpable. Marilyn, in turn, had a sporadic affair with Sinatra. One night, according to her maid, Lena Pepitone: ‘She absent-mindedly wandered downstairs with nothing on to look for Frank. She said that she was lonely and just wanted to talk to him. After walking through one empty room after another, she finally opened the door to the smoking-room where the card game was in session. Frank was livid. “He yanked me to one side and ordered me to get my ‘fat ass’ back upstairs.” How dare she embarrass him in front of his friends.’

Marlon Brando dazzled Marilyn and Jackie. He met Marilyn in 1955; there was a strong attraction between them; she called him Carlo, reporting that he was sweet and tender. In the late Sixties, Jackie had dinner with Brando at a Washington club and danced with him afterwards. According to one of Brando’s friends: ‘Jackie pressed her thighs against his and did everything she could to arouse him. They talked about going away on a skiing vacation together, just the two of them. Brando could feel Jackie’s breath on his ear. He felt Jackie expected him to make a move, to try and take her to bed.’ However, having drunk too much, Brando was fearful he might be impotent, so made his apologies and left.

Apart from sharing President Kennedy’s bed, Marilyn and Jackie both had affairs with his brother, Bobby. Jackie’s affair with Bobby, in the years following Jack’s assassination, has only recently been revealed by C David Heymann in his biography RFK . ‘Socialite Mary Harrington was staying at a house next to the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach in 1964. “I was looking out a window on the third floor and there was Jackie, sunbathing in the grass wearing a black bikini bottom with no top. Then Bobby, wearing a white swimsuit, emerged from the house and knelt by her side. As they began to kiss, he placed one hand on her breast and the other between her legs. After a few minutes, she stood up and wrapped a towel around her. Together, Bobby and Jackie disappeared into the house.'”

Ultimately, it appears that the wife was as libidinous as the mistress. Yet neither of them was as highly sexed as the man in their lives. Jack Kennedy insisted that if he didn’t have sex on a daily basis he would get a headache, and claimed: ‘I’m not through with a woman until I’ve had her three ways’. But according to Jackie’s friend, Peter Duchin: ‘Jackie was very, very romantic, but not sexy’, while Peter Lawford alluded to Marilyn’s ‘romanticism’.

Perhaps it is natural that, from the start, Marilyn and Jackie were enthralled by one another. When she was working as a young reporter in Washington, Jackie invariably asked men: ‘If you had a date with Marilyn Monroe, what would you talk about?’ And Marilyn’s fascination with Jackie was such that she even dressed as her for a Life magazine shoot, donning a black wig and pearls for the occasion.

When Marilyn died at the age of 36 in 1962, Jackie, the wronged wife, declared sombrely: ‘She will go on eternally.’ Jackie herself died on 19 May 1994, the thirty-second anniversary of the night on which Marilyn Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to her lover, Jack Kennedy.