On Abandoment and Disappointed Love

d4051821r(c) Watts Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

George Frederic Watts first painted the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in the late 1860s. This decade saw a revival of classical subject matter in British art. It is a measure of Watts’s flexibility as an artist that, in the middle of his career aged about fifty, he should become deeply involved in a new movement in art, sharing the aims of much younger painters such as Frederic Leighton and Edward Burne-Jones. His Orpheus and Eurydice paintings are among the most powerful early masterpieces of this ‘aesthetic classicism.’ As with most subjects that gripped his imagination, Watts treated it several times, refining the composition until it fully realised his ideal.

The story of Orpheus is recounted in many ancient sources. The most accessible account, and probably the one used by Watts, is found in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses (book X).

Three subjects from the story were particularly attractive to artists:

Orpheus playing in hell;
Orpheus’s loss of Eurydice’; and
Orpheus’s head and lyre, which continued to sing after his own death.

In the 1860s Watts treated many themes of abandonment and disappointed love. Clytie whose yearning for the sun god Apollo turned her into a sunflower and Ariadne deserted by Theseus, share similar themes with Orpheus and Eurydice. Watts probably exposed deep personal emotions in such subjects, for his first marriage, to the young actress Ellen Terry, ended in separation in 1865, after they had been together for only eleven months.

But Watts’s impetus was not simply personal for the Orpheus and Eurydice theme was also popular with his closest artistic friends in the 1860s. In Victorian High Renaissance, Allan Staley suggests that Watts took it up in direct response to Frederic Leighton‘s 1864 Royal Academy picture (Leighton House). This is a distinctly odd treatment of the theme in which Orpheus pushes Eurydice away. Watts’s painting may be intended to criticise this version. Leighton became Watts’s near neighbour in Kensington in 1866, and the two men exerted a strong influence on each other for the next six years. In the late 1860s Burne-Jones produced illustrations to William Morris’s unpublished Orpheus and Eurydice poem. (He later re-used them for the 1880 Graham piano, the designs for which inspired John Singer Sargent‘s portrait of Comyns Carr. Watts painted portraits of his friends Burne-Jones and Morris in 1870 (Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and National Portrait Gallery).

There are many studies for the various versions of the work. Most appear to date from the late 1860s when Watts conceived and developed the subject. Two drawings are in the Royal Academy, London, among the collection selected by Edward John Poynter, as President, under the terms of Watts’s will. A head study for Orpheus is in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s collection (Cecil French Bequest). A drawing for one of the horizontal format compositions is in the collection of David Loshak. Most interesting among the drawn studies is that in the collection of Sir Brinsley Ford. The upper half is very close to the composition of the present picture, but the figures are full length and a third figure (omitted from all known painted versions) appears in the bottom right corner. This emphasises the placing of this version in the sequence of Watts’s paintings between his abandonment of the horizontal format and his development of an upright one. Watts also produced sculptured studies for the figure and head of Orpheus to help him realise the difficult pose of the figure and the tormented expression, both hard for a model to hold. (Two studies, plaster casts from clay or wax originals are in the Watts Gallery, Compton.) Watts’s interest in sculpture developed in the 1860s, when he made both finished works (such as the bust of Clytie) and such studies. The production of sculptural studies for paintings was a Renaissance practice and passed into the academic tradition. The studies and the finished painting reveal Watts’s fascination with dynamic twisting poses and especially with the stretch and turn of the neck. This seems to have been a personal idiosyncracy. Found in many other works of this time (such as Clytie), it should be seen as an aspect of Watts’s enthusiasm for the Renaissance artist that earned him the nickname of ‘England’s Michelangelo.’

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From the Remaining Chord

Hope, George Frederic Watts, 1886

 

Hope is a Symbolist oil painting by George Frederic Watts, two versions of which were completed in 1886. The painting was intended to form part of a series of allegorical paintings by Watts entitled the House of Life. The painting shows a female allegorical figure of Hope. Hope is traditionally identifiable through the attribute of an anchor, but Watts took a more original approach. In his painting, she is depicted sitting on a globe, blindfolded, clutching a wooden lyre with only one string left intact. She sits in a hunched position, with her head leaning towards the instrument, perhaps so she can hear the faint music she can make with the sole remaining string. According to Watts, “Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord”. The desolate atmosphere is emphasised by Watts’s soft brushwork, creating a misty, ethereal scene, in tones of green, brown and grey. Watts’s melancholy depiction of hope was criticised, and G. K. Chesterton suggested that a better title would be Despair.

 

A Sea Spell (1877)

 

Dreamers (1882)

 

The Wheel of Fortune (1871)

 

Watts may have been inspired by the pose of the siren in Dante Gabriel Rossetti‘s  painting A Sea Spell, or the sleeping women in Albert Joseph Moore‘s painting Dreamers. Watts may have taken inspiration for the blindfold from the allegorical figure of Fortune in Edward Burne-Jones‘s  painting The Wheel of Fortune, which Watts owned. The painting was displayed at the 1897 Manchester Jubilee Exhibition, alongside other works by Watts including Love and Death, The Court of Death, Psyche, and Mount Ararat.

Hope inspired a scene from a 1922 film of the same name by Herbert Blaché and Lejaren à Hiller, featuring Mary Astor as Hope. It has been suggested as an influence on Pablo Picasso‘s early Blue Period paintings, especially the hunched musician in The Old Guitarist. Martin Luther King Jr referenced Hope in his sermon Shattered Dreams in his collection of sermons, Strength to Love. Nelson Mandela reportedly had a print of the painting on the wall of his prison cell on Robben Island. After Egypt was defeated by Israel during the Six-Day War the Egyptian government issued copies of it to its troops.

Special Tribute to Liz Tilberis

Harper’s Bazaar, July 1999 issue. Tom Cruise’s cover was the last cover approved by Liz before her death just 3 months prior. All ad revenue went to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Models, photographers, stylists, make-ups artists, etc., donated their time for free. There are no editorials. It is the one issue which features the solidarity of the fashion industry for an icon.

 
 

Illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld

 
 

Obituary by Cartier

 
 

Christy Turlington photographed by Patrick Demarchelier

 
 

Guinevere Van Seenus photographed by Craig McDean, clothes by Yohji Yamamoto

 
 

Naomi Campbell photographed by David Bailey clothes by Versace

 
 

Left: Linda Evangelista illustrated by Mats Gustafsson; Guinevere Van Seenus photographed by Richard Burbridge

 
 

Nikki Uberti photographed by Terry Richardson, clothes by Dolce and Gabbana

 
 

Anne Catherine Lacroix photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadinanne, clothes by Balenciaga

 
 

Erin O’Connor photographed by Patrick Demarchelier., clothes by Calvin Klein

 
 

Natalie Portman photographed by Robert Bromann, clothes by Moschino; Cindy Crawford photographed by Mary Ellen Mark, clothes by Malo; Rita Wilson photographed by Sante D’Orazio; Milla Jovovich photographed by Cliff Watts, clothes by Tommy Hilfiger

Lost and Found Session

“They knew exactly where they were all the time, and were simply waiting to be found!”

Peter Webb, on his lost Sticky Fingers session negatives.

 
 

The big yawn (above), shown alongside a contact strip of three negatives, showing its place in the sequence. Note Peter Webb’s excited handwritten confirmation that the original negative of his classic album sleeve image has been found again.

 
 

It’s a story that would give any photographer sleepless nights. A classic photo-session for one of the biggest bands on the planet, The Rolling Stones, for the cover of one of their most critically acclaimed albums. Anyone who owns the Sticky Fingers LP ( the one with the Andy Warhol zipper sleeve) will recognise Peter Webb’s black and white image, which Peter calls The Big Yawn, from the inner sleeve. What people don’t realise is that this photograph is one from a complete lost session that came to light after a gap of almost 40 years (negatives went missing soon after the shoot, on may 1971).

Peter made a name for himself in the seventies as a multi-award winning advertising photographer, and was then head-hunted as a director for Ridley Scott’s commercials company. He later established his own company Park Village Productions, based in the magnificent Victorian Riding School and Stables in Regents Park, lovingly restored and converted by Webb himself. Park Village remains a leading production company, with Webb and his colleagues having set the bar by winning all the premier awards in the business over the years, including the Palme D’Or at Cannes as the top Commercials company worldwide twice. His 1971 session to photograph the Stones for their Sticky Fingers album took place at his Park Village Studios.

After graduating from university in the mid sixties, Peter took an extended trip to New York. During his stay, Webb’s brother-in-law, Bill Pierce, (himself a NYC based photographer) taught him enough of the rudiments of photography for Webb to blag his way into a job assisting the legendary photographer and director Howard Zieff. It was while he assisted Zieff, that he was entrusted with the construction of an extraordinary 20 foot “walk-in” strobe lighting bank, the concept of which Zieff had conveniently borrowed from his good friend Irving Penn. It was this enormous lighting bank that Peter would later employ himself in the intricate construction of his 1971 session with the Stones.

Webb returned from the USA, and subsequently was introduced to the Rolling Stones by David Puttnam, in his previous incarnation as a photographers’ agent in the early 1970’s. Puttnam had seen Peter’s plate camera portraits and had mistakenly thought they must be the work of Penn or Zieff, little realizing they were produced by a then unknown UK photographer who had assisted Zieff in New York some years before. Puttnam said the band were “looking to do some shots for a forthcoming album”, and that Webb should set up a meeting at their office in town. He duly appeared at the Stones office and was ushered in to meet Jagger, a daunting milestone in itself.

Peter explains: “I presented my concept for the session, based around the ‘surrealist’ type of advertising work I was in to at the time, heavily influenced by Magritte. I envisaged the band dressed in Victorian boating attire, posed with oars primed in a beautiful wooden rowing boat. However the boat would not be on any river, it would be in a Victorian Photography Studio, with an elegantly painted backdrop of a period Henley, their oars resting on a wooden studio floor. Alarmingly however, during the course of my presentation, Jagger produced a series of wide-mouthed yawns and seemingly by way of dismissal suggested I pitch my ideas to Charlie Watts in the next door office, and who was “into Art”. I was duly ushered in to meet Watts, whose monosyllabic responses made Jagger’s seem wholly enthusiastic in comparison.”

Webb duly retired to lick his creative wounds, and to consider another option ASAP. He had been hugely impressed by Irving Penn’s classic B/W studio portraits of Haight-Ashbury hippy families and Hell’s Angels for Life Magazine some years earlier, and decided he would photograph the band “as they were” on a suitably neutral studio constructed backdrop.

Webb continues: “I had also been advised by a photographer friend that the band “were trouble” to photograph and could end up throwing “V” signs etc. to the camera – an attitude I thought I would encourage with a moody distressed grey-toned backdrop, to capture the brooding streetwise image I presumed the band would like to project.”

Webb spent many days extensively testing both lighting and background tones. He adapted an extended ‘walk in’ lighting bank similar to the one that he had constructed for Zieff, and constructed of a large hand-painted backdrop. With the preparation all in place, the Stones showed up on the appointed day at Webb’s studios, the converted Victorian Riding School and Stables next to Regent’s Park in central London.

“They immediately registered disappointment that they were going to be photographed in their own clothes, and that there was no “idea” anywhere in sight. And far from being “trouble”, the band stood like lost schoolboys on the over-scaled backdrop, and were not only compliant to my instructions in arranging them, but even seemed somewhat camera shy – which was totally unexpected.”

Andy Warhol and his Factory designer Craig Braun came up with the Sticky Fingers “Zipper” concept, which relegated Webb’s intended album cover image to a grainy dupe on an inside sleeve. Despite the shoddy reproduction on the sleeve, it is instantly recognisable as a classic Stones group portrait, showing Jagger standing to the left of the frame, yawning, while the other four Stones gather on the right, Bill Wyman scratching his nose. Webb christened the image “ The Big Yawn”.

 
 

 
 

Falling Stones, a colour portrait shot by Peter on Kodak Ektachrome 120 transparency film, is one of the most famous photographs from the Sticky Fingers session – and this image, kept separately from the black and whites, has its own unique survival story. At some point in the shoot, Webb asked the Stones to act a little more threateningly, and Mick, Keith and the band duly obliged. Finally things loosened up to a degree, and as a one-off idea he lined up the band shoulder-to-shoulder, like a younger Dad’s Army, and encouraged them to lean sideways. Thankfully the 1,000th second exposure time-captured this one-off event, and the resulting image was “Falling Stones”.

Falling Stones survival is thanks to a completely random two frame laboratory exposure ‘clip test’. Peter explains: “I forwarded the bulk of my (relatively few) colour shots from the shoot to the Stones office, and onwards to my good friend Braun at Andy Warhol’ s Factory. I never saw them again, and as far as I was concerned, these colour images were truly lost and gone forever. However the procedure of taking a random two frame “clip test” from an unprocessed roll (to adjust the processing of the remainder), meant some unnamed and forever heroic lab technician had sliced the obligatory two plus inches from the tail of the exposed roll, a mere half an inch clear of this shot. And so it was saved – but only just!”

 
 

 
 

After the group session was completed, Webb invited the band individually to an upstairs studio set up with a 5×4 Sinar plate camera, whose depth of field was so slight that a wooden rod had to be placed at the back of each band member’s head, so there would not be the slightest movement backwards.

After more searching enquiries from the various band members as to the purpose of the portraits – “Passports, is it now mate?” – Webb photographed Jagger in a number of extreme close ups, with and without a stylish Irish cap and a long-collared paisley shirt, fashionable at the time. In between another serial attack of yawns, Mick enquired politely, “So… what happened to that great idea about the boat?”

 
 

 
 

In early 1972 Peter entrusted his photographer brother-in-law with the safe keeping of an unmarked folder of negatives, which was, as Peter recalls now, “…an essential detail which I had conveniently forgotten, in the excitement of being hired by Ridley Scott to direct commercials, and the dark room became a cutting room overnight.”

Webb continues “Bill stored them in the attic along with his own negatives, and only revisited them recently while hunting for negatives of a portrait of Joan Didion he had shot in the early ‘50’s. He called me to say he had found an unmarked bag of negatives amongst his own which “…could be the Rolling Stones” …

“I made him lock the doors and not let anyone in the house, and then I asked him to look for someone who could be shouting or yawning, standing aside from a group of four, one of whom was scratching his nose. After an anxious half hour, an email popped up, I opened the attachment, and as if in slow motion the group of four were revealed, with Bill Wyman adjusting his nasal passages, and Jagger standing apart from the group with a wide mouthed yawn. Eureka!! The Prodigal Stones had returned to the fold after an absence of almost forty years”

Contained in their pristine negative sleeves, were the strip containing the actual album sleeve image, all the best group shots from the session, and also an unexpected further delight: some individual plate camera portraits of Jagger and Richards which had never been seen before.

Now almost 40 years on, and with the Stones still touring, Webb has been persuaded by a younger generation of photographers, musicians and Stones fans alike, that photographing the Stones “as they were” at that exact moment of time, free from any overriding “concept”, was the best idea he never had.

The Rolling Stones’ Tour of The Americas

“And yet, despite the ultimate and monumental success of the tour, things did not always go smoothly. The trouble was not so much from within the group (though there were instances of stress and friction, granted) but from the outsiders: tourist-types, music-lovers, hero-worshippers, souvenir-hunters, run-away-teenies, young ill-informed musicians hoping to replace guitarist Mick Taylor who had recently left the group, and quite unaware, of course, that inside the house, at that very moment, the great Ron Wood was picking a line that would have set Bo Didddley’s top a ‘tappin’!”

Terry Southern

 
 

This was The Rolling Stones‘ first tour with new guitarist Ronnie Wood, after Mick Taylor had left the band. (A 14 April announcement merely said he would be playing on the tour; he was not officially named a Rolling Stone until 19 December 1975). Long time sidemen Bobby Keys and Jim Price on brass were not featured on this tour, being replaced by Billy Preston on keyboards and Ollie E. Brown on percussion. Bobby Keys made a guest appearance on You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Brown Sugar at the Los Angeles shows.

The Tour of the Americas ’75 was not tied to support of any newly released material, as it began more than seven months after the release of their last studio album at the time, It’s Only Rock’n Roll; therefore the compilation album Made in the Shade was released to capitalise on the tour’s publicity.

The mid-1970s were the era of extravagant stage shows, from the likes of Elton John, Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Queen—a new format for the Stones, with their usual act freshly aided by theatrical stage props and gimmicks, including a giant inflatable phallus (nicknamed ‘Tired Grandfather’ by the band, since it sometimes malfunctioned) and, at some shows, an unfolding lotus flower-shaped stage that Charlie Watts had conceived.

 
 

The Rolling Stones’ Tour of The Americas, 1975. Pictures by Annie Leibovitz and Christopher Simon Sykes