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Articles on this Page
- 01/22/13--12:58: _Koloman Moser: Cont...
- 01/28/13--11:36: _Garish Days
- 02/01/13--00:01: _February At The BNF
- 02/09/13--10:57: _Gallerinas
- 02/13/13--12:51: _The Paradox That Is...
- 02/18/13--11:56: _Autocrats Of The Au...
- 02/23/13--10:48: _Loie Fuller & Josep...
- 03/01/13--00:01: _March At The BNF: M...
- 03/05/13--12:24: _Beauty Manifested I...
- 03/10/13--10:52: _Dreaming Of Spring
- 03/13/13--12:50: _From Fukagawa To Mu...
- 03/18/13--12:30: _Nouveau Risque
- 03/25/13--12:38: _Rhone Maiden: Margu...
- 03/29/13--11:20: _La Depeche: When Ra...
- 04/01/13--11:13: _April At The BNF: J...
- 04/05/13--07:33: _It's Beautiful Here...
- 04/11/13--11:13: _The Cinematic Art O...
- 04/16/13--12:04: _Late Hours: William...
- 04/19/13--10:44: _The Italian Hours: ...
- 04/25/13--07:38: _Daniel Boudinet: C...
- 01/22/13--12:58: Koloman Moser: Content Or Context ?
- 01/28/13--11:36: Garish Days
- 02/01/13--00:01: February At The BNF
- 02/09/13--10:57: Gallerinas
- 02/13/13--12:51: The Paradox That Is Emil Orlik
- 02/18/13--11:56: Autocrats Of The Autoroute
- 02/23/13--10:48: Loie Fuller & Joseph Paget Fredericks
- 03/01/13--00:01: March At The BNF: Mardi Gras
- 03/05/13--12:24: Beauty Manifested In Use: Charlotte Perriand
- 03/10/13--10:52: Dreaming Of Spring
- "In Nature's temple living pillars rise,
- And words are murmured none have understood,
- And man must wander through a tangled wood
- Of symbols watching him with friendly eyes.
- As long-drawn echoes heard far-off and dim
- Mingle to one deep sound and fade away;
- Vast as the night and brilliant as the day,
- Colour and sound and perfume speak to him.
- Some perfumes are as fragrant as a child,
- Sweet as the sound of hautboys, meadow-green;
- Others, corrupted, rich, exultant, wild,
- Have all the expansion of things infinite:
- As amber, incense, musk, and benzoin,
- Which sing the sense's and the soul's delight."
- 03/13/13--12:50: From Fukagawa To Munich: Peter Behrens
- 03/18/13--12:30: Nouveau Risque
- 03/25/13--12:38: Rhone Maiden: Marguerite Burnat-Provins
- 03/29/13--11:20: La Depeche: When Radicals Met Avant-Garde Art
- 04/01/13--11:13: April At The BNF: Japanese Picture Scrolls
- 04/05/13--07:33: It's Beautiful Here Isn't It: Luigi Ghirri
- 04/11/13--11:13: The Cinematic Art Of Marcel Gromaire
- 04/16/13--12:04: Late Hours: William Degouve de Nuncques
- 04/19/13--10:44: The Italian Hours: William Degouve de Nuncques
- 04/25/13--07:38: Daniel Boudinet: Colorist
One of the decisions I had to make in choosing the layout for this website was whether the background should be dark or light. Which would better complement the images and which would make the text easier to read? If there wasn’t a solution that harmonized both, then what? If there had been an off-white shade, perhaps slightly textured, I would have picked that because it works well for looking at art in person. A flat white background produced an ambiance similar to the experience of looking at art in museums where thehard surfaces (stone, concrete, and marble) favored by contemporary architects create a harsh environment, leaching color from works that were never intended by their creators to be viewed in the equivalent of a commercial coliseum. Minimalism, relying as it does on maximally sized works, has contributed to the popularity of large featureless spaces that dwarf all other artworks.
Two new museums opened in 2001, one in New York and the other in Vienna, that offer an illustration of the ways that the arrangement of artworks affects our response to them. Surprisingly, it is the museum in midtown Manhattan that does the better presentation of fin-de-siècle Vienna.
These paintings are small (2.5 centimeters = I inch) but you can’t see the individual sizes or relative sizes of images on the internet. This is hardly a new problem; it is one that has bedeviled art book editors for decades. Museums with have greater latitude for making arrangements of artworks on display don't necessarily get it right either. And that is why I posed the question in the title of this post.
Viewing artworks on the internet is a recent phenomenon, one that comes with its own limitations. Texture as well as scale can be difficult to see, and the temptation to alter colors (hue, saturation, lightness,,etc.) is present and not always easy for the viewer to detect when it occurs. The chance to see all kinds of work that has been hard to find is also new, and that is exciting. These charming landscapes and still life paintings created a century ago by Koloman Moser were intended for the intimate spaces and domestic settings of Vienna are also....here...now.
4. Koloman Moser - Wolfgangsee, 1913, Leopold Museum, Vienna. Size: 32.5 x 32.5 cm.
Going To the Dogs by Erich Kastner (1899-1974) comes as a surprise. Poet, novelist, screenwriter, Kastner is known to contemporary readers by his delightful children's book Emil And The Detectives (1929). A happy coincidence gives license to consider these two writers at the same time. Kastner, who endured more than a decade in the asylum that was the National Socialist regime in Germany has a darker vision than Walser who spent even more years in a normal insane asylum. Indeed, Walser himself once declared: "I'm not here to be a writer, I'm here to be a madman."
In his book Weimar Etudes Henry Pachter remembered: “Going through the memoirs of some famous people who had access to high society …. I get the impression that they were all writing about the same party, the same one-legged prostitute, the same supplier of cocaine.” Contemporary readers take pause; Kastner's unsavory cabaret spectacles and bars where patrons communicate by telephone from table to table and women dance in cages have become commonplaces today.
When we meet Jacob Fabian, he is ‘aged thirty-two, profession variable, at present advertising copywriter.’ At the Exotic Bar he is picked up by an attractive woman who takes him home with her. Fabian feels compromised, however, when her husband offers him an allowance if he consents to become a regular. Fabian's landlady is also compromised, a voyeur who spies on her lodgers through keyholes.
Fabian does a lot of walking in the city but for him, it solves nothing. Aimless, enervated by the impossibility of a normal life, he observes himself with the same detachment he brings to street-shootouts between Fascists and Communists, most of them unemployed. These brawls resolve nothing but suit the authorities just fine, he thinks to himself as he turns away. Fabian loses his job, his girlfriend Cornelia abandons her stduies to work for the sleazy filmmaker Makart, and his friend Labude commits suicide, the victim of a cruel hoax When Fabian finally commits a moral act, jumping into the river to save a drowning boy, we are told he cannot swim. A hideous metaphor, but all too apt.
The public that had been charmed two years before by the sweetness of Kästner’s vision inEmil and the Detectives reacted with indignation to his diagnosis of social decay in Going To The Dogs. Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera (1928) hadcouched its scathing portrayal of the metropolis in a heady blend of cabaret-style music with the classical avant-garde. Alfred Doblin's modernist montage of a novel Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929) tested the endurance of its readers with its dark and lengthy tedium. Better known is British expatriate Christopher Isherwood's Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935) which has had several reincarnations, first as the play I Am A Camera in 1951and as a musical Cabaret (1966) and then a movie of the musical (1972).
Why Robert Walser chose to write stories on strips of paper in an imitation of medieval German script is difficult to pin down. Exactly when he began writing his little pencil stories is unclear but, taken altogether, they constitute a miniature world that we recognize as ours. Walser explains his method best. "(C)haracters in books stand out better, I mean, more silhouettishly from one another, than do living figures, who, as they are alive and move about, tend to lack delineation.”
“We don’t need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.”
2. Madame Baker, reprinted from Ulk, 1928, State Museum, Berlin.
3. In The Loge, 1929, reprinted from Ulk, State Museum, Berlin.
4. The Hero, 1928, State Museum, Berlin.
5.Sisters, 1928, Jewish Museum of London, UK.
6. The Man With The Glacier Eye , 1928, Jewish Museum of London, UK.
“Fat lot I care, husband, about your love
I can think of more than one way to look at this playing card with the caption Concert de ganaches. If you associate the word ganache with a smooth mixture of chocolate and cream, then this must be a smooth performance. But the use of the word ganache in the food lexicon resulted from a mistake made by an apprentice chocolatier. The mixture he whipped up wouldn't harden and his master called it stupid. In French slang, to call someone a ganache can mean you are calling the person a blockhead! So Concert de ganaches could be a rough night at the concert hall.
As for the lai reprinted above, an octosyllabic poem whose origin is traced to Marie de France (late 12th century), it comes down on both sides of the rough/smooth question. A ganache for all seasons.
There are hundreds of art galleries in Manhattan and women work in them. This unremarkable fact became the occasion for something like ridicule in October. Vogue dubbed the women who work for global art dealer Larry Gagosian, the "Gagosiannes" in an article. Not to be outdone, New York's The Cut, a fashion blog, suggested that the women were more enjoyable to look at than the art on the gallery walls. And, coincidentally, Mindy Kaling in her New Yorker piece Flick Chicks, included "The Woman Who Works In An Art Gallery" in a list of characters who appear in movies but don't actually exist. Like the dodo bird, perhaps? And yet, the term "gallerina", a diminutive that used to refer to women who dabbled in art appreciation, is commonly used to denote a lack of seriousness among all those women who do, in fact, work in galleries and museums.
When Edgar Degas painted his friend - and fellow artist - Mary Cassatt - touring the Louvre Museum in 1879, women were only beginning to venture to public spaces without male escorts. A common theme in Art Nouveau posters and drawings is the woman perusing works for sale at an art gallery and, it should be understood as it was by contemporaries, the woman was engaged in a slightly risque activity. The arched eyebrow, the knowing look, the smirk of complicity; all these are subtle ques that suggest a departure from the normal order and something a bit risible. Old habits die hard.
1. Edgar Degas - Mary Cassatt At The Louvre, 1879, private collection.
2.Amphora, ca. 27 BCE - 68 CE, a pot of Roman or Etruscan origin, Metropolitan Museumof Art, NYC.
Steeped in Secessionism, Orlik had lived in Munich, Berlin, and Vienna when he embarked on his momentous but modestly described Reise nach Japan (Trip To Japan). From March, 1900 to November, 1901 the 30 year old Orlik studied with masters of the wood block, determined to learn every aspect, just as he had studied copper engraving at the Academy in Munich. He wrote enthusiastically about his Japanese experiences to his friend the poet Rainer Maria Rilke who turned his insights into articles for Ver Sacrum, the journal of the Viennese Secession group where Orlik had also worked. Orlik's first prints had been published by Jugend magzine in Munich in 1897, after he had moved there fromp his native Prague.
His paintings, on the other hand and at their best, were made in a flat, decorative style that western artists were in the process of appropriating from the Japanese prints at the turn of the century. Still Life With Fruits and Flowers in a Vase exists on two flat planes: the table with its artfully scattered accoutrements and the decorative backdrop. As a painting it is enjoyable but more importantly, it shows why Orlik enjoyed the various forms of making prints so much. His tongue-in-cheek image of himself sketching the rising sun in a poster for an exhibition at the E. Richter Gallery suggests what gave Orlik his deepest artistic satisfaction.
1. Emil Orlik - Japanese Garden, 1904, Villa Griesbach, Berlin.
2. Emil Orlik - The Japanese Painter Tomonobu, the Woodcutter, and the Printer, In Japan, triptych, 1903, Vervielfaltigende Kunst, Vienna.
3. Emil Orlik -Before the Temple, ca. 1901, Galerie Bessange, Berlin.
4. Emil Orlik - Woman Carrying Wood In Winter, 1903, courtesy Emil Orlik Prints.com
5. Emil Orlik - The Leafless Tree, reprinted from Etchings and Otehr Graphic Arts by George taylor Plowman, New York: 1914.
6. Emil Orlik - Still Life with Fruits and Flowers in a Vase, 1930, Kunsthaus, Lempert.
7. Emile Orlik - poster for Kunst Salon E. Richter, Albertina Museum, Vienna.
Americans think of Henry Ford, but the automobile's early development was a competition between French and German inventors. There was Leon Bollee who invented the Tricycle Bollee, a three-wheeled vehicle, with the passenger seated in front of the driver, that reached the unprecedented average speed of 28 mph in the Paris-Tourville road rally of 1897. The firm of Panhard et Lavassor, founded in 1889, was the first company devoted exclusively to manufacturing automobiles. Sensing an opportunity, the Peugeot Company followed suit, switched from the manufacture of coffee grinders to automobiles.
Americans owe the posting of speed limits to the reckless driving of a wealthy hobbyist, William K. Vanderbilt, who was given his first motorized vehicle – possibly a Tricycle Bollee – at the age of ten. (That's a Tricycle Bollee in the illustration by Andre Helle where the woman chases the rabbit.) In 1904, William K. sponsored the first road race in America near the Vanderbilt family estate on Long Island. Encouraged by the success of the annual Vanderbilt Cup, in 1909 he financed construction of the nation’s first road solely for the use of automobiles, the Long Island Motor Parkway.
"Pedestrians make up the greater part of mankind. Not only that, the finer part. Pedestrians created the world. It was they who built towns, put up skyscrapers, installed drainage and plumbing, paved the streets and lit them with electric lights. It was they who spread culture all over the world, invented painting, thought up gunpowder, built bridges across rivers, deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphics, introduced the safety razor, abolished slavery, and discovered that a hundred and fourteen tasty, wholesome dishes could be made from beans.
It should be noted that the motor car was also invented by pedestrians. But for some reason the motorists soon forgot about that. They began to run over the meek and mild, clever pedestrians. The streets built by the pedestrians passed into the hands of the motorists. The roads were doubled in width and the pavements were narrowed down to the size of a tobacco wrapper. The pedestrians began to huddle against the walls of buildings in alarm."
Ilya Ilf (1897-1937) and Yevgeny Petrov (1903-1942)were the authors of the classic Russian farce The Twelve Chairs. No one has ever adequately explained how these anarchic humorists avoided censorship - or worse - during the early decades of Soviet rule. Both men died prematurely: Ilf of tuberculosis and Petrov in a plane crash, victims of the same anarchic fate they managed to wring every ounce of laughter from in books.
Like Ilf & Petrov the illustrators, many of them anonymous, left a visual record of early auto history convey the absurdity of humans on wheels
1. Anonymous - The Sovereigns, c. 1905.
2. Maurice Blais - Mountain Road, c.1900-10.
3. Georges Meunier - untitled.
4. Andre Helle - Tricycle Bollee, ca. 1898.
5. Anonymous - Jenatzy In his Winning Mercedes-Benz.
6. Anonymous - The Driver, 1904.
7. Anonymous - Le cul-de-jatte, ca. 1900-10.
Loie Fuller (1862-1928) was in images more than any other performer of her time: Toulouse-Lautrec, Koloman Moser, Jules Cheret, Joseph Paget-Fredericks (1905-1963), who became a painter, choreographer and designer, also knew Fuller as a friend from his childhood.
Fuller's parents ran a boardinghouse in Chicago. Joseph's mother, Constance Paget, was the daughter of a British journalist whose family had made a theatrical museum at their home and his father Arthur Remy von Hohenthal Fredericks was the nephew of the Russian arts minister who arranged for the Ballets-Russes to appear in Paris in 1909.
Stephane Mallarme, who saw her perform a few months later, wrote:“(She) is as once an artistic intoxication and an industrial achievement…. She blends with the rapidly changing colors which vary their limelit phantasmagoria of twilight and grotto, their emotional changes, delight, mourning, anger…”
But La Loie, as the French dubbed her, was no ingenue. She had toured the Midwest with Buffalo Bill Cody at age 21, acted on Broadway and, when unemployed, had lied her way into a dance troup. “When you are starving you sometimes forget to be strictly truthful.”
Related article posted here April 7, 2011 - Airborne.
by: Joseph Rous Paget Fredericks, undated, from the collection of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
1. Loie Fuller Performing Debussy's La Mer ca. 1925.
2. Loie Fuller - Fire Dance.
3. Loie Fuller - Serpentine Dance.
4. Loie Fuller.
Charles Gesmar - Bal de la Fourrure, March, 1930, Bibliotheque Nationale de france, Paris.
Charlotte Perriand et le Japon is an exhibition that originated at the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Japan in 2012 and is on view at Musee d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Metropole. Saint-Priest-Jarez, France from February 23 to May 26, 2013.
3. Charlotte Perriand - ash bench for Etienne Sicard residence in Tokyo, 1941, Charlotte Perriand Archive, Paris.
4. Charlotte Perriand - modular furniture, no date given, Musee des Arts decoratifs, Paris.
P.S. Another affinity, a personal one I just recalled, something seasonal - Lilian Gish appears in How I Feel About Winter, posted here January 5, 2009.
1. Edward Steichen - Lilian Gish, Vanity Fair, December, 1932.
2. Suzukia Harunobu - Dreaming Of The First Days Of Spring, 18th century, Musee Guimet, Paris.
Printing from woodblocks was one aspect of the late 19th century interest in all things Japanese. I had not thought particularity of Peter Behrens in that connection until I saw Storm, a print Behrens made the year before The Kiss. Obviously a reinterpretation of one of Hiroshige's 100 Famous Views of Edo (Tokyo), Behrens drew freely on the extravagantly curvilinear style popular among the artists of Pan and Jugend, especially his friend the influential Otto Eckmann.
Behrens removed any signs of human habitation from the landscape to make room for the play of wind and waves. The absence of waterbirds also has the effect of making the eagle seem less menacing. The eagle's wings curve in harmony with the imaginary lines of the wind; he might almost be mistaken for a kite on a windy day. In Behrens's version the large bird functions as a framing device, similar to Hiroshige's use of a giant paper lantern in Kinyruzan Temple Asakusa, another of the 100 Views. Behrens gave Storm to the playwright Otto Hartleben who hung it in - his dining room!
1. Peter Behrens - Sturm (Storm), 1897, State Museum, Berlin.
2. Peter Behrens - The Kiss (Der Kuss), 1898, Musuem of Modern Art, NYC.
3. Utgawa Hiroshige - Kinryuzan Temple, Asakura, July, 1856, Broolyn Museum.
4. Utagawa Hiroshige - Eagle over the Fields of Susaki at Fukagawa, May, 1857, Musee Guimet, Paris.
Articles posted here on another contemporary dining room, this one designed by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer and reconstructed for display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City:
1. The Wisteria Dining Room - March 22, 2010.
2. Lucien Levy-Dhurmer At The Metropolitan, May 27, 2008.
Published in Paris as a monthly subscription, similar to a magazine, from December 1895 to November 1900, The Masters of the Poster was the inspired marketing idea of the man now considered the father of the modern poster, Jules Cheret (1836-1932). At the same time the series made reproductions of artworks available at reasonable prices, Cheret was also elevating the poster to the realm of art. He may have been familiar with a previous but unsuccessful attempt by the publisher Cadart who, in 1862, assembled a portfolio that included works by Edouard Manet.
Cheret is also notable for his signal creation of a type - the Cherette - a young woman definitely nouveau in her day and slightly risque. Whether attending cafe concerts and cabarets or strolling the sidewalks, stopping to inspect some of the newly available consumer goods for sale, (art prints were a frequently depicted example), she was neither recgonizably a respectable matron nor a working class servant.
Nouveau Risque, the exhibition, includes other artworks from the period, including favrile glass pieces from the Tiffany Studio. What is most interesting and apropos, for me, is the Diana, a woman's bicycle produced by the Cortland Wagon Company in upstate New York in 1894. It large rubber front wheel is red and the bicycle measures 45 inches in height. The bicycle, like the automobile, has been a vehicle of mobility and freedom, precious commodities in the lives of women, then as now.
Nouveau Risque: A Perspective on Women and Progress, an exhibitionat the Shaeffer Art Gallery, Syracuse University, January 24 - March 17, 2013.
1. Jules Cheret - Exposition: Tableaux & Dessins de A. Willette, 1888.
2. Maurice Debis - La Depeche de Toulouse The Toulouse Dispatch - a newspaper) , 1892.
3. Georges Meunier - Trianon Concert, 1897.
4. Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen - Two Women Looking at a Window Display, 1896.
5. Ferdinand Misti-Mifliez - Cycles Gladiator, 1896.
7. Ethel Reed - Miss Traumerei, 1895.
A shorthand way to visualize the Alps-Rhone River region that straddles the border between France and Switzerland is to think of the locale in Le genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee), Eric Rohmer’s 1970 film shot in the environs of Annecy. Why do that? Because the remarkable and little-known Marguerite Burnat-Provins, a native of historic Arras in northern France, fell in love with the region; it marked her art as she marked her adopted home.
Marguerite Provins first lived in Switzerland following her marriage in 1896 to Adolphe Burnat, an archtiect from Vevey. The couple were divorced in 1908 and, for a time, Marguerite returned to France.
Vevey, on the shore of Lake Geneva, has long been an auspicious location for fiction. Part of the novel Daisy Miller (1878), first international success for Henry James, was set there. Not only do two characters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868) fall in love in Vevey, it is the place where Amy learns of the death of her beloved sister Beth. Alcott may have chosen Vevey because she met the man who served as model for Laurie there. Closer to our time, Anita Brooknet set her Booker-Prize winning novelHotel du Lac (1984) at one of the grand tourist hotels on Lake Geneva.
A fanciful/decadent element that is apparent in such early works as Salamanders later metamorphosed into horrific hallucinations for the artist during the war when her family was endangered. Burnat-Provins would later say that the nightmarish creatures of her dream life came to her and "dictated" her paintings of them. "I endure them, cringe as I feel them coming, and cannot help drawing them." There is a hint here that hallucination may be one of the goads to her prodigious creativity.
Burnat-Provins married again, this time an engineer from Valais, Paul de Kalbermatten. For Paul, Marguerite wrote and illustrated Le Livre pour toi (A Book For You), one of her several successful books Together, they traveled to his projects in Syria, Lebanon, and Morocco.
Images: unless otherwise noted, reproduced from Marguerite Burnat-Provins: De l'Art nouveau à l'art hallucinatoire..
3. Marguerite Burnat-Provins - Mures (Blackberries), ca. 1904.
4.. Marguerite Burnat-Provins - Vielle aux Rouet (Old Woman from Rouet), 1900.
5. Marguerite Burnat-Provins - Jarimouche, or The Congested Nose, 1913, Schweizer Kunst.
6. Marguerite Burnat-Provins - Composition aux Salamandres et perce-neige, 1898.
Marguerite Burnat-Provins - an untitled watercolor, 1904, Foundation Neumann, Gingins.
1. Maurice Denis - La Depeche de Toulouse, 1892, Detroit Institute Of the Arts.
2, Maurice Denis - study for the poster La Depeche de Toulouse, 1892, Musee Bonnard, Le cannet.
3. Maurice Denis - project showing a group of working people for La Depeche de Toulouse, 1892, Galerie Beres, Paris.
4. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Danse Eccentrique, 1894, Gary Bruder Fine art gallery, NYC.
5. Louis Marcoussis (1878 ? - 1941) - La Depeche de Toulouse, no date, University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville.
Images: from the Smith-Lebouef manuscript in the collection of the Bibliotheque nationale de France, Paris; the artist is possibly Matsuko Ryokuzan.
In 2009, the aperture Gallery in Manhattan hosted the retrospective It's Beautiful Here, Isn't It?, devoted to the work of the Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992). Now, the Matthew marks Gallery, also in New York, has another welcome exhibition Luigi Ghirri: Kodachrome, on view until April 20th. This exhibition coniceds with the republication of Ghirri's much admired book Kodachrome, by MACK, London, UK: 2012., a book he originally published himself in 1978. An unapologetic proponent of color photography, Ghirri used his camera to capture the fog-shrouded days and moonlit nights of his native Emilia- Romagna.
Luigi Ghirri was born in Scandiano and grew up in the province of Emilia-Romagna, an area roughly corresponding to a swath across the top of the Italian 'boot', a temperate area traversed by the Po River. Its broad, fertile plains were created by the gradual retreat of the sea and the hard work of the people in wresting croplands from the marshes. Its name commemorates the road built by the early Romans that connected the city to the eastern empire and Ravenna. As a young man Ghirrie moved to the small city of Modena but we should not think of it as a backwater, as it is near Bologna, the regional capitol and proud home to the oldest university in the world. Ghirri's last home would be at Roncoses, not far from where he was born.
The province was also home to two very estimable painters in the 20th century – the Greek-born Giorgio de Chirico and and the Bolognese Giorgio Morandi. In the preternatural light that falls on de Chirico's piazzas and the vibrating tremulousness surroundingMorandi's huddling bottles, (photographed by Ghirri at the Atelier Morandi in Bologna) we find a recognizable material reality and an intensity of observation that has been called metaphysical. Morandi said that in painting astill life he found a way of transcending time, of "spending an eternity in placid contemplation." Ghirri called it his "sentimental geography" but that does insufficient justice to accretions of time we apprehend through his landscapes.
"The daily encounter with reality, the fictions, the surrogates, the ambiguous, poetic or alienating aspects, all seem to preclude any way out of the labyrinth, the walls of which are ever more illusory… to the point at which we might merge with them… The meaning that I am trying to render through my work is a verification of how it is still possible to desire and face a path of knowledge, to be able finally to distinguish the precise identity of man, things, life, from the image of man, things, and life." - Luigi Ghirri
Ghirri began his career with a sense that everything that could be done with photography had already been accomplished. He spoke often of how deeply affected he was by the view of the earth as photographed from Apollo 11 spacecraft. "It was not only the image of the entire world, but the image that contained all other images of the world."
During the 1970s Ghirri learned to use the coincidences that reality placed before his camera to move beyond that sense, to adventures in looking. The photo of the diver, reflecting images on all sides appears as Ghirri's delighted experience of liberation
Ghirri copied into his journal this quotation from a letter written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo that applies as well to an attitude he adopted toward his native land. “Everything has a blighted, faded quality about it now. Still, of you look at it for a long time, the old charm reemerges. And that is why I can see that I will lose absolutely nothing by staying where I am, even by contenting myself with watching things go by, like a spider in its web waiting for flies. You need to look at things for a long time…” – Vincent van Gogh
Images: photographs by Luigi Ghirri, reprinted from It's Beautiful Here, Isn't It? by Germano Celant, William Eggleston & Paola Ghirri was published by Aperture Books, New York, 2008, unless otherwise noted/
1. Bonn, 1973, Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC.
2. Reggio Emilia, 1973, Pompidou Center, Paris.
3. Ateleir Morandi.
4. from the series taken in Paris, 1976.
5. Fagnano Olona, designed by Aldo Rossi, 1985, Pompidou Center, Paris.
6. from the series in Paris, 1976.
7. Roncocesi, the Ghirri House.
8. Bologna, 1985, Aperture Foundation, NYC.
The spot lighting, the profile presented to the viewer that Gromaire employed in Tir Forain (The Carnival Shooter) and the portrait of Mme Gromaire sitting in a chair both evoke the way film stars posed before the camera. Not only were actors onscreen large than life - literally, they were at the same time brought into such close proximity to the audience that subtle gestures and a certain withheld quality served to increase their attractiveness. When Gromaire painted this portrait of his wife Jeanne in 1923 this was a new style of presentaion, but recognizable already to alert viewers. She may be the artist's wife but with her arms wrapped around herself and her head bent in thought, Jeanne Gromaire looks antyhing but a passive model. The muted, palette Gromaire used had its counterpart in black and white film but it was a unified color universe that he could use to achieve effects that film makers accomplished through the combination of tinting (coloration) and toning (the balancing of light and dark tones).
Gromaire's early experiences at Academie Ranson with the Nabi artist Felix Vallotton in and his friendship with the lithographer Jean-Emile Laboureur may have predisposed him to choose - and limit - his palette. The monumental. presence Gromaire gave to his human figures was his expression of deeply held social and political convictions. Yet, this too, the artist adapted to a cinematic vision. In Blue Beach, painted in 1929, Gromaire places the female swimmer in her modern maillot and bobbed haircut so that she appears to be reclining in front of the painting, rather than in the front of it. The background has the flatness and artificiality of a film set. This really was new at the time, unlike other paintings of the Art Deco period, with their marmoreal human figures, so brittle and so antique. Gromaire's women are definitely modern, even when he adds classical paraphernalia.
The frieze Les Loisirs - Gromaire's first - was commissioned by the Sevres porcelain manufacturing company for its pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. In the event, Les Loisirs was overhsadowed by Raoul Dufy's massive Le Fee Electricite (now on display at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris). Gromaire' pleasure seekers deserve better.
A cinematic scene of pleasure seekers at the beach, arrayed before a landscape telescoped in time and space, sandwiched between the Atlantic ocean and the Parisian skyline. Their varying states of deshabille are borrowed from Renaissance frescoes, while the amphora shouldered by the central figure recalls temple maidens of ancient Greece. In another pan-historical gesture, the trio at right oblivious to the leftover Art Nouveau lilies at their feet. The achievements of modern French industry and agriculture are represented by weather vanes, smokestacks, and windmills.
1.Marcel Gromaire - Tir Forain (Carnival Games), 1933, Musee d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
2. Marcel Gromaire - Portrait of the Artist's Wife, also known as Jeanne Sitting in a Chair, 1923, Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
3. Marcel Gromaire - Plage Bleu (Blue Beach), 1928, Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
"Without the Belgians, the French would have been second rate symbolists." - Arthur Rimbaud
“Everything they don’t understand is mythology. There’s a lot of that.” - Charles Baudelaire on the Belgians
Surrealism started here, in the imagined world of a little known Belgian painter, William Degouve de Nuncques. Without La Maison Aveugle (The Blind House). there would have been no Rene Magritte, no Empire of Light. Its English title, The Pink House, while descriptive explains nothing. The first thing the viewer notices is a house glowing with strange light, as though it were midday. But it is nighttime, and a sprinkling of stars dot the sky. What could explain the relation between the pink, apparently inhabited part of the house, and the shadowed rear part, its broken window panes revealed by a solitary light?
Magritte the Belgian was an artist who knew and honored his sources. In 1955, he created his own version of Fernand Khnopff's At Fosset Under the Fir Trees (1894), including an outsized squirrel picking at the pine cones.
In The Canal even the hour is obscure and the bare trees offer no conclusive evidence of the season. The deserted building appears subject to some peculiar trick of the light. Broken window panes again punctuate the facade. Degouve's use of a broad horizontal canvas, severely compressed, creates a claustrophobic feeling seen in landscapes by his contemporary Fernand Khnopff.
Belgium in the late 19th century was in the forefront of industrialization, with its attendant urban upheavals and dislocations. At the same time there were cities like Bruges and Ghent, remnants of the long gone Burgundian court, preserved in a decayed state like insects embalmed in amber. Against this background, the recurring motif of immobility, the frustration with the explanatory uses of the visible world, make sense. Maeterlinck, who received the Nobel Prize for literatire in 1911, even discerned intimations of this in the Greek classic. "It is no longer a violent, exceptional moment of life that passes before our eyes—it is life itself. Thousands and thousands of laws there are, mightier and more venerable than those of passion; but these laws are silent, and discreet, and slow-moving; and hence it is only in the twilight that they can be seen and heard, in the meditation that comes to us at the tranquil moments of life."
In the insubstantial powder of pastels Degouve found a medium fit for the moist, heavy night air. In such an atmosphere, the gas lamps of the royal park in Brussels illuminate the symmetrical layout as though it were the otherworldly work of a phantom gardener. In its particulars, the image could not be more accurate if it were a photograph. But Degouve has chosen to depict the garden's rectangular pattern from an oblique angle, taking the straightforward and turning it into something slightly strange. Now you begin to feel the thrill of recognition the surrealists felt.
A master of static drama (notquite an oxymoron) was Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), the central figure of Belgian literary symbolism. He was well-suited to understand the melancholy Degouve. Born into a well-to-do family in the torpid city of Ghent, de facto capitol of Flemish-speaking Belgium, Maeterlinck became the leader of a movement carried out largely in French. A childhood divided between winters in an urban townhouse and summers in the country was similar to the one that Fernand Khnopff experienced, shuttled between Bruges and the forests of the Ardennes. Like the aristocratic Khnopffs, Maeterlinck's family could trace is roots back to the 14th century chronicler Froissart.
"A hothouse deep in the woods,
doors forever sealed. Analogies:
everything under that glass dome,
everything under my soul.
Thoughts of a starving princess,
a sailor marooned in the desert,
fanfares at hospital windows.
Seek out the warmest corners!
Think of a woman fainting on harvest-day;
postillions ride into the hospital courtyard;
a soldier passes, he is a sick-nurse now.
Look at it all by moonlight
(nothing is where it belongs).
Think of a madwoman haled before judges,
a man-of-war in full sail on the canal,
nightbirds perched among the lilies,
a knell at noon
(out there under those glass bell-jars),
cripples halted in the fields
on a day of sunshine, the smell of ether.
My God, when will the rain come,
and the snow, and the wind, to this glass house!" -
- Hothouses by Maurice Maeterlinck (1889), translated from the French by Richard Howard, Princeton University Press: 2003.
1. William Degouve de Nunques - La Maison aveugle (The Blind House), 1892, Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterloo.
2. William Degouve de Nuncuqes - Le Magasin mysteriux, 1898. private collection, courtesy Kroller-MullerMuseum, Otterloo.
3.. William Degouve de Nuncuqes - Le Canal, 1894, Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterloo.
4. William Degouve de Nuncques - Nocturne au Parc Royale - Bruxelles, 1897, Musee d'Orsay,
5. William Degouve de Nuncques - Le Foret lepreuse (The LeprousForest), 1898, private collection, Belgium.
The aristocratic origins of the Degouve de Nuncques family have been called into question by new research but Degouve believed in them and so did his contemporaries. The poet Alfred de Vigny attributed the family's elevated tastes in literature, music, and philosophy to noble lineage. More concretely, Henry de Groux described the artist's father as a character from a novel by Balzac. "(H)e detests anything that represents authority, loves animals even more than mankind, and walks about with a loaded shotgun to shoot at neighbors bent on harming his cats." What was indisputable was the family wealth.
His marriage to fellow artists Juliette Massin in 1894 brought Degouve into the circle of young Belgian artists. Juliette's sister Marthe, also an artist, had married Emile Verhaeren in 1891. Their happy union inspired Verhaeren's Les Heures claires (The Sunlit Hours - 1896) Other Verhaeran books such as Les campagnes hallucinees (1893) and Les villes tenticulaires (1895) suggest a symbolist lingua franca in the making. With this in mind, Degouve's images of tree roots and oddly illuminated landscapes become more comprehensible. But even among friends, the artist was known as a melancholy person.
Degouve's new night pieces are lit by magic, a benign form of mystery. The miniature lanterns hanging from the trees of Park In Milan are actually chestnut blossoms shimmering in the moonlight, moving to an invisible evening breeze. The crepuscular light behind the mountainsis mimickedby the lights along the shore of the lake, as delicate as fireflies in Twilight At Lake Como . Blue, the color of dreams for the Symbolists, is the prevalent color here but regardless of color, dreams belong to the realms of night, not the certitudes of daylight.
In reproductions it can be difficult to tell apart Degouve's pastels from his paintings. Early on, he had experimented with thinning his oil paints to incorporate the weave of the canvas as pictorial element. Back in Brussels, the symbolist circle was impressed by the 'nocturnes' of James McNeill Whistler. Degouve's Night In Venice, the most obviously similar was originally owned by the violinist Eugene Ysaye, a member of his Brussels circle.
1.William Degouve de Nuncques - Park In Milan, 1895, Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterloo.
2. Jan Toorop - Portrait of William Deouve de Nuncuqes, ca.1890, Musee de l'Ancienne Abbaye, Stavelot.
3. William Degouve de Nuncuqes - Crepuscule a La Come, 1895, galerie Patrick Derom, Brussels.
4. William Degouve de Nuncques - Night In Venice, 1895, Groeningen Museum, Bruges.
Daniel Boudinet died in 1990, at the age of forty-five. His family donated Boudinet's photographic archives to the French nation in 1991.