Gillian Murphy, the wonderful principle dancer of American Ballet Theater, as Odile in the third Act of Swan Lake, and her dazzling 32 fouettés en tournant. She throws in several double and triple turns.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
As I suspect most of us do, I love many things about all four seasons and I'm fortunate to live in an area of the USA in which I get a taste of everything - from freezing cold to tropical heat waves. Phil and I often talk of moving to Florida when our respective careers end, but how much would I miss the colorful chill of autumn or the cold budding of new spring? Or even the bare trees and the bite of winter? Maybe not at all. Maybe a lot.
Snowshoe hare (Lepus Americanus), summer and winter coats
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Loving this illustration by Maxfield Parrish from The Arabian Nights: The Story of Gulnare of the Sea (1909). "And she proceeded to burn perfume and repeat spells until the sea foamed and was agitated."...
...and the enchanting work of the artist Eyvind Earle. This is Pine Branch (1951)...
...and this beautiful Bluebell cameo glass vase by the great Auguste and Antonin Freres (1890)...
...and depictions of the Angel Gabriel, as here in a detail of The Annunciation by daVinci (c. 1472)...
...and exquisite handmade fans by Duvelleroy, like this half-moon shaped fan in coral satin silk....
I hope 2011 fills you with inspiration!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
In honor of Hallowe'en (or Samhain if you prefer), I thought it would be fun to post some examples of art that reflect this season that revels in the dark side. I wish you all a very happy celebration as the border with the Otherworld grows thin!
The American neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat died at the age of 27, his young life ravaged by drugs, alcohol and mental illness. This is one of his last paintings, inspired by a da Vinci drawing, and surely a blatant reflection of his state of mind and a foreboding of the near future.
Riding with Death (1988), Jean-Michel Basquiat
Bocklin is one of my favorite symbolists. His Ruine am Meer is a great example of the extreme eroticism and morbidity of most of his work. Bocklin loved the classical mythology of the Mediterranean, and most of his great works were set in this landscape. The Victorians, who loved a good haunting, must have been very attracted to pictures like this.
Ruins by the Sea (1880), Arnold Bocklin
The avant-garde Belgian artist James Ensor had a thing for skeletons, painting them in colorful tableaux. In fact, the bright, lively colors in this painting seem to me the creepiest thing here, as the main subject of the picture is clearly death. This painting was in fact a re-worked portrait. It started out as a family member, looking through a book of Japanese prints in the family home. Ensor decided that a skeleton was more interesting.
Skeleton Looking at Chinoiseries (c. 1885), James Ensor
The devil is in the details, literally, in Bosch's immortal triptych which warns of the consequences of life's temptations. Here, in one of the picture's hundreds of scenes, a demon inflicts his torments on a man.
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Detail (c. 1500), Hieronymus Bosch
When Fuseli's masterpiece was shown at the Royal Academy in 1782, it became the talk of the town, because it was interpreted to be all about sex. It was said to have influenced later Gothic novels, poems, and centuries later even films. This compelling image is in fact not just sexual, but is a melange of helpless innocence, power, evil, folklore, witchcraft, and the unconscious.
The Nightmare (1781), John Henry Fuseli
I'm just going to say what most of us think: Edvard Munch was weird, or at least his paintings were delightfully so. He always makes us wonder, 'what in the heck is going on here?' This is my favorite of his works. Set in the small Norwegian town of Aasgaardstrand, a group of women appear to be gathered for some purpose. What are they doing? Where is the woman in white going? The depiction of night and mystery and ritual here are so gorgeously realized.
The Storm (1893), Edvard Munch
Rotting jack-o-lanterns, carved while still on the vine, lend a playful sense of eeriness in Jamie Wyeth's painting. Halloween is a favorite subject for Wyeth, featuring rural symbols like scarecrows and especially pumpkins. I love his very effective mastery of light and shadow.
Warm Halloween (1989), Jamie Wyeth
No surprise that my little collection here includes a Goya, for depicting witchcraft and unfettered flight was his way of celebrating the freedom of the Enlightenment against the fantastical fears of the Dark Ages. But I also think that Goya must have had a sense of thrill himself in painting subjects like this. I feel that he was deeply attracted to the dark aspects of imagination. And...I love their fantastic hats.
Witches Flight (1797), Francesco de Goya
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Do you ever write bits and pieces of prose or poetry? I have notebooks full of snippets that come to me in dreams, or daydreams.
When I came across this photo of a wonderful gypsy vardo, an idea came to me for a story. Maybe one day I'll pursue it further.
"Cold iron is like poison to faeries", the gypsy said, her fingers pawing through the small pile of odds and ends on the table. "Ah!", she cried, siezing a tiny silken pouch and shaking it gleefully, making a dull, hard rattle. "Iron taken from Awen, the cauldron of Cerridwen. There's no faerie in all the wide world who will dare come near it! If...", the gypsy peered across the table..."you know how to use it properly".
Friday, October 08, 2010
I believe that the turning of the wheel of the year brings a profound sense of comfort to those of us who care to pay attention. Whether it's the slow, welcome melting of winter into spring; the joyful and heady sparkle of spring into summer; the brilliant transition of summer into autumn; or the abrupt darkening of autumn into winter, we have evidence all around us that change is not only unstoppable, but that it is good, and in fact, it is beautiful.
Autumn is so very welcome in places where the sun burns bright and hot. As the weeks go by, the colors of the leaves become more and more ridiculous in their loveliness. I don't think there are many artists (or poets, or writers, or dancers, or dreamers or anyone else for that matter) who has failed to be moved by this season of mellow, melancholy, decaying gorgeousness.
And on top of all that, we have Hallowe'en! But more on that in an upcoming post. :) Here are some autumn pieces I particularly like.
I like the murkiness of Fantin-Latour's fallen Apples, with just that hint of red on the fruit in the foreground and that deep shadow on the left, suggesting that we're seeing them touched by moonlight. Fantin-Latour was an absolute master of the still-life, and Parisians bought his pictures as quickly as he could paint them.
Apples (1876), Henri Fantin-Latour
Alson Clark was an American impressionist, and for most of his life he lived and painted in the area of Pasadena, California. Who wouldn't want to live in a perfect little white cottage under a stand of quaking aspen trees?
Autumn Blaze (1922), Alson Skinner Clark
This is what surely must be one of Tiffany's greatest masterpieces of leaded favrile glass, commissioned by a wealthy Bostonian and now owned by the Met. The river of life is seen winding it's way through a brilliant forest glade. The Tiffany studio pulled out all the stops, using every known stained glass technique for this piece.
Autumn Landscape (1923), Louis Comfort Tiffany
It was all about the curvilinear forms and the nuances of color for Georgia O'Keeffe. Her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, owned a vacation home at Lake George, New York, where O'Keeffe painted several studies of leaves like this one. I like the sense of moving forward from the bloody deep red in the background to the pale yellow of the leaf on the top. There is a sense of intimacy in her paintings that I enjoy.
Autumn Leaves (1915), Georgia O'Keeffe
I'm convinced that Grimshaw had a sort of fetish for autumnal colors in his palette, because he made quite a few pictures with this theme. He also liked mist and moonlight. I always think of Jane Eyre when I see this one.
Autumn Morning (1864), John Atkinson Grimshaw
Although this painting by Pollock is titled Autumn Rhythm, he probably wasn't thinking of the season in a representational way when he dripped/flung/whipped/drizzled it. Still, I think it brings to mind a sense of autumn in his use of color and the flow of the lines. There is something captivating about it...it makes me think, and not of spring.
Autumn Rhythm, Number 30 (1950), Jackson Pollock
Here is a portrait by Mary Cassatt of her only sister, Lydia. Lydia was Mary's model for many of her paintings, and this is a particular poignant one, as two years later Lydia died of Bright's disease, a kidney ailment. The bright hues of autumn are all centered on the subject, rather than on nature.
Autumn (1880), Mary Cassatt
Birch trees hold special meaning for me, and I've loved them since my childhood. This painting by Klimt reminds me of stories of the sacred groves of birches that stand in the Tir na nOg, the Gaelic land of the faeries, the dead and the immortal.
Birkenwald (Birch Forest) (1903), Gustav Klimt
This amazing photograph is by the American nature photographer, Eliot Porter. There is something unsettling about his photo. In fact, I find it hard to look at it too long, because it's so damn creepy. Nevertheless, I love it.
Frostbitten Apples, Tesuque, New Mexico, November 21 (1966), Eliot Porter
Just for fun, I have to include this hat by the great Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. It makes me smile, and I think that's what she was aiming for.
Hat, Fall/Winter Collection (1939), Elsa Schiaparelli