Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Sunday, March 6, 2016
'Les Orientales’ was a suite of dances devised for the 1910 Paris season of the Ballets Russes, replacing ‘Le Festin’ of the previous season. The theme of the suite was inspired by a visit of Siamese court dancers to St Petersburg in the 1890’s, fitting with the ‘exotic’ strand of a number of the ballets in the repertoire of the company at this time.
'Les Orientales’ premiered on 25th of June 1910 at the Théâtre National de l'Opéra, Paris.
Nijinsky appeared in two dances in the suite: ‘Danse Siamoise’ (Music by Christian Sinding [Rondoletto giocoso, op.32/5, orch. Igor Stravinsky]) and ‘Variation’ (Music by Edvard Grieg [Småtroll, op.71/3, from Lyric Pieces, Book X, orch. Igor Stravinsky]).
There is disagreement between Boris Kochno (‘Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes’) and Lincoln Kirstein (‘Nijinsky Dancing’) about the creators of the choreography, and the costume and set designs for ‘Danse Siamoise’.
Kochno states Nijinsky created the choreography for both the ballets he appeared in, and Kirstein that ‘Danse Siamoise’ was from Mikhail Fokine. The Michail Fokine Estate does not list the ballet in Fokine’s oeuvre, but this maybe be due to the work being considered inconsequential. There seems no dispute that the choreography for ‘Variation’ was the work of Nijinsky, being his first effort in this new direction.
As far as costume and set designs go, Kochno claims they are by Constantine Korovine (or Korovin) and Kirstein, by Léon Bakst. I suspect that Kochno may be referring to designs of another/other ballets in the suite as he is not specific to ‘Danse Siamoise’. And the extraordinary power of the invention of these exotic designs shouts Bakst to me!
The first four further photographs of the ballet I’m posting here are by Eugène Druet. They were taken in the Passy garden of artist Jacques-Émile Blanche to use when painting Nijinsky in this ballet. Images 1-3, while posed as are the studio images, have the quality of action photographs. 4 is an action photograph proper. As a set we have I think a tiny sense of Nijinsky in movement.
The next two images are sketches by Blanche for the final painting and the last, the rich glittering painting itself - replete with oriental carpet and gilded Chinese screens. A feast for the eyes!
Curiously, though, Jacques-Émile Blanche’s (Western European) idea of oriental exoticism is a quite contained tame affair compared with that of central Ballets Russes designer, Léon Bakst!
Sunday, February 21, 2016
“The world’s oldest dress dates back to around 3,482 BC, a new study has revealed. The “Tarkhan Dress”, which now looks more like a stained and tattered shirt, has been identified as Egypt’s oldest garment as well as the oldest surviving piece of woven clothing in the entire world.
Despite its current decrepit state, the “Tarkhan Dress”, the researchers point out, was once a fashionable linen garment, featuring knife-pleated sleeves and bodice with a naturally-beautiful pale grey stripped design. The lower part of the dress is missing, which is why its original length is currently unknown.
Speaking about the find, recently published in the Antiquity journal, Alice Stevenson of the University College London said: The survival of highly perishable textiles in the archaeological record is exceptional, the survival of complete, or almost complete, articles of clothing like the Tarkhan Dress is even more remarkable. We’ve always suspected that the dress dated from the First Dynasty, but haven’t been able to confirm this as the sample previously needed for testing would have caused too much damage to the dress.”
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Until recently, the only accepted photographs of the Dutch master Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) were two taken of the artist in his youth - at the ages of thirteen and nineteen respectively.
More of these images in a moment.
Serge Plantureux, writer for the French magazine ‘L’Oeil de la Photographie’, believes that an 1887 photograph bought at an estate sale may well be an image of van Gogh as an adult.
The photograph (above) shows the painter (third from the left, pipe in hand) and group of friends including Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Félix Jobbé-Duval, and André Antoine. It is a melanotype, where a positive picture is produced with sensitised collodion on a smooth surface of black varnish, coating a thin plate of iron.
This newly discovered 1887 photograph was sold at auction on 19th June, 2015 in Brussels for an undisclosed figure, with pre-sale estimates being between €120,000 and €150,000 (~$136,000 to $170,000).
The Seton Gallery in New Haven has displayed what they believe to be another and second image of the mature van Gogh, an 1886 cabinet photograph bought by artist Tom Stanford in a Massachusetts antique dealer’s shop in the early 1990s for one dollar.
Stanford said “I saw it and thought it was van Gogh right away, and the more I looked at it, the more I was sure”.
The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam disputes that this is an image of the artist (perhaps for the obvious reasons), though Albert Harper, director of the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven, believes otherwise.
Joseph Buberger, who has identified images of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, judged the imagine genuine, comparing it with a self-portrait sketch.
Albert Harper said "Even the most minute detail matched up, even the smallest hairs on the beards matched up”. This might suggest that the artist made the self-portrait from the photograph.
As circumstantial evidence, van Gogh is known to have spent much time in Brussels, where Victor Morin, whose name is inscribed on the 1886 image, had his photographic studio.
Now returning to the accepted two youthful images mentioned at the beginning. Mr Buberger claims that they are in fact of the artist’s brother Theo, as they do not match any of Van Gogh's self-portraits, thus taking these 1866 and 1873 images out of the authentication by comparison equation.
As an unhelpful but interesting footnote, there is another 1886 photograph supposedly showing van Gogh and his friend, Emile Bernard, at a table beside the Seine at the Paris suburb of Asnieres.
What you think of all these images, having seen as we all probably have numbers of self-portraits by Vincent van Gogh?
Now that Gaston ...
And, pooch with exquisitely refined tastes that he is, our little fellow immediately decided to put it to good and personal use as his new sleeping rug. Better, I'm sure he thinks, than that inferior mohair rug he has been forced to use up to now!
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
And another trial post - an oil on copper we have from C17 Italian painter Antonio Nicolini - ‘A Pious Monk at Prayer’ …
The artist’s name can be faintly discerned etched into the exposed copper verso. It is below the late C18 or early C19 the label attached when the work was presumably re-framed.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Feast for the Eyes:
A Worthy Descendant of Leon Bakst
As you'll all undoubtably know, British gay haute couture designer Alexander McQueen died at the young age of 41. A suicide by hanging. Having had a partner depart this life in a similar way, I was doubly drawn to post on this extraordinary artist.
I remember being impressed hearing someone once say that he'd be very sorry if, at his passing, people didn't joyfully celebrate his life.
So it's in this spirit I've put together a selection from the designer's somewhat Japonaise and bold geometric ready-to-wear collection for the Paris Fashion Week of 2009.
Even if you know Sweet F A about haute couture, it's hard to imagine anyone not responding to these startlingly innovative designs.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Étienne-Louis Boullée - Sliding Doors
I was doing some serious time-travelling this morning, way way back into distant antiquity: my first degree in fine art.
I was browsing one of my trusty but now metaphorically yellowing course books for a unit I took on C20 architecture, naturally from the aesthetic rather than engineering perspective. As Isipped my coffee (I wonder why 'sipping' seems such a tea thing?), I was flicking through the tome in question, my Charles Jencks's 'Modern Movements in Architecture', and was put in mind of megalomaniac and a visionary C18 architect Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799).
Boullée's abstract geometric style, inspired by C17 and C18 French Classical architecture, took geometric forms to a giagantic and simplified scale. His proposed works that were devoid of ornament and used light and shadow and a sense of movement in highly innovative ways.
'Newton's cenotaph was designed to isolate, to reinvent, the huge movement of time and celestial phenomena. Inside, the viewer is isolated too, on a small viewing platform. Along the top half of the sphere's edges, apertures in the stone allow light in, in pins, creating starlight when there is daylight. During the night a huge and otherworldly light hangs, flooding the sphere, as sunlight. During the day, the "night effect." During the night, day.'
The French architect was interested in making architecture expressive of purpose, an approach his detractors termed 'architecture parlante' ('talking architecture').
Interior space is opened up to flow from one functional area to another rather than such areas being closed off in descrete separate 'rooms'.
By now you can see where this is heading!
Of course Boullée's work was re-discovered in the late C19 and early C20, influencing architecture, even as recently as that of Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) ...
... in his Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht ...
You'll also know Rossi from his designs for Alessi ...
However, apart from a number of private houses designed beween 1762 and 1778, none of Boullée's large scale works were ever built, though his designs in engravings were circulated widely in professional circles.
I can't help having a sliding doors moment, wondering about the course of C19 architeture had it moved forward on Boullée's ideas and not taken to its various backward-looking Gothic/Rennaissance/electic diversions.
PS: Boullée recently-ish popped up unexpectedly at the movies. In Peter Greenaway's film 'The Belly of an Architect' (1987), whose main character, Stourley Krackite, is obsessed with celebrating the C18 French architect's work.