Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Past in the Present

'Still Life of Arum Lilies and Tulips' 1940 (Gouache and Oil on Paper on Board, 72 x 47 cm)

So very strange how your past can collide back into your present.

When I was living in London as a kid, I knew Eve Disher (1894-1991).

Eve Disher as I Knew Her - We're Just About to Head Out for Dins

In her eighties then, she'd been a minor painter connected with the Bloomsbury Group, whose central and more periphery members included at various times Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Clive and Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey, the economist John Maynard Keynes, D H Lawrence, Bertrand Russell and E M Forster.

As I mentioned in a previous post (Lady Ottoline Morrell and Sociability), Eve very much influenced how I engage other people, or try to. When I first met her in her large Eccleston Square flat, wall-papered with the history of British avante garde painting of the first half of the C20, she sat me down and said 'Hello, I'm Eve. Lovely to meet you! Tell me all about yourself'. Which was not condescension or a segue just to talk about her own life. And I've attempted to hold on tight to this idea of intense selfless warmth and empathy ever since. E M Forster's 'only connect'.

Now, quite recently, I was browsing through eBay, as you do, when I stunned to see a somewhat familiarish painting of Eve's on offer from someone in France. And with a click of my ruby credit cards, the work was on my doorstep 3/4 days later.

When I turned it over, I noticed 'Provenance: The Artist's Collection' ...

... and was over-whelmed with emotion, realising the work was one I'd seen hanging on one of her walls way back when.

It seems to me time is not linear, but the past infused in the present.

And I'm now more intensely aware of Eve in my life, thanks to the near magic of online purchasing!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Josephine Baker Dances the Black Bottom in 1926 or 1927

Probably everyone knows all about Josephine Baker (19o6-1975) - her beginnings in the Harlem Renaissance of St Louis and on Broadway, Les Folies Bergeres in Paris in 1925 and her famous erotic bare-breasted dance, performed in pretty much just a string of bananas. Revealing a daring and theatricality that would be well understood in sectors of the our community.

I've posted on her famous banana dance, filmed on the stage of Les Folies Bergeres in 1927 by an American director. The (recently discovered) footage is however at a great distance, blurry and Josephine is covered up.

What's great about the studio-filmed performance here is that it's close-up. You can really appreciate the woman's extraordinary vitality and almost electric-charged exuberance. As well as her comic extreme face pulling, somewhat akin to Fanny Brice.

Much has been said about all the attendant dangers of Josephine presenting an image of unbridled 'native' sensuality - but in the end there's still the power and joy in the performance to be appreciated.

And if needs be I keep in mind Josephine's adoption of 12 multi-ethnic children - the Rainbow Tribe.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To Dunce Or Not To Dunce, That Is The Question

Ok guys, if the puzzle below takes more than a nanosecond (or three, let's not be too mean or anal), please insinuate yourself into a context similar to the one above, attired in the very same manner.

If ...

2 + 3 = 10

7 + 2 = 63

6 + 5 = 66

8 + 4 = 96

Then ...

9 + 7 = ?

Okay, so precisely where are you now after doing that, and what exactly are you wearing?

Of course, feel free to share any more 'exotic' locations you may be heading for ... if not required in the classroom!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Postscript Post - The End of an Era, the 1915 Fire at Le Moulin Rouge

The old Moulin Rouge burnt down in February 1915, ending the era I/we time-travelled to last post.

It's been rebuilt of course but he new one is, well, more than a bit ho hum ... it's just that its time of the past.

The Can Can can no longer be executed as the height of eroticism! It'd be like the very low voltage charge generated by raising one of the legs of your boardies ... to reveal what's just above the knee.

Curiously (though maybe not so curiously) the most poignant image in this footage for me is of the chandeliers ...

... still valiantly hanging on in all the ruination ...

A great metaphor for life if ever there was one!
What's in a Name - Le Lapin Agile

Le Lapin Agile

Just when you think you knew it!

Montmartre of the late C19 has always had the strongest fascination for me, particularly the establishments that emerged there to meet certain of the shall we say more basic needs of intellectuals, artists, writers, the upper classes, politicians and so on.

While these venues presented genuine artists, such as the cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert ...

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec 'Yvette Guilbert' 1894

... many of the 'performers' had parallel careers as persons of easy virtue, like the famed Can Can dancer La Goulue (Louise Weber, 1866-1929) ...

... who was the undisputed and highly paid star of the Le Moulin Rouge ...

Other similar music halls in Montmartre were Le Moulin Radet ...

... and Le Moulin de la Galette ...

Le Moulin de la Galette 1885

Vincent van Gogh 'Le Moulin de la Galette' (1886)

Other watering holes of the demi monde were cafes, such as Le Chat Noir ...

... and Le Lapin Agile ...

Le Lapin Agile 1880-1890

Le Lapin Agile with the proprietor, Frédéric Gerard, aka le père Frédé, playing the guitar (c1905)

Now - slowly slowly - we're getting to the point of the post!

In 1875, a sign was painted for 'Le Cabaret des Assassins' at 22 rur des Saules in Montmartre.

It showed a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan. Hence, I thought, the name of the cafe - agility does of course keep rabbits out of cooking utensils and off dinner tables, yeah?

However ... the painter's name was Andre Gill and so locals gradually began to call the cafe 'Le Lapin à Gill' (Gill's rabbit) - which I imagine evolved, as things do, into 'Le Lapin Agile' (the nimble rabbit. Though perhaps both meanings were intended at the outset.

At the century turned over, the 'Le Cabaret Au Lapin Agile' was attracting artists and writers, such as Picasso, Utrillo and Apollinaire. Who often recorded the goings on. Classic Montmartre stuff.

Pablo Picasso 'Au Lapin Agile' (1905)

Now, I very much like the notion of time travelling back - even just for a moment - to any or all of these establishments.

And it seemed momentarily possible this morning when I came across a tiny piece of early C20 French film.

It shows a bunch of people in Montmartre walking past 'Le Rat Mort' (the dead rat) ...

... and then we see the briefest camera shot of Gill's sign through the branches of a tree, an image in which we can just make out the legs of the infamous rabbit as it leaps out of a pan sitting on a bottle strewn table ...

Or are we alternatively looking at an early form of Rorschach inkblot test!

The footage then leads into the outside front patio of Le Lapin Agile, with its benches and tables just as pictured in the photograph and painting above. But with with the addition of a maid, a small donkey, and the patron's dog. The requisite writers/painters/poets/whatever are there cogitating away round a table in the background ...

The capped man in the middle ground tries not too successfully to drive the donkey out of frame with a little cane ...

Finally we have the patron himself, Frédéric Gerard, known as le père Frédé ...

... with his back against open window shutters and puffing away on his pipe, for all the world a dead ringer for Santa Claus.

Ok, I'm just going to step into my tardis ... and while I'm away ...

... I hope you'll enjoy this just half as much as I did making it!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Just a Few of the Greens of a Garden

I was looking for flowers in the garden today and suddenly realised I'd missed the potential point of a garden at this time of year - the myriad of greens ...

... that give a sense of delicious cool on stiffling hot summer days.