26 November 2010

The Last Muse: Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne, and Jeanne Modigliani


Jeanne Hébuterne (1898 -1920) is best remembered as the muse and common-law wife of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (1884 -1920) whose portrait she painted. Born in Paris she was introduced to the artistic community by her brother. It was while she was pursuing her own artistic studies that she met Modigliani. Against her bourgeois Roman Catholic family's wishes she fell in love with the poor Jewish artist and moved in with him. Hébuterne became the principle model for Modigliani's figurative paintings and bore him a daughter named Jeanne. The brilliant artist combined his knowledge of classical European painting with the influence of non-Western tribal art to create his elegant, reflective portraits. In contrast life with Modigliani was chaotic and challenging; he was alcoholic, drug addicted and temperamental. Suffering from tuberculosis he chose “a brief but intense life”. At the age of thirty-five he lay dying in a squalid bed surrounded by empty wine bottles and open sardine tins. Modigliani was taken to a Paris charity hospital where he died. Two days later Hébuterne, twenty-one and pregnant with their second child, jumped to her death from a fifth floor window. Their daughter, Jeanne Modigliani (1918 -1984) was raised by her paternal aunt and would go on to become an art scholar and write the biography of her father, Modigliani, Man and Myth. She was photographed in front of a photo of her father by LIFE Magazine photographer Ralph Crane.

21 November 2010

Girls of Autumn: Courtesy of Alphonse Mucha, Louis John Rhead and Winslow Homer


Czech Art Nouveau print maker Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) is best remembered for his stylistic images of women. Mucha was committed to bringing art into the daily lives of people by designing posters, advertisements and labels for sundries, as well as jewelry for Sarah Bernhardt. Autumn was a part of his 1896 Seasons series of decorative panels. It shows ripe grapes ready to be picked by the personification of Fall. Another Art Nouveau artist, Louis John Rhead (1857-1926) was an English born American Golden Age illustrator. From a family of Staffordshire potters, Rhead became a well known poster artist as well as an angler. Harper's Bazaar Thanksgiving 1894 cover is one of his many works. Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was an American Realist painter and illustrator primarily known for his land and seascapes. Homer's In Autumn Woods shows a young woman standing under a canopy of fall foliage with fallen leaves as a carpet under her feet.

19 November 2010

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Images of The Great Depression


In response to The House of Representatives voting down a measure that would have reauthorized extended unemployment insurance for another three months, Porcelains and Peacocks posts these timeless and timely images from the Great Depression. American photographer Walter Evans (1903-1975) came from an affluent family but was able to capture Alabama cotton sharecropper Floyd Burroughs’ quiet despair. The novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) profiles a poor family of sharecroppers who in desperation leave their Oklahoma home for California. Californian author John Steinbeck (1902-1968) wrote the book in response to the Great Depression and its effects "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this", he stated. Fellow Californian Elmer Hader (1889-1973) illustrated the first edition book cover. The painting Abandoned by Millard Sheets (1907-1989) shows a farm where the owners have been driven away from their land by economic collapse. The painting became emblematic of the Great Depression; what image will define our current times?

09 November 2010

Spooks, Boys, Girls and Colourists: The Glasgow School

In Glasgow, at the end of the nineteenth century an influential group of artists coalesced. Because of an economic boom in the city many contributions were made in the fields of architecture, decorative arts and fine arts. Glasgow’s location on the Clyde River brought ships from Japan exposing the art community to Eastern design which was mixed with Celtic motifs and Modernist forms. At the forefront were The Four or Spook School comprised of Charles Rennie Mackinosh, Frances MacDonald, Frances and Herbert MacNair. MacDonald (1865–1933) was wife to Mackintosh and sister of Francis. Although her husband is more remembered by art historians, she is known for many works including the gesso panel, The May Queen. The Four went on to impact the Glasgow Boys and Glasgow Girls. Glasgow Girl, Bessie MacNicol (1869-1904) painted Glasgow Boy, E. A. Hornel (1864-1933). MacNicol who was regarded as the most important woman artist in Glasgow at the beginning of the twentieth century, depicted Hornel in his studio against a Japanese scroll. The later Scottish Colourists were based out of Edinburg but continued the Glasgow tradition, which they combined with their exposure to the French Impressionists and Fauvists. Colourist Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937) specialized in vivid impressionistic portraits of elegant women, as in his oil painting Black Hat, Miss Don Wauchope.

06 November 2010

Utopia and Dystopia: Futurism and the Brave New World


Futurists of the early twentieth century admired speed, technology, modernity and youth. They hated everything old advocating the burning of libraries and the flooding of museums. They embraced the brave new world. Primarily an Italian movement it began in 1909 and eventually spread to Russian, England and beyond. Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) was an Italian Futurist painter and composer. His painting Solidity of Fog, is a part of his brief ouvre as a painter choosing instead to create Futuristic music. Italian architect Antonio Sant'Elia (1888-1916) was influenced by the industrial cities of the United States and modernViennese architecture. He did a series of drawings for a futuristic New City. Sant'Elia was killed while fighting in World War l. Although many of his drawings were never built they inspired the works of other architects and designers. Not everyone considered Futurism a utopia, English writer Aldous Huxley's (1894-1963) novel Brave New World depicts a dystopian future. In this controlled society, there is no passion or love, and the individual is reduced to a faceless member of a color coded larger group.