20 April 2011

Ephemeral Beauty: The Art of Amadeo de Souza Cardoso

Thirty-one years is a short time in the life of an artist. Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (1887-1918) was born in Northern Portugal, studying architecture in Lisbon. On his nineteenth birthday he left for bohemian Paris where he decided to become a painter. Although he was close friends with Amedeo Modigliani, Juan Gris, and Robert Delaunay he did not forget his Portuguese heritage. Souza Cardoso's work wove modern influences of Expressionism,Cubism and Futurism with elements of Portuguese folk art, Catholic pageantry and the beauty of his native landscape. He participated in several important exhibitions including Salon des Indépendants of 1911 and the legendary New York Armory Show that took place in 1913. Along with his vivid paintings he published elegant drawings; illustrations for Gustave Flaubert's La Légende de Saint Julien to l'Hospitalier and the folio XX dessins. The modern visionary returned to Northern Portugal and married Lúcia Peretto. Souza Cardoso died there at the age of thirty-one, a victim of the 1918 flu pandemic.

06 April 2011

Spanish Beauty: Art and Fashion

Basque born Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972) was influenced by the art and culture of Spain to create masterpieces of couture fashion. The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum is currently exhibiting Balenciaga and Spain. Spanish Renaissance painters such as Greek born Domenicos Theotokopoulos(1541-1614) provided inspiration for the designer's work. Better known as El Greco, his Lady in the Fur Wrap is a departure from his signature blue white tortured bodies. The beautiful pink skinned woman with dark eyes and hair is believed to be El Greco's long time companion, Doña Jerónima de las Cuevas. She is elegantly dressed in Iberian lynx. Later painters including Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) also gave Balenciaga motifs for his designs. Goya depicted the boy Victor Guye in the uniform of the Order of Pages to Joseph Bonaparte. Although the costume is French in origin, the gold braid on black is given a Spanish flair by the artist. Perhaps Balanciaga's fashion genius was intrinsic to his heritage. Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli (1540-1592) was a Spanish aristocrat who accidentally lost an eye as a child. She went on to be considered one of the greatest beauties of Spain and her eye patch a fashion accessory.


03 April 2011

Spring and Rebirth: Easter and the Golden Egg

Peter Carl Fabergé's (1846-1920) The Lilies of the Valley Egg was an Easter gift for the Empress Alexandra (1872-1918) from her husband Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918). The Russian jeweler’s ateliers fabricated the Art Nouveau style egg in 1898. Comprised of gold covered in a translucent rose pink enamel ground, it is decorated with green leaves, pearl lilies, and diamond dewdrops. The surprise of the gift is revealed when twisting a gold-mounted pearl button at the side of the egg causes the ruby and diamond set crown at top to rise, exposing the miniature portraits of the Tsar and the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana. Eggs have been a symbol of spring and rebirth since Pagan times. For Christians the egg is seen as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus; its hard shell corresponds to the sealed tomb of Christ, holding a new life. Italian painter Mariotto di Cristofano (1393-1457) rendered the resurrection of Christ from a porphyry tomb in the International Gothic Style. In Aesop's Fables, an egg has a different meaning. Killing The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs warns us not to be seduced by greed. American illustrator Milo Winter (1888- 1956) portrays the foolish farmer with his golden goose.