Monday
Oct082018

Rice Flour

Belated October greetings: hello! This month’s calendar picture features a little girl with her feline companion. Reis-mehl translates from the German to ‘rice flour’, so perhaps she is enjoying a rice pudding? Who can say, but it must be good since she has rosy cheeks. I like her Mary-Janes too.

Here in Melbourne spring-proper has finally burst into bloom, which, since the spring equinox was on 23 September, is not surprising, but it is exciting! Today is forecast to be a particularly glorious 26°C, and lunch al fresco has certainly given me rosy cheeks.

Happy October!

Tuesday
Sep252018

Warhol’s Captivating Sense of Fun

Looking at Cecil Beaton’s illustrations immediately put me in mind of Andy Warhol’s own illustrations, which I have always preferred to his fine art output. In the 1950s and before he became his own brand, Warhol worked in the advertising industry as a very successful artist. He even won several Art Directors Club awards.

Warhol moved to New York in 1949 after studying commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. And for the next ten years he worked on Madison Avenue, illustrating fashion, in particular shoe advertisements for I. Miller and other advertising clients; LP covers; and several books, such as 25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy, Love Is A Pink Cake, and Wild Raspberries.

He returned to drawing in the 1970s, continuing to his death in 1987, but probably his most famous are the shoe drawings, which were published on Sundays in the New York Times, with captions written by his mother. (I must say I much prefer Warhol’s shoe illustrations to the work of another famous shoe illustrator, that of Manolo Blahnik.)

There is a lovely, light unselfconsciousness in Warhol’s drawings; in the imprecise linework that charms; in the whimsical creatures that inhabit the drawings – unicorns, yapping lapdogs and well-to-do pussycats wearing pearls. The sense of fun is captivating.

Images found on Pinterest.

Monday
Sep242018

Vintage Mementoes

Recently I bought some vintage items on Etsy, a pair of 1940s sunglasses, and a hat (actually one of a few!), but these two sellers used vintage photos for thank you cards. Aptly, the 1940s beach photo above came with the sunglasses.

Both the photos are very tiny, about 6cm wide, and there is only so much one can see with the naked eye. I didn’t notice at first, but the photo above is actually a square negative printed on rectangular paper. When I scanned it at 200% of actual size, I was able to pick out a bit more detail – I love seeing what’s going on in the background of vintage photos.

Her expression is a little pensive, looking away from the camera as though she is thinking of someone far away from her.

Here, there is a man’s hat sitting on a rock just behind the two young women, children running about perhaps playing a ballgame, and numerous people doing the kind of things you do at the beach. You can see the girl closer to the camera is much prettier, and her dress has scalloped sleeves and neckline, and she is wearing a polka dot sash. Her expression is a little pensive, looking away from the camera as though she is thinking of someone far away from her. The other woman is wearing a floral print, and both of them are holding sunglasses in their hands.

I always wonder about the people in such photos – what were they thinking at the moment the shutter snapped? Where are they now, or their descendents?

And who are the two Edwardian women wearing bowties? Mother and daughter perhaps? The woman in the polka dot tie has such weary, deep-sunken eyes and looks much older than the other. Look at the detailing on their dresses – so many pleats!

I love the old cardboard these photos are printed on. I’ve always been fond of those deckle-edged photos because I remember them from old family albums; I even own a pair of scissors that cut like that, but of course I never print photos anymore. The embossed Edwardian frame is perfectly lovely – I actually might get photos printed if you could order frames like that. It makes them seem far more special, real mementoes. I wonder if these women are remembered by someone.

Click images for larger versions.

Sunday
Sep232018

The Exuberance of Cecil Beaton

First edition of The Blessing, by Nancy Mitford with cover art by Cecil BeatonRecently I started reading Nancy Mitford’s book The Blessing, which, a few chapters in, is proving very entertaining. I first spotted this first edition book on a shelf in an op shop (thrift store), my eye caught by the author’s name as well as the colourful though tattered spine.

I had heard of Nancy Mitford (1904–1973), but I didn’t know much about her life. One of the famous Mitford sisters, she was a novelist, biographer and journalist. The book The Blessing, is considered one of her best, and was dedicated to her very good friend Evelyn Waugh. He told Mitford he found the book, “admirable, deliciously funny, consistent and complete, by far the best of your writings”.

My eye was caught by the illustration; the cover artwork of this first printing in 1951 is by Cecil Beaton and through the rearing horse, and tilting angles evokes a madcap adventure with the heroine’s young child (the ‘blessing’ of the title) at its centre.

Portrait of Coco ChanelCecil Beaton (1904–1980) was a prolifically creative person: ‘a fashion, portrait and war photographer, diarist, painter, interior designer and an Oscar-winning stage and costume designer for films and the theatre’. [Wikipedia] I have always admired Beaton’s dedication to detail in his drawings in particular: what patience he had in faithfully depicting the intricacies of interior décor in his portraits of the wealthy! The wallpaper patterns especially impress me, and it is no wonder after all, for he was also a textile designer, and his fabric designs were used by Balenciaga, Dior and Lanvin. (Read more here.)

Here is a small collection of Beaton’s exuberant illustrations that show a joyful sense of colour and playful riot of pattern and texture.

Images from Pinterest

Portrait of the Duchess of WindsorBeaton's accessories for Vogue magazineVogue cover, June 1935Vogue cover, July 1935Front cover of one of his personal scrapbooks, full of society photographsBack cover of Cecil Beaton's scrapbookWraparound book cover (click image for larger version)

Thursday
Sep062018

Simply Colour

Gaspé – Pink Sky, 1940Can you believe I had never heard of the painter Milton Avery before today? Thanks to Pinterest I discovered his beautiful paintings. The large stretches of almost flat colour of the first one I saw, Gaspé – Pink Sky (1940) immediately put me in mind of Rothko, except that it was representational. What I love about it besides the muted tertiary hues is the simplicity of the stylised shapes that form the landscape, and indeed all his compositions.

Seated Lady, 1953Conversation, 1956Avery (1885–1965) is considered a seminal American painter but seemed to have suffered from first being ahead of his times (too abstract early in his career), and when the times caught up and Abstract Expressionism bypassed him, he was dismissed as being too representational.

Like Rothko, he was concerned with the relation of colour as opposed to creating the illusion of depth, and was influenced early on by French Fauvism and German Expressionism. He was likened to an American Matisse (another of my favourite artists), and the art critic Hilton Kramer said of him:

“He was, without question, our greatest colorist … Among his European contemporaries, only Matisse—to whose art he owed much, of course—produced a greater achievement in this respect.” [Wikipedia]

Three Cows on a Hillside, 1945Fall in Vermont, 1935Horse in a Landscape, 1941Vermont Hills, 1936Working in New York City in the 1930s–40s he became a part of the artistic community and in fact friends with Mark Rothko, who paid him a high compliment:

“What was Avery’s repertoire? His living room, Central Park, his wife Sally, his daughter March, the beaches and mountains where they summered; cows, fish heads, the flight of birds; his friends and whatever world strayed through his studio: a domestic, unheroic cast. But from these there have been fashioned great canvases, that far from the casual and transitory implications of the subjects, have always a gripping lyricism, and often achieve the permanence and monumentality of Egypt.” [Wikipedia]

Read about him in more detail here.

Yellow Sky, 1958Interlude, 1960Images from Wikiart and Pinterest.