Friday, 25 September 2009

Trying to Capture the Spirit of the River

This is a detail of the painting I made from our Thames odyssey.
I am rather fond of cows at the water's edge. This may not be the last.

©Rosie West 09

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Boxing Clever : The Most Famous Cat in Japan

Maru has already gone viral on You Tube but if you haven't already discovered this most nosy cat with a box fetish, do have a look. It's beautifully filmed in Japan. Check out Maru's many other performances and try not to laugh. Even if you're not a cat-person.

Thanks to Tony at The London Lifedrawing Society who recommended Maru to me last night at The Star of Bethnal Green, our Monday night venue.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Thames Odyssey I

We have just come ashore from our river odyssey. The Thames has many faces and many moods but was benign for us. I am now happily sifting through my photos and will have to restrain myself from boring the pants off everyone. Meanwhile I made a note of the best/daftest CarryOnBoating names:







Looks as if I'm dreaming of being Hepburn and Bogart in my very own African Queen. (Forgot to take the pearls off from the night before? One must have standards ha.)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Jolly Good Boating Weather I hope

I am not sure if anyone will notice if I disappear for a week but we're off boating on the River Thames. We set out from Wargrave (in whose churchyard Madame Tussaud is buried) and potter westwards to Lechlade where the Thames is first navigable. It's an open boat with canvas dodgers and, I confess, a diesel engine. I wish we were repeating our Three Men In A Boat style rowing adventure of a decade ago.

We shall pass gorgeous Cliveden House at Taplow which sits atop a 200ft cliff, its Italianate tower visible through the trees. Famous for entertaining the raffish 'Cliveden set' of the 20s and 30s and political heavyweights like Roosevelt and Churchill, it is probably best known as one of the settings for the Profumo Affair. Government Minister John Profumo, Call Girl Christine Keeler, Stephen Ward a society osteopath and Captain Ivanov a Soviet spy are all said to have frolicked in Bill Astor's swimming pool in the early 1960s ooh!! Cliveden is now a recherché hotel and we probably won't be, we definitely won't be smart enough to pop in.

There is a much quieter house almost at our destination which I can't wait to visit. It's Kelmscott Manor, chosen by William Morris as his summer home in 1871, signing a joint lease with pre- Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Now owned by The Society of Antiquaries, the house promises an outstanding collection of furniture, metalwork,textiles and ceramics associated with Morris and his contemporaries. There are "quaint garrets amongst great timbers of the roof where of old times the tillers and herdsmen slept"; also, beautiful gardens, with barns, dovecote, a meadow and stream.

KELMSCOTT MANOR. Watercolor [ca. 1905?] by Marie Spartali Stillman here

My illustration top © Rosie West

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Paul Outerbridge: formal beauty

Images de Deauville c. 1936

"What makes a still life good instead of mediocre is the quality of vision and imagination employed by the photographer, and especially his reaction to his subject material"

Not only did American photographer Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) have the vision and creativity of an artist, he was technically meticulous and imaginative.

Party Mask with Shells 1936

Outerbridge was at the height of his powers in the period between the two world wars and embraced the project of modernism with extraordinary diligence and elan. He had many friends in the avant-garde, including Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Archipenko and Max Ernst and their influence is felt in his intense black and white images of everyday objects. They all have a sense of abstract and geometric design, a formal beauty and, frequently, a surreal quality.

Ide Collar 1922

The Ide Collar is perhaps the most iconic of his work. A brilliantly conceived advertisement, Marcel Duchamp tore it from the November 1922 issue of Vanity Fair and tacked it to his studio wall. To Duchamp it was a 'Ready Made' in his own tradition.

I am focusing on his colour photography because it has an exceptional quality of its own.

Chair with materials 1936

Not only did Outerbridge have state-of-the-art lighting equipment and legendary preparation for every shoot, he developed a method of printing that was terrifically complex and labour intensive. The tri-colour Carbro process used three separate glass plates for each image and involved precise timings and conditions. He wrote about it in a collection of essays entitled Photographing in Color [New York: Random House, 1940] and it wouldn't be for the faint-hearted.

Wallpaper Design 1936

Beach Equipment c 1936

It would be hard for digital photography, I imagine, to achieve this translucence.

Window with Plants c 1937

I cannot do justice here to Outerbridge's intellectual and creative instincts or put him more squarely in the context of his time. For a superb essay and many more stunning photographs I recommend the book that I have referred to. It is
Paul Outerbridge by Elaine Dines-Cox with Carol McCusker pub. Taschen 1999 My copy has on the cover what I can only describe as an artistically soft-porn nude although he would have objected to that description.
I haven't mentioned his nudes. Blatantly erotic in soft lighting. Of their time?

Terrace c 1938

Father and Son in Kitchen 1941

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