Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Odalisques Oh!

Henri Matisse, photographed by Man Ray in 1928

Reading little augury's posts featuring the painter Jean Etienne Liotard (1702-1789) here and here, it reminded me how the fascination with orientalism ran and ran.  In the collective European imagination the Turkish and North African 'Orient', has long been a site of fantasy.  The louche harem dress and those lounging poses must  have been dynamite to the tightly-buttoned 19th century armchair travellers and dreamers.

Eugene Delacroix's Women of Algiers 1834, The Louvre

Henri Matisse combined modernism with the tradition of the salon painters in his matchless series of odalisques.   I suspect these paintings arrived from a collision between his  love of the female form and his lifelong involvement with textiles, which will be the subject of a later post. Meanwhile I brighten up a dull day with these stunning paintings and drawings.

Seated Odalisque 1926, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Small Odalisque in a Purple Robe 1937,  Private Collection

The Lamé Robe 1932, Yale University Art Gallery

Odalisque with Yellow Persian Robe and Anemones 1937,  Philadelphia Museum of Art

Large Odalisque with Bayadere Costume1925, Victoria and Albert Museum

  'Odalisque' : 'a female slave or concubine in a harem, especially one in the seraglio of the sultan of Turkey.' It derives from the Turkish word oda - chamber and lik - function.

All Matisse images from Matisse - His Art And Textiles pub. Royal Academy of Arts 2005

Monday, 22 March 2010

Bad Woman ~ Good Company

It was Toby Worthington who introduced me to the New York cabaret artiste, the legendary Julie Wilson and I am grateful for his good taste in bad women.

Read more about her from one of her devotees at STIRRED, STRAIGHT UP, WITH A TWIST  here.

Bad woman - good company. That's the point. Victor Plaar (1863-1929  ) wrote my favourite phrase 'She was wild, and sweet, and witty' of  a woman who no doubt had a reputation as scarlet as  Julie Wilson's feather boa.  

Epitaphium Citharistriae

Stand not uttering sedately
Trite oblivious praise above her!
Rather say you saw her lately
Lightly kissing her last lover.

Whisper not, ‘There is a reason
Why we bring her no white blossom.’
Since the snowy bloom's in season
Strow it on her sleeping bosom!

Oh, for it would be a pity
To o'erpraise her or to flout her:
She was wild, and sweet, and witty -
Let's not say dull things about her.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Those Hands Under The Table

I have had lots of feedback now to my comic strip and I have learnt a good lesson about the power of communication.  The storyline is much more ambiguous than I realised!  Naturally, I knew what I meant.

It's my own fault but I was slightly mortified to realise that many people thought the Ambassador had his hands under the table for a reason.. blimey!  The real reason is this: I didn't have the energy to draw that many pairs of hands on the table! (Lesson No. 1 to myself: no shortcuts)

My meaning (clearly oblique) was that the scenario is a metaphor for the difficulty of making conversation to a gentleman who is hopelessly uncommunicative but nevertheless has a strong sense of entitlement that you will do the business in entertaining him.  It doesn't happen often but I did once feel completely shredded after an encounter with an ambassador who shall remain anonymous.  No, he didn't come up with the punch-line but I was bloody furious with him!

That swan!  Nobody understood that reference but there were plenty of interesting interpretations.  It was meant to represent the fact that I looked serene on the surface and was paddling like mad under the waterline.  Well, there you go Rosie..   You'll have to try a little harder next time!

Watch this space.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Comic Moments

This is work in progress.  I have just finished a short course in 'sequential' art Drawing The Graphic Novel at The Prince's Drawing School in London with delightful Emily Haworth Booth as tutor.   Novel, ha.  I balk at the idea of such a massive project for this little vignette took me rather a long time.  I had to finish it hurriedly hence the scruffiness;  and it didn't quite fit on my scanner, hence the missing lines on the panels.  I know I should re-draw it and get all the faces to match but for now it's simply the work of a beginner. 
So I present The Lady and The Jurassic Ambassador.  Any likeness to any real ambassador is purely coincidental  [Click on the images to enlarge]

© Rosie West 2010

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Shy Daffodil

  Thank goodness I grew and drew my own  this year.  The word has come from the Lake District that our coldest winter in thirty years has delayed the onset of Wordsworth's host of golden daffodils. There has even been a plea for volunteers to report sightings of them.  Many daffodowndilly tourists will be disappointed but they should make for a spectacular Easter.

Monday, 15 March 2010

I Ask the Audience: Somebody Name That Film For Me

This has been bugging me over a couple of centuries..  In the early 1950s I was taken to the Odeon by a nanny who I suspect should have sat me in front of Pinocchio but no doubt came to the correct conclusion that if she gave me enough ice cream I would keep quiet and watch the film of her choice. I think it starred Judy Garland but  I could be wrong and then it will be impossible to identify I suppose.

 I may have taken my afternoon nap through most of it because I have just the one image  in my memory and that is the closing scene which involved a handsome man in a white towelling robe.

  He walked off the terrace down a couple of steps and dropped it on the sand.

Then he waded slowly into a sunset sea

never to return was the impression I had at the time.  Or maybe he was just having a pre-prandial dip but somehow it felt more dramatic than that.  Was nanny sobbing? I can't rightly remember.

I shall be very embarrassed if I have imagined all this and terribly grateful if anybody knows what I am talking about.   If you did see a film something like this,  forgive me if my visual aids have put you off it for ever.  

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Handiwork II

I spent so much time looking for this photograph last night that I had to add it as a postcript.  It is not entirely as I remembered it. I was hoping to look a little less well fed and that my mother had taken the hair rollers out first.  My sister Elizabeth got the white shoes and the bow huh.  

*          *         *

So where's the respect from my own daughter today?

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday, synonymous with  Mother's Day, is a moveable feast in Britain because it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian calendar.  Originally it was the day people visited their mother church in honour of the Virgin Mary and then it became traditional as the one day of the year when the poor old domestic servants were allowed to visit their families.  I prefer the term to Mother's Day as it free from commercial connotations like Hallmark cards but that's just me.

We are celebrating the centenary of my mother Mitzi's birth this month. She died in 1990.  Like many of her generation she did not really voice her maternal love for her four daughters but we were in no doubt about it.  One of the ways she expressed it was by making us beautiful clothes: smocked vyella frocks,  sundresses, gingham school dresses, towelling beach wraps, summer shorts, nightdresses, housecoats, party dresses .. I still remember my delight and pride in them. 

 I  adored going to the shops and choosing patterns, heaving the great books from Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity around, flicking through the pages and always sneaking a look at the Fancy Dress outfits at the end of the children's section. I spent hours with her at the dining room table, listening to her breathing as she pinned out her patterns.  Loved the sound of the scissors scything through the fabric and the sweet aroma of new material.  Loved the    gentle whirring of her Singer sewing machine and every detail of the making except for standing around while she fitted me and measured a hem.    

The narrative of one of the dresses my mother made me.  I wore this darling  when I was five for a little play at school. Geoffrey Christmas (I'm not making it up) and I had approximations of christmas stockings tied on our fronts and had to hold hands by the tree. I was mortified but that's beside the point.  Fast forward to 30 years later at a jumble sale held at my childrens' school, not many miles from where I grew up. I am rooting through the piles of clothes and there it is! I remember the nylon fabric exactly (an exciting innovation at the time)  and it has all the hallmarks of my mother's workmanship, down to the edging on the collar. I never found out where it had been in the meantime but clearly it was meant to survive and come back home.   

Image top:

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Compassionate Eye: Henry Moore as War Artist

The Shelter Perspective: The Liverpool Street Extension 1941

Reducing the magnificence of Henry Moore's sculptures to a 2-D photographic image doesn't work for me. You can't savour them from every angle or appreciate their overwhelming impact in the space.  At the Henry Moore show at Tate Britain here his drawings have as much eloquence, particularly his iconic series of London citizens sheltering in the underground from the nightly bombing raids in the Blitz.  Moore was appalled by the poverty and squalor he encountered in these claustrophic living tombs and the sight of sleeping bodies in rows he could only compare to the horror of the slave ship.  

Photo: Lee Miller, Henry Moore in Holborn underground station 1943

 These outdoor images, some of which I have reproduced individually below,  are a master-class in the art of being an eye-witness: immediate, dramatic, full of information.  I marvel at his sense of scale: monumental scenes reduced to a thumbnail.  But the subject matter is sometimes quirky, surreal in the way he juxtaposes sheep, for instance, with bombers, a crashed plane lodged against a haystack or 'peaceful women' with 'sudden devastation'.  I spent a long time in front of this composite and I hope they repay you for giving them your close attention.

Eighteen Ideas for War Drawings 1940 Pencil, wax crayon, coloured crayon, watercolour wash and pen and ink on paper 27.4 x 37.6 cm

flashes from ground
gun shells bursting like stars
devastated houses

bomb crater

contrast of peaceful women with sudden devastation

Haystack and aeroplane

burning cows

spotters [?] on buildings

barbed wire

Cows & Bombers

Bombs bursting at sea


Monday, 8 March 2010

The Pot Calling The Kettle Black: I trash the Oscar Frocks

I can't find out where Nicole Richie (who's she?) got this dress.  I think that might be because it came from the Carpet Warehouse.  The back is daring and shows off her delicate tattoos but that gives her limited options for posing successfully.

Silver's always a tricky number in my experience.  How did YSL make lovely Kate Winslet look as if she designed this at evening class?

Ouch.  Did Mariah Carey borrow this off a police woman?  I thought Valentino was a bit suspect since the maestro retired. Tits or thighs, Mariah.  Not both.

New textile technology and a milk jug design by Armani doesn' t do Jennifer Lopez any favours.  How did she pour herself into this?

Kathryn Bigelow is a formidable woman but this reminds me of the sort of surprise you get when your English teacher turns up at the school dance.  Satin panels stretched over the strongest tummy always pucker and crease and mushroom or is it gunmetal?  whatever.. it's so dull. By Marchesa. 

Am I missing something here?  I love Chanel normally.  It's a jury rig and that seam down the front is annoying.  Sarah J -P looking for Sex at the Oscars?

Chanel again on Diane Kruger.  Make up your mind, Mr. Lagerfeld.  I'm afraid this is another of those dresses that teenagers draw with felt pens on the back of their exercise books.


A beautiful woman, Vera Farmiga,  turned into a raspberry fool.  I know that's cruel but this number is revolting.  Could it be improved without the matte side panel?

This Dior dress worn by Charlize Theron got the thumbs down from The Guardian website where I found these pictures, but the more I look at it the more I love it.  It is fabulous duchesse satin (cf. the quality of Bigelow's) and a sublime combination of colours.  The train gives it real Hollywood glamour and the cheeky roses are sweet. It's the most successful of all the risk-takers.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

TEA PARTY : The Preferred Option

Related Posts with Thumbnails