Is Don | Is Good

Paul ‘Don’ Smith was born in London, but lived in Borneo for about four years, from the age of eight to twelve. In total contrast to life in London, Borneo provided the young ‘Don’ with new horizons, open spaces, the beach, and a whole new world. The return to London provided a reverse shock of a bustling, noisy, city metropolis.

At school, ‘Don’ was interested in graphics and art. This lead him into the world of counter-culture of the New York hip-hop movement, with its music, dance, poetry and art – a sense of creativity for people who needed to do something new, exciting and energetic. From this, the graffiti movement began, with the lure of going ‘into places where you shouldn’t be’.

Graffiti has been a hobby for ‘Don’ for over 30 years. His first tag was in Barnes, in 1985. It was inspired by Beat Street, a sort of hip-hop piece in bubble letters. Citing French stencil pioneer C215 as a major influence, ‘Don’ has developed a process using multiple layers of hand-cut paper stencils that resemble contour lines on a map. Half a dozen separate versions are sprayed through, on an overlapping final image, that has depth and deep shading, with flourishes of sprayed spots.

His work is immediately accessible, often painting portraits of people in the public eye. ‘Don’ takes iconic stencil portrait figures such as Amy Winehouse, or Jack Kerouac (author of the iconic ‘On the Road‘ and pioneer of the ‘Beat Generation’ in the 1950s), wild animals and members of his family including some portraits of his son, or his bowler-hatted tap man; which appears on the exteriors of certain financial corporations in the City of London, providing a comment on the endless flow of public money that has kept them solvent.

Now living in Surrey, Paul Smith (rather than ‘Don’), has been involved in the film industry for 12 years or more, with TV, features, commercials and short films. “That’s why a lot of my work is music and there’s some film poster influence. I’m really wrapped up in that”, he said in an interview for London Art Spot, in 2013.

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Source: London Art Spot’s article on Paul ‘Don’ Smith (2013)
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You Can Bank on Hanke | When it comes to Portrait Art

Australian painter and teacher Henry Aloysius Hanke (14 June 1901-1989), was born in Sydney. He won the Archibald Prize in 1934 with a self-portrait (see above), and the inaugural Sulman Prize, in 1936, with his painting ‘La Gitana‘.

  • Hanke served in the Australian Army during World War II (WWII) from November 1942, initially as a Signaller and later commissioned as an Officer and war artist from December 1943, during which he completed many paintings in New Guinea.
  • He was the first war artist into Milne Bay after the Australians inflicted the first defeat on Japanese troops during WWII.
  • Hanke was later made a director of the Royal Art Society art school in New South Wales.

Hanke was a friend of Sydney artists Graeme Inson and Ivy Shore, and often visited them. He was one of the five artists Ivy Shore (winner of the Portia Geach Memorial Art Award in 1979) called her “Inspirations“.  Her “Inspirations” painting, now hangs in the heritage-listed Dundee Arms Hotel (built 1860) in Sussex Street, Sydney, which was once Graeme Inson and Ivy Shore’s studio in the 1970s and 1980s.

Thanks Hanke!

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Source: McCulloch, Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Hutchinson: Richmond, 1977.
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Locks, Smocks and Two Choking Corals

Superstitions surrounding the legend and lore of the power of coral for the protection of teething babies takes its roots from ancient history. The superstition goes further back in history where a child’s teething time has been a source of great angst; and coral has been used for millenia to craft jewelry and other ornaments. Surviving Sumerian tablets more than 3000 years old record their use of coral for teething rings. The Egyptians believed coral would ease their babies’ pain during teething and they had coral rings inscribed with the head of Bes, a god known to protect children. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that coral would ward off the falling sickness and a number of other infantile ailments and diseases; and hung pieces of polished red coral around the necks of their babies to keep away evil influences..

But it was during the British Regency (1795-1837) and Victorian period (1837-1901) that this superstition remained popular amongst the wealthy. For Regency and Victorian parents, their child’s teething time was a period not only of great anxiety, but of intense fear. As had been the case in many centuries before, teething was believed to be responsible for at least 10% of infant deaths. Therefore, many wealthy families believed the best protection for their teething child was a coral necklace, which was received as a special christening gift to protect their child against any harm or illness.

As well as coral, the Precious Metals of silver and gold, were considered to have mystical properties. Silver was believed not only to have purifying effects, but offered protection from all things evil and supernatural in origin. Thus, beginning in the early 18th Century, an expensive special silver (or sometimes gold) ornate teether/rattle was made as a christening gift for the infants of wealthy families. The rattles were fitted at the lower end with a bright red coral gum stick, which was considered to be symbolic of youth, health and vibrancy. Many of these lavish rattles were fitted with a loop through which a ribbon could be threaded, in order to suspend the rattle from the baby’s neck, or tie it at their waist. These affluent family rattles became heirlooms which were handed down through the generations.

  • Although painted only within a year of each other, the images above show three infants, The Portrait of Jane Tyler (by Joseph Whiting Stock, ca 1845), and The Portrait of Alfred Openshaw (by R. Hunt, 1846). The black and white image ‘A Child with a Coral‘ (with silver and coral rattle) is by an unknown artist, and painted around the same time period. It is the property of Mr and Mrs Michael Reeves.

Joseph Whiting Stock was an American painter known for his portraits, miniatures, and landscape paintings, many of which he did on commission. He was born on January 30, 1815 in Springfield, Massachusetts. From the mid 1830s, Stock accepted commissions for the following two decades, for portraits around New England, working in Warren and Bristol, Rhode Island, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Middletown, Goshen, and Port Jervis, New York. In 1855, 40 year old Stock died of tuberculosis in Springfield.

The Portrait of Alfred Openshaw by American artist R. Hunt, is part of the American Museum collection in Bath, England. The museum stands as a fine memorial to its original joint founders in 1961, Dr Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn, (1913-1963) (a British born antiques dealer, who had become a United States citizen). Judkyn was Pratt’s companion of 24 years. Sadly, Judkyn’s death, at the age of 50, in a car crash in France soon after the museum’s opening, was the first of a series of bereavements that changed the course of Pratt’s life. Dallas Pratt (1914-1994), was an American psychologist, collector and philanthropist, born in New York. Pratt presented his Keats collection to the Keats-Shelley House in Rome in 1971. He also gave many rare books and manuscripts to Columbia University library.

  • Together, Pratt and Judkyn acquired furniture and domestic objects (including more than 100 quilts and coverlets) over a period of years, representing a selection of quality craftsmanship and folk art of America through the centuries.
  • Known as the American Collection, it is housed at Claverton Manor, set high on one side of the Avon valley near Bath, England. They purchased it in 1958 from the descendants of John Vivian a barrister and solicitor, who had purchased it in 1816. Many decades on, the American Museum remains the only museum outside the United States to showcase the decorative arts of America.

Coral is good to be hanged about … ” (Plato)

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Source: Ayres, James. English Naive Painting (1750-1900) Thames & Hudson: London, 1980.
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A relaxing stay | For Elodie at the Baie

Jules Breton | La femme a l'ombrelle baie de Douarnenez 1871 artists wife Elodie at bay of Douarnenenz Brittany

Jules Breton | La femme a l’ombrelle baie de Douarnenez 1871 artists wife Elodie at bay of Douarnenenz Brittany

19th Century French Realist painter Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton was born on 1 May, 1827, in Courrières, a small Pas-de-Calais village. After his mother died when he was only four, Breton was brought up by his father, (a land supervisor for a wealthy land owner), his maternal grandmother; and his uncle Boniface Breton; who all lived in the same house.

After showing an early talent with his art, Breton left home at the age of fifteen and headed for Ghent in 1843, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. He spent some time in Antwerp copying the works of Flemish masters and then headed for Paris in 1847, to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he met and became friends with several Realist painters; and his early entries at the Paris Salon reflected their influence. In 1854, he returned to his home village of Courrières, where he settled and continued his art.

  • Jules Breton was essentially a painter of rustic life in the French countryside. His respect for tradition, a love of the land, and for his native region, are evident in his paintings.
  • Breton’s renderings of single peasant female figures in a landscape, posed against the setting sun, became popular and he often produced copies of his more popular works.
  • Breton’s reputation grew after exhibiting at salons throughout the 1870s, through to the 1890s.
  • In 1886, Breton was elected a member of the Institut de France and in 1889 was made commander of the Legion of Honor; and he became a foreign member of the Royal Academy of London, in 1899.

Breton also became a recognized writer. He published a volume of poems and several editions of prose relating to his life as an artist; and the lives of other artists he met. Breton died in Paris, on 5 July, 1906.

  • Breton married Elodie de Vigne in 1858. She was the daughter of his first art teacher, Félix De Vigne who, impressed by his youthful talent, helped Breton on his successful artistic journey.
  • The image above – La Femme a L’ombrelle: Baie de Douarnenez (1871) depicts Elodie, seated amongst the pines on the Bay of Douarnenez, Brittany where Breton and his family spent the summer months. “She likes the free, fresh wind in her hair, Life without care”…

Maybe, that’s why this lady has a gamp!

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Jimmy C | Jimmy Do

Street artist Jimmy C (aka James Cochran), was born in England in 1973 and grew up in Adelaide, South Australia. Cochran has been developing his own art style since he was 16, when he was living on the streets and expressing himself through graffiti art. During the early 1990’s, Cochran played a key role in the development of the underground graffiti movement in Adelaide. By 1994, at the age of 21, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the University of South Australia which he graduated from with First Class Honours, in November, 1997.

Cochran’s major art interests in graffiti and oil painting converged, leading to the development of his signature ‘aerosol pointillist’ style; where portraits or urban landscapes are painted entirely from dots and dashes of spray paint. This style is influenced by the dot painting techniques used by Australia’s indigenous First Peoples.

  • Cochran’s technique developed into what he now calls the ‘drip paintings’ and the ‘scribble paintings’, composed by spraying small circles of paint on to a wall, using layers of coloured drips or energetic lines, to form vibrant and poetic city-scapes and portraits.
  • Each piece can take up to three days to complete and involve the use of about 30 cans of variously coloured aerosol paints.

In 2002, Cochran completed a Master’s degree in Visual Arts at the University of South Australia, focussing on urban realist and figurative oil painting.

From 1994- 2007, Cochran was employed by various local councils around Adelaide and regional South Australian towns, as community arts co-ordinator. In these roles, he was involved in designing and coordinating painting projects for schools and community centres; with an emphasis on the development and education around aerosol art. Cochran has also worked as:

  • Painting Lecturer, 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students at the Roma Mitchel Arts Centre (2003-2004),
  • Lecturer for the Alla Prima painting course, Adelaide Central School of Art (2004),
  • Drawing Lecturer, Visual Arts, 1st year students, University of South Australia (2005) and ;
  • Worked on numerous mural commissions and community arts projects, such as the ambassador for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide (2016).

Cochran’s canvases and walls can be viewed in cities across the world. He now lives in London and has worked extensively in both Paris and London, immersing himself in the lives of the homeless; where he carefully sketches from life, before undertaking his final piece. His art can also be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of South Australia and private collections throughout Australia, Asia, USA, and Europe.

Otherwise, go out and see some quality Jimmy C

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The Artistic Skills of Stormie Mills

Street artist Stormie Mills was born in 1969, at Colwyn Bay, a seaside town on the north coast of Wales, overlooking the Irish Sea, in the United Kingdom (UK). These days, Stormie is based in Perth, Western Australia. Stormie’s whimsical characters are represented in galleries and streets around Australia and his private and public commissions light up international streetscapes from Australia to the UK, USA, Europe and Asia.

Using a monochromatic palette, Stormie creates a sadness which envelopes his figures, showing a sense of human isolation, that people seem to connect with. Many of his characters are poignant memento mori that remind people that death is part of life, as well as each character seemingly carrying a message of hope.

  • Apart from his creative street art, Stormie has also ventured into the world of three dimensional art. He has transformed his iconic ‘Bunnyman’ character into a series of four-metre high ‘pop figurines’ that populated the streets of Queensland’s Brisbane International Arts Festival known as “The Stormie Mills Project.”
  • This same body of work appeared as part of Western Australia’s Perth Fringe Festival; and at the prestigious international ‘Sculptures By The Sea‘ exhibition, where Stormie was awarded the Kids’ Choice Prize as voted by the public. He has also created a 4 metre high bronze representation as part of a public art commission project.

Testament to his success, is the significant expansion of Stormie’s collector base globally and sell out Australian shows in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. Visitors to Melbourne can immerse themselves in Stormie’s creative energy when they stay at The Cullen, part of the Art Series Hotel Group, where he was commissioned to create his own ‘Street Art Suite’. He was the first Australian street artist to create a suite sitting alongside international artists.

Stormie has been widely published and has three books documenting his vast body of work. He has exhibited globally and created a strong following for his distinctive work. Stormie has been invited to participate in some of the world’s most prestigious street art festivals and completed countless private and public art commissions. Most recently he was invited to create the first sanctioned street art mural as part of the prestigious Florence Biennale.

  • It’s not just Stormie’s art that has fostered a strong following. His compelling personal story and passion for his art has made him a sought-after speaker.
  • Stormie has presented at the world’s most respected design festival, the AG Ideas conference and was invited by Conference Creator Ken Cato to be one of 25 artists to create an artwork to celebrate the conference’s 25 year history.
  • He was also a guest speaker at the Design Conference in London and headlined the Design Institute of Australia Breakfast. He was also a speaker at FORM’s #PUBLIC Street Art Festival, inaugural Symposium.

Discover more about Stormie Mills at his website

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The Elusive Ellescas Who Illustrates LP’s

Sometimes it is difficult to find information about artists and illustrators, and the seemingly “elusive” Richard “Dick” Ellescas is one. Ellescas is a 20th Century American artist and illustrator and member of the California Art Club, which was established in 1909, in Pasadena, California (CA).

Ellescas spent some time as a teacher of illustration at the Art Center College of Design, at 5353 West Third Street, Los Angeles, CA. A short biography of his career appears in the Art Center’s Catalogue in 1974. It states that Ellescas is or has been a member of the Art Center College of Design and the Chouinard Art Institute, School of Visual Arts. His work experience includes: Freelance illustrator. Accounts: Robinson’s, American Greetings, Angel Records, Cosmopolitan, Monsanto, Don Loper men’s fashions; Film titles for ‘Ship of Fools‘. Awards: Best of Show, 1973 Illustrators show, Los Angeles, CA.

  • Previously, Ellescas was a member of a group, including Earl Newman, Wes Wilson, Marv Grayson and others; who conducted an arts and crafts sale and benefit exhibition for intellectually disabled children at the Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, Los Angeles, CA, in December, 1968.

Ellescas illustrated the advertising poster and cover design for  the British black comedy satirical film The Magic Christian (1969) directed by Joseph McGrath and starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, with appearances by John Cleese, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Richard Attenborough and Roman Polanski. It was loosely adapted from the 1959 comic novel The Magic Christian by the American author Terry Southern, who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with McGrath. It included songs by Badfinger including one written by Starr’s former The Beatles band member, Paul McCartney.

  • Over the years, Ellescas is known to have illustrated at least 29 LP record covers from 1972-1985. I have included two images from the EMI His Masters Voice classics LP covers, both illustrated by Ellescas. They include:

In a Monastery Garden music of Albert W. Ketelbey including In a Persian Market, In a Chinese Temple Garden and Bells Across the Meadow. John Lanchberry and the Philharmonia Orchestra with the Ambrosian Singers. Choral Master: John McCarthy  (1978). The Composer: Albert W Ketelbey was born in Birmingham, on August 4, 1875. He became a composer of light classical music and died on the Isle of Wight on November 26, 1959.

  • In a Monastery Garden was written in 1915 after a visit to a real monastic garden, now the Benedictine monastery of St Augustine’s Abbey, Chilworth, Surrey. Within this composition the listener can detect the calm serene atmosphere, the leafy trees and the singing birds as the monks are heard chanting the ‘Kyrie Eleison‘, with the sound of an organ playing and the chapel bells ringing.
  • In a Persian Market was written in 1920. The sounds heard include a caravan arriving, the cries of beggars and the entry of a beautiful princess, carried by servants. The princess watches the jugglers and snake charmers. The Caliph passes by, interrupting the entertainment. A muezzin calls to prayer from a minaret. The caravan continues its journey; and the market becomes silent.
  • Bells Across the Meadows was published in 1921. Beginning with solo bells it is followed by a quiet melody with strings and woodwinds. When repeated, a “chimes effect” provides the illusion of being “heard from a distant belfry across the meadows”. A last repeat is carried by “bells ringing out joyously and then gradually dying away in the distance”.
  • In a Chinese Temple Garden was composed in 1923. Subtitled an Oriental Phantasy, it illustrates a priestly incantation, “The Incantation of the Priests in the Temple“, which is followed by “The Perfume of Incense Floats on the Air“. Two lovers are illustrated by a melody for cello, viola and oboe. This is followed by a noisy Manchu wedding procession, followed by an argument of “coolies”, which is based on a Chinese scale. The temple gong restores quietness, and the piece ends recalling many of the themes.

The second image is from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake Highlights (1875–76). Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra (Solo violin: Ida Haendel). Swan Lake is one of most popular of classic ballets.

  • The story is centered around Prince Siegfried who leaves his castle with friends and goes on a hunt where he sees a bevy of swans gliding across the lake. When his hunting party takes aim, the leader of the swans swoops round to protect them and asks of Siegfried why he wishes to persecute her. She is actually Princess Odette bewitched into a swan by day, resuming her human form only at night; and the swan-maidens are her attendants. She tells him that only a vow of eternal love can break the spell and release her. Baron Rothbart is the magician who holds them in thrall, and appears in the guise of an owl and threatens Siegfried.
  • Siegried invites Odette to a ball at his castle. Rothbart enters the ball with his daughter Odile whom he has transformed into the likeness of Odette. Siegfried announces that he has chosen Odile as his bride. After Rothbart persuades him to vow eternal love and thereby breaches his vow to Odette, they show him a vision of Odette still trapped on the lake.
  • Odette returns to the swan-maidens in despair, and tells them that she has been betrayed and no hope remains. A contrite Siegfried arrives in search of Odette. He begs for her forgiveness. She forgives him, but his betrayal cannot be undone. Rather than remain a swan forever, Odette chooses to die, doing so in his arms. Siegfried chooses to die with her and they leap into the lake, where they will stay together forever. Taking the coronet from her head, he casts it on the waters of the lake which rise to engulf the lovers.
  • As the waters subside, the swans are seen on the surface, gliding silently into the distance. This breaks Rothbart’s spell over the swan maidens, causing him to lose his power over them and he dies. In an apotheosis, the swan maidens, who transform to regular maidens, watch as Siegfried and Odette ascend into the Heavens together, forever united in love.

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An Appreciative Review of Mondrian’s Red, Yellow and Blue

Pieter CornelisPietMondrian, was born on 7 March, 1872, in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. Although originally a qualified primary teacher, Mondrian entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam. His early paintings were of a naturalistic or Dutch Impressionistic style, consisting largely of landscapes. His art began to move into the pointillism style and later, favoured the vivid colours of Fauvism.

  • In 1911, after visiting the Moderne Kunstkring exhibition of Cubism in Amsterdam, Mondrian became a fan of the Cubist art movement. This was further influenced when later that year, he moved to Paris; and became enamoured by the work of both Picasso and Georges Braque.

Three years later, while Mondrian was visiting home in 1914, World War I (WWI) began, forcing him to remain in The Netherlands for the duration of the conflict. During this time, Mondrian stayed at the Laren artist’s colony, where he met Bart van der Leck and Theo van Doesburg, who were each undergoing their personal journeys toward abstraction. Mondrian was impressed with Van der Leck’s use of only primary colours in his art. As a consequence, he became a member of the De Stijl (The Style) art movement and group, which was founded by van Doesburg. Mondrian contributed to De Stijl’s art journal publishing his essays defining his theory of a non-representational art form which he called Neoplasticism.

  • Neoplasticism involved the asymmetrical division of a canvas into bands or grids of horizontal and vertical black paint into flat planes and the colouring of the blocks using only the primary colours of red, blue and yellow; and the non-colours, white, black and grey.

After WWI, Mondrian returned to France. Immersed in the post-war Paris art innovation, he flourished in an atmosphere of intellectual freedom. During late 1920 and 1921, Mondrian’s paintings reached a mature form.

  • Mondrian stopped giving his works titles. Instead, he called his paintings “Compositions” and often assigned them a number; such as Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow (1930) featured above.

As the years passed, Mondrian began to use fewer coloured forms, favouring white instead. These are noticeable in the “Lozenge” works which use square canvases tilted 45 degrees, so that they have a diamond shape. [As shown above –  Tableau I – Lozenge With Four Lines and Grey; and Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow (both from the MoMA collection).

In September, 1938, Mondrian left Paris in the face of advancing fascism and moved to London. After The Netherlands were invaded and Paris fell in 1940, Mondrian decided to leave England and head for New York. On 23 September, 1940, he boarded the Cunard White Star Line’s RMS Samaria, which departed from Liverpool. On arrival in New York, Mondrian moved to Manhattan, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

  • In the autumn of 1943, Mondrian moved into his second and final Manhattan studio at 15 East 59th Street. Tragically, he was there for only a few months, as he died of pneumonia on February 1, 1944, aged 71. Mondrian was interred at the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Since then, there have been many artists and designers who have been influenced by Mondrian’s famous works. Two examples featured here include:

  • Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Mondrian dresses‘ which featured in his autumn 1965 collection. This collection included  6 wool jersey and silk A line shift dresses in blocks of primary colour with black bordering, inspired by Mondrian. The collection proved so popular, it inspired a range of imitations that encompassed garments from coats to boots.
  • The original Mondrian dresses can be found in several museums around the world, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York [such as the image featured above which is from the MoMA collection as a gift of Mrs. William Rand (1969)].

Also included is a humerous take entitled: Mrs Mondrian Mops the Floor by Australian artist and illustrator, Sally Swain as featured in her Great Housewives of Art exhibition in 1988.

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I C215 is a French Street Artist

French street artist C215, is the moniker for Christian Guémy (born 1973), who lives in Vitry-sur-Seine, Paris. He has been described as “France’s answer to Banksy”. C215’s street art name, was inspired by the 1970s New York graffiti artists, who referenced  abbreviations of their street addresses in their tags. He uses the first letter of his first name; and the number of the room where he was living when he began his street art career, in the early 1990s.

  • With over 30 years experience as a graffiti artist, C215 has been using stencils to produce his art since 2006. His work consists mainly of close-up portraits of people including his daughter Nina, who has also become a stencil artist in her own right. Cats are another frequent subject of C215’s work.

Growing up as an orphan, C215 has a true empathy with abandoned children and the dispossessed people of the world. His subjects are typically beggars, homeless people, refugees, street kids and the elderly. The rationale behind this is to draw attention to those that society has forgotten about. His works are often featured on the walls of street-side refuges as a strong social comment that can be understood globally.

  • After many years managing a collective of 200 artists, C215 has worked extensively in France and the former French colonies of Morocco and Senegal. His stencils may be seen in cities worldwide including Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Rome, Paris, Oslo and Colombo.

In addition to his street work, C215 also produces commercial artwork on wood and canvas, for galleries. He has had a number of solo gallery shows such as ‘Community Service‘, which was exhibited in Paris.

  • Discover more about C215 and his work at this website.

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With Dior’s Bar Suit | She’s Got ‘The Look’

French fashion designer Christian Dior was born on 21 January, 1905, in Granville, a seaside town on the coast of Normandy, France. He is best known as the founder of one of the world’s top fashion houses Christian Dior, also known as the House of Dior; which opened on 16 December, 1946, at 30 Avenue Montaigne, in Paris.

On 12 February 1947, Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring–Summer 1947. The show was presented in his fashion salon. Originally the line was named Corolle, (trans, botanical term corolla, or circlet of flower petals in English), but the phrase which became popular to describe this collection was the ‘New Look’.

  • This phrase was originally coined by Carmel Snow, the then editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar who exclaimed, “It’s such a new look!”

Dior was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes. His early designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. Dior’s look employed fabrics lined predominantly with percale, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses and full skirts flare out from the waist. This gave his models a very curvaceous form, which emphasized the bust and hips; as epitomized by the ‘Bar Suit‘ from his first collection. Not everyone was pleased with the ‘New Look‘. For some, the collection was a breath of fresh air, but for others, the amount of material used was seen as wasteful, especially after years of cloth rationing. During one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over this profligacy, but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended.

The ‘New Look‘ revolutionized women’s dress and reestablished Paris as the centre of haute couture fashion after World War II. Glamorous and young-looking, the ‘New Look‘ became extremely popular, influencing other fashion designers well into the 1950s, and Dior gained a number of prominent clients from Hollywood, and the European, British and American aristocracy.

  • TheBar Suit was part of the 1947 ‘New Look‘ collection and an architectural marvel, as it recalled the 19th century crinoline and revived complex traditional couture techniques. Apparently, the ‘Bar’ took its name from the bar at the Plaza Athénée, which Dior frequented. With its tailored jacket made from four yards of shantung silk; rounded shoulders in a soft ivory shade; it was padded at the hipline for a more rounded and feminine shape. The calf-length pleated wool skirt measured eight yards around the hem and weighed almost five pounds. The ‘Bar‘ was such a hit at sales that it was widely copied and replicated. Dior constantly reworked and updated his hero piece; and presented it in various versions in almost all of his 22 haute couture collections he designed; until his sudden death while on holiday in Montecatini, Italy, on 23 October, 1957.

In 2007, it was the 60th anniversary of the ‘New Look’. John Galliano, for his first Spring-Summer collection at Dior, revisited Dior’s ‘Bar’ suit. Galliano’s Diosera uses the same colour palette as the original; and the fringed [crepe] wool jacket retains the wasp waist and rounded shoulder design. Rather than adhering to the ‘New Look‘ template, his version is paired with a very short black leather skirt and topped with an oversized fedora hat.

  • The black and white gelatin slide shows Dior’s 19 year old house model Renee Breton modelling the ‘Bar Suit’ in 1947. It was taken by German fashion photographer Willy Magwald.  [Photograph is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection]. Other photograph of Renee is by British photographer Cecil Beaton, taken in 1955. Renee Breton died in New York in 1979 aged 51.

Discover more about Dior’s ‘Bar Suit‘ at Vogue magazine’s website page ‘Christian Dior Bar Jacket: A brief History

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[The ‘Bar Suit’ belongs to Les Arts Decoratifs, Ufac Collection, Mode et Textile and was a gift of Mrs John Chambers Hughes].
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How to assume an Azuma pose

John Baker photographer | Tokuho Azuma in change room at Royal Opera House Covent Garden

John Baker photographer | Tokuho Azuma in change room at Royal Opera House Covent Garden

  • Azuma Tokuho in her dressing room at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The Kabuki make-up contrasts oddly with the prints on the wall and the cigarettes on the table. [Photographer: John Baker].
  • The Azuma Kabuki Dancers and Musicians performed at the Royal Opera House, at Covent Garden between 11th September – 1st October, 1955. The performance was designed for a Western audience; using part-drama, part-opera and part-dance. The performers included Tsurunosuke Bando, Tokuho Azuma, Masaya Fujima, Shusai Fujima, Mitsuemon Bando and Umesuke Onoe.

Azuma Tokuho (actually Yamada Kikue) was born on 15th February, 1909, in the Tokyo Prefecture; the illegitimate child of Ichimura Uzaemon XV (1874–1945), a kabuki actor; and a geisha and dancer (1879–1957). Tokuho was a Japanese dancer, teacher and member of the Japanese Academy of Arts. She founded and directed the Azuma School of Dance for Kabuki Dancers and Musicians, a dancing troupe introduced to western audiences in the 1950s.

In 1928 at the age of 19, Tokuho met Nakamura Tomijūrō IV (born 11th June, 1908) in a nearby artist’s dressing room, fell in love with Tomijūrō, ran away; and later married him. Two years later, in 1930, she founded the Shuntokai and began performing as a dancer under the stage name Harue Fujima. Other known aliases include: Fujima Harue, Azuma Harue and Harue Azuma. In 1942 she took the name Tokuho.

  • In 1939, she fell in love again with Satō Kōjirō (actually Masaya Fujima 1915-1957), whom she married in the 1950s.
  • From 1954 to 1956 Tokuho toured the United Kingdom and the United States with the Azuma-Kabuki. In the US, they performed in 40 cities, in 11 different states.

Tokuho had two sons. Her first son Nakamura Tomijūrō V. (1929-2011) was a kabuki actor and was honoured as a living national treasure. Her grandson Nakamura Takanosuke (b. 1999), whom her son had at the age of 70, is also a kabuki actor. Her second son Motoyasu Yamada is also known as Aiko Watanabe.

In 1968, Tokuho handed over the management of the Azuma School of Dance to Nakamura Tomijūrō V; and she withdrew from the school.

  • Tokuho was presented with the Medal of Honour on a purple ribbon (1976)
  • The Order of the Noble Crown in the fourth class of merit (1982); and
  • Was honoured as a person with special cultural merits (1991).

Tokuho died on 23rd April, 1998 at the age of 89.

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Source: Haskell, Arnold L. The Ballet Annual (1957)

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Some tales on behalf of the great Longstaff

Australian painter, war artist and a five-time winner of the Archibald Prize, Sir John Campbell Longstaff was born at Clunes, Victoria, on 10 March 1861. He was educated at a boarding school in Miners Rest and Clunes State School and later studied at the Melbourne National Gallery School, after his father initially disapproved of his artistic ambitions.

Longstaff married 17 year old Rosa Louisa (Topsy) Crocker on 20 July 1887; and in the same year, won the National Gallery of Victoria’s first travelling scholarship. By September, he and his wife sailed to London from Melbourne. In January 1888, they joined a small group of Australian expatriate artists living in Paris.

  • The cabbage plot Belle-Ile (Oil on canvas 27cm  x 46 cm, Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum). Longstaff travelled to Belle-Ile, France with Topsy in the summer of 1889 to recuperate after suffering from influenza in Paris. He had been invited by fellow Australian artist and friend John Peter Russell who had been living in a large manor house (featured in this artwork) on the remote and picturesque island off the Brittany coast since 1885.
  • This artwork is a gift of Mrs. Elsie Clark (1942) in memory of her son Sgt. G.H. Clark, who died at Gaza, Palestine in 11 Feb 1941. The Clark’s were friends of Longstaff and bought the painting from the artist’s estate.

Lady in Grey (oil on canvas, Paris, 1890, National Gallery of Victoria) is a portrait of his wife ‘Topsy’. The subtle tonalities of this work and its fashionable Japonist theme are inspired by James McNeill Whistler. This was Longstaff’s first Parisian success and was hung ‘on the line’ at the 1890 Paris Salon.

The  Young Mother (oil on canvas, Paris, 1891, National Gallery of Victoria) shows ‘Topsy’ and their first child Ralph, who was born in 1890. Pale and slim after a long winter spent in their one-room apartment that was divided by a curtain into sleeping and eating quarters, ‘Topsy’ gently waves a palm fan over the outstretched arms of her baby son.

Longstaff later moved to London, where he painted many portraits such as:

  • Ada Garrick (Mrs Bright) oil on canvas, London, 1895 (Gift of Miss Rachel Bright to the National Gallery of Victoria).

Longstaff returned to Australia in 1894 and was given several commissions. He occupied a studio at Grosvenor Chambers in Melbourne from 1897-1900. He travelled to London again in 1901, where he exhibited with the Royal Academy. Longstaff was appointed an official war artist with the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) in World War I where he painted several portraits of military officers. On his return to Australia, Longstaff  won several awards and was given distinguished positions, including President of the Victorian Artists Society in 1924 and Trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1927.

  • Portrait of Edna Thomas (oil on canvas 12 cm x 86.5cm , 1925 Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum). Edna Thomas was a visiting American singer from Louisiana who sang Negro spirituals and Creole songs in concerts in Melbourne Sydney and Adelaide.

Longstaff was knighted in 1928 and the first Australian artist to have had this honour. His 1920 portrait of Nina Murdoch hangs in the Reading Room at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. Murdoch later published a biography about Longstaff in her “Portrait in Youth” published in 1948. John Longstaff died on 1st October 1941.

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Gleeson, James, Australian Painters. Lansdowne Press: Sydney, 1976

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I’ve had eNufevaH | Let’s HaveFuN!

When it comes to street art there are many thousands if not millions of street artists plying their art around the walls of cities all around the world. Many become famous for their art, others come and go. Often their work is transient, and mostly never permanent. Some have political references, others venerate the famous and the infamous, some are comical or even a bit risque. Most street artists use a pseudonym and these are sometimes cryptic in clue as to who the identify of the artist really is.

I must admit that I have not had much fun researching the art of Nufevah, in fact, writing this moniker is challenging because the artist sometimes signs with caps NUFEVAH or it can be interpretted as NuFevaH. Perhaps it is pronounced like ‘New Fever’ as opposed to an ‘Old Fever’. However, if you spell it backwards it reads HaveFun!

What I have managed to elucidate is that Nufevah started as a graffiti / street / paste up artist ca 2007 and active around Melbourne art scene since 2010-2014. His work includes his signature head and various characters sometimes with affirmations or emotionals written on or near by.

On NuFevaH’s Facebook page it claims that his hometown is Carlton and current residence as St. Kilda, both inner city Melbourne suburbs and occupation is listed as garbage man.

Apart from this, I give up. I’ve had eNuFevaH!
Let’s HaveFuN!

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Picasso’s Last Words | Drink to Me, Drink to My Health

World renowned Spanish painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramicist, and stage designer Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, (Pablo Picasso) was born on 25 October, 1881 but spent most of his adult life in France. As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, Picasso is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage; and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. His work is often categorized into periods. While the names of many of his later periods are debated, the most commonly accepted periods in his work are:

The Blue Period (1901–1904), characterized by sombre paintings rendered in shades of blue and blue-green, occasionally warmed by other colours. Many from this period  were painted when Picasso moved from Barcelona to Paris. His doleful subjects often included prostitutes and beggars. An example shown here is the Blind Man’s Meal (1903) [oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art]. Blindness was a recurrent theme in Picasso’s works of this period.

The Rose Period (1904–1906) is characterised by a lighter tone and style utilising orange and pink colours and featuring many circus people, acrobats and harlequins,  (known in France as saltimbanques). The harlequin, as a comedic character, is usually depicted in checkered patterned clothing, which became a personal symbol for Picasso. Two examples here include: A stamp from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea featuring the work ‘Harlequin‘ (1901); and Boy With a Pipe (1905) one of the first paintings of the Rose Period. In the latter half of 1905, Picasso abandoned his sensitive and often introspective characterizations of saltimbanques. He was briefly interested in sculpture; and after a short trip to the Netherlands during the summer; his painting became more objective.

Other periods include: the African-influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912); and Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919), also referred to as the Crystal period. See Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper (1913) pictured above.

Much of Picasso’s work of the late 1910s and early 1920s is in a neoclassical style, and his work in the mid-1920s often has characteristics of Surrealism. His later work often combines elements of his earlier styles. For example:

  • The Dancers engraving from Picasso’s Erotic Gravures
  • Night Fishing at Antibes (1939) Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Nature Morte au Crane de Boeuf | aka Still Life with Steer’s Skull (1942) oil on canvas, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf
  • The Enamel Saucepan aka Still Life with Cooking Pot (1945) oil on canvas Musee National d’art Moderne, Paris
  • Pierre Reverdy, Le Chant des Morts, Paris (1948) [V&A Museum]. Lithographs by Picasso, printed by Mouriot Freres. Reverdy composed his ‘Song of the Dead‘ during WW2 when he participated in the French Resistance. Rather than illustrating the text, Picasso flooded the page with scarlet brush-strokes. The publisher, (Teriade, Stratos Eleftheriadis) commented, “It is as though they are having a conversation”.

Picasso died on 8 April, 1973, in Mougins, France; while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. His final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.

Picasso was interred at Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Roque between 1959 and 1962. Roque prevented Picasso’s children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Devastated and lonely after his death, Roque took her own life by gunshot in 1986; when she was 59 years old.

Picasso’s last words are featured in a song which appears on Wings 1973 album ‘Band on the Run‘ by Paul and Linda McCartney entitled: Picasso’s Last words (Drink to Me)

The grand old painter died last night
His paintings on the wall
Before he went he bade us well
And said goodnight to us all
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more

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Source: Spanish painting by Jacques Lassaigne. Skira Geneva, 1952
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Alan D Baker | Art Was His Life

Mid-20th Century Sydney painter Alan Douglas Baker was born in New South Wales (NSW) in 1914. Baker was the third child of Pearl and Henry Baker of Ashfield, Sydney. The family recognised that he showed the same talents as his brother Normand and; at 13 years of age, during his days at Canterbury Boys High, he enrolled to study drawing at J.S. Watkins Art School. He left Canterbury High two years later to become a full-time art student. The Watkins school was a fertile ground for nurturing young talent because of its competitive stimulus of senior students such as Henry Hanke, Normand Baker (his brother) and William Pidgen; who were all Archibald Prize winners.  Great emphasis was placed on tonal drawing in pencil charcoal, pen and washes.

Baker became a commercial artist and did posters and advertisement sheets for Tooth’s Brewery where he used himself and members of his family to pose for the ads. One important commission from Tooth’s was to decorate with paintings, the dining rooms of some prestigious hotels such as the Greengate Hotel Killara, Mansion’s Hotel Kings Cross, The Great Southern Hotel Newcastle; and The Cecil, at Cronulla.

  • An exhibition of Australian Poster Art at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum featured many of Baker’s works and also in two books on Pub Art.

Baker became a teacher of life drawing at the J.S. Watkins School prior to World War II when he served with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), in New Guinea from 1943 – 1945. They had no positions as a War Artist so Baker served with the Small Craft (Boats) Division, where he painted portraits of many of the New Guineans and fellow army officers.

After returning from war service, Baker married in 1946 and settled at Moorebank, on the Georges River, NSW. Tragically, in 1961, the elder two of their three sons were drowned in a boating accident on the Georges River, as one boy tried to save the other. Soon afterwards, the family moved to The Oaks, (NSW) from 1961-1987. It was here that Baker built a house, studio, gallery and framing workshop on 6 acres, which had been a eucalyptus forest belonging to the original Faulding estate. Baker cleared about 3 acres for gardens, fruit trees and ponds. The garden was a rich source for flowers which he used in his still life and floral subject paintings, for which Baker is best known for.

  • In 1970 Baker commenced tutoring an informal art group in Camden. He encouraged his pupils to have exhibitions. Many have become professional artists, including his son Gary.

Baker was a Fellow and Vice President of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales and on its Council for many years. He was also a trustee of the Marshall Bequest at the New South Wales Art Gallery. Baker’s works are represented in the New South Wales Art Gallery, the National Gallery Canberra, Queensland Institute of Technology, the Hinton Collection at Armidale, and many private and public collections.

 Alan Baker died in 1987.

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Source: McCulloch, Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Hutchinson: Richmond, 1977.
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