Arthur Merric | The Father of the Boyd Dynasty

Australia’s famous Boyd family of artists began with distinguised watercolourist, Arthur Merric Boyd I (or Senior), one of twelve children, born on 19 March 1862 in Opoho, Dunedin, New Zealand; son of Captain John Theodore Thomas Boyd (1825–1891), formerly of County Mayo, Ireland, and his wife Lucy Charlotte, daughter of Dr Robert Martin of Heidelberg, Victoria.

The Boyd family moved to Australia in the mid-1870s, and on 14 January 1886, Arthur Merric Boyd married Emma Minnie à Beckett, also an artist and known as Minnie, daughter of the Hon. W. A. C. à Beckett of Melbourne. They had five children:

  • John Gilbert à Beckett Boyd (1886–1896) killed in a riding accident
  • William Merric Boyd (1888-1959) a ceramicist and known as Merric
  • Theodore Penleigh Boyd (1890-1923) a painter known as Penleigh
  • Martin à Beckett Boyd (1893-1972) a writer, and
  • Helen à Beckett Boyd (1903-1999), also a painter and married Neven Read.

In 1890, Arthur Merric and Minnie moved to England and lived for a time at Penleigh House, Westbury, Wiltshire, and they both submitted works for the Royal Academy exhibition in 1891. Boyd then travelled and painted whilst on the European continent and returned to Australia towards the end of 1893.

  • When their children had matured, married or settled elsewhere, Arthur Merric and Minnie lived in a connecting property to their son, Merric Boyd and family, in Wahroongaa Crescent, Murrumbeena.
  • Later on, in 1924, Arthur Merric and Minnie moved to 5 Edward Street, Sandringham. When his wife died on 13 September 1936, at Sandringham, Arthur Merric moved to a family cottage at Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula on the shores of Port Phillip and;
  • In 1939, he returned to Wahroongaa Crescent, Murrumbeena, where he lived out his last days on his son Merric’s property, until his death, on 30 July, 1940.

Arthur Merric Boyd senior was principally a watercolourist, and represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Geelong Art Gallery.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Source: McCulloch, Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Hutchinson: Richmond, 1977
Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Paintings, Watercolours | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Jean-Pascal Fournier and the Legends of Blood and Light

J P Fournier | Trobar de Morte | Legends of Blood & Light

J P Fournier | Trobar de Morte | Legends of Blood & Light

Freelance artist and illustrator Jean-Pascal Fournier was born near Grenoble, France, in 1972. Since he was a young child, Fournier has been fascinated with comic strips which drew him into his interest in art and drawing. He later studied art and worked in advertising before commencing studies at the Emile Cohl School of art at Lyon in 1992, where he focussed on the art of illustration and figurative/realistic painting. In 1995, Fournier obtained a Diploma in these two domains and in the following year, began to devote himself to illustration. He moved into cover art illustration for some well-established extreme metal labels and bands such as Immortal, Demoniac, Diabolical Masquerade, Yearning or Impaled Nazarene.

In 1999, Fournier turned to freelance artistry for many CD covers for other metal bands including Edguy, Avantasia, Steel Attack, Dragonforce or Powerquest to name but a few. As a classical hard rock and heavy metal lover since he was 25, Fournier has completed more than 100 cover artworks. As well as cover illustration, Fournier has also created band logos  for Cellador, Cryonic Temple, Dragonforce, Elvenking, Forgotten Realm, Intense, Magica, Hurlement to name but a few.

  • Fournier has other passions from mineralogy and paleontology, collecting old manuscripts from 17th to 19th Centuries and claims his greatest influencer in the history of painting, is the Venetian maestro Giambatista Tiepolo.

Image above is from the CD cover artwork from Trobar de Morte’s Legends of Blood and Light (2008). Trobar de Morte is one of my favourite bands hailing from Barcelona, Spain. Their music covers a diverse selection of Medieval, Folk, Faeric, Celtic and Pagan genres. It features the Spanish instrumentalist singer-songwriter Lady Morte, a former member of Ordo Funebris (also worth a listen).

  • For further information on Jean-Pascal Fournier visit his website.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, Cover Art, DarkArt, Illustrations | Leave a comment

Choq a Bloc | Dunnies and All

French street artist Choq was born in Paris, but has spent much time in Melbourne, Australia during the years from 2012-2019, often preferring to spend time in the Australian summer, to that of a cold European winter.

Choq spent his early years, growing up in the gritty outer suburbs of Paris, the world’s most “romantic” city. With an intimate knowledge of the city’s “dark underbelly”, his street art often reflects what both he and others can often relate to.

Choq’s work subtlety reflects his inner most personal longings, his dreams and his goals. These are all expressed in his trademark cartoon caricatures. His  art explores complex themes, and attempts to offer a satirical critique of the modern world. His work crosses socio-economic values and ties, in an attempt to bring people together as a whole, and forget about superficial differences.

  • Above are some images taken from my ‘archive’ from some years ago, when Choq painted large murals around a public toilet block “dunny” on the corner of Lennox Street and Bridge Road, Richmond; an inner city suburb of Melbourne. The four monochrome images on the toilet walls represent the four seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Another is an image of an Australian football player, a game often referred to locally as “Aussie Rules”.

The final image, appeared on a brick wall of an ‘often well-drawn’ side street, off Swan Street, Richmond.

  • You can follow Choq on his Instagram account, to see more recent art.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Street Artists A-Z, StreetArt, StreetArtists | Leave a comment

Time to Escape to the Country

Adolf Eberle | The pet lamb (61x78cm)
[The Pet Lamb wood on panel]

German painter Adolf Eberle was born in Munich, on 11 January, 1843. His father, Robert Eberle, was also a painter. Adolf Eberle studied under Karl von Piloty at the Academy of Fine Arts, in Munich, in 1860. He achieved success the following year in 1861, with a painting called Pfändung der letzten Kuh (Mortgaging the last cow), of which William Unger made an engraving.

Eberle specialised in genre painting, particularly of Bavarian and Tyrolean farmers and huntsmen. However, after spending time depicting soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War and the Seven Years’ War, he returned to subjects from Bavarian and Tyrolean peasant life.

  • At the 1879 international exposition in Munich, his Erster Rehbock (First stag) was well received.
  • A painting of his with the translated title Childhood Fun was sold for $16,800 at Bonhams art auction, in San Francisco, in 200, and; another with the translated title The Day’s Bag, sold for £7,500, at Christie’s auction house in London, in 2012.

Adolf Eberle died in Munich, on 24 January, 1914.

In 1952, Eberlestraße was named after him, in the Solln district of Munich.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, OilPainting, Paintings | Leave a comment

Maurice Utrillo | The Master of Art in Montmartre

French artist Maurice Utrillo was born Maurice Valadon, on Christmas night, 25 December, 1883, at 3 Rue la Poteau, next door to the Church of Notre-Dame de Cligancourt. in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France. Utrillo was the illegitimate son of the artist Suzanne Valadon (born Marie-Clémentine Valadon), who was then, an eighteen-year-old artist’s model. She never revealed who the father was. Speculation rose that the father could be an equally young amateur painter named Boissy, the well-established painter Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, or even with Auguste Renoir, all of whom Valadon had modelled for.

  • In 1891, Catalan journalist, artist and art critic, Miquel Utrillo (aka Miquel Utrillo i Morlius), signed a legal document acknowledging paternity; although questions remained as to whether he was in fact the child’s father.

Suzanne Valadon’s mother was left to raise the young Maurice Utrillo, who soon showed a troubling inclination towards truancy and alcoholism. When a mental illness took hold of the 21-year-old Utrillo in 1904, his mother encouraged him to take up painting. He soon showed true artistic talent. With no training beyond what his mother taught him, the young Utrillo drew and painted what he saw around Montmartre.

Utrillo became a French artist of the School of Paris movement, who specialised in local cityscapes, and became one of the few famous painters, who were born in Montmartre. After 1910, his work attracted critical attention, and by 1920 he was internationally acclaimed. In 1928, the French government awarded Utrillo the Cross of the Légion d’honneur.

In middle age, Utrillo became fervently religious, and in 1935, at the age of 52, he married Lucie Valore and moved to Le Vésinet, outside of Paris. By then, he was too ill to work in the open air and painted landscapes viewed from windows, postcards, or painted from memory.

  • Although his life was plagued by alcoholism, Utrillo lived into his seventies. He died on 5 November, 1955 at the Hotel Splendid, in Dax of a lung disease; and was buried in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

 Source: Dorival, Bernard. The School of Paris, Thames & Hudson: London, 1962
Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, OilPainting, Paintings | Leave a comment

All the World’s a Stage in a Mid-Century Trans-Continental Age

Hans Wild | Svetlana Beriosova

Hans Wild | Svetlana Beriosova

[Svetlana Beriosova photographed by Hans Wild (1957)]

Lithuanian-British prima ballerina Svetlana Nikolayevna Beriosova was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, on 24 September 1932. Svetlana Beriosova was the daughter of Nicolas Beriosoff, a Lithuanian ballet master of ethnic Russian descent, who immigrated to England. Beriosova went to the United States in 1940, where she studied ballet. Her mother died in New York, when she was 10 years old.

Beriosova danced with The Royal Ballet for over 20 years. She made her professional debut in 1947 with the Ottawa Ballet. In 1952, after appearing with several major companies, including the Grand Ballet de Monte Carlo and the Metropolitan Ballet, Beriosova joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, where she became prima ballerina in 1955.

Notable among her leading roles were Swanilda in Coppélia, which allowed Beriosova to showcase her rarely used comic talent. She was better known for her eloquent and elegant classical style, which was highlighted in her many leading roles, such as:

  • Princess Belle Rose in John Cranko’s The Prince of the Pagodas (1957),
  • the Fairy in Kenneth MacMillan’s Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss, 1960), and
  • Lady Elgar in Frederick Ashton’s Enigma Variations (1968).
  • She also performed as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, and the title role in Giselle.

As well as dancing the entire classical repertoire, Beriosova created the leading part in several modern ballets, notably the title role in Cranko’s Antigone (1959). In one of her more unusual modern parts, the title role of Ashton’s Persephone (1961), she recited André Gide’s poetry in French, whilst dancing to the music of Igor Stravinsky.

Beriosova’s was married to psychoanalyst Masud Khan in 1959, ending in divorce after 15 years, in 1974. Plagued by illness and injuries, Beriosova performed very little in the 1970s. She retired in 1975, but continued to coach young dancers. On her retirement from dancing, she became a popular teacher and dancers’ coach, working in public onstage in Maina Gielgud’s Steps, Notes and Squeaks in 1978 and 1980.

  • Beriosova sadly died from cancer, on 10 November, 1998, aged 66, in Kensington, London.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Source: Haskell, Arnold L. The Ballet Annual 1957

Posted in Art, Performing Art, photographic art | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An Idle Afternoon with the ‘Parisian of Philadelphia’

Julius L Stewart | An idle afternoon 84 53x100cmAn Idle Afternoon (1884)

American artist Julius LeBlanc Stewart, was born on September 6, 1855, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, the sugar millionaire William Hood Stewart, moved the family from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Paris in 1865, and became a distinguished art collector and an early patron of Marià Fortuny and the Barbizon artists. Julius Stewart studied art at the École des Beaux-Arts, and was later a pupil of Raymondo de Madrazo.

  • A contemporary of fellow expatriate artist John Singer Sargent, Stewart was nicknamed ‘The Parisian from Philadelphia’. Stewart exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon from 1878 into the early 20th century, and helped organise the “Americans in Paris” section of the 1894 Salon.

Stewart’s family wealth enabled him to live a lush expatriate life; and paint what he pleased, often large-scaled group portraits. Many of these depicted his family and friends, including actresses, celebrities and aristocrats; often with a self-portrait, somewhere in the crowd. He painted a series of sailing pictures aboard James Gordon Bennett, Jr.’s yacht Namouna. The most accomplished of these, On the Yacht “Namouna”, Venice (Wadsworth Atheneum, 1890), depicts a sailing party, including the actress Lillie Langtry, on its deck. Another, Yachting on the Mediterranean (1896), set a record price for his works, selling for US$2.3 million, in 2005.

  • Although in his latter life, Stewart turned to religious subjects, he is best remembered for his Belle Époque society portraits and sensuous nudes. Julius Stewart died on January 4, 1919, in Paris, France.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, Gallery Art, OilPainting, Paintings, Watercolours | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Stills By Vhils

Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, also known as Vhils, is a prolific and varied street artist, who started out as a graffiti writer, in the early-to-mid 2000s. He claims that his street name Vhils, has no real meaning, but simply derives from the fastest set of letters he could apply in a hurry, while working illegally.

  • Born in 1987, Vhils grew up in Seixal, an industrialised suburb across the river from Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. He was deeply influenced by the transformations due to intensive urban development, which occurred during the 1980s and 1990s.

As a teenager, Vhils experimented with bleach and acids, as agents of destruction on train exteriors and poster sites. He then began using pneumatic drills, to excavate sections of walls, to create fascinating 3D murals. Vhils groundbreaking bas-relief carving technique, formed the basis of the Scratching the Surface project, and was first presented to the public at the VSP group exhibition in Lisbon in 2007, and; later at the Cans Festival, in London, in 2008.

  • Described as a contemporary urban archaeologist, Vhils has attained international status for his highly original works, using his signature method of creative destruction and delicate rebuilding of bas-relief sculpture, which protrudes from chiselled-back walls around the world, such as found in Southbank, London and in his native Portugal (See above images).

Since 2005, Vhils has presented his work in over 30 countries around the world; in solo and group exhibitions, site-specific art interventions, artistic events, and; projects in various contexts, from working with communities in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, to collaborations with reputed art institutions, such as:

  • The EDP Foundation (Lisbon),
  • Centre Pompidou (Paris),
  • Barbican Centre (London),
  • CAFA Art Museum (Beijing), and;
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), among others.

An avid art experimentalist, Vhils’ unique approach and artworks have received critical acclaim around the world, not only for his 3D carved murals, but also for his stencil painting, metal etching, pyrotechnic explosions and sculptural installations. He has also directed several music videos, short films, and one stage production.

  • Discover more about Vhils at his website

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Abel’s Able Artwork

Abel Pujol | Biblis changee en source (Ovid Metamorphoses, IX) 1898 88x145cmBiblis changee en souce (Ovid Metamorphoses IX)

French painter Alexandre-Denis-Abel de Pujol or Abel de Pujol  was born on 30 January, 1785 in Valenciennes, France. The illegitimate son and only child of the nobleman Alexandre-Denis-Joseph Mortry de Pujol, Baron de la Grave, (a powerful figure who served as advisor to the King, and was the founder of the Académie de Peinture et Sculpture in Valenciennes). Abel de Pujol studied there from the age of twelve, before completing his training in the studio of Jacques-Louis David in Paris.

De Pujol also took classes in anatomy, perspective, and architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  He won a first-class medal at the Académie in 1806, and a second-class medal, at the Salon of 1810, and the same year, came second in the Prix de Rome competition. The following year, De Pujol won the Prix de Rome. His Death of Britannicus won gold medals, from both Louis XVIII, and Napoleon, in 1814, while a grisaille painting of The Preaching and Martyrdom of Saint Stephen, intended for the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, was equally admired at the Salon of 1817, winning the prize for history painting.

  • De Pujol received a number of important official commissions, including three paintings for Versailles; and a ceiling painting for the Palais Royal.
  • A large allegorical ceiling painting of The Renaissance of the Arts, for the grand staircase of the Louvre, which was sadly destroyed in 1855.
  • Mural decorations for public buildings, such as the main hall of the Bourse, the Musée Charles X of the Palais du Louvre, the Galerie de Diane at Fontainebleau; and the Palais de Luxembourg.
  • Altarpieces and designs for stained-glass windows for several Parisian churches, including Saint-Sulpice, Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle, Saint-Roch, Saint-Denis-du-Saint-Sacrement, Saint-Thomas d’Acquin and the Madeleine. He also worked in the cathedral at Arras and the church of Saint-Pierre, in Douai.
  • In 1846, De Pujol was commissioned to paint a monumental canvas of Valenciennes, and in 1852, painted the ceiling of the staircase of the Ecole des Mines, at the Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris; which was to be one of his last major decorative schemes.

Admitted into the Legion of Honour, in 1822 and the Académie des Beaux-Arts, in 1835, De Pujol produced a handful of portraits, mainly of family and friends. He has shown all that he possesses; the science of the nude, the talent for modelling, the art of drapery; and, in confining himself to painting this vast decoration in monochrome, he has shown himself to be a ‘man of spirit.’ De Pujol died in Paris, on 29 September, 1861.

  • The largest extant collection of De Puljol’s drawings, amounting to almost 150 sheets, is in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Valenciennes.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, OilPainting, Paintings, Watercolours | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two Martyred Deaths and a Crossing

French painter Jacques-Louis David, was born into a prosperous French family in Paris on 30 August, 1748. When he was nine, his father was killed in a duel and his mother left him with his well-off architect uncles. They saw to it that David received an excellent education at the Collège des Quatre-Nations, University of Paris; but he was never a good student. David had a facial tumour that impeded his speech, and he was always preoccupied with drawing. Despite the family wanting him to study architecture, David chose to study art from François Boucher (1703–1770), who was also a distant relative. He later studied with Joseph-Marie Vien. There, David attended the Royal Academy, based in what is now the Louvre.

  • After winning the Prix de Rome, David went to Italy, where he studied the works of 17th Century masters such as Caravaggio. During the trip, David also studied the High Renaissance painters, such as Raphael, making a profound and lasting impression on the young French artist.

David became an active supporter of the French Revolution and friend of Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), and was effectively a dictator of the arts under the French Republic. Imprisoned after Robespierre’s fall from power, David aligned himself with yet another political regime upon his release: that of Napoleon, the First Consul of France. David developed his Empire style, notable for its use of warm Venetian colours. After Napoleon’s fall from Imperial power and the Bourbon revival, David exiled himself to Brussels. He later moved to the Netherlands, where he remained until his death on 29 December, 1825. Featured here are three of his works:

  • The Death of Marat (1793) features the murdered French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat (24 May 1743 – 13 July 1793). It is one of the most famous images of the French Revolution. The painting shows the radical journalist lying dead in his bath, after his murder, by Charlotte Corday. Marat was one of the leaders of the Montagnards, the radical faction ascendant in French politics during the Reign of Terror, until the Thermidorian Reaction. Corday was a Girondin, from a minor aristocratic family and a political enemy of Marat; who blamed him for the September Massacre. She gained entrance to Marat’s rooms, with a note promising details of a counter-revolutionary ring in Caen, and then fatally stabbed Marat. She was later tried and executed for the murder. Painted in the months after Marat’s murder, the painting is displayed in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium. A replica created by the artist’s studio, is on display at the Louvre.
  • Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard Pass. After Napoleon Bonaparte’s successful coup d’état in 1799, as First Consul he commissioned David to commemorate his daring crossing of the Alps. The crossing of the St. Bernard Pass had allowed the French to surprise the Austrian army, and win victory at the Battle of Marengo, on 14 June, 1800. Although Napoleon had crossed the Alps on a mule, he requested that he be portrayed “calm upon a fiery steed”. After the proclamation of the Empire in 1804, David became the official court painter of the regime.
  • The Death of Bara (1794) is an incomplete painting now in the Musée Calvet in Avignon. Joseph Bara, was a young drummer in the army of the French First Republic, who was killed by the Vendéens. He became a hero and martyr of the French Revolution. Along with The Death of Marat, and The Last Moments of Michel Lepeletier, the painting formed part of a series by David, showing such martyrs. There is also an anonymous contemporary copy dating to 1794, now in the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, and exhibited at the Musée de la Révolution française.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Erotic Art, Gallery Art, OilPainting, Paintings, Watercolours | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

BMD Was Your Friend | BMD Is No More

New Zealand legendary street art collective BMD is no more. Known for their distinctive wall markings, the two Taranaki artists behind BMD parted ways back in 2015. Throughout their partnership they chose to conceal their individual identities. They once cited the reason for their anonymity was an effort to have their work judged for what it was and not for who the artists were. As part of the separation process, they revealed their identities as Damin Radford-Scott aka ‘Milarky’ and Andrew J. Steel.

The Auckland-based contemporary art duo worked together from 2005. They spent ten years building their brand into an internationally recognised mark often featuring ‘Keith Haring -esque‘ collages of body parts, both human and animalistic and often including warped animals and cartoon objects.

Friends since the two attended Devon Intermediate School in New Plymouth, they worked across New Zealand, Australia and Bali, getting aboard scaffolding and creating sky-high murals. Since their split, they have moved in different creative directions and agreed the split had been on the cards for quite some time.

  • Radford-Scott, (born 1987), works independently under the artistic moniker of “Milarky”. He said that BMD was the perfect platform to grow themselves creatively. As part of their success, they amasssed a throng of contracts, a healthy public following and received second place at the New Zealand Interior Awards for an installation entitled Surface.

For Radford-Scott, drawing is something he has always done, whether it be street art or gallery work. After High School, Radford-Scott moved to Wellington, but he didn’t immediately pursue his passion for art. He originally studied Physics and German before studying Fine Arts at University. Radford-Scott is now located back in New Plymouth. He is selling his work in galleries and working towards solo exhibitions, based on the ideas he has been researching, whether it be environmental issues; or the impact humans are having, along with his most recent idea, Nomadism. This concept became his Master’s Degree thesis.

  • Steel (born 1987) is also a New Zealand contemporary artist who focuses on the art of story telling. Over his career he has worked with and gained recognition from leading art collectors, interior designers, architects and publishers. Steel produces from his studio in Auckland, and has created work in Los Angeles, Hawaii, across Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Iceland.

Steel works across the mediums of public art, private interiors, fine artwork, letterpress, land, body and digital works. As an artist with a post-graduate diploma in Science, he has fun experimenting with various Resene specialist products. He claims and recommends Resene, is the perfect paint for his art. For outside mural work, it stands the test of time. If it’s interior work, the finish is always perfect. It simply is the best product.”With Resene Write-on Wall Paint, he sees potential for a colouring-in wall that allows the public to collaborate and bring colour to his painted outlines – time and time again. A simple wipe and the canvas is clean and ready to go again. He has also experimented with Resene Waterborne Aquapel, a water-repellent coating, which protects concrete from the natural effects of water. Painting the pavements with art, that stays invisible until the rain falls.

Private commissions have come thick and fast from residents who appreciate Steel’s work. His signature creatures and objects now decorate the walls of design studios, cafes and restaurants alike, including the stylish headquarters of fashion label I Love Ugly.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, SprayCanArt, Street Artists A-Z, StreetArt, StreetArtists | Tagged , | Leave a comment

I Don’t Work, I Don’t Do Anything, But I Am Indispensable

I Don’t Work, I Don’t Do Anything, But I am Indispensable“, is how Russian art critic, patron, and ballet impresario, Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, described himself. Sergei Diaghilev was born on 19 March, 1872, in Selishchi. His mother died soon after his birth. Diaghilev entered the St Petersburg Imperial University, and took private music lessons from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Diaghilev was introduced to a circle of art-loving friends who called themselves The Nevsky Pickwickians. They included Alexandre Benois, Walter Nouvel, Konstantin Somov, and Léon Bakst.

Seven months after graduation Diaghilev opened his first art exhibition. By 1897, he had run several art exhibitions introducing Russian and Finnish contemporary artists to the local public at the Stieglitz Academy with works of Mikhail Vrubel, Valentin Serov, and Isaac Levitan. He then ran an exhibition of young Russian painters in Germany. Though he had no private fortune, Diaghilev managed to gain support from Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and later, Nicholas II.

  • The ‘Mir iskusstva’ (World of Art) magazine was established in 1898, by Diaghilev with some of his Nevsky Pickwickian friends including Benois, Somov, Dmitry Filosofov, Bakst, and Eugene Lansere. As art-director, Diaghilev created its style and design, and wrote critical essays for the magazine.
  • In 1899, Prince Serge Wolkonsky received directorship of all Imperial theatres. As editor-in-chief of the Annual of the Imperial Theatres, Diaghilev invited many of his fellow members of ‘Mir iskusstva’ (Benois, Bakst, Serov, and Lansere) to work on the magazine.

Diaghilev began to frequent the Imperial Ballet, which staged productions at various Imperial theatres. The ballerinas were amazed by ‘this dandy with a grey lock’ and soon nicknamed him ‘Chinchilla’. Once again, Diaghilev brought the members of ‘Mir iskusstva’ with him to the Imperial theatres, working on decorations and costumes. By 1900, Wolkonsky entrusted Diaghilev with the staging of Léo Delibes’ ballet Sylvia, a favourite of Benois. Diaghilev’s success saw him to the top of the art and society elite.

A 1906 exhibition inspired by Diaghilev presented Russian music to Paris, the world’s culture capital. The following year, he organised ‘Concerts historiques russes’ starring Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Glazunov, and Feodor Chaliapin. The tour was supported and sponsored by Diaghilev’s royal patrons Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia and Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

  • In spring 1908 Diaghilev mounted a production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, starring Feodor Chaliapin, at the Paris Opéra, with sets designed by Bakst and Benois.
  • In 1909, the first ballet Saison Russes took place and its success overwhelmed even the artists themselves. Diaghilev’s innovation was to synthetize dance, music and visual arts with set decorations and costumes into a single performance. The first season included Le Pavillon d’Armide, Polovtsian Dances, Nuit d’Egypte, Les Sylphides, and operas Boris Godunov, The Maid of Pskov and the first part of the Ruslan and Lyudmila. The ballets followed the operas and were performed after the second intermission. Leading dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova, immediately became world-known stars.

During these years, Diaghilev’s stagings included several compositions by the late Rimsky-Korsakov, such as the operas, The Maid of Pskov, May Night, and The Golden Cockerel. Diaghilev commissioned ballet music from composers such as Claude Debussy (Jeux, 1913), Maurice Ravel (Daphnis et Chloé, 1912), Erik Satie (Parade, 1917), Ottorino Respighi (La Boutique fantasque, 1919); Francis Poulenc (Les biches, 1923) and played a decisive role in the career of Sergei Prokofiev (Scythian Suite; Chout, and The Prodigal Son);  and others. His choreographer Michel Fokine often adapted the music for ballet, and the artistic director for the Ballets Russes was Léon Bakst.

  • Together they developed a more complicated form of ballet with show-elements intended to appeal to the general public, rather than solely for the aristocracy. The exotic appeal of the Ballets Russes had an effect on Fauvist painters and the nascent Art Deco style. Coco Chanel is said to have stated that “Diaghilev invented Russia for foreigners.”

Perhaps Diaghilev’s most notable composer-collaborator, however, was Igor Stravinsky. Diaghilev heard Stravinsky’s early orchestral works Fireworks and Scherzo fantastique, and was impressed. In 1910, he commissioned his first score from Stravinsky, The Firebird. Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913) followed shortly afterwards, and the two also worked together on Les noces (1923) and Pulcinella (1920) together with Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, who designed the costumes and the set.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Diaghilev stayed abroad. The new Soviet regime,  condemned him in perpetuity as an especially insidious example of “bourgeois decadence”. Soviet art historians wrote him out of the picture for more than 60 years.

  • The later years of the Ballets Russes were often considered too “intellectual”, too “stylish” and seldom had the unconditional success of the first few seasons, although younger choreographers like George Balanchine hit their stride with the Ballets Russes.
  • Diaghilev’s life and the Ballets Russes were inextricably intertwined. His most famous lover was Nijinsky. However, out of all Diaghilev’s lovers, only Léonide Massine, who replaced Nijinsky, provided him with “so many moments of happiness or anguish”.
  • Diaghilev dismissed Nijinsky summarily from the Ballets Russes after the dancer’s marriage in 1913. Nijinsky appeared again with the company, but the old relationship between the men was never re-established; moreover, Nijinsky’s magic as a dancer was much diminished by incipient mental illness. Their last meeting was after Nijinsky’s mind had given way, and he appeared not to recognise his former lover.

Throughout his life, Diaghilev was severely afraid of dying in water, and avoided traveling by boat. He died of diabetes, in Venice, on 19 August, 1929, and his tomb is on the nearby island of San Michele, in the Orthodox section, near to the grave of Igor Stravinsky.

  •  The film The Red Shoes is reported to be a thinly disguised dramatization of the Ballets Russes.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Source: Melville, Joy. Diaghilev and Friends. Haus: London, 2009

Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, Illustrations, OilPainting, Paintings, Performing Art, Watercolours | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Riot of Stravinsky’s Spring

Russian composer, pianist and conductor, Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was born on 17 June, 1882, in Oranienbaum, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, 25 miles west of St. Petersburg.  The Stravinsky family was of Polish and Russian heritage, descended from a long line of Polish grandees, senators and landowners.

Igor Stravinsky showed an interest in music from an early age and began piano lessons at the age nine, followed by tuition in music theory and composition. Despite Stravinsky’s enthusiasm and ability, his parents wanted him to study law.  In 1901, he enrolled at the University of St Petersburg, to study criminal law and legal philosophy. However, his interest waned and he did not complete it. Stravinsky met fellow student Vladimir Rimsky-Korsakov, the youngest son of renowned Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and professor at the St Petersburg Conservatory of Music. Stravinsky spent the summer of 1902 with the Rimsky-Korsakovs in Heidelberg, Germany after the untimely death of his father from cancer. By 1905, two significant events occurred for the 23 year old Stravinsky. In August, 1905, announced his engagement to his first cousin, Katherine Gavrylivna Nosenko. He also began studying with Rimsky-Korsakov and came to regard him as a second father. In spite of the Orthodox Church’s opposition to marriage between first cousins, the couple married on 23 January 1906. Stravinsky and Nosenko’s first two children, Fyodor (1907) and Ludmila (1908) were born. He continued his music lessons until Rimsky-Korsakov’s death in 1908.

While his wife was expecting their third child, Stravinsky spent the summer in La Baule in western France. In September, 1910, they moved to Clarens, Switzerland where their second son, Sviatoslav (Soulima), was born. Their fourth child Marie Milène was born on 15 January, 1914. After her delivery, Nosenko contracted tuberculosis (TB) and was confined to a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps.

  • Over the next five years, Stravinsky composed many successful compositions and opus works including Scherzo fantastique, Op. 3 and Feu d’artifice (Fireworks), Op. 4.
  • Russian impresario and owner of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev, was so impressed with Stravinsky’s compositions, he commissioned Stravinsky to compose a score for Diaghilev’s forthcoming 1910 opera and ballet season in Paris. This was for a new ballet production based on the Russian fairytale of the Firebird. At 50 minutes in length, The Firebird premiered at the Opera de Paris on 25 June, 1910, to widespread critical acclaim and Stravinsky became an overnight sensation.
  • Stravinsky’s compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky for two more ballets which were first performed in Paris by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The ballet Petrushka, based on a Russian folk tale about two puppets premiered at Théâtre du Châtelet, in June, 1911; and The Rite of Spring in 1913.
  • The Rite of Spring, caused a sensation among critics, fellow composers, and concertgoers. Based on an original idea offered to Stravinsky by Nicholas Roerich, the production featured a series of primitive rituals celebrating the advent of Spring, after which a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim to the sun god Yarilo, and dances herself to death. The radical nature of the music and choreography caused a near-riot at its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 29 May, 1913.

Shortly after the premiere, Stravinsky contracted typhoid from eating bad oysters and he was confined to a Paris nursing home. He left in July 1913. For the rest of the summer he focused on his first opera, The Nightingale (Le Rossignol), based on the same-titled story by Hans Christian Andersen, which he had started in 1908. Diaghilev agreed for the Ballets Russes to stage it.

  • In December 1915, Stravinsky made his conducting debut at two concerts in aid of the Red Cross with The Firebird. World War I (WWI) and the Russian Revolution evolved in 1917, preventing Stravinsky from returning to his homeland.
  • 15 May, 1920, saw the premiere of the Ballets Russes, production of Pulcinella in Paris. Stravinsky and his family left Switzerland for France, and sought a permanent home in Paris. The famous Parisian couturière Coco Chanel invited the family to live in her Paris mansion until they found their own residence. They accepted and arrived in September. In December 1920, Chanel secured a guarantee for a revival production of The Rite of Spring by the Ballets Russes, donating an anonymous gift of 300,000 francs, to Diaghilev.

Shortly after, in February 1921, Stravinsky met Vera de Bosset in Paris, while she was married to painter and stage designer Serge Sudeikin, and they began an affair that led to de Bosset leaving her husband. From then, until his wife’s death in 1939, Stravinsky led a double life, dividing his time between his family in Switzerland, and Vera in Paris and on tour.

The following years saw Stravinsky tour Europe and the United States (US). His first US commission was Apollo, a 30 minute ballet score for a festival at the Library of Congress which premiered in 1928. During his later years in Paris, Stravinsky developed many professional relationships with key people in the US. He finally left Paris for Annemasse, near the Swiss border, to be near his family, after his wife and daughters Ludmila and Milena contracted TB and were in a sanatorium. Ludmila died in late 1938, followed by his wife of 33 years.

Stravinsky arrived in New York City on 30 September, 1939. His long-term lover, Vera, arrived in January, 1940 and the couple married on 9 March, in Bedford, Massachusetts. The two moved into a home in Beverly Hills, California before they settled in Hollywood from 1941. On 28 December 1945, Stravinsky and Vera became naturalized US citizens.

  • On 18 March, 1971, Stravinsky was taken to Lennox Hill Hospital where he stayed for ten days, with pulmonary oedema. After a period of well being, the oedema returned, and Stravinsky soon stopped eating and drinking, and died at 5:20 a.m. on 6 April, at the age of 88.
  • A funeral service was held three days later. As per his wishes, Stravinsky was buried in the Russian corner of the cemetery island of San Michele in Venice, Italy; several yards from the tomb of Sergei Diaghilev; having been brought there by gondola after a service at Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Source: Craft, Robert. A Stravinsky Scrapbook 1940-1971. Thames & Hudson: London, 1983

Posted in Art, Gallery Art, Illustrations, Paintings, photographic art | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

So Tell me, Did she read the name I carved with many vows?

Victorian English artist William Maw Egley was born in London, in 1826. He was the son of miniaturist artist William Egley, who was young Egley’s first tutor. Egley’s early works were illustrations of literary subjects typical of the period, which were similar to the work of ‘The Clique‘, a group of English artists formed by Richard Dadd in the late 1830s.

The Clique‘ was the first group to reject the Royal Academy’s high art, stating, ‘it’s backward-looking tradition was not relevant to genre painting and the requirements of contemporary art’. The group’s view was that art should be ‘judged by the public, not by the conformity of academic ideals’.

Members of The Clique included Augustus Egg, Henry Nelson O’Neil, John Phillip, Edward Matthew Ward, Alfred Elmore, and William Powell Frith. Frith hired Egley to add background effects to his own work. Soon after, Egley developed a style influenced by Frith, including domestic and childhood subjects.

  • Most of Egley’s paintings were genre scenes of urban and rural life, depicting subjects of harvest festivals and contemporary fashions. His best-known painting, Omnibus Life in London (1859)  [featured above], is a comic scene of people squashed together in the busy, cramped public transport of the Victorian era.

In the 1850s, most members of The Clique became inveterate enemies of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, believing their art to be willfully eccentric and primitivist. Frith and O’Neil wrote many attacks on Pre-Raphaelite principles. However, Egg became a friend and supporter of William Holman Hunt.

  • Although Egley flirted only briefly with Pre-Raphaelite subjects and ideas, the intense detail of The Talking Oak, (1857) [featured above], with its meticulously high finish, reflects the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite technique. This painting was exhibited at the British Institution in 1857, with the following quotation from Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

But tell me, did she read the name
I carved with many vows?

By the 1860s, Egley adopted the fashion for romanticised 18th-century subjects. Though he produced a very large number of reliably salable paintings, his work was never critically admired. William Maw Egley died on 20 February, 1916.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, Illustrations, OilPainting, Paintings, Watercolours | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Rayonism + Designs for the Ballets Russes | The Work of Mikhail Larionov

Avant-garde Russian painter Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov was born at Tiraspol, near Odessa, in the Russian Empire on June 3, 1881. In 1898, Larionov entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under Isaac Levitan and Valentin Serov. However, he was suspended three times for his radical outlook. Two years later,  Larionov met Natalia Goncharova in 1900, and formed a lifelong relationship with her.

From 1902, Larionov’s art style followed that of Impressionism. But, after a visit to Paris in 1906, Larionov moved into Post-Impressionism and then a Neo-primitive style which derived partly from Russian sign painting. In 1908, he staged the Golden Fleece exhibition in Moscow, which included paintings by international avant-garde artists such as Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Georges Braque, Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh.

  • Larionov was a founding member of two important Russian artistic groups, Jack of Diamonds, (1909–1911) and; the more radical Donkey’s Tail, (1912–1913). In 1913, Larionov created Rayonism, which was the first creation of near-abstract art in Russia.

In 1915, Larionov left Russia and worked with the ballet owner Sergei Diaghilev in Paris on the productions of the Ballets Russes. Featured here are a theatrical curtain and a costume design for Ballets Russes ‘Midnight Sun‘ (1915); a backdrop setting for Contes Russes (1917); and a watercolour and charcoal sketch for a character’s costume for La Femme du Vieux Bouffon for the ballet ‘Chout’.

Larionov spent the rest of his life in France and obtained French citizenship. He died, aged 82, in the Paris suburb of Fontenay-aux-Roses, on May 10, 1964.

  • In 2001, the Central Bank of Transnistria minted a silver coin honouring Larionov as part of a series of memorable coins called The Outstanding People of Pridnestrovie.

Website | About | Facebook | Twitter

“Is It Art?”

Source: Garafola, Lynn and Van Norman Baer, Nancy. The Ballets Russes and Its World. Yale University Press, 1999.
Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, Illustrations, Paintings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment