Archive for December, 2009

Hans Makart, the Makartbouquet, and Makartstil.

Posted in 19th cent., art pompier, Hans Makart, Makartbouquet, overfussy tastes on December 22, 2009 by babylonbaroque

I recently finished a really marvelous book “The Poetic Home, Designing the 19th Century Domestic Interior”, by Stefan Muthesius. It is an impressive tome, 350 pages of very in depth study of what made 19th century rooms so special, so loved and so reviled. I became more aware of the inwardness of domestic interiors particuarly in reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Fascinating.

One figure kept popping up, the artist Hans Makart, I knew of him only slightly. I knew I enjoyed his work, I also knew it should be a guilty pleasure. If anyone captured 19th century sentimental excess it was old Hans.I came to understand how powerful he was in the 19th century, particularly in Viennese society. Fashionable ladies flocked to his studio, Cosima Wagner remarked that his studio was a “wonder of decorative beauty”.Mr. Wagner was also great fan, an interest I am  pleased to share .

Alas so was Mr. Hitler.

I’m not so pleased to be a member of  THAT fan club ( Hitler was also vegetarian, yet another unfortunate common interest).

Not good.

Hopefully that is all we share in common. Here is a charming little moment in which Hitler is presenting “The Falconer” to one of his cronies.

It is really a rather nice painting, effective coloring, lovely woman, lively composition. Easy to see how it would warm up ANY Nazi home.

So lots of negative baggage connected to the man, Hitler, Hitler’s favorite composer, not great company. Maybe that’s why poor Hans fell out of fashion.He still is pretty wonderful in a bright eye candy way.

I really love this, wonderful decorative qualities, a masterful use of color. I understand why academics and “real”‘ artists cringe, but it does bring joy in a dark, introspective way. It reminds me of some overblown funereal bouquet.

Please send one along when I pass.

My understanding is that this cult around Makart, his paintings, his studio, his design influenced  artists like Mucha and Klimpt, society broads, and your garden variety housewife. Perhaps Mrs. Aspiring-Society-Lady wasn’t able to have a Herter Bros. pier mirror,  or a bearskin strewn couch; she could gather up some water reeds, some palm fronds, some pretty berries, and a few Japonism-chinoserie doodads, shove them into a chipped majolica jug, and there you have it, a charming little Aesthetic corner.

I thinks it’s interesting that although Makart and “Makartstile” has faded from most public memory, on some intuitive sense, I still feel his influence. My very German grandmother certainly arranged interiors and flowers in a watered down Makartstile. When I have a pile of flowers my instinct is to pile them on ala Makart. I was reminded of this as I was putting up my Christmas tree, out came the little chinois puppets, feathered curiosities, branches of this and that. Much time has passed, fashion has changed, but there is at least one silly West Hollywood queen thinking of and honoring Makart.

Just one more image,( a wee crooked sorry) a cozy little room with one ambitious Makartbouquet.


In defense of “dinosaurs”

Posted in Crankiness on December 4, 2009 by babylonbaroque

I was recently at a design function, many Bright Young Things, but a mixed crowd. The topic of conversation turned to the current state of design.It was mentioned, perhaps flippantly, that Scalamandre was a dinosaur, and if it didn’t rethink it’s image it would cease to exist. It was mentioned that the company was recently purchased and was indeed reworking it’s line.

But really, a dinosaur? Is it really possible that today’s designer can view such a revered company as archaic. The conversation again and again turned to “modernism”, “contemporary ”  (such a fleeting concept, ridiculous to make that claim), and my favorite “transitional”. So much irony is expressed in current design, such wit and cleverness, that to me reflects a lack of familiarity with the true value of traditional design. I would personally find such sarcastic humor tiresome before long.

Traditional design is not dead, and it is not exhausted, so much more can be explored. The 19th century was just picking up steam with serious, sometimes ludicrous, reinterpretation. My plan is to continue this exploration, in spite of the contemporary spirit, particularly challenging in this City of Angels.