Archive for February, 2011

In Defense of Hans Makart

Posted in 19th Century, A. Wiertz, art pompier, Gustav Klimt, Hans Makart, Makartbouquet, Sarah Bernhardt on February 25, 2011 by babylonbaroque

This morning ‘s New York Times had a review of what appears to be a marvelous exploration of Viennese modernism at the Neue  Galerie.

Although Roberta Smith was a bit dismissive of the Neue’s obvious affection for fin de Siècle excess, going so far as declaring the gallery “…adolescently, in love…”; she saves  much of her disdain for Hans Makart.

Hans Makart

b. 28th May 1840

d. 3rd October 1884

Self portrait


She describes Makarts work as “this froth of cloying brushwork and sartorial detail ” that “stands out like a sore thumb opposite Adele. But it vividly locates the artistic stagnation that the painters of other portraits in the room — Klimt, as well as Schiele and Kokoschka — were rebelling against”.

It is  unfair to compare Makart to the Gustav Klimt, but as  the exhibit contrasts the two artist; the former studio assistant will inevitably outshine his master.

I love Klimt of course, how can you not?

Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I


I just feel it important to not dismiss Makart as “froth”.

An artist held in such esteem that Bernhardt posed for him.

Sarah Bernhardt


A master colorist who left behind  a body of work that is often startlingly seductive and subversive. Klimt clearly was a genius, but Makart deserves his due.

Allegory of Lust for Life


(certainly not a subtle image)

It has been awhile since I posted on Makart, I think this a good time to review what I admire about his work.

I find this painting a bit odd, is it a twist on the Nativity?

Child Portrait

It 1872

It is true that Makart enjoyed tremendous success in his day, it is understandable to defend the rebellious Klimt.

Makart’s atelier/ salon, described by Cosima Wagner as a “wonder of decorative beauty” drew a wide circle of fashionable society, Makart satisfied their vanity with very smart portraits.

Crown Princess Stephanie


Considered a poor draughtsman, Makart compensated with dazzling coloring and dramatic composition.

The Death of Cleopatra


This floral painting is far from conventional, there is sinister quality that is difficult to ignore.

Still Life with Roses


And although more conventional,  the gorgeous palette is very seductive .

Large Floral Piece


So pervasive was the Makartstil,floral arrangements of such lush abundance became known as Makartbouquet.

Fanciful images of a faun and nymph  are cast in creepy light by this “frothy” artist.

Pan and Flora


(such a perverse image)

Makart like his contemporary Antoine Wiertz may not have been exceptional next to the wondrous Klimt or Schiele, but they were gifted and inventive; contrary to Smith’s accusation of “artistic stagnation”.

I wish my own work was so stagnant.

Sacrificial Scene


I for one do not want them forgotten.

Enjoy the weekend.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Consequence of Amore?

Posted in Babylon Baroque, Death and the Maiden on February 24, 2011 by babylonbaroque

As the month devoted to love passes, I thought to share this image in my file, one I love for so many reasons;

Its sexiness being  primary .

My own view of love is not cynical, but I love the theme of Death & the Maiden, happy to see a fellow depicted.

I do not know the source or artist, recalls Durer of course.

Will need to research, until then,


To Love…


I am mad with Spring Semester, I promise beefier posts in the future.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Remembering the Ladies Behind the Men

Posted in 18th century, 19th cent., Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln on February 21, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Wishing  my countrymen a happy Presidents Day!

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

wife to the first President of the United States

b. 2nd of June 1731

d. 22nd of  May 1802

Mary Ann (née Todd) Lincoln

wife of the 16th President of the United States

b. 13th of December 1818

d. 16th of  July 1882

“Lady Washington”

Mrs. Lincoln


Martha Dandridge Custis

after the 1757 painting by John Wollaston

Mrs. Lincoln

Thank you Ladies!

Happy Presidents Day,

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Imperial Chinese Robes, the source of chinoiserie fantasies

Posted in 19th Century, Chinese Imperial Robes, Chinoiserie, Qing dynasty on February 19, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I recently quipped that I preferred Chinoiserie to the source; having stumbled upon this reminder concerning the ongoing exhibition Imperial Chinese Robes at the V&A, I realized what a foolish statement that was.

Since childhood, spending countless hours admiring the chromo-litho “scraps” in my Nana’s Victorian scrapbooks, I was particularly drawn to the bright and exotic Chinois images. I believe my current taste is still heavily influenced by this extravagant use of pattern and color.The V&A show, focusing on the court dress of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) provides plenty of happy bursts of aesthetic joy.

As the show ends February 27th I recommend that all my friends abroad pop over and buy me a postcard or two.

Until then, a sampling of some of the wonders.

Emperor’s Winter Court Robe


Kangxi period

on loan as much of the show is from the Palace Museum née The Forbidden City

more info

Please no griping about the fur, I am a card carrying vegetarian, working hard to spread the anti-fur gospel, BUT still this is a magical garment.

Imperial concubine’s winter court hat

more info

Imperial concubine’s festive robe


Qianlong period

festive indeed!

Woman’s shoes


Guangxu period

a form of Chinois Rational Dress as Manchu woman did not bind their feet, more info

Emperor’s winter court robe


Jiaqing period

You must admit the Qing dynasty handled  harsh winter with great panache, so much nicer then the offerings at L.L Bean .

Empress’ festive headdress


Guangxu period

more info on this stunning object

Emperor’s helmet


Qianlong period

more info

Emperor’s summer court robe


Xianfeng period



I think I must rush over to our little Chinatown here in LA to satisfy my Chinois itch with some tawdry bauble.

Los Angeles Chinatown

Until then Rose must wear her own silk court robe, pug-dogs are Chinese after all.

Enjoy the long weekend Dear Reader,

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Martin Ware satisfying fin de siècle taste for the grotesque, one Wally Bird at a time.

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Benjamin Disraeli, Martin Bros., Wally Birds on February 15, 2011 by babylonbaroque




Having recently finished a course in Ceramics, quite basic stuff, pinch pots, coil construction and a most pitiful attempt at the wheel;I am left with , aside from an alarming amount of lumpy earthenware, a very new appreciation for the ceramic arts. I have always admired porcelain, faience and majolica, but the rather garden -variety thrown vessels have left me a bit cold;I’m still not terribly fond of crunchy textured, oatmeal hued bowls, but I do admire the craft.

All that said, I am now more appreciative then ever of the incredible earthenware fantasies that came out of the Martin Brothers Studio.

The Martin Brothers

from left:

Walter Fraser Martin(1857-1912), responsible for decorating.


Robert Wallace Martin (1843-1923), founder of the company, trained as a sculptor, responsible fro throwing and modeling, most notably the bird jars known affectionately as Wally Birds.

Edwin Bruce Martin ( 1860-1910), responsible for glaze development.

Charles Douglas Martin (1846-1910) not shown, responsible for management of the studio.







Almost immediately upon immersing my hands into the pile of clay, perverse little images began to emerge: grinning priapic demons, winged dragons, winking skulls; so immediate was this emergence my friend Gina promptly dubbed my creations Evilware. As clever as that may be, I felt (hoped) my natural inclination towards more macabre expression was richer then the current dark fashions inspired by such pop culture horrors as the Twilight series. I was inclined to believe, given my own fascination with fin de siècle culture, that my inspiration was a by-product of my interest in Beardsley, the Decadent-Symbolist movements and some of the more perverse ornament of Christopher Dresser and Frank Furness. It was not until the wee hours of the course that I realized, as I was lamely trying to unearth the beauty the clay held within, that I was face to face with a Wally Bird from the famed studios of the Martin Bros., London.



Robert Wallace Martin most likely the modeller



My own, pitifully amateur creation failed to exhibit the finesse that the Martin Brothers exhibited in such shameful abundance; but through the lumpy clay mass, the unmistakable Neo-Gothic grin of my silly dragon-bird exhibited direct roots to the Wally Bird.

Jar with Cover


glazed stoneware with a wood plinth


Martin Ware Pottery was founded by the eldest brother Robert Wallace Martin  in the city of Fulham in 1873; the firm which was in operation from 1873 through 1923, moved from Fulham to its final location in Southall, Middlesex. Martinware was an industrial fixture of Southall , situated upon the Grand Junction Canal. The company enjoyed great success with a wide range of pottery items, vessels, jars and decorative tiles; their greatest success then and now was the amusing Wally Bird, said to be a caricature of then Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Benjamin Disraeli



stoneware, wooden plinth


Hints of anti-Semitism aside, the Wally Bird is quite charming and beautifully wrought. The salt -glazes the firm was famous for enhanced the well-crafted details; ordinary glazes would have obscured the delicately rendered feathers and scales. The Martinware palette was in the fashionable Aesthetic Movement’s vogue for “muddled”colors, muted greys, greens, and ochre browns.

“If Martinware […has] not the transparency of porcelain nor the elaborately and costly ornamentation of Sèvres [it is] pure and honest artwork” so said the art critic Cosmo Monkhouse in 1882.  The Martin brothers were riding the wave of fashionable London with its Aesthetic craze; their art pottery, inspired (as I am) by the 16th century potter Bernard Palissy, saw stoneware as an appropriate medium for “honest” art. Robert, trained at the esteemed Lambeth School of Art was well equipped to marry his knowledge of historical derivative design with the contemporary fashion for “Art for Art’s sake”.

The Wally Birds though wildly popular, kept proud company with their Face Jugs.



maker, Robert Wallace Martin


The jugs, first thrown, then bulked up with a pad of clay were individually sculpted. The artisans, working from a rendering by Robert, created individual works of utilitarian sculpture; no two jugs are exactly alike.

The firm was capable of producing more conventionally decorative objects as this bottle illustrated  with its incised and painted decoration.



salt-glazes stoneware, incised and painted decoration (first painted with white slip, then incised and decorated) cork and metal


But upon closer inspection the viewer is exposed to the slightly sinister ornamentation that is unique to Martinware; in this instance, underwater grotesquerie.  This aquatic theme with a perverse twist was quite a speciality of the Martin Brothers; I believe from what I have read (primarily the Victoria & Albert site) that  Walter Fraser  Martin was responsible for the decoration.Whoever came up with these whimsies, kudos to you!



salt-glazed stoneware with painted decoration




salt-glazed stoneware with incised decoration



salt-glazed stoneware with incised decoration and coloured glazes




stoneware, incised with colored glazes




salt-glazed stoneware



Objects such as chess pieces,  tradition-bound to be fashioned in mock Gothic ,were well suited to the Martin Brothers oeuvre.

Chess piece


salt-glazed stoneware


In exploring Martin Ware, pottery that was once held in high esteem but now seems to be familiar to only  a limited circle of connoisseurs, has rekindled my love of mock Gothic playfulness; I look forward to further developing this aesthetic in clay (and paint), hopefully with more  competent results!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

A celestial Saint Valentine bouquet to my readers

Posted in Putti, St.Valentine's Day on February 13, 2011 by babylonbaroque

My friends on Facebook must endure many seasonal images, I pick a theme, often holiday based, then produce a daily image.

I’m sure I try the patience of many a kind soul, they tactfully refrain from mentioning it. I appreciate  the indulgence.

As this is the season of love, the theme was of course putti.If you can handle sweetness, sometimes cloying, I hope you  will enjoy this offering.

The first being the last, I will post this image of Boucher’s Three Putti with Birds tomorrow. As is the case with romantic painters such as Francois, you either love his work or cannot abide it, I of course delight in its rosiness.


Three Putti with Birds

Francois Boucher


Putti of the Trabaetion



Angel with a Crown of Thorns



Bacchanal of Putti



Cupid with Butterfly



misc. tchotchkes

19th cent., Italian


unidentified, and for some reason incompatible with wordpress


design for girandole



Three angels Appearing to abraham



Three Cupids Playing Instruments



“I Wait”



Winged Man



Vase, 1867



decorative panel


As it is Saint Valentine’s Eve, I am neglecting the Beloved, who is getting increasingly cranky.

I must depart dear Reader.

Take care and have a romantic day!

Respectfully submitted,


Edward Carpenter and George Merrill,a love beyond class, convention and law.

Posted in Edward Carpenter and George Merrill, Fred Holland Day, Gay, Labour & Socialism, Walter Crane on February 9, 2011 by babylonbaroque

As my last post concerning the Greystone murder/suicide was quite a dreary view of love, I had the desire to explore a love that shone bright; particularly poignant considering the repressive Victorian-Edwardian society in which it was expressed.

I am speaking of the love between the Socialist poet-philosopher Edward Carpenter and his working class partner George Merrill; having met in 1881, their love endured for 47 years until Merril died unexpectedly in June of 1928.

All we can ask for is such a sunny season for love to blossom.

Edward Carpenter & George Merrill


source of image

Carpenter, a man of many talents and interests, is best known for his devotion to Socialism and the plight of the working man; we will see how that interest extended into his personal and romantic life. Aside from his role as a prominent Socialist philosopher and poet, he was the author of various Labour anthems, a devotee of Hindu mysticism and philosophy, a vegetarian, an anti-vivisectionist, a naturist, an advocate of sustainable farming, an environmentalist, and most charmingly , an advocate of the Rational Dress movement.

Carpenter, note the sandals.

Rational Dress Dandy ca. 1905


circa 1875

(handsome devil)

b. 29th August 1844

d. 28th june 1929

Carpenter, like his chum Walt Whitman


experienced a growing concern for the plight of the working man. Having moved to Sheffield in 1874 , he became increasingly aware of the the difficulties endured by the “working stiff”. It was during this period that he wrote the Labour anthem England Arise, the following link provides the verse. Carpenter edited the workingman’s songbook Chants of Labour, the frontispiece by Walter Crane, (the most renowned Socialist artist of his day and ours)is quite telling; the depiction of the hunky laborer clearly illustrating Carpenter’s taste in his fellow man.

Chants of Labour

edited by Edward Carpenter

illustrated by Walter Crane

A Songbook of the people with music Edited by Edward Carpenter

(there is a clearer example of this image available at the link to Chants of Labour)

In 1882 Carpenter experienced the good fortune of inheriting his father’s considerable wealth; this allowed him  to devote his energies to the joint causes of the working class and market gardening ( a dream our current locavores aspire to).In ’84 he joins the Socialist League with Master Wm. Morris, further securing his allegiance to the common man.

The year 1886 gives him a taste of love with George Hukin; this is not an emotionally satisfying relationship, as Hukins marries conventionally. This brief bout of unrequited love sharpens Carpenter’s ability to sustain a far truer, happier period of enchantment with Merrill.

George Hukin and Edward Carpenter

source of image

Having met Merrill , a man of the Sheffield slums having no formal education, in 1881 ; they do not move in together until 1898. What the reason for the delay was I am unclear, I for one, moved in with the Beloved quite soon after our initial date.

George Merrill

b. 1866

d. June 1928

(not sure why his vital info is so vague, class snobbery?)

Carpenter best expressed his attraction to “trade” in The Intermediate Sex:

“It is noticeable how often Uranians (as in Plato’s Symposium ) of good position and breeding are drawn to rougher types…”.

So taken was E.M. Forster by the “rougher type”, that when Merrill patted his bum, poor frazzled Forster “scudder-ed” ( pun intended”) home to write Maurice; the character Scudder is for the most part based upon Merrill.

I am left with an enduring respect for this couple, even in our more  tolerant climate, gay love is a challenge; these boys faced a far harsher climate yet the sweetness of their love prevails.

Thank you George and Edward.

I dedicate this post to working boys,

panel designed by Walter Crane


source of image

and to my own dear spouse of 15 wonderful years.

Have a most marvelous Saint Valentine’s Day!

Babylon Baroque

image by Fred Holland Day