Archive for the Aesthetic Movement Category

Salome cast in Greenery-Yallery

Posted in 19th Century, 20th century, Aesthetic Movement, Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde, Salome, Uncategorized on February 15, 2012 by babylonbaroque

We recently had the good fortune of catching the final performance of the San Diego Opera’s production of Salome. As I really am only familiar with our dear minx by way of Oscar and Aubrey I wasn’t sure what to expect.


I was delighted, most particularly with the lead soprano Lise Lindstrom, she gave a marvelous performance. As is so often the case I was drawn to the sets and costumes, in particular her gown in the final scene. It was, I declared with great bombast the perfect yallerish, Oscar would have adored the color. Unfortunately yallerish is incorrect, a quick Google search for the word provided only my own blog as the source, I have made MANY references to the word, all of them incorrect. I feel a bit of a fool.

The correct word to describe this Aesthetic Movement staple is Greenery-Yallery. First termed it appears by the witty duo Gilbert and Sullivan for their production of Patience in which they mercilessly lampoon lily- wristed blue-and-white china lovin’ aesthetes with utter abandon. 

“A pallid and thin young man

A haggard and lank young man

A Greenery-yallery Grosvener Gallery

Foot-in-the -grave young man!”

This 1882 greeting card illustrates the sort of fellow perfectly.

Source V&A

Wilde did of course make ample use of the color yellow, there is his poem Symphony in Yellow.

The drawing room at Tite Street was described as having dazzled in “greenery-yallery” effect 1909 source 

And of course there was that notorious yellow book found on Wilde’s person at the time of his arrest; alas it was not THE Yellow Book so loved by the “foot-in-the-grave” set.

Yellow Book, volume 3, October 1894

My only real disappointment in the San Diego production was the executioner of Blessed Jachanaan. In my fantasy he would appear as that bit of stellar beef ( Duncan Meadows) from the Royal Opera House production .

Unfortunately he was a rather chunky fellow with bad posture, quite a let-down.

Duncan Meadows, Royal Opera House production of "Salome"

 source : Feuillton

For a snippet of the final scene with the minor deity( and his mighty sword) check out this clip

The Duncan Meadows “lead” so to speak was from my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.Clive not only is a most impressive artist,but a blogging wiz, he kindly walked me through the compexities of WordPress.

Although I have been blogging for quite some time, I must have become rusty ( or WordPress has become more persnickety).

I thank you friend, a fresh day and a constant  visit to “save draft” seems to be the trick.

Knowing that once again I may post freely is a tremendous relief. I am now posting far less frequently than I have in the past. I hope my readers understand that my life is now often spent in my Hermitage ( my pretentious little studio); posting is becoming less and less a priority, but when the spirit and time allows I will indeed be back.

I am touched at the swelling number of followers, perhaps I ought to give it all up for good if the number of “hits” is any indication of activity when I am so very fallow.

Wishing all a “utterly charming” day!

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

Happy 182nd Birthday to our 21st President

Posted in 19th Century, Aesthetic Movement, President Chester Arthur, Tiffany & Comp., White House on October 4, 2011 by babylonbaroque

The 5th of October is President Arthur’s birthday, he is probably my favorite president for all the wrong reasons.He wasn’t in office for terribly long, frankly if Garfield hadn’t been shot we probably wouldn’t remember Arthur. But Garfield was shot, and Arthur became our dandiest president ever. I am so terribly fond of him not because of policy or programs but because he took such a keen interest in redecorating the White House. I’ve explored this theme before, so i will not bore you with details, for a refresher check out this earlier post.

So happy happy Mr. President, thank you for making the White House , at least for a short moment such an aesthetic wonderland.

Chester A. Arthur

21st President of the United States of America

b. October 5th 1829

d. November 18th 1886

Recquiscat in Pace

A bit of the Chester-Tiffany magic, see post for more details.

Reconstruction of the Blue Room under President Arthur, pure magic.

Until next time,

good night,

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

Decadent Movement comes to L.A.

Posted in Aesthetic Movement, Aubrey Beardsley, Decadent Movement, Green Carnation, Gustave Moreau, Huysmans, Nazimova, Orientalist, Oscar Wilde, Silent Film on November 3, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I’m not speaking of some tawdry film set in the San Fernando Valley or a Palm Springs pool party ; I’m thinking of that infinitely more satisfying period in the 1890’s when  the line between beauty and perversity was fully explored, the Decadent Movement.



Thracian Girl Carrying the Head of Orpheus on His Lyre


Gustave Moreau


Musée d’Orsay


I was reminded of this delightful time by my friend Kim Cooper of LAVA Sunday Salon fame. Kim had thoughtfully sent along an email announcement that UCLA was putting together a lecture series devoted to the Decadent Movement and Aestheticism, of course I made reservations pronto.

Once I knew I had secured a seat, I felt free to share the info. I tend to be greedy.

It is a two day lecture, November 19th and 20th at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, if you happen to be in L.A. please join me.

Of A Neophyte And How The Black Art Was Revealed Unto Him By The Fiend Asamuel


Aubrey Beardsley


We can’t really think of the Decadent movement without regarding Huysmans and his wonderfully perverse novels À rebours (Against the Grain, 1884) and my personal favorite Là-Bas (The Damned, 1891). À rebours chronicles the exploits of the wicked aesthete Jean Des Esseintes. It is a marvelous novel, beloved by Wilde and his set, I must revisit this novel.

Jean Des Essientes is said to be based on that dandy of dandies Robert de Montesquieu, a delightful portrait by Giovanni Boldini follows.

Joris-Karl Huysman was himself a bit of a dandy, I really admire this photo-portrait of Huysmans. I find it intriguing how a sacred object such as a crucifix can  appear sinister when in the company of this man. I want my next portrait to be in this pose.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

b. Feb. 5th 1848

d. May 12th 1907

Certain dark themes recur time and again within the Decadent Movement, Oedipus and the ghastly Sphynx, dark angels and swooning lamentations, Moreau’s Orpheus a good example. But no figure held the imagination so firmly as Salome . Wilde, Beardsley, Moreau, and Ricketts, along with many others, all tried to capture her dark allure.



Gustav Moreau



Charles Ricketts


The Toilet of Salome I, from Salome




Although not of the period it is difficult to not toss in the silent screen starlet Alla Nazimova and her iconic 1923 depiction of the wanton Salome.

As I intend to experience the lecture fully, I will re-read that silly little novel that caused such a sensation in ’94, Robert Hitchens, Green Carnation.

I hope to be a s precious as Esmé Amarinth, hope to see you there.

Have a pleasant evening,

Babylon Baroque

Aestheticism hits the White House, the Tiffany/Arthur collaboration 1882

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Lewis Comfort Tiffany, Oscar Wilde, President Chester Arthur, Thom. Ustick Walter, White House on September 21, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Like a fragile St.John preaching in the desert, St. Oscar lands upon our barren shores on January 3rd 1882 ready to preach the Gospel of Aestheticism.

St. John the Baptist



(the above completely gratuitous , hunky men never fail to please)

Oscar Wilde had intended to spend four months cultivating the Cave-people of North America, poor fellow found himself stuck here for a year.

cartoon of Wilde by Keller, 1882

I feel for Wilde, I doubt most Americans were open to his fey notions of  Aesthetic Beauty. We tend to favor a robust expression of architecture, the infestation of Richardson Romanesque piles providing suitable argument.

Yet his wit and taste clearly affected at least one very important dandy, President Chester A. Arthur.

21st President Chester A. Arthur

term Sep. 19th 1881-Mar.4th 1885

20th President James A. Garfield and his Vice President Chester A. Arthur

“Chet” finding himself  President after the tragic assassination of President James A. Garfield, was  confronted with a new home loathsome to his own rarefied tastes. Finding the White House and its decor  outmoded and decrepit; Arthur shed the house of 24 wagonloads of furnishings and 30 barrels of old china. Like many of my readers, I cringe at what was lost.

Foolish where it concerns our heritage, he was quite wise in hiring the young buck Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of his friend Charles Lewis Tiffany. Tiffany the younger had recently formed the design firm Associated Artists. Arthur assigns them the commission to redecorate the Entry Hall, East Room, Blue Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room in 1882. The decision was made not to redecorate the Green Room. Furnishings were not to be commissioned, but architectural enhancements such as glass screens, lighting, and decorative finishes were to be employed to create this Aesthetic Palace we know as the White House.

a youthful Louis Comfort Tiffany

The Entry Hall

The Entry had long posed a problem in its draftiness. In 1837 President Martin Van Buren installs a decorative screen to combat the problem. In 1853 President Franklin Pierce hires the Philadelphian architect Thomas Ustick Walter to fashion a more agreeable screen. This screen was apparently handsome enough for Tiffany to fabricate his own wonder upon it’s skeleton.

This scene from 1881 shows the Walter screen of 1853

Tiffany transforms the Entry Hall into a harem worthy of any Pasha’s attention.

Entrance 1882

Tiffany’s jewel like vision was not to be long lived. The delicate red, white, and blue opalescent splendor  was not suitably American for Teddy and his Big Stick. Soon enough, that Big Stick would send crashing to the ground all that Aesthetic prettiness.

ca. 1889

either the Cleveland or Harrison administration.

ca. 1893

Cleveland administration.

The skeleton of the Walter’s screen very visible.

I like the eagle motif between the arches.

ca. 1894

Cleveland administration.

I particularly like the ungodly overmantle decoration. not sure if its Tiffany’s doing. Seems a bit un-Aesthetic, but is typical of my preference for the vulgar.

The Roosevelt Big Stick has entered the room!


The 26th President,Theodore Roosevelt’s

the McKim, Mead, & White renovation full steam ahead.

A tragic and beautiful image, reminiscent of Pompeii.

ca. 1903

Almost completed and ready for its close up.

As I mentioned Tiffany was in charge of the Red, Blue, Dining, and East Room, I will present a few glimpses.

Red Room

ca. 1883

Tiffany’s dreamy vision

ca. 1888

Mrs. Cleveland tainted the Aesthetic purity with conventional touches, the Asian vases selected by Tiffany, replaced with the following commonplace urns.

(do like the lampshade.)

The Blue Room

I’ve discussed this room before, but it’s worth revisiting.

ca. 1882

Note the patriotic shields in the ceiling decoration, proving  Aestheticism can indeed be red blooded American.

ca. 188g

digital reconstruction by Nest magazine.

The East Room

ca. 1883

I was unable to find any images of the State dining Room attributed to Tiffany, the following is dated the 1880’s. It may have been from the Garfield administration. It’s pretty conventional, so that is most likely.

ca. 1880’s

I’ll bet you a nickel it ISN’T Lewis Comfort’s work.

As I said this Eastern Splendor was short-lived.

The magnificent glass screen which had cost $15,000.00 to fashion, was auctioned off in 1902  for $275.00. The screen ultimately met its sad end when its new home the Belvedere Hotel in Chesepeake Maryland burnt to the ground. For more information concerning the ill-fated screen follow this link

As in all things, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Have a great week.

Feeling Blue in the White House; the Blue Room and it’s various incarnations.

Posted in 18th century, 19th cent., 20th century, Aesthetic Movement, architecture, bergere, President Chester Arthur, Tiffany & Comp., White House on September 8, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I have read that blue is the color favored by most folks, men in particular. After having been critical of President Obama’s timid attempts at redecoration , I thought it fair to show examples of color.

Beginning with the beautiful Blue Room seemed appropriate.

An early depiction, ca. President Pierce , in office 1853-1857

Old Abe didn’t do much with the place, perhaps the fancy bed Mary bought had created enough outrage.

Lincoln reception in the Blue Room.

Lincoln presidency

March 1861- April 15th 1865

Recquiscat in Pace President Lincoln

As I am now engaged in study concerning Reconstruction, President Andrew Johnson is of interest to me.

Apparently a stubborn , willful man, and a racist to boot. His decorating, left to the hand of his daughter,seems a bit rigid for my taste.

Blue Room during the Johnson administration, 1865-1869

President Andrew Johnson

Note: Andrew Johnson was the first U.S. President to be impeached.

Good old  Ulysses does a bit of redecorating. He was responsible for the new carpet, the sconces , and the impressive gasolier.

Blue Room, ca. 1874

Ulysses S. Grant administration 1869-1877

Swell guy.

My favorite Dandy President, “Elegant Arthur”, made the greatest impact. In a future post I will explore his tastes more thoroughly, but for now I will focus on the Blue Room. “Chet”, a man of fashion and style wisely chose the forward thinking Louis Comfort Tiffany to redecorate his new digs.

Blue Room refurbished by Tiffany for President Arthur, administration 1881-1885

Note the Aesthetic paper, the wild Starburst sconces.


Official White House portrait

President Chester (Chet) Arthur

We mustn’t forget to thank the always fabulous Louis Comfort.

Louis Comfort Tiffany

ca. 1880’s


Note: for years I dated a madly wonderful fellow, direct descendent of  L.C. Tiffany; the physical resemblance striking.

The collaboration truly dazzled as this coloured reconstruction demonstrates.

via Nest magazine

Recquiscat in Pace Nest magazine.

The following, another coloured depiction , ca. 1887, shows that President Cleveland made few if any changes.

Blue Room during President Grover Cleveland’s administration, 1885-1889

President Benjamin Harrison seems to have made a few patriotic changes. Do I detect a Federal crest on the ceiling?

Out with that pansy Aesthetic stuff.

What will they think, that we’re England!!

Blue Room , ca. Harrison administration 1889-1893

Another coloured view , ca. 1898, William Mc Kinley’s administration.

Blue Room, Mc Kinley administration 1897-1901

I love Teddy Roosevelt, our only self admitted Imperialist President. I love how he brashly swept away the  fusty Victoriana, bringing in his own bold ,taxidermic splendour.

The following is what he inherited.

ca. 1901

And the following to suit his own distinct taste. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my…

Blue Room Splendor

Theodore Roosevelt Administration 1901-1909

I love the Imperial lambrequin.

The room seems to undergo few interesting changes ,

at least according to my own humble opinion.

Truman tarts it up a bit in ’52.

Blue Room

Administration of Harry S. Truman


Re-using Teddy’s window treatment.

It isn’t until Her Majesty Jackie ascends the throne that the magic returns.

We haven’t seen such beauty since the Tiffany/Arthur collaboration.

Drawing inspiration from the James Madison administration ( 1709-1717), a stunning room is revealed.

Blue Room

Kennedy Administration


Thank you Mrs. Kennedy


I find it of interest that President Nixon felt it necessary to redecorate such a perfect room.

I do admire the chutzpah of the Napoleonic candelabra, a room should reflect it’s occupant.

Blue Room

ca. administration of President Richard Nixon


(As in the Nixon Oval Office, I admire the grandeur and color of the window dressings.)

Apparently the room needed further freshening up.

Here we have  Hillary acting as Decorator-in Charge.

I don’t know why I find this so amusing. She doesn’t look terribly comfortable in the role.

In closing , a detail of a Blue Room bergère, upholstered in Scalamandre silk.

Blue Room bergére

ca. 1815

Pierre-Antoine Bellange

L’Shanah Tovah my friends!

The Talented Mr. Crane

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, peacocks, wallpaper, Walter Crane on July 9, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Inexhaustible,might be more apt.

Most folks seem to be aware of Crane as a designer of really sublime wall-coverings, that is justifiable as the following paper illustrates.

Fig & Peacock


Jeffrey & Company



Walter Crane started out as a child prodigy, beginning as an apprentice at the tender age of twelve to the master engraver W.J. Linton. At seventeen he became an independent illustrator, from that ridiculously young age he began his glorious career. It makes me rather ill.

Walter Crane

1886, aged 41

b. 15th August 1845

d. 14th March 1915

As a designer of gorgeous papers, I feel he has no match. I know Morris is god, but for me , Crane’s narrative quality cannot be matched.Pattern by Morris tastefully recedes, Crane’s design thrust their presence forward. i consider that to be a positive quality.

This marvelous dado/frieze is a great example of his powerful yet poetic design.

Wall-paper Frieze


Jeffrey & Company


What I find most fascinating about Crane is his command of line. The man was a master. He had little patience with his contemporaries who were smudging away with charcoal smears and frantic ink hatching. In his writing, “The Claims of Decorative Arts” 1892, he ridiculed “the want of invention and the absence of purity and precision of line”.

He certainly practiced what he preached, the following illustrations attest to that fact. The line work is pure, convincing,  and Hellenistic. Like Flaxman without the chastity.

The Sleeping Beauty


This is a good example of Crane’s amazing ability at creating interior spaces. Rooms you want to live in.

He made mention of this sort of design work when he said ” However , if they did not bring in much money, I had my fun out of them, as in designing. I was in the habit of putting in all sorts odd  subsidiary detail that interested me, and often made them the vehicle for my ideas in furniture and decoration. ” ( An Artist’s Remembrances, 1907) . Some of his most popular work was in the illustration work for Aesop’s fables. These well loved fables proved fertile ground for Crane’s active mind. I have chosen a few favorites.

Baby’s Own Aesop

front cover


title page


Again, a complex design for a simple function, listing the contents.

I was unfamiliar with this particular fable, but the poor picked upon bat toiuches my heart.

Bats and peacocks are always a favorite theme.

Cranes are also  pretty marvelous.

With this final charming image I close.

Good night.