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.

source

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

Saint Anthony, the Abbot of the Desert

Posted in Georges Melies, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Saint Anthony the Abbot on January 17, 2012 by babylonbaroque

As today is the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot, I thought it best to honor him with this image of the poor fellow bedeviled by temptation.

The painting, now at the Kimball Art Museum is by the ridiculously young Michelangelo, 12 or 13, frankly all terribly depressing ; for more details read this 2009 New York Times article

Michelangelo Buonarroti

(1475-1564)

The Torment of St. Anthony

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Once again faithful Vasari provides clues to this wonder, to Vasari’s glee the young fellow made a “perfect pen-and-ink copy” of the Martin Schongauer original. Working from a copper engraver the ambitious boy had purchased on his own, he dazzled his contemporaries and secured “considerable fame”. Not content to sit on his laurels (something I would be all too willing to do), the young Buonarroti quickly began a colored copy, according to Vasari:


“…in order to copy some of the strange looking demons in the picture he went along to the market and bought some fishes with fantastic scales like theirs.”

Detail of “fantastic scales”

source, NYT, click for more details

Given the blessed abbots desire for solitude, I think he makes a wonderful patron for artists; I am deeply drawn to images of the saint happily ensconced in his charming hermitage, a decorative skull comfortably placed on his rustic worktable. Perfection.

This weekends paper had an article concerning solitude and creativity, it only confirmed my own beliefs; if you wish, check it out with this link.

Those familiar with my blog know my penchant for George Méliès, I wasn’t going to replay this St. Anthony clip, but since I saw Hugo this weekend I really could not resist. It is incredibly delightful and funny.

For those inclined to something less irreverent, here are two prayerful clips, less fun but…

and

I will now close, must dash off to the gym, then lock myself in my hermitage; I happen to have a skull- fuschia, with glitter.

Anthony would have approved.

Happy Feast Day Saint Anthony!

Take care,

Babylon Baroque


Settling in with Jared French

Posted in 15th century, 20th century, George Tooker, Jared French, Pierro della Francesca on January 12, 2012 by babylonbaroque

As it has been quite some time since my last post, I have felt increasingly anxious about updating. Given the length of time in which I last checked in I really wanted this post to be rather special.

Alas it isn’t going to be. My new life, here in San Diego is frankly banal, frightfully banal. I am here, ostensibly to tend to the mother-in-law; I spent most of today cooling my heels while she had her hair done.

I need to work on this.

Until that time, I will continue to lock myself in my studio, and in between my monastic retreats continue to patronize the numerous used bookshops in Hillcrest. They offer great solace, particularly as I am essentially living in a cultural wasteland.

Once again lovely musty books come to my rescue.

What popped out on a recent afternoon  visit were several volumes on Piero della Francesca, a great favorite and one volume on Jared French. I’ve been thinking about French ever since George Tooker died. When I had written that post I felt a strong connection between Tooker ( and French) and Piero della Francesca. I quickly found out this was common knowledge, but I still  find it very exciting. As I personally struggle with incorporating humanist elements into my own work, to see how seamlessly French accomplished this is encouraging, daunting and thrilling. One painting (of many exciting paintings) really stands out, that is Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone; it is such a rich image, its Renaissance roots are palpable.

Jared French

Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone

egg tempera on gesso panel

William Kelly Simpson

 source

The book I happen to be reading concerning French and his work is Nancy Grimes’ Jared French’s Myths, it really is marvelous, you might want to add it to your own collection. She points out the della Francesca inspiration, particularly concerning this painting; she very reasonably presents the Baptism of Christ.

Pierro della Francesca

Baptism of Christ

1448-50

egg tempera on poplar board 

National Gallery, London

That connection is quite right, but so many of della Francesca’s painting must have influenced French ( and Tooker and Cadmus). My own random browsing of della Francesca’s work led me to his still arresting image of Hercules.

Hercules

1465

Fresco

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Stumbling about, I came upon this sketch by French for Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone; I’m always bewildered and intimidated by the “sketches” of the great.

source

What is so very frustrating about French isn’t his enigmatic images, what is so challenging is how little seems to be known about the fellow. Grimes does an admirable job piecing together bits of the puzzle; but from my research I could find very little new information. Even Wikipedia was mute.

I rather prefer the mystery that surrounds this boy from New Jersey ( my own home state), I will continue to grapple about for new tid-bits, enjoying his incredible work as I go about the task.

Jared French, January 25th 1939,

taken by Carl Van Vechten

source

This video clip has many more images of French’s work, worth checking out if so inclined.

Once again, please pardon this rather pedestrian post. The dust from packing has just settled, my studio is now freshly set up, still much to do of course, but beginning to feel a bit like home; albeit one  situated in a rabidly right wing environment with a rather daunting homophobic mother-in-law.

Wish me luck.

Until next time,

Babylon Baroque

Hidden Within Plain Sight?

Posted in 16th cent, Blessed Virgin Mary, LACMA, Leonardo, Vasari on December 7, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In reading this mornings NY Times, I was once again confronted with the ethical squeamishness of the ongoing search for the missing Leonardo fresco, the Battle of Anghiari. I love Leonardo as much as the next fellow, but I have always worried about the fate of my beloved Giorio Vasari’s fresco that is indeed with us, allegedly covering  The Battle of Anghiari. Whether or not Leonardo’s fresco is still behind the Vasari seems to me unclear; there has been extensive, seemingly thorough research into the whereabouts of the glamorous lost Leonardo, as this August 26th 2011 NYT article details but I have reservations. I am admittedly a dilettantish art enthusiast, but Leonardo’s desire to experiment is well known- we need look no further then the Last Supper, what painterly concoction had Leonardo  experimented with that would lead to the Vasari  commission? One need to read Vasari’s account of Leonardo to see what a huge crush he had on the man and his talents; he would not willy-nilly deface a great Leonardo. I’m fearful we will lose a Vasari for a crumbled ghost of a Leonardo.

I may be biased, Vasari has become a great inspiration to me, he is a meat-and -potatoes sort of painter, gifted but not stellar, best known for chronicling the luminaries of his culture. As an artist struggling with his inadequacies I can relate. In no way am I able to claim even a hint of Vasari’s skill and accomplishment; yet his facing head on the brilliance of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo is admirable and worthy of emulation.

Today’s article pointed out that given Leonardo’s (well deserved ) celebrity, the Vasari could easily be compromised for a publicity stunt. Alesandro Mottola Molfino (God, I wish I had a name like that), president of Italia Nostra, a conservancy dedicated to preserving Italy’s cultural heritage, said it best: ” We’ve grown weary of using art history as an event or a marketing opportunity”. I frankly could not agree more, how have our museums so thoroughly debased themselves with blockbuster shows aimed solely at pleasing  the gift-shop-hungry hoards? Why must art be viewed as stunt or performance? I am often disheartened at the empty halls of LACMA, where I have the galleries of 15th and 16th century paintings to myself while the tedious Tim Burton exhibition is teeming with lighthearted revelers.

 I must stop, I’m ranting once again.

That said in my lonely meanderings I recently stumbled upon a Vasari at LACMA, I was unaware that we had one in Los Angeles. It is rather typical, large and attractive , perhaps hastily painted in his workshop-the Virgin’s club foot attests to a certain lack of quality control. But even with its terribly minor flaws it tickled my eye, far more satisfying then the mid-century kitsch being celebrated in the Resnick Pavillion below. Given the upcoming season, the feast day of our Savior’s birth, I thought it a fitting image for this post.

Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)

Holy Family with Saint Francis in a Landscape

1542

oil on canvas 

LACMA

Click to enlarge, the details are worth the effort.

As I mentioned in my previous post I will be packing up my studio, preparing for a move to San Diego- my mother-in -law is unwell, I must tend to her. But my concern for this matter trumped my mundane duties, plus I really hate packing.

But I must, so Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, joyous winter celebrations to all.

See you most likely in 2012.

Until that time, take care,

BabylonBaroque

Farewell Los Angeles

Posted in LACMA, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Theatre on December 6, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In a few days LA will be a memory, we ship out on the 21st.

I am feeling ambivalent, LA has never been a good fit.

That said I have made many fine friends, I will treasure the memories. The following is a scrap-book of fond remembrances:

My  view will be missed,

I will miss the drama of my apartment.

Nature has been elusive, but I have had a few random encounters.

Although, this tends to be the norm.

I have wonderful memories of the Getty Center, a marvel of a place,

here with my sister Kat and niece Grace, visiting from Philly.

We married in LA, our tiny West Hollywood condo, gotta love that,

making it legal, July 3rd 2008,

a very sleepy Flower-Pug, Daisy

There are of course many sights that I will miss, the beautiful Grauman’s Chinese.

I only visited once, saw something forgettable, BUT the interior, that will not be forgotten.

China Town, although modest in size, is not without its charms.

One of the most dazzling places is the Los Angeles theater, Queen of the faded Broadway beauties.

Difficult to speak of LA without mentioning Street Art,

Regarding the Blessed Virgin, the Cathedral is always worth a visit.

An obvious delight is the Getty Villa in Malibu,

the husband enthroned.

A less obvious palace of delight is the Clark Library in Downtown, a wonder of wonders,

ceiling decorations that are as subtle as a train wreck,

the grounds are a delight particularly given the bustle and grit that surrounds this sanctuary.

Far removed from poverty and grime, the Huntington with its impressive collection of Anglo portraiture and stunning gardens stands aloof and gorgeous in Pasadena.

Always the right choice to spend an afternoon wandering about.

My favorite Sunday jog is up Runyon Canyon, spectacular views of the city and nearly naked flesh.

I have grown incredibly fond of LACMA, I now consider it “my” museum.

I have grown to know the collection, I will perhaps miss this most of all.

Quite simply my favorite painting in LA, Guido Reni’s Bacchus and Ariadne, the placement is particularly handsome.

As I will begin the tedious task of packing up, I will most likely not be making many posts until the new year.

Wishing my readers a very joyous holiday season until that time.

Take care, Babylon Baroque

A Bit of Gratitude

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In the spirit of the holiday, and perhaps a bit of self indulgence, a few images that reflect what pleases me most, the Mister and the pups.

David with Buddy and Rose

Yours truly withSpeck, Rose and Viola

My great beauty, Speck

My three legged wonder, Rose

The unstoppable Viola

The Man with the Old Man (16 and counting) Buddy

Wishing all a very happy and safe holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Leonard @ Babylon Baroque

In Gratitude for Pronk

Posted in 17th century, Jan de Heem, Pronk on November 21, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Given we are entering the season of thanks, I was suddenly struck by a sense of gratitude for the bounty I enjoy and frequently take for granted. I was raised in poverty, food was not always available, with such a background my weekly trek to the local Whole Foods can  at times feel overwhelming. I was made aware of this fact last Saturday, the usually busy market was even more alive with teeming shoppers eager to make this Thanksgiving more memorable than any other. The grocers responded with even more alluring displays of produce, most particularly lovely fragrant bouquets of celery, such a modest vegetable possessing such verdant beauty. These supremely suburban displays of abundance reminded me of another time and place in which ostentatious displays of luxury were enjoyed with unreserved relish- the  17th century pronk still life paintings of Northern Europe, in particular the lavish work of Jan de Heem.

With that in mind, the following images are my Thanksgiving greetings, please remember to click upon the image, the attention to detail is beguiling..

Jan Davidsz. de Heem

Dutch, 1606-1883/84

Still Life with Parrots 

late 1640’s

Ringling Museum of Art

Jan de Heem

Still life with ham, lobster and fruit

c. 1653

Museum Bolijman Van Beuninjen

Even this vegetarian finds this traif image alluring.

Of course Jan de Heem wasn’t the only practitioner of the pronk genre; other gifted artists were able to capture the lavish displays of seductive imported goods for our voyeuristic delight.

Jan Pauwell Gillemans the Elder

Still life with Fruit, a Parrot and Polecat Ferrets

mid 17th cent.

 Victoria and Albert Museum

Of course the French were adept at depicting luxury, and although the following image isn’t necessarily pronk, it is delightfully overwrought.

Alexandre François Desportes

French, 1661-1743

Still life with Silver

 Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the French fashion, this marvelous image of Anthony and Cleopatra enjoying a luxurious spread, is a visual delight. I am particularly tickled by the absence of food, the love of ostentatious display does not allow for anything as banal as mere grub, gold suffices.

Claude Vignon

French 1593-1670

The Banquet of Anthony and Cleopatra

 Ringling Museum of Art

I will close with a frankly sentimental and boldly Christian image, that of Jan de Heem’s meditation upon the blessed Eucharist. It really is quite stunning.

Eucharist in Fruit Wreath

c. 1648

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

With that, I wish a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving day.

Until next time,

Babylon Baroque