Monday, 29 September 2014

Edward Steichen and friends: Sculpting the Muse.

Edward Steichen (1879-1973), Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944) and ,

Alfred Steiglitz (1864-1946): 

Sculpting the muse(*).

This monumental academic nude is probably the finest photograph in its genre  ever taken. I think. I found dates between 1901 and 1904(*). It's a gum-bichromate over platinum print and a study of claire-obscure and of form,  created in Paris. Like Auguste Rodin sculpted his models from marble or casted them in bronze, the artist Steichen immortalized his muse with light, a lens, chemicals and many hours spend in a dark room. Both men admired and knew each other closely. It is written(*), somewhere in the Internet, to be his model and lover "Rosa". It is also said(*) that "not long after her posing she committed suicide". Steichen married Clara Smith in 1903(*).

Steichen like the other great pioneers of early photography truly tried to paint with light captured on glas negatives and in the best academic tradition of painters-in-oil of the generations before. His "old master" self-portraits captured on glass above. Rodin, Matisse and all the great "classic" painters embracing  these pioneers and the new and magic possibilities of capturing light and images the photographical way.   

But then there are these images (c.1908(*), evenly great classical studies, by friend and colleague Heinrich Kühn.

The resemblance of the model, the very long hair and the curves of the beautiful body are at least remarkable although both artists did their best working the negatives and staging the poses to make the women less or not directly recognizable. By face that is. Kühns model is the (English(*) nanny Mary Hanna Warner (she died 1933(*), employed for his four children after the death of his wife Emma Rosa Katzung in 1905. Mary appears in many of his iconic autochrome photographs, alone, clothed and along with his children (same dress ? different hat ?)  

But for this undressed session she posed against a roll-top desk in a Paris studio. With different attributes on top. And see the light shining underneath the closed door. Kühn also "etched" his self-portrait on a glass plate and his wife Emma in 1900(*)

(*) "All information found in the Internet is at best unreliable".
is the warning to all modern students at the first day of their academic careers and training. This also applies on readers of this Blog of course. 

I couldn't help imagining and thinking Alfred Steiglitz (1864-1946), teacher, colleague and friend of Steichen had James McNeill Whistler's (1834-1903)  Japanese inspired "Old Battersea Bridge" in mind when he shot his "Going to the start" in 1905. Whistler's, Steichen's and Steiglitz's work could be seen together in 1908 in New york in the National Arts Club "Special exhibition of Contemporary art". 

Colleague photographer Gertrude Käsebier-Stanton (1852-1934) left us Steiglitz' painterly portrait (above) and her self-portrait (below). Steiglitz would accumulate even more fame with the intimate images of his undressed muse, painter Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). Those images you can find easily your-self. Steiglitz had married Emmy Obermeyer in 1893, unhappy he divorced her in 1924 marrying his muse a few month later.  

(*) Don't forget to check and double check all "facts" mentioned in this Blog ! 

(*) THE MOUSAI (Muses) were the goddesses of music, song and dance, and the source of inspiration to poets. They were also goddesses of knowledge, who remembered all things that had come to pass.

All pictures (embiggen by mouse-click) borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Isadora Duncan: a taste for life

Isadora Duncan:

"passionate, electric and with a voracious appetite for art and life".

Mysteriously there’s only one picture of this wonderful sculpture/statue to be found in the Internet. It's in a private collection (in the Romanelli’s ?). And was I lucky to stumble over it ! It is by Italian sculptor Romano Romanelli (1882-1969): “the awakening of Brunhilde” and was created in 1913. From Richard Wagners (1813-1883) Opera Siegfried Act III, Scene 3. The third of four operas from his “Ring des Nibelungen”. Isadora was invited by Cosima Wagner (1837-1930, Richards widow and daughter of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) herself  in the Bayreuth Festspiele to dance on her late husbands music.

But secretly it’s also Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) the legendary dancer who revolutionised and set free modern dance and ballet as well as her own ambiguous lifestyle at the beginning if the 20th century. Above photographed 7 years later in 1920 by American-German photographer Arnold Genthe (1869-1942).

Dancing barefoot in a classic Grecian outfit called a peplos (πέπλος) on classical music she inspired the whole of Europe. And many great artist.

Sculptor August Rodin (1840-1919), nicknamed the Sultan of Meudon because of the numerous nude models and muses sprawling over his house and studio every day in later life, had his hands actually all over her, painted/sketched her (above) but it never resulted in a sculpture. Rodin and Romanelli knew each other very well. Most great creative souls have a muse . Rodin's "Eve" below:

Would Picasso, perhaps the greatest and most creative of them all, from memory be hinting at bearded Rodin in his 1934 series of etchings "Sculpteur and Model" ?  

Isadora begged her lover Romano for a child after loosing her two small children by drowning in river Seine in a dramatic car accident that year. She actually bore him a son in 1914 but the little boy died soon after birth. 

The love affair ended, Romanelli married some-one else and so eventually did Duncan. Read this informative condensed biography on Isadora’s tumultuous life:

It was the time of the great French sculptors August Rodin (above), Pierre-August Renoir (1841-1919) and Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). Roman Romanelli, from a long line of sculptors, was taught by his father Rafaello who had been a student of famous sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850). 

The Romanelli family to this day runs an important museum and studio in  Florence (above).

Isadora before had multiple relationships and had children with British Edward Gordon-Craig (1872-1966) a modernist, stage designer and printmaker and friend of William Nicholson (1872-1949) and with heir to the Singer sewing-machine company Paris Singer (1867-1932). 

But she had many affairs, male and female. Her adopted daughters (six of them) called the Isadorables, after the loss of her own two children, raised and taught by their mother, spread her modern dance gospel after she died in a bizarre car accident in 1927. Three of them, Therese, Irma and Anna by Arnold Genthe below.


Abraham Walkowitz (1878-1965) created some 5000 (!) modernist drawings of Isodora. Studies of movement, meeting her in Rodin’s studio and likewise attracted by the combination of person, of movement and of form. Duncan in 1916 seeing Walkowitz work would say:” Walkowitz, you have written my biography in lines without words”.

Walkowitz will have been inspired by Rodin's series of drawings of Cambodian dancers using just the outlines in pencil and dashes of color. The Khmer dancers accompanied the visit of King Sisiwath of Cambodia to France in 1906.

Also in Paris from 1907 Walkowitz probably would have witnessed the birth of Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) “ La Dance” in 1909.

Edward Steichen (1879-1973), the photographer accompanying Isodora to her trip to Greece saw adopted daughter and pupil Therese Duncan  (née Kruger, 1895-1987) in 1921 and snap-shot his remarkable photograph on the Acropolis: “Windfire”, the reincarnation of a Greek nymph. But when you know it, also in a posing almost identical to her mothers statue.

Well that’s more then enough for a rainy day posting, hope you've enjoyed. 

And last:model Eliza Tuturman as Isadora Duncan by contemporary photographer Ian Cartwright.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Siegward Sprotte: Emil Orliks last student ?

Siegward Sprotte
(Potsdam 1913 - 2004 Isle of Sylt)

German painter and printmaker. 

Landing on the Isle of Sylt in before posting with Charlotte Hilmer I encountered Siegward Sprotte who moved to the island in 1945 to stay, living and working until his death 10 years ago in 2004. In a German auction house archive I've discovered a woodblock print by him. Uncomplicated but effectively showing of the islands' features, the high dunes, created in 1952 and another copy with I think, a by hand and not by block, added blue in 1953.

Sprotte had been studying in Berlin from 1920 as a student of Karl Hagemeier (1848-1933) whom's master student he became in 1932. A year later his teacher died. But I learned he'd also attended classes with Emil Orlik (1870-1933) in 1932. Within the year he would lose that teacher as well. 

Orlik in his career had seen many, many hundreds of students and Sprotte must have been among his last. Sprotte all his life painted his island, gradually shifting to a more and more very personal, abstract and colorful style. 

In the early twentieth century Sylt attracted many artists and among them was Emil Nolde (1867-1956). He finished this famous and much discussed and praised painting "Badende" (bathers) on the island in 1930 when he was in his 60's. 

Nolde lived close-by on the mainland in the Schleswick-Holstein village of Seebüll on the Danish border in summer, painting the flowers in his garden and so did Sprotte.  In winter Nolde, a much celebrated artist, resided in Berlin. 

Garden flowers by Sprotte and by Nolde.

In the same area, North of Hamburg, is living and working one of my contemporary printmaking heroes: Klaus Fussmann (b.1938) who was born when the men above already were accomplished artists. Fussmann's extraordinary prints (landscape and also flowers, like Nolde and Sprotte) and his more recent paintings will feature in postings to come but here're are examples of both media that I've found related to the seas surrounding province Schleswick (Ostsee/Baltic) and the isle of Sylt (Nordsee/Northsea) and the artist's garden.  


All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.