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Author Archive for Livia Satriano

Life at the Bauhaus

The ‘House of Construction’ founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius was a laboratory of ideas, a school of arts and crafts bound to be remembered in the decades to come for its unique approach to a total art and as a symbol of the avant-garde Germany. It operated until 1933, when it was closed by the Nazi regime. But how was life at the Bauhaus? Which faces would you have seen? Photographers and former students T.Lux Feininger and Edmund Collein documented its life and activities. Here are some of the things you could have seen at one of the most famous arts schools in the world.

Subversion of the images

Paul Nougé was a poet, a philosopher, a photographer, an activist and a friend of René Magritte, with whom he is portrayed in this picture (Nougé is the smiling guy on the right).

These pictures by Nougé are part of a series called “La subversion des images” (“Subversion of the images”) which were taken between 1929 and 1930. They look incredibly modern and so ahead of their time. Maybe the name Francesca Woodman rings a bell?

Paul Nougé, A New Way of Juggling, 1929

Paul Nougé (1895–1967)- Magnetic table, 1929-1930.

Paul Nougé, Coat suspended in space, c. 1929-1930

Paul Nouge, Birth of an Object, 1930

Paul Nougé, Les Voyantes

Paul Nougé, Le bras révélateur

Paul Nouge, Cils Coupes, 1929

Paul Nougé, Les Profondeurs du Sommeil

Paul Nougé, Les oiseaux vous poursuivent

Paul Nougé, Sans Titre, ca. 1930

Overemphasised facial expressions


Once upon a time there was, and still is, a blog called Assez Vu. It is my personal blog and it’s kind of a digital collection of odd pictures and other finds from the past whose name literally means ‘I’ve seen enough’. Pretentious enough you might think, but Rimbaud made me do it. He said it first, not me. Well, where did the idea come from? Assez Vu was born out of another blog, or rather, out of a curious ‘visual experiment’ called Silent Ladies’ overemphasized facial expressions. The idea behind it was to find and post pictures that showed actors from silent movies in the act of ‘over-expressing’ themselves. Silent divas were the best: they could easily change from sophisticated smiles and languishing looks to raging and revengeful faces in a handful of seconds. They used their bodies and faces to make up for the lack of sound. Some of them looked realistic, others a bit odd!  Today, one thing is for certain, they are still very amusing.

Florence Turner in “Daisy Doodad’s Dial” (1914)

Clara Bow in “Wings” (1927)

Marie Dressler, Marion Davies, Jane Winton in “The Patsy” (1928)

Louise Brooks in “Pandora’s Box” (1929)

Sylvia Sidney in “Fury” (1936)

Theda Bara in “Cleopatra” (1917)

Colleen Moore in “We Moderns” (1925)

Irma Vep (Musidora) in Les Vampires (1915-1916)

Pola Negri in “The Spanish Dancer” (1923)

Laura La Plante in “The Cat and the Canary” (1927)

And finally here is the lovely Marion Davies, making fun of her fellow actresses Mae Murray, Lillian Gish and Pola Negri by impersonating them in the movie ‘The Patsy’ (1928).

“Real” Mae Murray

“Fake” Mae Murray

“Real” Lillian Gish

“Fake” Lillian Gish

“Real” Pola Negri

“Fake” Pola Negri

The clip from The Patsy (1928):
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The lady of dreams’ photo-collages

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 38, 1949

One can be born with a talent. Miss Grete Stern’s talent was that she could turn dreams into reality. Not bad huh? I know you wish you had this power too. But it was not always easy I tell you. Professor Freud would have found a lot to get his teeth into…because Grete Stern’s ‘reality turned-into-dreams’ are made up by surreal images of eyes detached from their face, pretty female bums, a giant tortoise-man in a suit and endless ladders, just to name a few. Now I bet you would like to know a little more about this German-born lady who used to wear round glasses.

Portrait of Grete Stern (Ringl with Glasses) by Ellen Auerbach, 1929

She moved to Argentina because of the Third Reich and there she contributed to a local women’s magazine, Idilio, with her photo-collages for a column entitled “Psychoanalysis will help you” (see, I knew our friend Sigmund must have had something to do with it!).

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 5, 1950

Grete Stern – photomontage

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 16, ca. 1950

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 1, 1948

Her photomontages, called Sueños (dreams), are an ideal conjunction between Dada collage and surreal photography and she had this peculiar ability to make the impossible possible, to release feelings and fears that, when looking at her work only once, is far more relieving than 10 psychologist sessions. In a row. Seeing is believing…

Grete Stern – photomontage

Grete Stern – photomontage

“Da Dandy” (1919), collage by Hannah Höch

“Observatory Time – The Lovers” (1936), by Man Ray

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 31, 1949

Grete Stern – photomontage

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 28, 1951

Grete Stern – photomontage, 1949

Grete Stern – Dream Nº42, 1949

Kate Carew, “The Only Woman Caricaturist”

Kate Carew Caricature

In the late 1800′s /early 1900 it was not easy to be a woman, especially if you were a woman with a talent. In a time when women didn’t even have voting rights, how could they be independent women artists? No way, impossible…

Yet there are some exceptions, one of them being the Californian Mary Williams (also known by the pseudonym “Kate Carew”). Kate Carew was an illustrator, “The Only Woman Caricaturist” as she was soon labelled.

Kate Carew and a caricature of herself

Her career began in New York, to where she had just moved. One day while at the theatre she found herself doodling a caricature sketch of one of the actors on a leaflet. When back home she found it and decided to send it to a newspaper, the “New York World”. Incredibly, the work caught the attention of the young editors of the paper and in a matter of days she was hired. She had her own column twice a week that featured caricatures of people at the theatre peppered with witty, humorous comments.

‘At the Theatres by Kate Carew’ caricature (1910)

Kate was an unconventional woman for her time and had such an extraordinary life. She continued making illustrations for the “New York World” – to which she became a regular contributor – and for other newspapers and travelled a lot between Europe and the States for both work and pleasure. She also married three times!

Kate Carew at work

The Angel Child comics by Kate Carew

Her most famous work is probably the series of illustrated interviews she made for the “New York World”. The list of her celebrity encounters is long and includes the like of Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, Emile Zola, W. B. Yeats, Sarah Bernhardt, Theda Bara, along with countless others. The original and intimate chats she had with those famous people are always accompanied by lovely ink caricatures of them done by her. But here are some juicy bits from the interviews…

Mark Twain, writer

“The trouble with us in America,” said Mark Twain, “is that we haven’t learned to speak the truth.”

“Lying is not an art, not that I have ever been able to discover and I have tried hard all my life. It is a device of primitive intelligences. The best liars are savages and children. The most cultured people speak the truth as often as they think of it, and enjoy hearing it spoken by others. In heaven I shouldn’t wonder but they use the truth ‘most all the time.”

To read the full interview, click here.

Mark Twain and his caricature by Kate

Sarah Bernhardt, actress

“Is it possible, Mme. Bernhardt, to do anything great in art without having experienced a great love?”

“Oh, yes. To portray the passions one need not have lived the reality. That would be too sad. Think what we poor players would be compelled to suffer oh, la! La! If it were love alone, that would be agreeable; but there are wicked passions to be portrayed and crimes to be committed. An artist must be able to express all with truth, because within himself in the imagination he is capable of all. Then sometimes it is innocence that one portrays. Oh, an actress may play the part of a nun excellently without experiencing the purity of a nun.”

“Shu-u-u-err!” she trilled, with the most writhing and eloquent of shrugs; “shu-u-u-err! Ce grand amour n’est pas indispensable au grand art!”

Sarah Bernhardt and her caricature by Kate

W. B. Yeats, Irishman and poet

Mr. (Henry) Lucy, in discussing English and American humour, said:
“Our humor is certainly kinder. We are not as savage as you; your humour always has a butt.”
It was not many weeks later that I asked Mr. Yeats what he thought of American humour.

“It’s very unlike English humour,” he said quickly, “in being good-humoured. English humour always has a butt.”

“Dear me! That’s a precise contradiction of what Mr. Lucy said,” I gasped.

“Oh, but Mr. Lucy’s an Englishman and I’m not!” Retorted the poet with a shrug of his high shoulders and a laugh of sardonic enjoyment.

William Butler Yeats and his caricature by Kate

Pablo Picasso, artist

“Some of your women are walking to Washington to ask for a vote,” he informed me, solemnly. “For me I find that rather ridiculous. How many hours will it take them to get to Washington?”

“Hours!” I exclaimed. “Why, it will take them days. I don’t know how many, but several, certainly.”

“Perhaps you also are a suffragette”, he suggested.

“I am”, I acknowledged, with pride, “or rather I am a suffragist.”

“And the difference?” he queried like a puzzled boy.

I explained it to the best of my ability.

“You do not break windows, then, eh?” he questioned gravely.

“Not many”, I assured him cheerfully. “Have you any suffragettes in Spain, or don’t you have any votes there, anyhow?”

“Oh yes, we have votes there”, and he seemed shocked at my lack of knowledge of sunny Spain; “but I think there are no suffragettes, and I think I am glad.”

To read the full interview, click here.

Picasso

Mr. Anger and the Puce Woman

Yvonne Marquis in Puce Moment

A lot have been said about Mr. Kenneth Anger. Over the years he’s been called many things, none of them particularly flattering: a satanist, a racist, a weirdo but whether he is one thing or another we can’t really tell. What we only know for sure is that he was, and still is, one of the most intriguing experimental directors ever. Demonic, provocative, way ahead of its time, Anger’s visual work is powerful and gentle at the same time, like suspended in time yet truly mesmerising.

“Puce Moment”, a short film by him from 1949, was meant to be a celebration of ladies of the silent screen (the original title was “Puce Women”). Puce is the name of a colour, the pale red-violet that permeate the six-minute filming of a lady in her boudoir, what is left of the original project, failed because of lack of funding.
Yvonne Marquis is the woman who plays the role of the “diva”, in real life she would later move to Mexico and become the lover to former Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas. Yvonne’s resemblance to old film stars such as Clara Bow and Barbara La Marr is striking and her whole action is a tribute to the rich, decadent life of the Roaring Twenties.

“Puce Women was my love affair with Hollywood…with all the great goddesses of the silent screen. They were to be filmed in their homes; I was, in effect, filming ghosts”

— Kenneth Anger

Puce Moment

Clara Bow & Barbara La Marr

Everything is perfect in this “puce” moment of pure visual pleasure…from the vivid colours of the sequinned gowns, that once belonged to Anger’s grand-mother, to the languid expressions of the silent Yvonne. Her alternate acts, slowed-down or speeded-up, are combined with beautiful and haunting psych-folk soundtrack (added in 1966) by mysterious musician Jonathan Halper. The power and immediacy of this unusual, dream-like film make it look so up to date after all those years. A post-modern celebration of the past, way before post-modernism really had a name.

Colleen Moore in her boudoir

Puce Moment

Enjoy the film…

The importance of being a (Surrealist) muse

Here’s a guest post by Livia Satriano. She is a lovely Italian Media Graduate based in Milan. She works as a freelance writer and researcher, mainly writing about music, art and culture. She wrote her first book “No Wave” about the New York underground music and art scene of the late Seventies, which was published in Italian recently. She is also the editor of Assez Vu – a blog celebrating odd and inspiring pictures from the past. The name “Assez Vu” means ”I’ve seen enough” and it is taken from a poem (“Départ”) by Rimbaud whom Livia is massive fan of. She thought it would be the perfect name and inspiration for her visual blog of “gems” from the past, to say that there’s still so much that we have to see and discover before we can say we’ve seen enough.

Photo of Livia Satriano

The importance of being a (surrealist) muse

Forget the femme fatale of the “Belle Époque”, the woman who made Surrealist hearts beat fast was more of a childlike woman, she was emotive, intuitive, irrational — all the perfect characteristics to take inspiration from as an artist. And what is a muse if not an inspirer?

But never think of the Surrealist muse as the “average” muse, Surrealist women were different and unpredictable in some way. They weren’t Botticelli blonde goddesses, Gauguin exotic beauties or just pretty girls to look at. They were instead proud, independent women who knew what’s what. They could easily switch from being the inspiration for a painting or a poem to being personally involved in artistic expressions. Both object and subject, child and mother, feminine and masculine — The Surrealist muse was the first modern woman.

 

Nusch Éluard
The sentiments apparent / The lightness of approach / The tresses of caresses.
— Nusch, by Paul Éluard.

Nusch Eluard by Man Ray

Nusch Eluard by Man Ray, 1928

Maria Benz’s first job in Paris was as a “hypnotist’s helper” but soon she met the surrealist poet Paul Éluard whom she married in 1934. Since then this lovely, ethereal girl became the muse of many artists, from Man Ray to Picasso and a favourite inspiration for her husband’s work. She also loved making collages herself at night, while struggling with insomnia.

Some of Nusch’s collages

 

Méret Oppenheim

Who covers a soup spoon with luxurious fur? Little Meret. Who has outgrown us? Little Meret
— Max Ernst

Meret Oppenheim by Man Ray, 1932

fur-covered tea cup by Méret Oppenheim

She was by all means a Surrealist artist. Her bizarre objects/creations – like the fur-covered tea cup or the fur gloves with polished fingernails – were way ahead of their time. But she was also a beautiful and intriguing woman who posed for Man Ray several times.

Poison by Man Ray featuring Méret Oppenheim:
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Suzanne Muzard

Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all
— Nadja, 1928, by André Breton

Photo of Suzanne Muzard & André Breton

Photography album with Suzanne Muzard by André Breton

André Breton, Paul Éluard & Suzanne Muzard, Untitled 1931

Suzanne was a former prostitute who won the heart of the father of Surrealism. Breton’s masterpiece “Nadja” is said to be dedicated to her but at that time she was still “the young wife” of writer Emmanuel Berl. Muzard and Breton had an intense relationship, she being his muse, but sometimes also a partner in art-making.

 

Lee Miller

I would rather take a picture than be one
— Elizabeth “Lee” Miller, 1932

Portrait of Lee Miller, by Man Ray ca. 1929

London, 1941 by Lee Miller

One of the most beautiful woman of her generation, Lee graced the covers of fashion magazines such as Vogue but was also, and above all, a talented photojournalist. She had a special photography teacher, Man Ray, of whom she soon became lover and main inspiration.

A clip from ‘Le Sang d’un Poete’ by Jean Cocteau:
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Dorothea Tanning

My work is about leaving the door open to the imagination
— Dorothea Tanning

Can two artists have a long happy life together? This is what happened to Surrealists Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning. They had never been apart since Max Ernst’s first visit in her New York studio in 1942. The legend says a chess game was all it took for them to fall in love! She, “the oldest living surrealist”, passed away early this year at the age of 101.

Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst

Dorothea Tanning & Max Ernst