L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Three early paintings by Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann

Jünglinge im Gartenpavillon (young men in a garden pavilion), 1904.
Self-portrait, circa 1904.
Self-portrait, 1904.


Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann (17 July 1883, Hamburg - 11 December 1973, Berlin), German painter and art writer. From a merchant family, he studied with the landscape painter Arthur Siebelist from 1899 to 1903; Siebelist surrounded himself with a devoted circle of students, some of would become well-known, including Franz Nölken, Fritz Friedrichs, Walter Alfred Rosam, and Walter Voltmer. Together with Nölken and Rosam, Ahlers-Hestermann went to study and live in Paris in 1907; he remained until 1914. While there, he met his future wife, studied at Matisse's painting school, and was greatly influenced by the work of Cézanne. He also traveled to Italy, England, and Russia during this time. He returned to Hamburg at the outbreak of war and, two years later, married Russian painter Alexandra Povorina. At the end of hostilities, he was teaching at a private art school, and the following year he co-founded the Hamburg Secession. From 1928 he taught at the Art Academy in Cologne, but was dismissed by the Nazis in 1933 due to his previous political activities. He and his wife and daughter moved to Berlin in 1939; in the protective anonymity of the German capital they survived the war. From the end of the war until the year of his death, he was director of the Landeskunstschule (Art School) in Hamburg. And from 1956 to that same year, he was director of the Fine Art Department at the Art Academy in Berlin.

Meine Schüler und ich (my students and I), by Arthur Siebelist, 1902. At far right, Ahlers-Hestermann. Nölken at center with a pink hatband.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The loving, tragic Marie - Catherine Deneuve in "Mayerling", 1968

With Omar Sharif.

Released in 1968, Mayerling was already the twenty-five year old Deneuve's twenty-fourth film. The plot was based on a true incident: the double suicide in 1889 of the married Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary and his young mistress; Mayerling is the name of the hunting lodge where the tragedy occurred. Deneuve plays the unworldly, romantic Baroness Marie Vetsera, and her costar is Omar Sharif as the extremely troubled Archduke Rudolf. A still-dazzlingly beautiful Ava Gardner plays his every bit as troubled mother, the still-dazzlingly beautiful Empress Elisabeth, while James Mason impersonates the rigid and clueless Emperor Franz Joseph. Written and directed by Terence Young, lavishly produced, it's rather slow and a bit squishy; it's no great work of cinema, though I was quite taken with the film when I first encountered it, as a teenager. And, if I remember correctly, they don't completely bungle the history. From me, that's quite a bit more of a compliment than it might appear to be.

Ava Gardner as the Empress Elisabeth, and James Mason as the Emperor Franz Joseph.
The final scene is actually quite moving....



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Riding the false horse - preparatory photographs by Jacques de Lalaing

The model is posed in front of a large oil painting, Les luteurs, a preparatory sketch for the La Lutte équestre sculptural group. (See below.)
Here, the model is also posed in front of a large painting, apparently on the same subject, though it looks slightly different.


Jacques de Lalaing (4 November 1858, London – 10 October 1917, Brussels), Anglo-Belgian painter and sculptor, specializing in animals. Born the son of a Belgian diplomat and an English aristocrat, he was raised in England until 1875, when he moved to Brussels. He trained as an artist under Jean-François Portaels and Louis Gallait at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, showing first as a painter. But he began to sculpt in 1884. As a painter he continued to work in a realistic, naturalistic style, as a portrait painter and producing historical scenes. As a sculptor he produced allegorical bronzes and memorial art. In 1896 he became a member of the Académie Royale where he'd studied, and from 1904 through 1913 he served as its director. He died in the midst of World War I a month before his fifty-ninth birthday.

The artist.


Perhaps his best known work, La Lutte équestre or Le combat des cavaliers (1899-1908), at the entrance to the Bois de la Cambre, Brussels.

Two vintage photographs.
Three contemporary images.
Les lutteurs, a large scale preparatory oil sketch for the sculpture, 1884.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Unbecomingly capped

Madame Récamier, by Antoine-Jean Gros, circa 1825.

Fashion is very often - has always been, always will be - a mercurial and cruel mistress. Aside from any question of taste or practicality or expense, there is the very simple fact that one mode isn't equally congenial to all women, of all ages, of all sizes; what flatters one, disfigures another. The high-waisted silhouette - sometimes known as Empire, because it mostly coincided with the reign of Napoléon - is one of countless examples. The waistline started its ascent in the 1790s and didn't resume a more natural placement until toward the end of the 1820s. Generally speaking, the silhouette can be seen as a relaxation and relief from the two periods that bracket it, the weighty, paniered expanse of the the late 1700s and the riotous poofy-ness of the 1830s. But one must remember that, in spite of all the apparent freedom of movement, the youthful grace of the style, the corset still held sway. In fact, the uncomfortable item's territory grew, expanding both North and South; viewing the portraits of the day, it's easy to forget that underneath all that satiny, sylph-like glamour, ladies were usually well-trussed from their hips to their shoved-up bosoms. Also easy to forget is that the gowns portrayed by Baron Gérard and the like are usually little more than silken nightgowns; what happens when one lives in a cold climate, or when Winter comes...? The truth is that there were all sorts of other coverings and accessories, most of them rather silly looking and at odds with the silhouette; all the decorative "action" happened between the bosom and the close-dressed head, and the traditional laces and trimmings clashed with the otherwise still-Neoclassical line. But it's mostly only the portraits of mature and older women that feature this awkward, though more practical, clothing. And while a girl or a very young woman might look something like "cute" dressed in his manner - fichus, pelerines, chin-grazing ruffs, and (probably least graceful of all) lacy, ribboned, and face-scrunching caps - this did little to enhance the charms of the matron of any proportion.

Nadezhda Ivanovna Dubovitskaya, by Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1809.
Suzanna Maria Crommelin, wife of Egbert Johannes Koch, by Charles Howard Hodges, before 1820.
Countess - formerly Baroness, soon to be Princess - Charlotte von Lieven née von Gaugreben, by George Dawe, 1821.
Unidentified sitter, unknown artist, circa 1810-20.
Mrs. Brak-Haskenhoff, by Cornelis Kruseman, 1818.
Ida Louise Frederike Engels née Noot, by Heinrich Christoph Kolbe, circa 1815.
Princess Natalya Petrovna Golitsyna née Chernysheva, by Vladimir Borovikovsky, circa 1790s.
Unknown lady, by James Ward, 1811.
Portrait of a lady, by Charles Howard Hodges, circa 1820.
Mrs. Thomas Linley, by James Lonsdale, 1820.
Yekaterina Alexandrovna Arkharova, by Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1820.
Elisabeth Gertrud de Weerth née Wülfing, by Heinrich Christoph Kolbe, 1825.
Portrait of the Mother of the Captain of Stierle-Holzmeister, by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, 1819.