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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

We were late getting our famous - infamous - Christmas/Holiday card started this year, so we went ahead and decided to make it a New Year's card instead. (As it turned out, we weren't as late as we thought, and most recipients got theirs before Christmas anyway. Whatever....) Since we bought a house this year, we decided to go with a "new home" theme. And what better home-y source material than a photograph of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh lounging about Windsor Castle? Thankfully, there were no Corgis cluttering up the composition, giving us a perfect spot to insert our dear Nicholas.

Why is it that I always look quite convincing as an old woman...
... while G always makes the most peculiar looking fellow...?

Thank you to everyone who "tunes in" to this blog. I so enjoy working at it, spending far too much time scouring up pictures, finding new stories to tell. And I so appreciate your attention and your kind and very smart comments. Here's to a happy and productive and prosperous new year, all of us!


Source material: a recent photograph by Thomas Struth. I added a bit more chandelier at the top; never want to scrimp on the chandelier.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sword and sand - Bob McCune, photographed by Bruce of Los Angeles

I'm not generally fond of the bigger bodybuilders. Their musculature is usually unbalanced. Overall proportion is sacrificed to size, and so often muscle mass is built atop bone structure that isn't large enough to properly support it; how often do we see massive arms, shoulders, and thighs paired with the daintiest of wrists, necks, calves and ankles.

But McCune's bone structure is ample support for the musculature. His ankles and calves and forearms are all proportionate with the rest of him; everything is as large as everything else is large. He's supple despite his bulk, and poses gracefully. And the architecture of his head and face seems perfectly suited to his size and proportions.

Very few of the "bodies beautiful" of the golden age of the "physique pictorial" have left any story of themselves behind; most exist only in the instant of the photographer's shutter release. But, rarely, one finds something more than a trace. Here is McCune's obituary in the Las Vegas Sun:

Sports handicapper McCune dies

Robert E. "Bob" McCune, one of Las Vegas' top sports handicappers of the 1980s, who hosted seminars where his glib tongue and vast knowledge convinced gamblers they could beat the odds, has died. He was 80.

McCune stressed money management and an understanding of probability in his teachings.

McCune, who won the professional bodybuilding title of Mr. America 1949 and competed several times for the world pro wrestling title in the 1950s, died Friday at Havasu Nursing Center in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where he has lived since March.

There will be no local services for the handicapper, who operated the Vegas Sports Information Center from 1981 through the 1990s. Lake Havasu Mortuary is handling the arrangements.

"Bob was very knowledgeable in all areas of sports betting," said Howard Schwartz, manager of the Gambler's Book Shop at 630 S. 11th St. "Because he was never at a loss for words, he put on seminars that were well attended by people who were entertained by what he had to say."

Schwartz said McCune's books on betting are still available, including "Insights into Sports Betting," "Revelations in Sports Betting" and "The Gambling Times Guide to Sports Betting and Handicapping."

McCune was born Dec. 11, 1921, in Amsterdam, New York, and early on became interested in athletics, specifically track and field and youth hockey.

As the sole member of the St. Mary's High School track team, McCune, at an eight-team meet at Johnstown, N.Y., in 1939, competed in eight events. He garnered five second-place finishes and two thirds, finishing third in the overall team standings. That day, he put the shot, threw the discus and javelin, did the long jump and ran four races, including the 100-yard dash in 10.1 seconds and the mile in 4:42.

In 1941, McCune competed in the New York State Hockey Championships. He was drafted by the New York Rangers but instead of pursuing a hockey career, he enlisted in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, McCune moved to San Francisco and, in 1946, opened the San Francisco Bodybuilding Club gym while attending Stanford. After winning the Mr. America title, McCune graced the covers of America's top bodybuilding magazines, including "Strength and Health" and "Iron Man."

McCune then turned to pro wrestling, where his rippled physique and good looks made him a popular star on the circuit. Nine times he wrestled world champion Lou Thesz, who also recently died, and earned three draws. McCune wrestled 1,200 matches in eight years and retired from the sport in 1958.

In the 1960s, McCune's charisma and gift of gab helped make him the nation's top salesman for Encyclopedia Britannica's "Great Books" series.

As a Las Vegas sports service operator selling betting lines to bookies and selections to gamblers nationwide, McCune wrote for gambling publications and penned his own sports betting newsletter, "The Profit Line."

He urged the sports service industry to clean up its act, telling less scrupulous operators they were killing the business by making blatantly false claims -- such as that their betting selections were winning at a rate of 80 percent and higher -- to entice new and unwitting customers.

In 1983, McCune's service won the United States Football League Handicapping Championship. That same year, his company boasted a record of 198 wins and 159 losses for pro basketball over-unders.

McCune is survived by his brother, William McCune of Lake Havasu; two sisters, Kathleen Robinson of Lake Pleasant, N.Y., and Maria Bell of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and a stepson, Bruce Gray of the Netherlands.

He was preceded in death by his wife Maisie and a sister, Elizabeth Slade, both in December 1994.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bernard Boutet de Monvel - fashion illustration

I love the portraits of Boutet de Monvel. Sad that he still isn't at all well known; even finding good images of his work on the internet is a challenge. (A few are included in my earlier post on the Maharaja and Maharani of Indore.) His work is suave in the extreme and serenely classical - he reminds me of Ingres most of all - but still manages to be emblematic of its time and milieu, the Thirties and Forties, among the glamorous and very wealthy.

I'm always hunting around for reproductions of his paintings to share here, yet I wasn't aware of this earlier work, his spare and elegant fashion illustrations. Many of these images recall Japanese woodcuts. And they're often so droll; accustomed to the cool seriousness of his portrait work, I was unprepared for the sly wit on display here.

"Les Manteaux"


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Portraits des dames - paintings by Alexandre Cabanel

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, 1876.

Cabanel was a rather inconsistent portrait artist, stylistically and as to the actual quality of his work. Comparing the images here, one can easily see how his finished work differed greatly from painting to painting. Some have a gauzy, atmospheric quality while others have a very solid feeling, a strong sense of the figure in space. Some seem fully formed, descriptive of character, while others are doll-like or rather wooden; placed side by side, his work doesn't even always appear to be by the same hand. Many of his paintings are quite beautiful - expert, charming - but I feel that his lack of individuality and consistency keep him from the first rank of portrait artists.

(Detail of above.)
Baroness von Derwies (von Derviz), 1871.
Mary Victoria Leiter, later Lady Curzon of Kedleston, Vicereine of India, 1887.
Olivia Peyton Murray Cutting, wife of William Bayard Cutting, 1887.
Mrs. Robert Livingston Cutting, 1888.
Sophie and Berthe Cabanel, the artist's nieces, 1872.
"Portrait of a Young Lady", circa 1884.
 Mrs. Collis Potter Huntington, 1882.
(Detail of above.)
Madame Edouard Hervé, 1884.
Countess Elizaveta Andreevna Vorontsova-Dashkova, 1873.
Madame Carette, 1868.
Mary Frick Garrett, later Mrs. Henry Barton Jacobs, 1885.
Miss Fanny Clapp, 1881.
Comtesse de Keller, 1873.
(Detail of above.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Greta Garbo, publicity for "Mata Hari", photographs by Clarence Sinclair Bull, 1931

This is probably my favorite of all the portraits of Garbo; I had a framed print of it - torn from a book - on my wall during most of my twenties.

After my recent post about the real Mata Hari, G and I decided to re-watch the Garbo film that is very loosely based on her story. We hadn't seen it in a long time, and were swiftly reminded why neither of us had exactly been eager to keep it in frequent rotation. It's really not a very good film at all, and its historical inaccuracy is nothing to the rest of its problems. Ill-paced, blandly shot, and poorly acted by everyone involved - for all her legend, Garbo was at best an inconsistent actress - with poor Ramon Novarro the worst of it; his rather girlish Mexican-accented Russian accent is laughable. Or would be laughable if he weren't so dull an actor. But then the whole film is dull. It's stilted as so many of the early Talkies are stilted, especially at MGM. (Background music - underscoring - didn't really get going until about two years later with Max Steiner's score for "King Kong"; these films may have been improved with a little appropriate music to help things along.)

Really, the only reason now to watch the film is to marvel at Adrian's costumes. Asymmetrical swathes of heavily embroidered and sequined velvet, or entirely beaded, most of them strangely androgynous for a character who is so celebrated for her sexuality. And, interestingly, except for one brief scene - the beginning of which is, to me, the one actually memorable moment in the film; orchids are involved - her hair is completely hidden by a serious of beaded and bejeweled skullcaps and close-fitting headdresses. (The scene I mentioned was originally preluded by a love scene where the "Divine Garbo" wore Adrian's least ornamented creation; she was all but nude. I've included an image of that simplest of gowns in another post.)

In the film's last scene, with the convicted Mata Hari preparing herself for the firing squad - and carefully deluding her silly and temporarily blind lover - Garbo has traded in her outrageous finery for the plainest black, and her own pulled-back hair takes the place of her lavish and sleek caps. These portraits by Garbo's favorite photographer, Clarence Sinclair Bull, are styled to illustrate that last scene. These are probably the "purest" of his Garbo portraits, and are among my favorites.