January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
I took half a day off on Friday to go and see the exhibition L’impressionisme et la Mode [Impressionism and Fashion] in Orsay. It was a fantastic exhibition and I’m happy I managed to see it before its end, yesterday. More than the paintings and the costumes I had already expected to find there, I was delighted to see literature was used as a hyphen between both domains. You were welcomed with a quote by Huysmans: “Le peintre moderne est un excellent couturier” – meaning: The modern painter is an excellent dressmaker. That is what the whole exhibition was trying to prove: that impressionist painters were as good, if not better (Ingres’ example) than dressmakers themselves.
What I enjoyed were the quotations from Zola’s Au bonheur des Dames, Baudelaire’s Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne and Balzac’s Traité de la Vie Elégante. It made me dive again into what I have been so passionate about: fashion in the 19th century. It also made me rediscover the art of James Tissot, whose paintings, I must say, had fallen into the abyss of my mind for a while. Actually, before last Friday, I couldn’t remember anything but the scene of the onboard-ball, because it reminds me so much of the first chapter in Flaubert’s L’Education Sentimentale. Anyway.
What struck me was how, once in Orsay on Friday, I literally died for James Tissot’s paintings. Although I had come expecting a lot of Manet – and a lot of Manet there was – I soon realised I was fascinated by the precision in Tissot’s paintings. So I stared at Le Cercle de la Rue Royale for ages, and also at the foldings in the dress of the woman standing next to the Marquis de Miramon.
While I am writing, a distant memory seems to come back to me: when I was a child, I had been bewitched by the beauty of the detail in a yellow dress – a bright yellow dress worn by a woman going to a ball. You know what I mean don’t you? I’m exactly referring to Tissot’s Le Bal. Back then, I didn’t even know what impressionism was or who Tissot was. And let alone that I would be studying the 19th century 10 years later. It is very hard to believe in coincidences sometimes. I remain convinced that there exists something born inside you that makes you love one thing, one day. And later, without necessarily being aware of it, you will keep looking for the means to complete the picture for the rest of your life – and this quest will end with the end of your time. The more I grow up, the more I realize my soul belongs to that period. Maybe I used to live in that time in a previous life… Maybe I did admire Tissot’s paintings with my own eyes.
James Tissot, I love you.
October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
While in Paris there’s a photography exhibition relating the history of photography identification (Archives Nationales, Paris, Fichés?), a lookbook of a special type is delivered on the Internet under the name of Exactitudes.com. Social statement? Classification process? Fashion dictation denunciation? Well if you, individual, thought you had a unique style, you’re gonna be taught that individuality doesn’t exist anymore in our times of mass-produced “fashion”. While clothing has been democratized, it also multiplied the styles and made it accessible to all of us. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying I disapprove of this… I also like being able to afford a new jacket corresponding to my “style” every other month, or just changing styles altogether and change shops.
While brands like H&M, Zara, Mango, and others just contribute to make fashion more avalaible to the masses, we all bathe in the illusion that we express our uniqueness in our clothes…. Well, first of all, this is just an impression, and the strangest of it all is that deep inside us, we must be well aware of this phenomenon. Like two Darwins and psychologists of clothes, photographer Ari Versluis and profiler (yes, I said profiler) Ellie Uyttenbroek, both from the Netherlands, are establishing portraits of types. Typographying society through their clothes – interestingly enough, I like the fact that this can be related to my final dissertation topic, but that would be too long a story. This stresses the obvious contradictory fact that distinction and adoption of a community style are tightly bound and dependent on each other in nowadays’ way to try to assert one’s identity.
Exactitudes.com is a good ironical lookbook with a small audio comment on each picture describing the fashionoligical features of each category, and likes to be taken as a reliable anthropological study on the Homo Fashionus. All lovers of dressed up society will delight in this.
September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
I say two, because the state of my knowledge does not pass beyond that point.” The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, R. L. Stevenson.
Really, this can be read as an INTRODUCTION.
We are about to begin. The psychology of the double is everywhere, and bipolarity, duality and split personality have been at the core of creation and inspiration for centuries. Heaven and Hell, bright angels against dark demons, the eternal war between light and darkness. So far so good for the easy biblical imagery. More recently – say, 150 years ago – art and literature became obsessed with the hidden evil side of virtue. Victorian ideology, austere and supposedly ordered, was trying to maintain a presbyterian serious face while faced with truly decadent society. That society gave birth to Mr Hyde. It also created Dorian Gray. And every other fictional characters — not so fictitious as some could have been our neighbours, easily, had we lived in London in the 1890’s.
Nowadays, we live an age of indecision. Constantly oscillating and flickering, secrets lurk and struggle to surface, as in these old fairytales, in which the child can sense something is concealed from him and kept out of reach, until one day, as an adult, he suddenly understands the metaphor for the Red Riding Hood, Snow White and other Sleeping Beauties. I still remember the day I realised all these fairytales were peopled with monsters… from real ordinary crude life, nightmares and sexuality. What a failure. No wonder we’re driven crazy when growing up. Look at this poor Natalie Portman in Black Swan… Aren’t we being eaten up by our own dreams and self-pressure? This is what literature and art have been trying to explore so far: how this basic contradiction, the politically/socially correct Vs the hidden desirable, respectable superficiality Vs repulsive fantasy.
Simple, but never-ending topic to explore. And I guess because I am still so young, I still have a lot to explore in this direction. I like the enchanting and the double charm and glamour of the world. Not only man, but also things, as objects created by man, are multiple and polysensible. This blog is going to explore time and space, but will focus mainly on the end of the nineteenth century and the twentieth, because that is from where most paradoxes of our modern and post-modern ages were born. I will try to rave from books to movies, and from painters to designers… Remember our fascination for the decadence of those ages, that we nevertheless keep on considering as Golden Ages.
EXPLORATION…on its way…