Sunday, 21 December 2014

Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles / VÍDEO: Les Ombres de la Villa HD (Villa Noailles à Hyères 83400)



Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles were patrons of the arts. Their 'hotel' at Place des Etats-Unis was restored in modern style in 1926 by Jean-Michel Franck, and was a focus for a large circle.

Charles financed Man Ray's film Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929), which centers around Villa Noailles in Hyères. He also financed Jean Cocteau's film Le Sang d'un Poète (1930) and Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalì's L'Âge d'Or (1930). Charles and his wife appeared in Les Mystères du Château de Dé as well as Le Sang d'un Poète.

In 1929 or 1930, Charles made possible the career of Dali by purchasing in advance a large work for 29,000 francs, thus enabling Dali and Gala to return from Paris to Port Lligat and devote themselves to his art.

The de Noailles had an extensive correspondence with Francis Poulenc and commissioned him on two occasions. He received 25000 Francs for Aubade, which he wrote for one of their balls at Place des États-Unis where it premiered on 18 June 1929. Le Bal Masqué, inspired by Max Jacob's Le Laboratoire Central, was written for a private celebration on 20 April 1932 at the municipal theatre in Hyères.Max Jacob's Le Laboratoire Central, was written for a private celebration on 20 April 1932 at the municipal theatre in Hyères.

Marie-Laure de Noailles, Vicomtesse de Noailles (31 October 1902 – 29 January 1970) was one of the 20th century's most daring and influential patrons of the arts, noted for her associations with Salvador Dalí, Balthus, Jean Cocteau, Ned Rorem, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Francis Poulenc, Wolfgang Paalen, Jean Hugo, Jean-Michel Frank and others as well as her tempestuous life and eccentric personality. She and her husband financed Ray's film Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929), Poulenc's Aubade (1929), Buñuel and Dalí's film L'Âge d'Or (1930), and Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (1930)
She was born Marie-Laure Henriette Anne Bischoffsheim, the only child of Marie-Thérèse de Chevigné, a French aristocrat, and Maurice Bischoffsheim, a Paris banker of German Jewish and American Quaker descent. One of her great-great-great-grandfathers was the Marquis de Sade, and her maternal grandmother, Laure de Sade, Countess de Chevigné, inspired at least one character in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Her nephew Philippe Lannes de Montebello was the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Her stepfather was the French playwright Francis de Croisset, and her former sister-in-law, Jacqueline de Croisset, became the third wife of actor Yul Brynner.

After a brief romance with the artist Jean Cocteau, Marie-Laure Bischoffsheim married, in 1923, Charles, Vicomte de Noailles (26 September 1891 – 28 April 1981), a son of François Joseph Eugène Napoléon de Noailles, grandson of Antonin-Just-Léon-Marie de Noailles and younger brother of the 6th Duc de Mouchy (father of Philippe François Armand Marie de Noailles), himself a cadet of the French ducal house of Noailles. The couple had two daughters:

Laure Madeleine Thérèse Marie de Noailles, later Madame Bertrand de La Haye Jousselin (1924–1979);
Nathalie Valentine Marie de Noailles, former wife of Alessandro Perrone (1927–2004).
Marie-Laure de Noailles and her husband moved to the fabled hôtel particulier at 11 Place des États-Unis in Paris, which was built by her grandfather Bischoffsheim. Its interiors, which were redecorated in the 1920s by French minimalist designer Jean-Michel Frank, vanished in the 1980s, due to a subsequent owner's redecoration and remodelling. In 1936 she acquired Wolfgang Paalen´s object Chaise envahie de Lierre in André Breton´s Galerie Gradiva and decorated her bathroom with it. Today the interiors have been renovated by Philippe Starck and house the Musée Baccarat and the headquarters of Baccarat, the crystal company.


In the 1920s, the Noailles built the Villa Noailles near Hyères. She had an affair with the young Igor Markevitch. In the 1950s she had a long-term affair with the surrealist painter Óscar Domínguez.





In 1923, they signed a contract with the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens to build a summer villa in the hills above the city of Hyères. Construction took three years, and eventually also included a triangular Cubist garden designed by Gabriel Guevrekian.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the couple were important patrons of modern art, particularly surrealism; they supported film projects by Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel; and commissioned paintings, photographs and sculptures by Balthus, Giacometti, Constantin Brâncuși, Miró, and Dora Maar. Villa Noailles features prominently in Man Ray's film Les Mystères du Château de Dé.

In 1940 the villa was occupied by the Italian Army and turned into a hospital. From 1947 until 1970, the villa was the summer residence of Marie-Laure. She died in 1970, and the house was purchased by the city of Hyères in 1973. Charles de Noailles died in 1981.

The villa is now used as an arts center and for special exhibits.

James Lord was a guest there in the mid-fifties. In his book Picasso and Dora: a memoir he writes: "...an undistinguished cubist extravaganza of reinforced concrete set atop a high hill, within the ancient walls of a Saracen fortress. It had been designed in the late twenties by a fashionable architect named Mallet-Stevens, contained something like fifty rooms and was surrounded by a large garden." He recalls the room, where Marie-Laure tried to seduce him: "...a large salon at Saint-Bernard which had no windows but was lighted from above by a bizarre cubist skylight which occupied almost all the ceiling, adding to the sense of existing outside time in a stranded ocean liner." The beauty of the location did not help, however, the "redoutable viscountess" in conquering his chastity.

The Cubist Garden designed by Gabriel Guevrekian.


Exposition permanente: Charles et Marie-Laure de Noailles, une vie de mécènes

Le projet consiste à redonner au public les clefs pour appréhender la « petite maison intéressante à habiter » de Charles et Marie-Laure de Noailles et (re)découvrir l’extraordinaire mécénat qu’ils ont mené de 1923 à 1970. L’exposition aborde tous les aspects de cette expérience et explore les liens entre les différents domaines de la création qu’ils ont pu aborder.
Cette exposition prend place dans la partie initiale de la villa : dans les salons, les salles à manger, les chambres d’ami du rez-de-jardin, les chambres de Monsieur et de Madame, la chambre d’ami du dernier étage (environ 250m2 au total). Elle fera le lien par sa scénographie avec la création contemporaine.

Direction du projet
Jean-Pierre Blanc est directeur de la villa Noailles (centre d’art) et fondateur du Festival International de Mode et de Photographie à Hyères. Il est membre de l’association des directeurs de centres d’art.

Commissaires
Raphaèle Billé. Commissaire d’exposition indépendante, historienne d’art, spécialisée dans les arts décoratifs de l’entre-deux-guerres. Elle co-réalise plusieurs expositions du cycle Documents, à la villa Noailles en 2006 et 2009 et a collaboré à plusieurs publications sur l’histoire du mobilier métallique.

Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne. Historien d’art, chargé de mission à la villa Noailles, il est commissaire des expositions du cycle Documents, présentées à la villa Noailles depuis 2003.

Alexandre Mare. Éditeur, critique, commissaire d’exposition, ancien directeur de la Galerie Marion Meyer à Paris, il enseigne l’Histoire du livre et de l’édition à l’Université du Havre et à Paris X. Critique littéraire d’Artpress et de la Revue des Deux Mondes, il a publié une monographie sur l’artiste Michel Aubry, Salle d’armes (Marion Meyer Éditions), un essai, Sexe ! Le trouble du héros (Moutons électriques éditeurs) et il prépare actuellement la publication de la correspondance de René Crevel aux Editions du Seuil.

Principe du projet
Confiée à David Dubois, la scénographie tient compte de la contrainte de refaire « l’histoire en son lieu même ». Le projet s’oriente vers une exploitation du lieu la plus discrète et la plus respectueuse possible de la cohérence originale des espaces. Les volumes et les installations d’origine doivent rester lisibles et ne pas entrer en conflit avec des interventions contemporaines qui revendiquent leur identité propre. Accueillant la création sous toutes ses formes, la villa Noailles devient ainsi un exemple de réutilisation du patrimoine architectural, non seulement dans son ouverture aux artistes contemporains, mais aussi dans le rapport à son propre passé.
La signalétique, confiée à Frédéric Teschner, doit accompagner cette scénographie en essayant de produire le minimum de repères possible. Certaines « références » aux usages des propriétaires sont réactivées comme des introductions à la culture du lieu. Ainsi est envisagée, en partenariat avec Sèvres - Cité de la céramique, la création de vases par différents designers pour accueillir les bouquets de fleurs. Cette idée renvoie à l’une des raisons d’être du bâtiment, implanté dans un jardin bouquetier, fierté des Noailles.
Les aménagements paysagers du lieu, imaginés avec Christophe Ponceau, prolongent cette démarche.

David Dubois, scénographie
Designer, il est diplômé de l’Ensci-les Ateliers (2003) et présente pour la première fois son travail à la villa Noailles en 2004 (Débuts). Il réalise depuis de nombreuses scénographies à la villa et une commande pour l’une des chambres de résidence (2007/2008). Il est représenté et édité par la galerie kreo, édité par FR66 et auto-produit certaines de ses créations. Il est enseignant à l’ESAD (Reims). Certaines de ses pièces appartiennent aux collections permanentes du Mudam (Luxembourg).

Frédéric Teschner, identité graphique du projet et édition
Diplômé de l’ENSAD de Paris, il collabore avec des architectes, des designers, de jeunes chorégraphes, des galeries (In Situ, kreo) et le Théâtre de Gennevilliers. À partir de 2003, il conçoit les identités visuelles de plusieurs expositions pour le Centre Pompidou, le Mémorial de la Shoah, le MAC/VAL, le Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Il travaille également avec des centres d’art (villa Noailles, Cneai, DCA, Association de centres d’art contemporain) ou des institutions du ministère de la Culture et de la Communication telles le CNAP (Centre national des arts plastiques) ou la DAP (Direction des arts plastiques). Il enseigne le design graphique à l’ESAD d’Amiens et à l’EHAD (Genève).

Christophe Ponceau, aménagements des jardins
Paysagiste-scénographe, (École Boulle et Architecte DPLG), il collabore avec le paysagiste Gilles Clément à partir de 1997 et commence une activité de scénographe. Il réalise la partie végétale de l’exposition Le Jardin planétaire (Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris) en 2000 et est en charge de la programmation d’interventions contemporaines du Parc de la Ferté-Vidame depuis 2006.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The "British Warm" Overcoat.



 The British Warm was a woollen overcoat that takes its fabric and styling from the great coats worn by officers during the First World War. Taupe coloured, the coat is double-breasted with peak lapels and slightly shaped. It falls just above the knee, sports leather buttons, and often, has epaulettes (although we find that these are best omitted for non-military wear).
The most characteristic aspect of the British warm is the fabric itself: a heavy, slightly fleecy melton cloth, distinctive in its colouring. The name comes from Melton Mowbray, a town in Leicestershire, England, where this thick, tightly woven, napped cloth was first woven for riding and hunting garments. Patrick has secured a reserve of this cloth from one of Britain’s oldest mills. Woven to a reassuringly warm 32oz, it is unusual to find a piece that conforms so closely to the original spec. Today, the British Warm is a perennial classic that works equally well worn over a suit in the city or dressed down for a more casual look at the weekend. The military overtones ensure that it looks distinct, much as one would expect of a piece of clothing that is still worn on Parades today.







 During the First World War, Crombie temporarily switched its production to British military uniforms.
 The Crombie company records note that during the war, the British government had to coerce many important manufacturers into accepting military contracts due to the very small margin of profit, compared to the much more lucrative private export opportunities still available. Crombie, however, voluntarily undertook large government contracts throughout the war – despite the low profit – in order to keep its personnel fully employed.
 Such became the extent of Crombie's production that ultimately one tenth of all greatcoats worn by British soldiers and officers were made from Crombie cloth. The term "British Warm" was coined at this time to describe this Crombie coat. The name remains synonymous with Crombie to this day.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Gerald and Sara Murphy / Watch Vídeo bellow : "Bons baisers de la Côte d'Azur"


 Gerald Clery Murphy and Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. Gerald had a brief but significant career as a painter.

Gerald Clery Murphy (March 25, 1888 – October 17, 1964) was born in Boston to the family that owned the Mark Cross Company, sellers of fine leather goods. He was of an Irish American background.
Gerald was an aesthete from his childhood onwards. He was never comfortable in the boardrooms and clubs for which his father was grooming him. He failed the entrance exams at Yale three times before matriculating, although he performed respectably there. He joined DKE and the Skull and Bones society :237 He befriended a young freshman named Cole Porter (Yale class of 1913) and brought him into DKE. Murphy also introduced Porter to his friends, propelling him into writing music for Yale musicals.

Sara Sherman Wiborg (November 7, 1883 – October 10, 1975) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, into the wealthy Wiborg family. Her father, manufacturing chemist and owner of his own printing ink and varnish company Frank Bestow Wiborg, was a self-made millionaire by the age of 40, and her mother was a member of the noted Sherman family, daughter of Hoyt Sherman, and niece to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Raised in Cincinnati, her family moved to Germany for several years when she was a teenager, so her father could concentrate on the European expansion of his company. The Wiborg family was easily accepted into the high society community of 20th-century Europe. While in Europe, Sara and her sisters Hoytie and Olga sang together at high-class assemblies. Upon returning to the United States, the Wiborgs spent most of their time in New York City and, later, East Hampton, where they built the 30-room mansion "The Dunes" on 600 acres just west of the Maidstone Club in 1912. It was the largest estate in East Hampton up to that time. Wiborg Beach in East Hampton is named for the family.

In East Hampton Sara Wiborg and Gerald Murphy met when they were both adolescents. Gerald was five years younger than Sara, and for many years they were more familiar companions than romantically attached; they became engaged in 1915, when Sara was 32 years old. Sara's parents did not approve of their daughter marrying someone "in trade," and Gerald's parents were not much happier with the prospect, seemingly because his father found it difficult to approve anything that Gerald did.

After marrying they lived at 50 West 11th Street in New York City, where they had three children. In 1921 they moved to Paris to escape the strictures of New York and their families' mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage. In Paris Gerald took up painting, and they began to make the acquaintances for which they became famous. Eventually they moved to the French Riviera, where they became the center of a large circle of artists and writers of later fame, especially Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O'Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.


Prior to their arrival on the French Riviera, the region was experiencing a period when the fashionable only wintered there, abandoning the region during the high summer months. However, the activities of the Murphys fueled the same renaissance in arts and letters as did the excitement of Paris, especially among the cafés of Montparnasse. In 1923 the Murphys convinced the Hotel du Cap to stay open for the summer so that they might entertain their friends, sparking a new era for the French Riviera as a summer haven. The Murphys eventually purchased a villa in Cap d'Antibes and named it Villa America; they resided there for many years. When the Murphys arrived on the Riviera, lying on the beach merely to enjoy the sun was not a common activity. Occasionally, someone would go swimming, but the joys of being at the beach just for sun were still unknown at the time. The Murphys, with their long forays and picnics at La Garoupe, introduced sunbathing on the beach as a fashionable activity.



 They had three children, Baoth, Patrick, and Honoria. In 1929, Patrick was diagnosed with tuberculosis. They took him to Switzerland, and then returned to the U.S. in 1934, where Gerald stayed in Manhattan to run Mark Cross, serving as president of the company from 1934 to 1956; he never painted again. Sara settled in Saranac Lake, New York to nurse Patrick, and Baoth and Honoria were put in boarding schools. In 1935, Baoth died unexpectedly of meningitis as a complication of measles, and Patrick succumbed to TB in 1937. Archibald MacLeish based the main characters in his play J.B. on Gerald and Sara Murphy.

Later they lived at "The Dunes", once the largest house in East Hampton. By 1941, the house proved impossible to rent, sell or even maintain; the Murphys had it demolished, and they themselves moved to the renovated dairy barn.

Gerald died October 17, 1964 in East Hampton, two days after his friend Cole Porter. Sara died on October 10, 1975 in Arlington, Virginia.

Nicole and Dick Diver of Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald are widely recognized as based on the Murphys, based on the marked physical similarities, although many of their friends, as well as the Murphys themselves, saw as much or more of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald's relationship and personalities in the couple than the Murphys. Ernest Hemingway's couple in Garden of Eden is not explicitly based on this pair, but given the similarities of the setting (Nice) and of the type of social group portrayed, there is clearly some basis for such an assumption. Interestingly, guests of the Murphys would often swim at Eden Roc, an event emulated in Hemingway's narrative.

Calvin Tomkins's biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy Living Well Is the Best Revenge was published in 1971, and Amanda Vaill documented their lives in the 1995 book Everybody Was So Young. Both accounts are balanced and kind, unlike some of their portrayals in the memoirs and fictitious works by their many friends, including Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

In 1982, Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the Murphys' daughter, with Richard N. Billings, wrote Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After.

On July 12, 2007, a play by Crispin Whittell entitled Villa America, based entirely on the relationships between Sara and Gerald Murphy and their friends had its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival with Jennifer Mudge playing Sara Murphy.



At Comte Étienne de Beaumont's automotive ball 1924 


May 24, 1998

What a Swell Party It Was
A new study of Gerald and Sara Murphy examines their life with the Lost Generation and their later disappointments.

EVERYBODY WAS SO YOUNG
Gerald and Sara Murphy: A Lost Generation Love Story.
By Amanda Vaill.
Illustrated. 470 pp. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin

 Some 50 years after meeting Gerald and Sara Murphy, a still dazzled Donald Ogden Stewart wrote: ''Once upon a time there was a prince and a princess: that's exactly how a description of the Murphys should begin. They were both rich; he was handsome; she was beautiful; they had three golden children. They loved each other, they enjoyed their own company, and they had the gift of making life enchantingly pleasurable for those who were fortunate enough to be their friends.''

Gerald and Sara Murphy were, to many of their contemporaries, the beautiful couple of the 1920's, and they left their mark on many works of art about the period: F. Scott Fitzgerald's ''Tender Is the Night,'' Ernest Hemingway's ''Snows of Kilimanjaro,'' Philip Barry's ''Holiday,'' Archibald MacLeish's ''J.B.,'' John Dos Passos' ''Big Money'' and Pablo Picasso's ''Woman in White,'' among others. Yet the Murphys' life together was no fairy tale; in the end it came very close to tragedy. Amanda Vaill, a skillful and compassionate writer, gives us their story in a marvelously readable biography, ''Everybody Was So Young.'' It is not the first telling of the tale, but it is the most important -- more comprehensive than Calvin Tomkins's ''Living Well Is the Best Revenge'' (1971) and more graceful than the telling by Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the Murphys' daughter, and Richard N. Billings, ''Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After'' (1982).

Sara Sherman Wiborg and Gerald Clery Murphy became friends as adolescents in the hothouse social world of New York in the first decade of the 20th century. Gerald's father was proprietor of the Mark Cross Company, purveyor (as it still is) of luxury leather goods. Sara's father was an exceedingly rich industrialist, and Sara spent much of her youth at their 30-room East Hampton, N.Y., mansion, The Dunes, or traveling around Europe with her parents and sisters, celebrating the coronation of George V in London, hobnobbing with the English aristocracy, and generally, Vaill writes, ''living life as one of the matched pieces of her mother's luggage.'' She performed the role with a natural grace but chafed in it, finding an unexpected outlet for her feelings in a budding friendship with Gerald Murphy, an awkward prep-school boy five years her junior.

Sara was attracted by Gerald's reflective nature, quiet sense of humor and habit of questioning convention. An esthete from his earliest years, he was uncomfortable in the boardrooms and clubrooms for which he was being groomed. The grooming process was not proceeding smoothly: he flunked the Yale entrance exams three times, although he eventually matriculated there and performed respectably, creating what he later called ''the likeness of popularity and success.''

Gerald and Sara did not become engaged until 1915, when Sara was 32 years old, over the hill in those days. Although Gerald was perfectly well off and eligible, her parents could hardly bring themselves to countenance their daughter marrying someone ''in trade.'' The senior Murphys also greeted the news gloomily, not so much because they had objections to Sara as because they seemed incapable of approving anything Gerald did: he had been, his father said, a ''great disappointment'' to him; Gerald's vision of life was ''unsound and warped.''

Considering their cold and withholding families and what Sara called ''the heavy hand of chaperonage'' that had always weighed firmly upon them, it is no surprise that the young Murphys looked upon their marriage not as a tie but as the beginning of glorious freedom. ''Think of a relationship that not only does not bind, but actually so lets loose the imagination!'' Gerald wrote. The Murphys cherished a Tolstoyan ideal of husband and wife working and living side by side. But this way of life was hard to bring to fruition within their parents' sphere of influence. And so in 1921, after Gerald had served in the Army's air units during World War I and had spent a stint learning landscape architecture at Harvard, the Murphys sailed for Paris with their three small children -- Honoria, Baoth and Patrick -- drawn there by the favorable exchange rate, the distance from their families and the galvanizing new artistic life of the French capital. The belle epoque was over, and the Murphys enthusiastically entered the modern age, which they were to ornament.

Too much, perhaps, has been written about Paris in the 20's, and certainly more than enough about the Murphys and their circle; nevertheless, Vaill's version is elegantly written and well worth perusing. Joyce, Miro, Picasso, Man Ray, Stravinsky, Hemingway, Beckett, Brancusi, Leger, Balanchine, Fitzgerald, Isadora Duncan: everyone, it seemed, was in Paris, and the Murphys -- generous, stylish and hospitable -- knew and entertained them all. ''The Murphys were among the first Americans I ever met,'' Stravinsky said, ''and they gave me the most agreeable impression of the United States.''

Their Paris apartment was modern and unconventional, but it was at the Villa America, their house at Cap d'Antibes on the Riviera, that the Murphys came into their own and made their indelible impression on their contemporaries; it was there that they seemed most to embody the period and its esthetic. Until their day the Cote d'Azur had been strictly a winter resort, practically deserted during the hot summer months. From 1923 the Murphys almost single-handedly made it fashionable, inviting exotics like the Fitzgeralds, the Picassos, Hemingway and his first and second wives and Fernand Leger to their little beach of La Garoupe.

Gerald, who, in the words of a friend, ''always became a native of wherever he was,'' adopted a casual wardrobe that in subsequent years would become what amounted to a Cap d'Antibes uniform: striped sailor jersey, espadrilles and knitted fisherman's cap. Sara was very much the striking beauty that Fitzgerald would bring to life as Nicole Diver in ''Tender Is the Night,'' her face ''hard and lovely and pitiful,'' her bathing suit ''pulled off her shoulders,'' her characteristic rope of pearls setting off her deep tan. Around them they created a perpetual aura of luxury, celebration and fun. ''Sara est tres festin,'' Picasso remarked approvingly, as he watched her setting the picnic cloth with flowers and ivy.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald became particular friends of the Murphys. ''We four communicate by our presence rather than by any means,'' Gerald told them. ''Currents race between us regardless.'' But it was never a friendship between equals: the Fitzgeralds were younger and far less stable, and the very qualities that attracted them to the Murphys -- the older couple's inherited wealth and their unthinking generosity, their glamour and their air of settled contentment with each another and with their children-- made Fitzgerald envious and defensive.

In spite of the talent and intelligence the Murphys prized, F. Scott Fitzgerald was without a doubt one of the foremost boors of 20th-century American letters. Even the tolerant Gerald admitted that Scott ''really had the most appalling sense of humor, sophomoric and -- well, trashy.'' Murphy himself was all too often the butt of Fitzgerald's drunken venom. Yet never once did he grudge Fitzgerald affection, praise, financial and moral support. It was Murphy who bailed Fitzgerald out in 1939 and kept his daughter in Vassar; he and Sara were among the few to show up at Fitzgerald's funeral the following year. Fitzgerald, however, proved himself an unreliable friend, fostering, as did Hemingway, the image of Gerald Murphy as a spoiled dilettante.

But Murphy, modest about his gifts as he was, was no dilettante. He had unexpectedly taken up painting soon after his arrival in Paris, after seeing an exhibition of work by Picasso, Derain, Gris and Braque. ''There was a shock of recognition which put me into an entirely new orbit,'' he later wrote. ''If that's painting,'' he told Sara, ''that's the kind of painting that I would like to do.'' He began to study with the futurist artist Natalia Goncharova and, along with Sara, to help paint scenery for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

Murphy was an infinitely slow and meticulous painter with a small output in his brief career. His surviving works formed the nucleus of a Museum of Modern Art exhibition in 1974 that John Russell, then a New York Times art critic, called ''a distinct contribution to the history of modern American painting.'' These works, striking and contemporary, show him to have been a sort of pop artist before Pop Art; they garnered considerable attention at the Salon des Independants of the 1920's and had a marked influence upon the better-known Stuart Davis, among others. Art in America magazine, reviewing the posthumous 1974 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, judged him to be ''an astonishingly original, witty and prophetic painter.''

The Murphys' seemingly charmed life ended abruptly, and forever, in 1929 when tuberculosis was diagnosed in their youngest son, Patrick. Gerald put away his paintbrushes, never, so far as anyone knows, to touch them again, and for the next seven years he and Sara poured all their energies into their son. They spent much of that time at a Swiss sanitarium, where they gallantly tried to keep life and hope going by creating the festive atmosphere that was their specialty.

Then in 1935, to everyone's shock, their elder son, Baoth, who had always been vigorous and healthy, suddenly developed meningitis and died. A year later Patrick lost his long battle at the age of 16. ''Life itself has stepped in now and blundered, scarred and destroyed,'' Gerald wrote to Fitzgerald. ''In my heart I dreaded the moment when our youth and invention would be attacked in our only vulnerable spot -- the children.'' Fitzgerald responded, ''The golden bowl is broken indeed, but it was golden.''

In 1937 the Murphys returned to New York for good. From this period, their marriage underwent a shift. It seems probable (although Vaill is very discreet, perhaps too much so) that Gerald's primary orientation was homosexual; but Sara had always been the most important thing in his life, their marriage paramount. Now, differences that had always existed between the two became more clearly defined, and to a certain extent they distanced themselves from one another. ''You are surprised anew periodically that 'warm human relationship' should be so necessary to you and less to me,'' Gerald wrote to Sara. ''Yet nothing is more natural under the circumstances. You believe in it (as you do in life), you are capable of it, you command it. I am less of a believer (I don't admire human animals as much).''

The Mark Cross Company was on the verge of bankruptcy and in 1934 Gerald took it over at last, spending the remainder of his working years turning it back into a prosperous concern. As an elderly man he lived the life he had fled as a youth, going to an office and lunching every day at Schrafft's. He never spoke about his painting or about his dead sons. Sara threw herself into volunteer work with children.

They entertained old friends and made new ones, like Edmund Wilson, Dawn Powell and Calvin Tomkins, who wrote a long article for The New Yorker about the Murphys, ''Living Well Is the Best Revenge,'' later published in book form. (Gerald liked the article but not the title: he had never wanted revenge on anyone, he said.) Gerald died in 1964, Sara 11 years later.

Other writers, even old friends, did not treat the Murphys as kindly as Tomkins did. Hemingway's posthumous memoir, ''A Moveable Feast,'' called them rich ''bastards.'' Vaill quotes portions deleted from the published book in which Hemingway nastily -- and unforgivably, considering their generosity to him -- commented, ''They were bad luck to people but they were worse luck to themselves and they lived to have all that bad luck finally.'' Gerald reacted with his odd, characteristic blend of sympathy and resigned detachment: ''What a strange kind of bitterness -- or rather accusitoriness . . . . What shocking ethics! How well written, of course.''

Brooke Allen is a writer and critic who reviews frequently for The New Criterion and The Wall Street Journal


Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy Paperback – August 27, 2007
by Deborah Rothschild (Editor), Calvin Tomkins (Introduction)

Paris in the 1920s—art, literature, the Lost Generation. The glitterati who inhabited this legendary world—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Man Ray, Dorothy Parker, and a host of others—were members of an intimate circle centered around Sara and Gerald Murphy. Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy is a captivating and absorbing collection of essays examining through images and text the Murphys' influence on a remarkable constellation of artists. The book also explores Gerald Murphy's abbreviated career as a painter, his artistic legacy, and the complex nature of his motivation and vision. This beautifully illustrated volume features essays by art historian Deborah Rothschild and such Murphy scholars as Calvin Tomkins, Amanda Vaill, Linda Patterson Miller, Kenneth Silver; curators Dorothy Kosinski and Kenneth Wayne; artist/writer Trevor Winkfield; musicologist Olivia Mattis; and poet and author William Jay Smith.



Modern Love
Gerald and Sara Murphy at work and at play.


Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara & Gerald Murphy,” at the Williams College Museum of Art, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is an immensely satisfying show about fine, complicated people who loved life in exemplary ways, in superb company, and suffered misfortune. It is also an art show that centers on seven paintings by Gerald, all that remain of the fourteen he is known to have made in the nineteen-twenties. (The others were lost, owing largely to his own indifference.) In addition, there is work by Picasso, Léger, Gris, and other modern masters whom the Murphys befriended, supported, and, at times, inspired. Without it, tales of Gerald and Sara, moderately wealthy and irrepressibly sociable Jazz Age American expatriates in France, would be mainly deluxe gossip, filtered through their friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night,” in which they figure as the charismatic Dick and Nicole Diver. Their story was vivified by Calvin Tomkins in his 1962 New Yorker Profile and later book, “Living Well Is the Best Revenge,” and by Amanda Vaill in her 1998 biography, “Everybody Was So Young.” Tomkins and Vaill are among the ten essayists in the show’s catalogue, who, led by the curator Deborah Rothschild, neglect no aspect of Murphyana, including the long-veiled sidelight of Gerald’s homosexuality. Usually, I’m unbeguiled by the rich and glamorous, and I attended “Making It New” in a resisting mood. Then I looked.

Gerald’s paintings are a gold standard that backs, with creative integrity, the paper money of the couple’s legend. He started by assisting on sets for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with quick lessons from the painter Natalia Goncharova. His work consists of crisply hard-edged, cunningly composed, subtly colored, semi-abstract pictures of machinery, common objects, architectural fragments, and, in a disturbing final image, a wasp battening on a pear. Numerous influences are plain, but Gerald jumped ahead of his time with a laconic style that was prescient of big-scale abstraction and of Pop art. (If one of the lost paintings, “Boatdeck”—a sensation at the 1924 Salon des Indépendants, in Paris—had survived, it surely would be an icon of modernism. Eighteen feet high by twelve wide, it billboarded transatlantic cultural intercourse with a tremendous image of ocean-liner structures.) “Watch” (1925), depicting clockwork, achieves a spankingly representational translation of Cubism. “Razor” (1924), which monumentalizes a safety razor, a fountain pen, and a matchbox, might enable future archeologists to reimagine the essential theory and practice of modern art, should every other example perish. It is by a man who wasn’t really an artist.


Gerald’s father owned Mark Cross, the luxury-goods business; Sara’s was a printing magnate. Gerald’s family was Irish Catholic, from Boston; Sara’s a union of Norwegian and pedigreed American, from Illinois. They met at a party in East Hampton, in 1904, when she was twenty-one and he sixteen. Friendship became romance after his graduation from Yale, where he was popular but unhappy. She seems to have taken in stride his confessed attraction to men, which he strove to suppress. They married in 1915 and soon had a girl and two boys. Gerald volunteered for military service not quite in time to fight in the First World War. He then studied landscape architecture at Harvard. William James, Jr., the son of the philosopher, painted Sara’s portrait—an astonishingly lovely and telling picture, which is in the show. In June of 1921, the culturally ambitious Murphys decamped for England. By September, they were in Paris, where they found old friends, notably Cole Porter, and plunged into circles of the avant-garde, primarily that of the Russians around Diaghilev and Stravinsky. Picasso, having married the ballerina Olga Khokhlova, was a frequent presence. To celebrate the première of Stravinsky’s ballet “Les Noces,” in 1923, Gerald and Sara threw a fabled all-night party on a barge on the Seine. The same year, Gerald and Porter collaborated on a riotously successful jazz ballet, “Within the Quota,” a burlesque on American culture.

Porter and his wife, Linda, had introduced the Murphys to Antibes, a resort where, at the time, few people stayed in the summer. In 1923, they bought a seaside chalet, dubbed Villa America, and helped to change that. They hosted the Picassos and close to everybody else who counted in adventurous art and literature. American visitors included Man Ray, Archibald MacLeish, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and, of most consequence, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. (For the atmospherics of Villa America, consult the incandescent opening pages of “Tender Is the Night.”) Anecdotes abound. Questions linger. Did Picasso bed Sara? That sturdy rumor is probably untrue, though the artist was smitten, as were many other men. Sara’s features are suggested in certain of his “neoclassical” paintings—“Woman Seated in an Armchair” (1923) gives dazzling evidence in the show—but Picasso was on a break, at the time, from being obsessed with particular women. His masterpiece involving the Murphys, “The Pipes of Pan” (1923), was based on a photograph of himself clowning on the beach with a stiffly posing Gerald.


Two things intrigue me in accounts of the Murphys’ conduct. One is how effectively Gerald concealed his sexual ambivalence. Even his sophisticated intimates Fitzgerald and Hemingway seem uncertain, though Hemingway had occasion to deplore a shifty unreliability, compounded of guilt and fear, at Gerald’s core. (His gradual disaffection became outright cruelty in “A Moveable Feast,” where he sneered at “the understanding rich.”) Also striking is the fact that Gerald and Sara collected only American folk art. The abnegation bespeaks a will to remain participants in, rather than patrons of, the creative life. Their expressive means included decorative flair (white walls and black satin in the villa) and wit (Sara wore her pearls to the beach because, she explained, they wanted sunning). Rothschild writes that Gerald “meticulously planned, intellectualized, and expended great effort in order to make each moment a beautiful event.”

The idyll disintegrated in 1929, owing to financial setbacks and, most gravely, the onset of their younger son Patrick’s fatal tuberculosis. Amid years of frantic efforts to save Patrick, their other son, Baoth, died suddenly, of meningitis; both boys were gone by 1937. The family had returned to America, where Gerald took over Mark Cross, then on the brink of bankruptcy, and, grudgingly, spent the rest of his working life preserving it. The hospitality of their home in Snedens Landing, just up the Hudson from New York City, seems to have been a sweet but pale afterimage of their former salon. (Sara instructed Calvin Tomkins in the right way to drink champagne—with eyes raised to the trees above.) Gerald had all but closed an iron door on the memory of his meteoric painting career when, in 1960, the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts mounted a revival. He later remarked, “I’ve been discovered. What does one wear?” The seven paintings and the odd minor work on paper, seen together, really do project a career, which was strongest at the start. The grotesquerie of “Wasp and Pear” (1929), with its hints of psychic turmoil, may have been a gambit to check a slide into overly exquisite effects. At any rate, it’s unlikely that Gerald, had he continued, would have improved. What he used in his art, he used up.


The Murphys served Fitzgerald as symbols of the great theme of the Lost Generation: romantic disappointment, given intensity by the majesty of the dreams at stake. Gerald seemed to concur in a letter to Fitzgerald in 1935, praising “Tender Is the Night.” (Sara hated the book.) He wrote, “Only the invented part of our life—the unreal part—has had any scheme, any beauty.” But this came amid the trauma of Baoth’s death. (“Life itself has stepped in now and blundered, scarred, and destroyed.”) In fact, Gerald and Sara lived well, with dignity, from start to finish. The most revelatory and moving item in the show for me is a letter from Zelda Fitzgerald, following Scott’s death, in 1940. She writes that Scott’s love of the Murphys reflected a “devotion to those that he felt were contributing to the aesthetic and spiritual purposes of life.” There is a world of excitement and woe in that conflation of the aesthetic and the spiritual. It’s a madness, which life will punish. ♦

Bons baisers de la Côte d'Azur

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Remembering The "Ursula" Suit.



Early in the war Philips and his crew had become dissatisfied with the conventional garb of oilskins and designed a special form of clothing more suitable for submarines. Ursula's navigating officer, Lt Lakin, was a keen motorcyclist and wore a one-piece motorcycling suit made by Barbour. Philips asked the company to adapt the suit, splitting it into jacket and trousers and adding a hood. The suit became standard watch-keeping clothing in Royal Navy submarines.

Picture  showing the lookout left of camera in his Royal Navy issue Ursula Suit.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mr. Turner, by Mike Leigh.


Mr. Turner is a 2014 British biographical drama film, written and directed by Mike Leigh, and starring Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson, Marion Bailey, Lesley Manville, and Martin Savage. The film concerns the life and career of British artist J. M. W. Turner (played by Spall). It premiered in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Spall won the award for Best Actor and cinematographer Dick Pope received a special jury prize for the film's cinematography.
Leigh has described Turner as "a great artist: a radical, revolutionary painter," explaining, "I felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual, and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world."

A look at the last quarter century of the great British painter J. M. W. Turner. Profoundly affected by the death of his esteemed father, loved by his housekeeper, Hannah Danby, whom he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies.

Throughout all this, Turner travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.

Mr. Turner had its premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or, with Timothy Spall winning the Best Actor award and cinematographer Dick Pope winning the Vulcan Award. Entertainment One are scheduled to release the film in the United Kingdom on 31 October 2014. Sony Pictures Classics will handle the United States distribution, with a scheduled release date of 19 December 2014. It is scheduled to be screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by     Mike Leigh
Produced by   Georgina Lowe
Written by      Mike Leigh
Starring           Timothy Spall
Dorothy Atkinson
Marion Bailey
Paul Jesson
Lesley Manville
Martin Savage
Music by         Gary Yershon
Cinematography         Dick Pope
Edited by        Jon Gregory
Production
company        
Film4
Focus Features International
Lipsync Productions
Thin Man Films
Xofa Productions
Distributed by            Entertainment One
Release dates 
15 May 2014 (Cannes)
31 October 2014 (United Kingdom)
19 December 2014 (United States)
Running time  150 minutes
Country          United Kingdom
Language        English



Impressions of Mr Turner: a film researcher’s view from books to screen
Premiere of director Mike Leigh’s film ends a collaborative creative process that started more than two years ago
Jacqueline Riding

On a sunny afternoon in December two years ago, the cast and crew of the film Mr Turner – then only known as Untitled 13 – gathered in central London for a read through. Only there was no read through, because there was no script.

Mike Leigh’s film-making process is intensive and collaborative, with character, action and dialogue gradually emerging from months of research, discussion and improvisation – and he told us that this method is broadly the same whatever the subject. It was a process that would develop over six months of rehearsals, and a four-month shoot.

At the initial stage there was a lot of reading (the books on JMW Turner alone can be measured by the yard), and site visits and dossiers to be created – of Turner’s family, partners, fellow artists, friends, patrons, associates – out of which the time span of the film is settled, themes and events are defined, characters are selected and actors cast. We managed to get agreement from a large number of museums and galleries to use their images and selected hundreds of works that could be included in the set-piece reconstructions, such as Turner’s Queen Anne Street gallery and the magnificent 1832 Royal Academy summer exhibition. The next research stage was a sort of actors’ art/history boot camp, which happened alongside the actors’ sessions with Mike, because everything and anything that was read or experienced might find its way into the character, the scene and the dialogue.

This meant a lot of work for each actor, particularly Timothy Spall, playing Turner. For a character such as Turner, one challenge is knowing when to stop. With others, such as his close companion Sophia Booth (played by Marion Bailey) and his housekeeper Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson), surprisingly little had been written about them, considering the gamut of Turner biographies.

But to give an indication of the overall scale and scope of the research covered: in early December 2012 there were 40 actors, which gradually expanded to 76 as the rehearsal period went on, until the characters included a monarch, a barber, an earl, an art critic, a sherry merchant, an evangelical Anglican, a doctor, a slave ship carpenter, a photographer, an army officer, an architect, two prostitutes and 15 artists (including the great man himself).

The research took us from Kensington Palace to Berry Bros & Rudd fine wine merchants, from the Royal Hospital Museum in Chelsea to the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel, and from Sir John Soane’s Museum to Margate and Twickenham (Turner’s House). Paul Jesson (playing William Turner senior) had lessons in traditional wet shaving, while Leo Bill (as the photographer John JE Mayall) had sessions on daguerreotype photography with expert David Burder.

I spent months in the British Library and the London Library – the latter packed full of wonderful material such as an 1813 housekeeping manual that provided a useful contemporary recipe for a pig’s head stuffing, using brains and bread crumbs, and early travel guides to Kent.

There were sessions for the “artists” in the library and archive of the Royal Academy, hands-on pigment and oil-paint classes at Winsor & Newton fine art materials and back at U13 central, group discussions on art theory, history and practice. At the Royal Museums and Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, the same group covered everything from Lord Nelson, Trafalgar and the Temeraire to decorative history painting and European marine art – the latter courtesy of my sister, Christine Riding, who happened to be curating the major exhibition, Turner and the Sea, which Leigh opened in November 2013.

From early on, some form of reconstruction of Turner’s most famous painting, The Fighting Temeraire, was discussed. Clearly computer-generated imagery would be required, but the reality was very different to Turner’s vision. It is known that the Royal Navy had stripped the ship of anything useful, including her masts, and that she was taken up the Thames to Rotherhithe by two tugs and that her last journey to the breaker’s wharf began on the morning of 5 September 1838 to take advantage of the spring tides. No masts, no ethereal glow, no lone jaunty tug, no elegiac sunset.

But then Turner’s painting is essentially a construct of his own imagination using the bare facts of the event as a starting point. That the scene in the film shows a masted war ship and a sunset, with Turner and his companions Clarkson Stanfield (Mark Stanley) and David Roberts (Jamie Thomas King) taking a boat down the Thames to see her, is following Turner’s lead – an imagined scene full of poignant historical resonances, and a little knowing humour, based on the event and in this case the painting it stimulated. I believe the result is spectacular.

A highlight of one rehearsal involved seven actors, including Spall and Josh McGuire (Turner’s champion John Ruskin), which began with a discussion on gooseberries and then segued into the relative merits of Claude Lorrain (then, as now, a revered French 17th-century painter) and Turner’s own representations of the sea.

In the film, you are watching months, years actually, of preparation and graft, gradually evolved from improvisations, then honed into an elegant, funny and revealing five-minute scene. Ultimately, my role was to provide information, to advise, to avoid any howlers and then to stand back. For, as Mike says, this is a movie, not a documentary.

The author was the lead researcher on Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner




The real Mr Turner: has Mike Leigh’s film got its man?

Timothy Spall plays the painter as a rough diamond, a blast of the roistering 18th century in the moralising Victorian era

Timothy Spall’s Turner is a strange, magnificent being. He gurns, he growls, he mumbles and grumbles. It is impossible not to be fascinated and moved by him. His onscreen death made me cry. But how much does this great plum pie of a man churning his way through a 19th-century England resemble the actual JMW Turner, who was born in 1775 and died in 1851?

The real Turner was a lot more handsome and elegant, at least in his own eyes. Spall’s Turner admits that “when I look in the mirror, I see a gargoyle”. Real Turner, when he was about 24 years old – much younger than when we meet him in the film – gazed in the mirror and saw a handsome, debonair, fiercely perceptive youth, his wide open eyes looking straight ahead, seeing everything.

It is those eyes that contain the true Turner. It is in their fiery vision of nature, myth and history that all his secrets can be found.

Turner lives in his paintings. You only have to stroll through Tate Britain’s Clore Gallery, which displays works from the copious bequest of his own work that Turner left the nation, or visit the same museum’s Late Turner exhibition, to realise that most of the painter’s time, energy and emotion must have gone into producing sketches, watercolours and oil paintings. The sex life and affairs whose enigmas drive the film did not matter to him except as light relief from all that exhausting work.

In short, the real Turner was not as cuddly as Leigh makes him. He was a driven artist. He wanted to compete not just with contemporaries such as John Constable – who in the film looks appropriately downtrodden by Turner’s remorseless artistic strength – but Poussin, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci. He did it – he painted himself into the pantheon of the greatest artists of all time. There is no evidence that he cared who he hurt to get there.

Spall’s Turner is a rough diamond. Really rough. We see him spurn a former mistress and refuse to acknowledge paternity of their children; completely true. We also see him drawing a prostitute in a brothel – again, true to what is known about him. But the greatness of Spall’s acting lies in humanising a man who at times seems so brutal and cold. When he thinks about the daughter whose funeral he didn’t attend, he weeps. When he makes the prostitute pose, he also weeps. Is it guilt?

Leigh and Spall are just as blind as the moralising Victorians were to what is likely to have been Turner’s real attitude to love, sex and family responsibilities: he probably never felt a shred of anxiety about any of it. Where he came from, loving and leaving was natural. For he came from the 18th century.

Turner was the victim of a culture clash. He grew up and became an artist in the freewheeling Georgian age, when London was full of Hogarthian rakes and Moll Flanders types on the make. Even coffee houses frequently doubled as brothels. Don’t even ask about the bathhouses. As the Cambridge historian Vic Gatrell, whose recent book The First Bohemians delves into the artistic and sexual scene of 18th-century Covent Garden, told me: “I don’t think he’s self-conscious about his libertine ways.”

Eighteenth-century libertinism was simply the culture that shaped young Turner. He was born in Maiden Lane, close by Covent Garden, then the heart of London’s gambling, drinking and commercial sex district. His father was a barber, his mother was mentally ill, perhaps schizophrenic, and ended up in the notorious Bedlam hospital. It was, says Gatrell, a bohemian world.

This London of loose morals was remote from the same city in which he died in 1851. In the course of his lifetime, British manners were transformed. The freedoms of the Georgian age had become constrained by starched collars and cast-iron respectability. Turner’s great critical champion, John Ruskin, was one of the most Victorian of Victorians, and when he went through Turner’s artistic bequest at the National Gallery, he felt ill. He found not just the landscapes he loved, but sketches “of the most shameful sort – the pudenda of women – utterly inexcusable and to me inexplicable”. Ruskin revealed that he burned most of Turner’s erotic art, for the good of his hero’s reputation and the national soul. Strangely enough, he seems to have been lying. Tate Britain has now located enough of Turner’s sexy watercolours to establish that Ruskin never did burn them – or if he did destroy some, there must really have been a lot.

This was the second shock Ruskin and other Victorian Turner fans had suffered. The first was when he died in the secret Chelsea home he shared with his last lover, Mrs Booth, a Margate landlady. Leigh is on firmer ground in making this relationship touching and warm – they were both old enough and their life together lasted long enough for it to have been emotional, not just a libertine’s last fling.

In Turner’s painting Apollo and Python in Tate Britain, the ancient Greek god Apollo has just slain a horrific serpentine monster. Turner surrounds Apollo with golden light. He is the embodiment of reason and – literally – enlightenment. The monster Python lies tangled in the branches of devastated trees, its viscera spewing out. Its jaws are almost invisible in the darkness that envelops this part of the picture. Looking into that gloom, you start to notice something disturbing. There are other monsters in the dark. A glittering eye, a gruesome set of fangs glisten in the shadows. Python is dead, but unreason lives on. More monsters are creeping forward to threaten all that is good.

Is this painting autobiographical? It might be an exploration of the artist’s own dark side. He may be thinking of his mother’s madness. Was he scared of going mad himself? Yet any such personal feelings are translated by Turner to the lofty level of history painting. His art aspires all the time to say things not about him, but about the human condition. Apollo and Python is one of the greatest of all paintings of a Greek myth because it so deeply and resonantly reveals the poetry and philosophy of the ancient legend – that it is a story about reason, unreason and the nature of civilisation.

The inarticulacy of Spall’s Turner is true to life. He was mocked for it – and again it comes from his unvarnished London childhood. He came “out of the people, out of the plebs”, says Gatrell. But there’s always going to be something missing from our understanding of Turner if we only listen to his sometimes stumbling words. His paintings, truly, are where the real Mr Turner can be found. In them he does not stumble. He never has – Ruskin was right to insist – a mean or ignoble thought. Apollo and Python is unutterably profound. It is in his works of unparalleled insight and nuance that we encounter the real Mr Turner – the genius.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Tamara de Lempicka.



She was born Maria Górska in Warsaw, Congress Poland under the rulership of the Russian Empire, into a wealthy and prominent family. Lempicka was the daughter of Boris Gurwik-Górski, a Russian Jewish attorney for a French trading company, and Malwina Dekler, a Polish socialite who met him at one of the European spas. Maria had two siblings and was the middle child. She attended a boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, and spent the winter of 1911 with her grandmother in Italy and on the French Riviera, where she was treated to her first taste of the Great Masters of Italian painting. In 1912, her parents divorced, and Maria went to live with her rich Aunt Stefa in St. Petersburg, Russia. When her mother remarried, she became determined to break away to make a life of her own. In 1913, at the age of fifteen, while attending the opera, Maria spotted the man she became determined to marry. She promoted her campaign through her well-connected uncle, and in 1916 she married Tadeusz Łempicki (1888–1951) in St. Petersburg—a well-known ladies' man, gadabout, and lawyer by title, who was tempted by the significant dowry.

In 1917, during the Russian Revolution, Tadeusz Łempicki was arrested in the dead of night by the Bolsheviks. Maria searched the prisons for him and after several weeks, with the help of the Swedish consul, she secured his release. They traveled to Copenhagen then to London and finally to Paris, to where Maria's family had also escaped.
                                                                                                   
In Paris, the Lempickis lived for a while from the sale of family jewels. Tadeusz proved unwilling or unable to find suitable work, which added to the domestic strain, while Maria gave birth to Kizette Lempicka. Her sister, the designer Adrienne Gorska, made furniture for her Paris apartment and studio in the Art Deco style, complete with chrome-plated furniture.The flat at 7 Rue Mechain was built by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens known for his clean lines.

Lempicka's distinctive and bold artistic style developed quickly, influenced by what André Lhote sometimes referred to as "soft cubism" and by the "synthetic cubism" of Maurice Denis, epitomizing the cool yet sensual side of the Art Deco movement. For her, Picasso "embodied the novelty of destruction". She thought that many of the Impressionists drew badly and employed "dirty" colors. Lempicka's technique would be novel, clean, precise, and elegant.

For her first major show, in Milan, Italy in 1925, under the sponsorship of Count Emmanuele Castelbarco, Lempicka painted 28 new works in six months. A portrait would take three weeks of work, allowing for the nuisance of dealing with a difficult sitter; by 1927, Lempicka could charge 50,000 French francs for a portrait, a sum equal to about US$2,000 then and more than ten times as much today. Through Castelbarco, she was introduced to Italy's great man of letters and notorious lover, Gabriele d'Annunzio. She visited the poet twice at his villa on Lake Garda, seeking to paint his portrait; he in turn was set on seduction. After her unsuccessful attempts to secure the commission, she went away angry, while d'Annunzio also remained unsatisfied.

In 1925, Lempicka painted her iconic work Auto-Portrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti) for the cover of the German fashion magazine Die Dame. As summed up by the magazine Auto-Journal in 1974, "the self-portrait of Tamara de Lempicka is a real image of the independent woman who asserts herself. Her hands are gloved, she is helmeted, and inaccessible; a cold and disturbing beauty [through which] pierces a formidable being—this woman is free!" In 1927 Lempicka won her first major award, the first prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux, France, for her portrait of Kizette on the Balcony.

Lempicka's distinctive and bold artistic style developed quickly, influenced by what André Lhote sometimes referred to as "soft cubism" and by the "synthetic cubism" of Maurice Denis, epitomizing the cool yet sensual side of the Art Deco movement. For her, Picasso "embodied the novelty of destruction". She thought that many of the Impressionists drew badly and employed "dirty" colors. Lempicka's technique would be novel, clean, precise, and elegant.

For her first major show, in Milan, Italy in 1925, under the sponsorship of Count Emmanuele Castelbarco, Lempicka painted 28 new works in six months. A portrait would take three weeks of work, allowing for the nuisance of dealing with a difficult sitter; by 1927, Lempicka could charge 50,000 French francs for a portrait, a sum equal to about US$2,000 then and more than ten times as much today. Through Castelbarco, she was introduced to Italy's great man of letters and notorious lover, Gabriele d'Annunzio. She visited the poet twice at his villa on Lake Garda, seeking to paint his portrait; he in turn was set on seduction. After her unsuccessful attempts to secure the commission, she went away angry, while d'Annunzio also remained unsatisfied.

In 1925, Lempicka painted her iconic work Auto-Portrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti) for the cover of the German fashion magazine Die Dame. As summed up by the magazine Auto-Journal in 1974, "the self-portrait of Tamara de Lempicka is a real image of the independent woman who asserts herself. Her hands are gloved, she is helmeted, and inaccessible; a cold and disturbing beauty through which pierces a formidable being—this woman is free!"In 1927 Lempicka won her first major award, the first prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux, France, for her portrait of Kizette on the Balcony.

In Paris during the Roaring Twenties, Tamara de Lempicka became part of the bohemian life: she knew Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide. Famous for her libido, she was bisexual. Her affairs with both men and women were conducted in ways that were considered scandalous at the time. She often used formal and narrative elements in her portraits, and her nude studies produced overpowering effects of desire and seduction. In the 1920s she became closely associated with lesbian and bisexual women in writing and artistic circles, such as Violet Trefusis, Vita Sackville-West, and Colette. She also became involved with Suzy Solidor, a night club singer at the Boîte de Nuit, whose portrait she later painted.
Her husband eventually tired of their arrangement and abandoned her in 1927. They were divorced in 1931 in Paris.

Obsessed with her work and her social life, Lempicka neglected more than her husband; she rarely saw her daughter. When Kizette was not away at boarding school (France or England), the girl was often with her grandmother Malvina. When Lempicka informed her mother and daughter that she would not be returning from America for Christmas in 1929, Malvina was so angry that she burned Lempicka's enormous collection of designer hats; Kizette watched them burn, one by one

Kizette was neglected, but also immortalized. Lempicka painted her only child repeatedly, leaving a striking portrait series: Kizette in Pink, 1926; Kizette on the Balcony, 1927; Kizette Sleeping, 1934; Portrait of Baroness Kizette, 1954–5, etc. In other paintings, the women depicted tend to resemble Kizette.

In 1928, her longtime patron the Baron Raoul Kuffner von Diószeg (1886–1961) visited her studio and commissioned her to paint his mistress. Lempicka finished the portrait, then took the mistress' place in the Baron's life. She travelled to the United States for the first time in 1929, to paint a commissioned portrait for Rufus Bush and to arrange a show of her work at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. The show went well but the money she earned was lost when the bank she used collapsed following the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Lempicka continued both her heavy workload and her frenetic social life through the next decade. The Great Depression had little effect on her; in the early 1930s she was painting King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece. Museums began to collect her works. In 1933 she traveled to Chicago where she worked with Georgia O'Keeffe, Santiago Martínez Delgado and Willem de Kooning. Her social position was cemented when she married her lover, Baron Kuffner, on 3 February 1934 in Zurich (his wife had died the year before). The Baron took her out of her quasi-bohemian life and finally secured her place in high society again, with a title to boot. She repaid him by convincing him to sell many of his estates in Eastern Europe and move his money to Switzerland. She saw the coming of World War II from a long way off, much sooner than most of her contemporaries. She did make a few concessions to the changing times as the decade passed; her art featured a few refugees and common people, and even a Christian saint or two, as well as the usual aristocrats and cold nudes.

After Baron Kuffner's death from a heart attack on 3 November 1961 on the ocean liner Liberté en route to New York, she sold most of her possessions and made three around-the-world trips by ship. Finally Lempicka moved to Houston, Texas to be with Kizette and her family. (Kizette had married a man named Harold Foxhall, who was then chief geologist for the Dow Chemical Company; they had two daughters.) There she began her difficult and disagreeable later years. Kizette served as Tamara's business manager, social secretary, and factotum, and suffered under her mother's controlling domination and petulant behavior. Tamara complained that not only were the paints and other artists' materials now inferior to the "old days" but that people in the 1970s lacked the special qualities and "breeding" that inspired her art. The artistry and craftsmanship of her glory days were unrecoverable. In 1978 Tamara moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to live among an aging international set and some of the younger aristocrats. After Kizette's husband died of cancer, she attended her mother for three months until Tamara died in her sleep on March 18, 1980. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the volcano of Popocatepetl on 27 March 1980 by her Mexican friend Victor Manuel Contreras and her daughter Kizette.

In the winter of 1939, Lempicka and her husband started an "extended vacation" in the United States. She immediately arranged for a show of her work in New York, though the Baron and Baroness chose to settle in Beverly Hills, California, living in the former residence of Hollywood director King Vidor. She cultivated a Garboesque manner. The Baroness would visit the Hollywood stars on their studio sets, such as Tyrone Power, Walter Pidgeon, and George Sanders and they would come to her studio to see her at work. She did war relief work, like many others at the time; and she managed to get Kizette out of Nazi-occupied Paris, via Lisbon, in 1941. Some of her paintings of this time had a Salvador Dalí quality, as displayed in Key and Hand, 1941. In 1943, the couple relocated to New York City. Even though she continued to live in style, socializing continuously, her popularity as a society painter had diminished greatly. They traveled to Europe frequently to visit fashionable spas and so that the Baron could attend to Hungarian refugee work. For a while, she continued to paint in her trademark style, although her range of subject matter expanded to include still lifes, and even some abstracts. Yet eventually she adopted a new style, using palette knife instead of brushes. Her new work was not well received when she exhibited in 1962 at the Iolas Gallery. Lempicka determined never to show her work again, and retired from active life as a professional artist.

Insofar as she still painted at all, Lempicka sometimes reworked earlier pieces in her new style. The crisp and direct Amethyste (1946), for example, became the pink and fuzzy Girl with Guitar (1963). She showcased at the Ror Volmar Gallery in Paris from 30 May to 17 June 1961.


Lempicka lived long enough for the wheel of fashion to turn a full circle: before she died a new generation had discovered her art and greeted it with enthusiasm. A retrospective in 1973 drew positive reviews. At the time of her death, her early Art Deco paintings were being shown and purchased once again. A stage play, Tamara, was inspired by her meeting with Gabriele D'Annunzio and was first staged in Toronto; it then ran in Los Angeles for eleven years (1984–1995) at the VFW Post, making it the longest running play in Los Angeles, and some 240 actors were employed over the years. The play was also subsequently produced at the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York City. In 2005, the actress and artist Kara Wilson performed Deco Diva, a one-woman stage play based on Lempicka's life. Her life and her relationship with one of her models is fictionalized in Ellis Avery's novel The Last Nude,  which won the American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards Barbara Gittings Literature Award for 2013.


The good old naughty days
In life Tamara de Lempicka was a Left Bank bisexual with an appetite for bohemian living. Her work, though, portrays the dubious glamour and discipline of fascism
Fiona MacCarthy

If there is a single image that encapsulates art deco, it is Tamara de Lempicka's self-portrait Tamara in the Green Bugatti. It was commissioned for the cover of the German magazine Die Dame, which defined her as "a symbol of women's liberation". The tight, post-cubist composition of the painting; the muted, sophisticated colour; the sense of speed and glamour; her blonde curl edging out of the head-hugging Hermès helmet; her long leather driving gauntlets; her lubricious red lips. Clearly this is a woman who means business - even to the extent of mowing down a few pedestrians.

Her time was the 1920s: a period of transition, an era in which functionalism merged with fantasy and formal social structures lurched into the frenetic. In essence, De Lempicka was a classicist, having admired Renaissance painting since her adolescent travels in Italy. But she astutely combined traditional portraiture with advertising techniques, photographic lighting, vistas of the tower architecture of great cities.

Her milieu was the glittery and scintillating Paris of the years between the wars, a place of high style and lascivious behaviour. With a callous authenticity, De Lempicka depicted the shifting morals of a Paris where nothing was precisely what it seemed. She lived and worked on the bisexual fringes of a society where there were no rules beyond the demands of style and entertainment. She was the great go-getter, a believer in exploiting one's resources to the ultimate. Her iconic green Bugatti wasn't green in reality but yellow. Nor was it even a Bugatti but a Renault. "There are no miracles," she stated with her icy realism. "There is only what you make."

Who was she? De Lempicka shuffled the facts of her biography much as she meddled with her birth date. Tamara Gurnick-Gorzka was born in Moscow - or could it have been Warsaw? - in 1898 or so, to a wealthy Polish mother and a cosmopolitan Russian father. Her background of social confidence and ease was to prove an advantage to a portraitist: she confronted her sitters on equal terms. In St Petersberg, she met Tadeusz Lempicki, a tall, saturnine attorney of noble family and, at the age of 14, announced her love for him. They were married just before the Russian revolution. Lempicki was arrested by the Bolsheviks but his wife secured his release.

Like other exiled White Russians, they arrived in Paris with no money, having abandoned their possessions. They now had a child, Kizette. Tadeusz Lempicki remained unemployed and moody. Tamara's portrait of her husband shows the queasy self-importance of the glamour boy displaced. These were years of deprivation, in which Tamara herself became determined to succeed as a professional artist. "My goal," she later wrote, "was never to copy, to create a new style, bright, luminous colours and to scent out elegance in my models." She became a prime interpreter of modernity.

De Lempicka's painting is a thing of gloss and gesture. In her early days in Paris, she enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and absorbed the work of the old masters, especially admiring Bronzino. In some ways, De Lempicka is a mannerist reborn. She went on to study in the studio of the symbolist Maurice Denis, a highly decorative painter who instilled the sense of discipline and structure in her work.

Her most influential mentor was the painter and critic André Lhote, perpetrator of a less strident, gentler-coloured form of cubism, a style easily acceptable to the bourgeoisie. In her early Paris paintings, De Lempicka employed this "synthetic cubist" method, an accumulation of small geometric planes used to startlingly voluptuous effect in images of women reclining, women bathing, women embracing, laconically stroking one another's thighs. The blatant display of the naked female body was a feature of art deco - this was, after all, the era of Josephine Baker shaking her banana skins. De Lempicka's pair of pointing-breasted giantesses, The Friends, disport themselves in front of a futuristic stage set of skyscrapers, a 1920s fantasy of big city sex.

But her images of female nudity also recalled the French neo-classical tradition. Her group painting Women Bathing is the Left Bank lesbian version of Ingres's luscious harem composition The Turkish Bath. The critics' divination of "perverse Ingrism" in De Lempicka's paintings did her burgeoning popularity no harm. In real life, she acted up to it, displaying her own tall, slender, curvy body outstretched on a divan, wearing a titillating white satin robe with marabou feather adornments. Tamara played her own art deco goddess of desire.

She was a workaholic, permitting interruptions in her nine-hour painting sessions only for such necessities as champagne, a massage and a bath. She sold herself shrewdly and by 1923 was beginning to exhibit in small galleries in Paris. The next year, her work was shown at the Salon des Femmes Artistes Modernes in Paris, and in 1925 she had her first solo exhibition in Milan.

Her social life advanced in parallel, displaying the full force of Tamara's "killer instinct" (her daughter's description). There was something predatory in the way she acquired so many lovers of both sexes, many of whom were also her models and her patrons. The model for her painting Beautiful Rafaela was picked up in the street and seduced with aplomb. The portrait throbs with an intense erotic energy. The liaison continued for a year.

Tamara gave up on Tadeusz and, brandishing diamond bracelets from wrist to shoulder, joined the European avant-garde celebrities: Marinetti, Jean Cocteau, Gabriel d'Annunzio. She visited d'Annunzio at his notorious villa Il Vittoriale in Gardone where, unusually, she resisted his advances and, equally unusually, failed to paint his portrait - a singular loss to the De Lempicka oeuvre. She was a spectacular attender of Natalie Barney's afternoons "for women only" and claimed to have snorted cocaine with André Gide.

Thanks to her contacts in the world of the Paris couturiers, De Lempicka always looked fabulous. Photographed in the right light, she could be Greta Garbo's sister. She made her entrance at smart parties in magnificent garments donated by Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.

In the late 1920s, De Lempicka acquired her most important patrons, Doctor Pierre Boucard and his wife. Boucard was a medical scientist, inventor of Lacteol, a cure for indigestion. He had become an avid modernist and already owned several De Lempicka nudes, including her most flamboyant lesbian painting, Myrto, Two Women on a Couch. He now offered her a two-year contract to paint portraits of himself, his wife and daughter, also asking for an option on any other paintings she produced.

This sudden financial stability allowed her to buy a three-storey house and studio on Rue Mechain on the Left Bank. She commissioned its refurbishment by Robert Mallet-Stevens, the most brilliant French modernist designer of the time. With its svelte grey interior, chrome fittings and American cocktail bar it gave De Lempicka the setting of ultimate urban smartness to which she had long aspired.

A contemporary architectural photograph shows the new studio in all its pristine glory. There in the centre on its easel is the portrait of Madame Boucard, completed in 1931, a sophisticated and accomplished painting that tells us as much about De Lempicka as it does about the sitter. De Lempicka is the connoisseur of textiles, jewels, hairstyles, the cut of the garment, the swathe of the mink stole: no other painter of the period gives us so precise a reading of its material values. Madame Boucard is posed like a Renaissance courtesan, her right nipple erect beneath the oyster satin bodice. She's a figure of power, with something of the brutal allure of Wallis Simpson. What she tells us is that every sex act has its price.

Size mattered in the Europe of that time. De Lempicka's male portraits show gigantic caddishness. Spiv-shouldered Doctor Boucard, with his test tube and his microscope, looks more the slick sharp man about town than man of healing. Count Fürstenberg Herdringen is a glass-eyed monster in a Frenchman's navy beret. Most frightening of all is the colossal portrait of the Grand Duke Gabriel Constantinovich, with his gold-braided uniform and empty, sneering face.

De Lempicka was an artist of the Fascist superworld: her portraits were allied to the "call to order" movement, the return to monumental realism in European art. Her art exudes the dark and dubious glamour of authoritarian discipline. When she paints the Duchesse de la Salle, the Duchess is in jackboots, one hand thrust in her pocket in an attitude of menace. It is a tremendous portrait, painted with the sheer theatrical enjoyment, the unerring sense of decor, of De Lempicka's best work.

In 1933 she remarried. Baron Raoul Kuffner was the owner of vast estates donated to his family of stockbreeders and brewers by Emperor Franz-Josef for supplying the Hapsburg court. De Lempicka had already portrayed her future husband as a dandy desperado, gazing out inscrutably from behind hooded lids. She had also painted - and in doing so disposed of - his previous mistress, the Andalusian dancer Nana de Herrera, selecting her as model for the most overtly decadent of the "damned women" in the notorious Group of Four Nudes .

De Lempicka was never a consistent painter. As with many ruthless people, her swagger could give way to a strain of awful mawkishness: cubism and kitsch. Once she became Baroness Kuffner, Tamara lost direction. The urge for fame, and indeed subsistence, left her. The age of art deco, in which she thrived, was over. Her sentimental studies of old men with guitars and lachrymose mother superiors are a dreadful anti-climax after the bitchy candour of her portrait of lesbian nightclub owner Suzy Solidor.

The political terrors of Europe in the 1930s were impinging: she and the baron, on holiday in Austria, were appalled to have their breakfast on the hotel verandah interrupted by a singing parade of Hitler Youth. In 1939, urged by Tamara, who was partly Jewish, Kuffner sold his estates in Hungary and they moved to the US. In New York, she tried abstract expressionism unsuccessfully, and was reduced to the role of a chic curiosity, "the painting baroness".

De Lempicka died in 1980 in Mexico, having directed that her ashes be scattered over the crater of volcanic Mount Popocatepetl. The woman who in her lifetime was described as "a little hot potato" came to a suitably inflammatory end. Her expensively dressed rogues gallery of portraits, though hardly great art, add up to a unique and alarming social document, recording the seductive surface textures of a European society en route to self-destruct.


October 24, 1999
Glitter Art
The life of a Deco painter who was as sybaritic as her subjects.

Jean Cocteau once said of the painter Tamara de Lempicka that she loved ''art and high society in equal measure.'' If her pursuit of society resulted in opened doors and enviable pleasures, two-timing the art world would also prove to be the bane of her existence. ''To artists she appeared to be an upper-class dilettante, and to the nervous haute bourgeoisie she seemed arrogant and depraved,'' Laura Claridge writes in ''Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence.''

A Polish-Russian aristocrat, Lempicka barely escaped the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1918, she landed in a drab little hotel room in Paris with her unemployed husband and a small child. Within a few years, marshaling her innate talent, her wit and Greta Garbo looks, she became the most talked about Art Deco painter of her time. To this day, her erotic portraits of stylish sybarites are enduring testaments to the novelty-loving materialism and decadence of the glittering 1920's.

There was nothing ordinary about Lempicka; even her name clings to the tongue like an exotic marmalade. Flamboyant (paradoxically remaining true to herself while being a slave to fashion) and imperious, she pinned down her husbands like butterflies in a case, gave lavish parties for hundreds and indulged in every vice that came her way. In the Paris salon of the poet Natalie Barney, she sniffed cocaine and drank sloe gin fizzes laced with hashish among the likes of Andre Gide. On the banks of the Seine, she picked up sailors and female prostitutes. After her nocturnal debauches, she painted until dawn. Her life style (and her ''affair'' with the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio) sent her first husband, Tadeusz Lempicki, packing into the arms of a plump heiress.

Lempicka's second marriage was to the Hungarian Jewish Baron Raoul Kuffner, which necessitated a second flight, this time from Hitler's Europe to the United States. In New York and Hollywood (where she was known as ''the Baroness with a paintbrush'') she saw her career rise and plummet -- only to have her work rediscovered in the 1970's and 80's (she died in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 1980) and collected by celebrities like Madonna and Jack Nicholson.

It is Claridge's ambition that Lempicka, whom she calls ''one of the 20th century's most important and iconoclastic artists,'' be returned to her rightful place in the limelight. But her rush to enshrine Lempicka in the pantheon of modern art's greatest masters sometimes results in breathy pronouncements and lapses of judgment that disrupt an otherwise lucid and interesting account of Lempicka's life and art.
In uncovering Lempicka's life, Claridge, the author of ''Romantic Potency: The Paradox of Desire,'' has surmounted a serious handicap. There were no diaries and few letters and documents to consult; most previous accounts of Lempicka's life have been based on her deliberate lies and improvised anecdotes. Claridge establishes that Tamara Gurwik-Gorska was born around 1895 in Moscow -- not, as she insisted, in 1898 (or later) in Warsaw. Her mother, Malvina Dekler, came from wealthy Polish bankers; her father, Boris Gurwik-Gorski, was a successful Russian Jewish merchant. He disappeared early in Lempicka's childhood, and she fairly well erased him and her Jewish heritage from her memory. She grew up in the hierarchical, class-conscious atmosphere of the haute bourgeoisie during la belle époque. She attended finishing school, visited Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Paris, and made annual tours of Italy, where she first fell in love with the Renaissance masters that were to become an important influence on her work.

By 1910, Lempicka was spending most of her time at her wealthy aunt's opulent residence in St. Petersburg. It was there that she acquired her taste for luxury, and, at a costume ball, she set her sights on her future husband, a handsome Polish lawyer named Tadeusz Junosza-Lempicki. The couple's idyllic, spoiled existence -- traipsing from avant-garde cafe gatherings to society teas -- was cut short by the Russian Revolution. The Cheka arrested Tadeusz, and Lempicka was left to her own devices to free her husband and escape to Paris. ''Paradoxically,'' Claridge writes, Lempicka the painter ''would not have existed without the Russian Revolution. Her expulsion from a predestined life of privilege transformed her into a modern woman.''

In Paris, Lempicka, who had early on shown talent as an artist, took up painting to support her family. To a sleek Cubist style she added the disciplined finish and melancholy light of Renaissance painting. She painted beautiful if somewhat dim-looking women -- half mannequins, half animals, with blood red lips and translucent eyes staring Belliniesquely at heaven, awaiting, it seems, not a message from God but an elixir to slake their restless ennui.

By the mid-20's, Lempicka's portraits of aristocrats and prostitutes were being exhibited in the Paris salons. Her ''Autoportrait: Or, Woman in the Green Bugatti'' (1929) was so often reproduced it became a sort of advertisement for the new modern woman -- independent, stylish and sexually liberated. Lempicka's success allowed her to mingle with avant-gardists like Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali and Filippo Marinetti, but she remained disengaged from the progressive, leftist artistic climate of her time. Aloof and wild, she was fundamentally anti-intellectual. At home, too, she remained at sea. An absent wife, she used her artistic life to excuse her infidelities. A rigid perfectionist, she abused her daughter, Kizette. After her first marriage fell apart she suffered from severe bouts of depression that were to plague her for the rest of her life.

By the mid-1930's the neo-classical and decadent elements of Lempicka's painting made her suspect to both the left-wing critics and the fascists. Lempicka's place in the art world would not be resolved by her move to the United States in 1939. With her wealthy second husband's money she continued her frenetic socializing, while her representational painting quickly became an anachronism, overshadowed by Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. In the 1960's she largely gave up her career and came to resemble a demanding, eccentric socialite more than an influential painter.

Claridge argues that Lempicka has been denied her rightful place in modern art history because she was a woman whose background was politically incorrect, and suggests a re-examination of Modernism is in order. She may not be up to that task, but she has contributed a well-deserved and sympathetic account of Lempicka's life.

Glyn Vincent is writing a biography of the artist Ralph Albert Blakelock.



By John Gross

PASSION BY DESIGN: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka. By Baroness Kizette de Lempicka-Foxhall as told to Charles Phillips. Illustrated. 191 pages. Abbeville Press.

TAMARA DE LEMPICKA -you may not recognize her name, but there is a fair chance that you have seen her face. It gazes out from one of her most frequently reproduced paintings, the ''Auto-Portrait'' of 1925, also known as ''Tamara in the Green Bugatti.'' The young blond driver sits at the wheel of her car, with full red lips and sensuous eyes, gloved and helmeted like an aviator (though the helmet looks curiously metallic) -the perfect image of modernity, 1925 vintage, and the embodied spirit of Art Deco.

During the 1920's and 30's, while she was living in Paris, Tamara de Lempicka established herself as the quintessential Art Deco painter. No one who has seen them could readily forget the stylized portraits and nudes that she painted at that time, with their dramatic shadows and frozen drapery, their sub-Cubist backgrounds of planes and angles and skyscrapers. They have a hard, chrome and enamel feel to them, and yet they contrive to be full of individual character, too.

By the time she left for America, shortly before World War II, Lempicka's reputation was in decline. The dealers lost interest in her, and for many years her work, when it attracted attention at all, looked hopelessly dated.
Then, in the late 1960's, she began to share in the revived fortunes of Art Deco in general, and by the end of the 70's she had once more come into her own. A retrospective exhibition was held in Paris in 1972; a deluxe book about her, edited by Franco Maria Ricci, was published in 1977; since then the prices paid for her paintings have risen sharply, and there has even been a play about her (''Tamara,'' which was first produced in Hollywood in 1984 and will be coming to New York in the fall).

In spite of this she has remained an elusive, somewhat mysterious figure, and there was certainly room for a more extended study of her life than the two or three sketches that are all that has been available up until now. ''Passion by Design'' sets out to fill the gap; it also offers a handsome selection of the paintings (most of them reproduced in color) and photographs taken from Lempicka's own albums.

The text has an unusual history. After Lempicka died in 1980 her daughter, the Baroness Kizette de Lempicka-Foxhall, began to collect her letters and papers and start making notes of her own. Her relationship with her mother had been a difficult one; she was anxious to set down the story in a way that would, in the words of Charles Phillips, ''banish the ghost,'' and at the same time do Lempicka justice - to produce a book without any trace of ''Mommie Dearest,'' as it were.

In 1986 she met Mr. Phillips, and they agreed to collaborate. Mr. Phillips, as he explains, took down the Baroness's story, edited it and recast it in the third person; he has also supplemented it with his own research and material drawn from interviews with Lempicka's friends and acquaintances.

There is no reason in principle why such a method shouldn't have worked, but in practice the results are not very satisfactory. For much of its length, the book provides no more than a trickle of information, bulked out with feeble anecdotes and historical ''background'' of the most banal variety. The Jazz Age is summed up as ''the decade between the last machine gun burst in the trenches on the Marne and the first splat of bone and blood on the sidewalks of Wall Street''; the 1930's are ushered in with the news that ''before long a strange little man who looked remarkably like Charlie Chaplin would play on the turmoil of worldwide depression to get himself elected ruler of Germany.''

Still, let us be thankful for those hard facts about Lempicka that we are given - about her years in Paris in particular. She arrived there with her husband in 1918, both of them refugees from the Russian Revolution (Tamara herself was Polish); her life in exile felt empty, and she turned to painting at the suggestion of her sister, enrolling as a student with the painters Maurice Denis and Andre Lhote.

Her subsequent success brought her into contact with many leading artists and writers of the time (she painted a striking portrait of Andre Gide, for example), but she also kept one foot firmly in the world of smart society. The list of the friends she painted reads like a random dip into the Almanach de Gotha - the Marquis d'Afflitto, the Duchesse de la Salle, Count Furstenburg-Hendringen, the Grand Duke Gabriel Constantinovich - though a glance at their portraits will confirm that she was no mere flatterer.

One of the most oddly contorted and powerful of her portraits was of a Spanish dancer, Nana de Herrera. It was commissioned by Nana de Herrera's lover, a wealthy Hungarian called Baron Kuffner, and the authors describe it as ''something of an assassination''; shortly after it was finished Lempicka replaced the dancer as Kuffner's mistress. He was only one of her many conquests, but the most enduring of them: it was as Baroness Kuffner (they had been married in 1933) that she sailed with him to America in 1939.

The American years were spent in Hollywood, in New York and then, after Kuffner's death in 1962, in Houston. Apart from Hollywood, where Lempicka made a certain splash, they sound like a prolonged anticlimax, and by the time she moved to Mexico, in 1978, she had plainly become an impossible mother, and a fairly impossible person. But she did achieve one last grand gesture, asking for her ashes to be scattered from the air over the volcano Popocatepetl. Her request was honored.

A book with its share of colorful moments, then; but on the whole it is the pictures that are its justification. And not all of them, either - a few are pure kitsch; but the best of them have an electrifying impact.