Monday, May 29, 2006

F is for Les Fauves (P.S. May 30th: and les ups de F***!)

Français encore!

I first heard of the Fauves in Judith Krantz's novel Mistral's Daughter.

I'd better confess to being a book snob. If it's got a hot pink cover with embossed metallic letters, and blurb along the lines of 'destiny unfurls through the lives of three generations of passionate women' my 'blick!' register hits red.

But I liked Mistral's Daughter. In fact, having got it free from the book club, read it three or four times over several years, and given it to the Oxfam shop when we were stripping down ready for moving overseas, I had to buy another copy a couple of years later. I've since lent or lost that, and you know what... now I come to think of it.......

Anyway, I like these!
Woman of Montmarte, painted by Kees Van Dongen in 1911. To me, this is very French - though I'm pretty sure Kees van Dongen wasn't! When I stop to think why, I realise that it goes back to a book I used to get from the library when I was little, small enough to hold my mother's hand as we walked up long, steep Manby Road to 'the top shops' and the little public library in one of the shops.

(P.S. May 30th. The more I return to this painting, the more I go off it. I think that it was the roses on the hat that appealed, and associations with those wonderful, outrageous big hats that society women used to balance on their outrageous grand coiffures. Beyond that - well - what? And the style reminds me more of Hairy McLary from Donaldson's Dairy! which is a delightful children's book. Anyway, I'm tired of it smacking me in the eye, so I've shrunk it!)
The little library at 'the top shops' (writes she, gleefully mythologising her childhood) had Madeline: repeat after me,

'In an old house in Paris
that was covered in vines,
lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines.

In two straight lines
they ate their bread
and drank their milk
and went to bed.

..(happy sigh)..

and the youngest one
was Madeline.'

If I made a mistake, I'm sorry, but that's what I remember, and it is such a happy feeling! And I've got the dopiest smile on my face at also finding 'Jeanne-Marie' online in her little red headscarf, and Patapon, and Madelon . ("Beh-beh-beh!" says Patapon. "Quack-quack-quack!" says Madelon. ..." This was GREAT children's literature!)

And the point of this story? Only that when I was five, I formed an impression of 'French' art on the back of Ludwig Bemelmans' illustrations for his Madeline books. That was Austrian-born American citizen Ludwig Bemelmans! Loose strokes and that very Parisian yellow. Who can tell what will stick in a child's mind? Later exposure to sugared-almond April in Paris tourist Impressionism built on this, before I discovered the real stuff. (Hairy McLary really demolishes that argument, but Madeline and Jeanne-Marie stay!)

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, does anyone else get sick of Impressionism? Yes, it's gorgeous, but it's everywhere! How many books on Impressionism do we need? How many prints, posters, greetings cards, coffee cups, napkins, duvet sets, embroidery kits, painting kits and courses? Heavens above! I cannot actually see the paintings of Renoir and Degas anymore, because they have been before my eyes so often that nothing registers beyond palette and line.
Isn't it ironic, the outrage of the French beau monde and the Académie of the time at this Betrayal of 'Art'?! (And perhaps it was only in reaction to the French obsession with rules and symmetry that the extraordinary artistic experiments of the early 20th Century occurred? In Paris.)
By the way, Woman of Montmartre also reminds me of glum 'Absinthe' (by you know who) and the Edwardian Big Hat musicals Gigi and My Fair Lady. (30/05/06: Uhuh.)

Charles Manguin painted this, The Prints, in 1905. I remember that in Mistral's Daughter, there was something about the insanity/wilful arrogance/genius of an artist using green paint for skin.

On the whole, I don't go for Fauve landscapes because I find them too busy: the brush strokes feature as strongly as the subject, and unsettle me. But this, Jeanne Resting at Villa Demiere, also by Charles Manguin, also in 1905, is so much about the mood of the sitter, in the dappled shade, with the world peacefully distant. I think it's lovely.

And this Georges Braques landscape from 1907, is just good fun. Very Australian somehow. Clarice Clift colours.
(May 30th. WRONG! That would be Clarice CLIFF. not. Bloggers in no-pics mode again.
But Clarice Cliff did gaudy Art Deco pottery in red,orange and yellow, and I wouldn't give most of it house room.
Clarice Clift, on the other hand, or extreme, went in for opaline majolica, which strikes me as pretty bland, but there you are.
OK, I'm bored now. Good night all.
Tomorrow I'll tell you all about my lovely students and their Kabuki Tour!)

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