Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Founder Of The Liberty Style: Galileo Chini

(This is from the Chini Museum at San Lorenzo, Italy.)

Orphaned at 12, Galileo Chini couldn’t have dreamed what a bright future lay ahead of him. The famous artist introduced art nouveau to Italy, worked for the King of Siam, and became friends with Puccini, for whom he designed opera sets.

After his parents died, Chini, became apprenticed to his uncle, Dario, a restorer and artist. Dario spotted his nephew’s talent, encouraging him to study art in Florence at the Academy of Fine Arts.

When he graduated, Chini decided to start a factory together with some other artists, which they called ‘The Art of Ceramics’. Here he introduced the ‘Liberty’ style to Italy, based on art nouveau and the Liberty emporium in London. This was part of the art nouveau movement which wanted to combine ‘architecture, furnishings, and decoration into a harmonious whole’, according to an article at the National Gallery of Australia’s website. It’s bright colors, stylized features, and unusual motifs, such as the eyes of peacock feathers and Maymay bugs, soon attracted attention. Chini also gave a new look to majolica with these strange themes and his ceramics soon started winning prizes. He also designed interiors for many churches, homes and chapels in the major centres of Tuscany. Chini was also influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and the Renaissance painters. His frieze of dancing cherubs for the Sala L’Arte del Sogno shows the influence of Renaissance artists,painters such as Donatello, who often painted these putti.

Chini exhibited his work in London, Paris and Turin. Together with his partner, Montelatici, he exhibited his work at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. They won a gold medal for their large table inlaid with a scene of the Annunciation.

Montelatici also appointedmade Chini as the director of his large art workshop, called La Musiva.l

The King of Siam Notices Chini

Chini designed opera sets and exhibited his art at the Venice Biennale. His colorfulcolourful frescoes especially delighted King Chulalongkorn of Siam who commissioned the artist to paint his throne room at the Dusit Palace, Bangkok. The king wanted ‘the most famous frescofrescoe painter of the time.’

He stayed in Thailandhere for three years. His study of Siamese culture and Eastern grandeur had a great influence on his art. He exhibited paintings of Siam in ‘The Revival of Spring’ held at the Venice Biennale in 1914. Oriental influences can be seen in his set design for Puccini’s Turandot which has been called the epitome of the ‘Liberty’ style.

Chini Returns to Italy

When the famous artist returned to Italy he taught at the AcademiaAccademia di Belle Arti'’ in Florence. He also bought a pine wood and built the holiday house that he’d always wanted at Lida di Camiaore in Tuscany. This became the Villa Chini and is now a very attractive hotel which still displays many of his paintings and decorations, such as a colorfulcolourful stained-glass fruit basket. Puccini also used to visit this lovely area of Tuscany near Versilia for retreats.

He continued to work well into old age, designing interiors for ocean liners and for two hydroelectric power stations in Alto Aldige.
Sadly, Chini started to have health problems and eventually went blind. He died at 83.
Chini’s works can be seen at many galleries in Italy, including The Modern Art Gallery in Rome and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. His paintings are also about to be shown at an exhibition in Bangkok to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Thailand’s diplomatic relations with Italy. The highlight will be the visit of his granddaughter, Paola, who will present his portrait of King Rama 1.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Post Soon!

I've been remiss with this blog but I will definitely write a new post soon!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Society's Great Portrait Artist: John Singer Sargent

There are two opinions of the artist,John Singer Sargent One derides him as overrated – simply a portrait painter of the rich and famous. The other has re-examined his art in recent years and suggests that he is under-rated, and his skill and talent is visible in all of his paintings. People who hold this opinion don’t think that he should just be regarded as a portrait artist, although they think that he was one of the great portraitists of all time.

The young painter was born in Florence to American expatriate parents who came from French and Puritan backgrounds. He had a European education and didn’t visit America until he was twenty. Although Sargent was good at languages and music, art was his true passion and his parents, who noticed his remarkable talent, wisely encouraged him. He studied in Florence but as the Academia delle Belle Arti was reorganizing he traveled to Paris where he was admitted to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. Here he studied for three years and won second prize for his work – he had had to compete with three hundred students.

His next teacher was Carolus-Duran who was mainly famous for being a portrait painter. Sargent began exhibiting at the Paris Salon with portraits, amongst others, of the fashionable and wealthy Frances Watts and his teacher. His portrait shows Carolus-Duran’s good looks and love of ‘dressing up’. He received an Honorable Mention from the Salon, but American visitors described the portrait of Carolus-Duran as ‘foppish’ and ‘vulgar’, although he received six portrait commissions from the French.

By this time Sargent was becoming wealthy himself and had a grand studio and servants. Although he liked the money to be gained by painting portraits, he was also described by his close friend, Violet Paget, as having an ‘instinct for the esoteric’. He began to paint more exotic subjects, such as North Africa, Italy and Spain and showed influences of Velasquez and Goya in his paintings. Sargent was fascinated by the local gypsies and flamenco dancers in Spain and his El Jaleo: Danse des Gitanes shows a passionate dancer. The opera Carmen was popular at this time so the painting was well-received by many. His interesting paintings of Venice which show the location as a city of shadows in an almost sinister way and his paintings of Capri also won high praise from such luminaries as Henry James.

His portraits continued to be exhibited, including paintings of the elite family, the Paillerons, his dramatic portrait of Dr.Pozzi which shows Van Dyck influences, and the sweet and innocent The Lady with the Rose. Scandal came with his portrait of the ‘professional beauty’, the American Madame Gatreau, however. Her black dress with one strap off the shoulder and her pale skin, use of makeup and overt sensuality caused a sensation. Sargent’s commissions dwindled even though he re-painted the portrait with the straps on the shoulder and he fled to London.

Here he considered abandoning art for business or music, but he found new success with his art and even continued to exhibit at the Paris Salon. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. His work now showed Impressionist influences, especially the exquisite Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose which is a painting of two pretty English girls in smocks lighting paper lanterns between rose bushes. It is similar to the work of the Impressionists, but is bolder and brighter with a ‘bolder presence antithetical to the luminous shimmering forms of the French Impressionists…Like the artist himself, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is neither British nor French: it is a knowingly independent statement, and a stunning performance.” (Fairbrother, Trevor. John Singer Sargent, Henry N. Adams, New York, 1994. p.64)

Sargent painted more than five hundred portraits and gained excellent commissions for his paintings of influential Boston families and British aristocrats. He is probably best known for such portraits as Lord Ribblesdale and his painting of the Wyndham sisters. Sargent ‘clearly portrayed a glamorous and powerful ruling class’. (Ibid, p.7)

The artist eventually grew tired of painting portraits although he was the most admired portrait painter of his age. He turned to watercolors and landscapes, creating more paintings of his beloved Italy, which he said is: “...all that one can dream for beauty and charm.” He also painted nudes, mostly male, which have given rise to theories about his sexuality. Sargent created murals for public buildings in Boston and Harvard as well as painting.

Sargent’s paintings have seen a revival recently with major exhibitions, but opinion will probably always be divided about this artist who painted the wealthy and the glamorous without apologizing for it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Perfumes of Rosine

Poiret style dress by L.A. Sanderson

The Perfumes of Rosine

NB: This is also on sale at

The great dress-designer, Poiret, revolutionized women’s dress in the early years of the twentieth century. He liberated them from their restricting corsets and designed free-flowing, comfortable dresses and tunics. He also established the first designer perfumes and linked interior design with his other businesses.

Poiret was always interested in creating perfumes. He attempted to create inks and colors by pressing the flower petals from his garden, according to Poiret by Yvonne Deslandres. He also tried to extract the scent from roses by shutting them in metal boxes with holes at the top. This created a nasty, musty smell, however. He said that: “I was very disappointed but never discouraged.”

The couturier’s determination paid off. Encouraged by his friend, Dr. Midy, who owned a pharmaceutical laboratory, Poiret established his own at his house in Paris. He named his new perfume business after his daughter, Rosine. He also named his interior-design business after another daughter, Martine.

The Rosine perfume, Le Fruit Defendu or Forbidden Fruit, was created by the master perfumer, Henri Almeras, who later created Joy for Jean Patou. Poiret’s other perfumers were Schaller and Bouler. Schaller created Nuit de Chine, which was very expensive. "I don't preach you the economy, I'm speaking only about elegance. Buy Nuit de Chine!" said Poiret

Later Poiret added soaps, powder, talc and makeup to his business.

The design of the packaging and the marketing of the perfumes was just as important to Poiret as the fragrances themselves. According to the book, Perfume Presentation – 100 Years of Artistry: “…he was confident a lady would only have to
chose from the various packaging styles to know if a scent was
suitable to her taste.” Poiret enlisted his artist friends who included Lepape and Dufy to help him with marketing and design. His other business, Les Ateliers de Martine, usually supplied the packaging.

An example of one of his lovely perfume bottles is the one created for the scent, Chez Poiret. Made of clear glass, this had a colored stopped and a golden tassel. The label had a classic ‘R’.

Poiret thought that the marketing and presentation of his perfumes was so important that he remarked that he wanted each flask to be: “ a carefully considered art object so as to be in total affinity and complete harmony with the perfume it secretes.”.
One of his innovations was the famous ‘Rosine Handkerchiefs’. This involved each perfume bottle being enclosed in a little square of checked material.
Poiret’s advertisements were very simple, modern and clever. He also used fans to advertise his fragrances.
The perfumes were so successful that the famous Coty, head of another perfume enterprise, attempted to take it over. Unfortunately Parfums de Rosine ended because of the stock-market crash.
The New Parfums de Rosine
Although Poiret’s perfumes are unavailable, in 1991 Marie-Helene Rogeon decided to re-establish her own version of the exquisite fragrances. Rogeon was born into a family of perfumers. Her ancestors worked for Poiret and one created a cologne for Emperor Napoleon III in the nineteenth century! Her passions include perfume and roses so she decided that establishing this business was a good way to combine her twin loves.
She asked perfumer, Francois Robert, to create her rose-based scents which include La Rose de Rosine and Diabolo Rose.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Edwardian TV Series

Upstairs,Downstairs This was probably the best and most popular Edwardian series of all. The story of the wealthy, upper-class Bellamy family, some of the stories were a bit cliched. These included the ubiquitious episodes where the son of the house fell in love with the maid and got her pregnant. However, its focus on the life of the servants added great interest and was different at the time.

I have read that some Americans found the English accents annoying, which surprised me!

Fall of Eagles<: This classic BBC production about the fall of some of the great houses of Europe has luminous stars, including Gayle Hunnicut, Charles Kay and Patrick Stewart. The history is fairly dense so it helps to be fairly aware of much of the background to this story of the build-up to the First World War. The series mostly concerns the Romanovs and it is full of interesting by-ways to explore if you are interested in Russian history.

Edward VII: Another BBC production which stars the wonderful Timothy West as the King.
Annette Crosbie as Queen Victoria is also very good although her bad temper seemed rather forced.

Jennie: This starred the beautiful Lee Remmick as Churchill's fascinating American mother, a real woman of her time.

The Edwardian Country House : This reality TV show was a look at how modern people coped with living in the Edwardian age. I enjoyed this and the book is on my wish-list!

This is my favourite, of course. The heart-warming story of a clever red-haired orphan on PEI, Canada, who gets into scrapes and eventually must choose between friendship and love, this series was perfectly cast and very well-acted. It truly captured the spirit of the beloved books.

To be Continued

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wish List

My Wish List is at the end of the last post if you'd like to see it. It's really for my own benefit so please don't accuse me of being greedy!