Saturday, January 31, 2009

Alphonse Mucha - The Father of Art Nouveau

"Bieres de la Meuse". 1899

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Alphonse Mucha was born in Czechoslovakia in 1860. Mucha's style is marked by a wealth of luxurious detail, muted colours, gold leaf, complicated and delicate patterns, and intricately intertwined lines - the whole overlaid with a feeling of mystic ritual.

As a young man he studied at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, and later at the Munich Academy. He came to Paris in 1887 and worked under Lefebvre, Boulanger and Laurens. Mucha combined the principles of theatrical design he had learned in Prague with the classical technique taught to him in Paris, and developed from them the elaborate Art Nouveau style for which he is known.

In 1889, at the Paris World Exhibition, Mucha first saw Japanese prints, which, with their flat surfaces and graceful, curving outlines, influenced him deeply. He gradually incorporated those elements into his own art. In 1892 he executed his first lithographs.

The posters of Mucha's mature style were the ultimate expression of Art Nouveau with their sinuous lines, subtle colouring and glorification of the feminine ideal.

"La Plume (Woman with Poppies)". c.1898

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"Salon des Cent". 1897

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Burlesque Hour - Canberra, ACT - February

Part circus and sideshow, showgirl and show-stopper, striptease and cartoon strip, boho and butoh, music hall, gothic spectacle and mayhem, all set to an electric eclectic soundtrack from hardcore industrial to kitschy Jap-pop.

Starring internationally acclaimed Queen of Cabaret Bizarre, Mistress of Grand Guignol Moira Finucane; Japanese butoh dancer and shock cabaret artiste Yumi Umiumare; circus and burlesque star Azaria Universe, elegant iconoclast Maude Davey with her infamous and fabled Strawberry Act, and luminous guest artistes. more..

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Surrealist Mannequin

Mannequin by Maurice Henry.
International Surrealist Exposition 1938

Monday, January 26, 2009

Norman Lindsay in Bohemia

Cover art of Norman Lindsay's scandalous, comical 1937
novel set in bohemian Melbourne of 1896.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Circassian Beauties

The Circassian Beauty 'Zoebida Luti'.
English sideshow poster circa. 1870

Females from the Circassian mountains close to the Black Sea were said to be the most beautiful, purest, caucasian women in the world. Prized in the harems of Turkish sultans, the legendary beauty of these women can be found in literary works dating back to the early 1700s.

In the 1860s P.T Barnum popularised the myth by exhibiting his own 'Circassian Beauty' which he claimed he had bought from a slave market in Constantinople (- actually just a local woman whom he instructed to wash her hair with beer to make it frizzy). . An instant crowd-puller, all the circuses and sideshows of the day followed suit.

So widespread was the popularity of the 'Circassian Beauty' with her frizzy afro-like hair and milky white skin, that many cosmetic products of the era, from hair dyes to skin lotions, were labled and advertised as containing 'circassian' ingredients.

As the trend for Circassian Beauties died down, the women were utilised in other circus roles as sword-swallowers and snake charmers.

'Circassian' hair dye advert c.1840s

This image currently under restoration - available soon as fine art print.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marchesa Luisa Casati

Born today in 1881, the inimitable eccentric muse, strange beauty, and living work of art, Marchesa Luisa Casati is yet to be outshone. A subject warranting more than just a few passing anecdotes in a blog post.... take time to read her biography 'Infinite Variety' by Scot D. Ryersson and submerge yourself in the passionate life of this amazing woman.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Haunting - Early Trick Photography

Supernatural stereograph photo c.1889

The Game of Madness

This mesmerising creature is the Contess de Castiglione.
The photo titled 'Scherzo di Follia' (Game of Madness)
is circa 1865 by the French photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Loie Fuller

Dancer Loie Fuller was born today (January 15) in 1862.

Hailing from the the US, her name was made in France where in 1892, in Paris, she became an overnight sensation. Her trademark dances involving billowing waves of silk and coloured lightshows paved the way for other innovators of modern dance, such as Isadora Duncan.

She became the muse of many artists, and the embodiment of Art Nouveau - making her the subject of a plethora of posters and photographs of the time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1950s Fashion

Fall 1954 season.
Cocktail dress of French silk chiffon jersey
designed for Samuel Winston by Roxanne

Saturday, January 10, 2009

1950s Film Noir - Man Bait

'The married owner of a bookstore is attracted to his sexy blonde clerk. He finally gives in to temptation and makes a pass at her, but that only results in him getting enmeshed in blackmail and murder.' Written by James Hadley Chase. more

Classic poster for English 1952 film noir movie 'Man Bait'
starring George Brent, Marguerite Chapman & Diana Dors

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Harem Feast Istanbul

Feasting in a Turkish harem. Constantinople. c.1913

This image currently under restoration - available soon as fine art print.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Grafton to Rangoon

I was just waking up when the front tyre went. At the same time a horse appeared, the headlights blew and the horizon came through the windshield. I kissed Ertha Kitt and left the road like a jumbo jet diving into a swamp. Some time later I regained a level of consciousness more ugly than the one I just left. I'd seen some strange movies on the insides of my eyelids again and now I was wide awake.

But I couldn't be sure.

Do you realise that Bob Menzies now knows what really happened to Harold Holt?

There are a lot of answers to question. If travel really broadened the mind then why sent astronauts into outer space, when for half the price they could send heads of state into innerspace. It just didn't make sense.......

..........I folded the Shell roadmap into a twelve inch square, reducing the New South Wales coastline to a glance, and then lit up an Arnott's scotch finger biscuit. I placed the shock absorbers onto automatic pilot and took out my attache case containing the night driving brain that helped me see round corners, pink dots, across oceans, and down wombat holes.

When the night comes down your collar and the road starts coming up through your headlights familiar landscape suddenly isn't.

It's dreamtime in the land of legends. Somewhere out there Henry Lawson's taking another swig.

Inside the car I'm making final adjustments to the viewing screen: a Holden windscreen where tonight's travel thriller is being shown at 70mph. Not so much "The Cars That Ate Paris".

or "The Jellyfish That Swallowed Coffs Harbour."

It was going to be a good trip........

James Dibble lights up a scotch finger biscuit...

...Excerpts from Russell Guy's classic surreal road trip down the east coast of Australia - 'What's Rangoon to you is Grafton to me'.

The complete text of this cult classic is available via the Psychedelicatessen site here.

...but for the full Grafton to Rangoon experience, download the original 1978 radio show narrated by James Dibble & Russell Guy, kick back in a dark room with your favourite poison and enjoy the journey...It's a classic!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Queen of the Roller Derby

Bejewelled roller skater. c.1920

This image currently under restoration - available soon as fine art print.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong, born Wong Liu Tsong on the 3rd January 1905, to a traditional family that did not support her ambition, is the only Asian-American actress to have achieved stardom during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

In her youth she went to hundreds of motion pictures and studied the actors. She remained single to avoid a conventional Chinese marriage that could endanger her career. With her beauty and grace, she gradually became the darling of the intelligentsia, inspiring poems, songs, and crowds of admirers in the British Isles, Europe, and China.

During World War II, she toured the United States, New Zealand, and Australia for the benefit of the Chinese war relief. She left a legacy of some 60 film appearances, numerous stage and television shows, and several radio spots.

Marion Davies

Born today in 1897. Davies was a beautiful New York chorus dancer, who became a Ziegfeld girl, and a gifted film actress of the 1920s & 30s.

Tennessee Williams once said "Marion Davies makes up for the rest of Hollywood"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Morning of the Earth

This Australian movie captures the spirit and energy of surfing before commercialism changed it forever. The fluid surfing styles are in harmony with the ocean's natural flow and attempt to complement rather than compete against it. There is no ego, no neanderthal chest-beating over dominating nature's forces - rather, a synchronicity of energies and existence. The attitude of 'destroying the wave' became more symptomatic of hard-edged competitiveness and capitalism which has since set the tone for surfing's profile the world over. This movie sparkles with the dreamy idealism of sunny days gone by. Days of riding the wave of freedom and natural simplicity, in the spirit of the Hawaiian riders many years earlier - long before it became a commodity dominated by brand names and shareholders. ..I'd rather Hang Ten than Hang Seng any day.

Musically, it combines the progressive sounds of the day by Australian luminaries such as Taman Shud (who evolved from the mid-60s surf/garage band The Sunsets).
Flutes, hypnotic rhythmic drumming and gnarly psychedelic guitar pieces accompany the laid back surf images perfectly. Other artists include G Wayne Thomas and Brian Cadd who also capture the back-on-the-farm, rural vibes of freedom.

Sally Rand

Sally Rand, the exotic burlesque fan dancer, actress, and American icon was born today in 1904


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