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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in picasso (3)

Friday
Jan242014

In Which They Lived In Velvet Palaces With A View Of The Sun

Modigs

by ALEX CARNEVALE

What a dream Paris is, what enthusiasm there is there, and yet what decorum and order. I went many nights without sleep, without sitting down. People are mad, they're intoxicated, they're happy to sleep in the gutters & congregate in the heavens. 

- George Sand

Modigliani arrived in Paris in January of 1906, but the Italian Jew did not feel like a Parisian until he had a home of his own. He moved into a hotel, then out of a hotel when he could no longer afford it.

His first studio was also his first apartment. The space was surrounded by trash, detritus, misused canvases. He still brought anyone he could to see his work. "During the Renaissance the painters lived in palaces, in velvet, in the sun!" he complained.

modigliani's drawing of Anna, 1911
"Everyone loved Modigliani," intoned one of his enemies. A year earlier he had seen a Russian woman lonely and sad in a cafe. Since this was Paris before the war, she was the finest Russian poet of her generation, Anna Akhmatova.

He made love to her and showed her that he knew of what she suffered, for it was in him also. No woman ever spoke ill of Modigliani, since he was sweet in victory or defeat.

All around Modigliani genius proliferated. The hard metalwork needed for his sculptures grated on him. The toxic fumes, and his general ill health, meant he coughed blood. Still his Sephardic Jewish charms contravened his general lack of hygiene and gloomy surroundings. "He was our aristocrat," Cocteau once savagely joked.

He returned to painting, focusing on portraits because they provided the kind of renumeration he could accept relative to their difficulty. Art schools were hot, drunken rooms packed wall-to-wall depending on how much clothing the models wore. Venice had offered more in charm, and less in the way of competition, but it had no hope of being Paris.

Marie Vassilieff's sketch of the incident: Modigliani is coming through the door at the top

Picasso threw a party for Rousseau, who got too drunk and had candle wax drawn over his lips. Another time, at a bash for Braque, Modigliani burst on the scene and informed the collection of artists and artists' wives and girlfriends that someone was trying to kill him. Picasso hid him from the assailant in the cellar.

He painted Cocteau, who was so disgusted and insulted by the portrait that he gave it away. Decades later it sold for so much money Cocteau regretted the momentary insolence and vanity.

with diego rivera and ilya ehrenburg

He was known and loved, but not appreciated. Each street over another painter burnished an international reputation; the most famous American painter of the time could barely get gallery space in Paris. He was neither first nor last among equals, and his return to painting showed that. Yet it was true what Cocteau would say: "There is something like a curse on this very noble boy."

To improve his situation, common sense and providence suggested a woman. Her name was Beatrice Hastings; she wrote a popular gossip column. He called her Bea and they became roughly inseparable. Later, much later, he would throw her through a plate glass window.

Everyone says that Modigliani drank too much, but only some charge his behavior to it. Picasso seemed to believe the entire thing a ruse, but he was appreciative that his friend brought hash everywhere he went. Amedeo was ashamed of his studio, its dingy cherry tree and pathetic outdoor space.

His situation began to improve and decline at the same time. Few suspected he was seriously ill with consumption. His paintings, in the capable hands of a few art dealers he might rely upon, brought him out of the ghetto and into more dignified surroundings: a hotel room he could afford.

It was there he took the woman who would become his only wife, though they were never properly wedded. Jeanne Hébuterne was the real aristocrat in spirit if not in reality. Like her husband she spoke French and Italian, unlike her husband she had little regard for an inspired desolation. Once, when she planned to go to Marseilles the mere sight of a homeless person at the train station caused her to ask the conductor, "for a ticket to somewhere more civilized!"

Jeanne

Jeanne was fourteen years Amedeo's junior, and her weirdly foreign/native beauty and general manner utterly captivated him. As biographer Meryle Secrest put it, "This was the kind of girl one married: discreet, loyal, and quietly deferential, with an unsuspected streak of independent thought and creative accomplishment." Her practical side buoyed him.

After his death, Jeanne was disconsolate, but prepared. She plotted her expeditious departure from the world; whether she really expected to be reunited with her husband, we can suspect but not really know. She had a fourteen month old daughter when she jumped out of a fifth floor apartment window, and another gestating in her uterus. Here is her orphaned daughter of the same name:

Young Jeanne Modigliani was sent to Florence after her parents were interred. She was told nothing of them until adulthood. She would find out that after her father died, her mother blithely reassured a friend that, "Oh! I know that he's dead. But I also know that he'll soon be living for me."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Say It Again" - Bad Things (mp3)

"Cold Case" - Bad Things (mp3)

 

Sunday
May292011

In Which We Enter The Studio Of The Artist

Studios of the Damned

by ALEX CARNEVALE

There are two kinds of painting, hard and soft, with and without the discipline of an imposed dimension. Painting is very difficult. The good painting is the solution of all these difficulties and differences of space, tactile value, and color. Strange how in parts of the world where there is stone you have sculpture, and in the countries of light you have painting.

- Georges Braque

The photographer Alexander Liberman, for his 1960 book The Artist In His Studio, ventured to collect an appraisal of the art and persons of the major painters working at the time, beginning with the deceased Expressionists. There is something almost sociopathic about the result, like reading a yearbook of a senior class that never matriculated.

cezanne

These grand masters are a bickering, arrogant group of stunted individuals. The World War I veteran Braque in particular sounds like a tremendous asshole. In a 1910 article in The Architectural Record, he said: "I couldn’t portray a woman in all her natural loveliness. I haven’t the skill. No one has. I must, therefore, create a new sort of beauty, the beauty that appears to me in terms of volume, of line, of mass, of weight, and through that beauty interpret my subjective impression. Nature is a mere pretext for a decorative composition, plus sentiment. It suggests emotion, and I translate that emotion into art. I want to expose the Absolute, and not merely the factitious woman." I wonder if he believed this bullshit or if it just sounded a lot better in French.

braquePicasso originally set up a sculpture studio in Boigelsup, outside of Paris, in order to have a discreet place to cheat on his wife Olga with seventeen year old Marie-Thérèse Walter. Eventually Walter met Picasso's other mistress, and not wanting to choose for himself, the two wrestled for his approval. The men of The Artist In His Studio are compulsive and egocentric, in a way that tends to befit their paintings.

This is the opposite problem of the one we regularly have. The vast majority of the time, you have to overlook how horrid's someone's art is so you can respect them as a person. The studio itself, in Liberman's photographs, becomes an explanation for the malformed behavior. It is the idealization of all hoarding, of all self-representation.

pupkaAn artist is rarely a success in his other life. It requires the sacrifice of one's art, to whatever small or large extent, to perfect the day-to-day duties that are required. As he became more famous, the subject of his studio became more dominant in Pablo's work. Increasingly, in his last decades, he viewed the studio as an escape from the rest of the shit he had to deal with.

bonnardLiberman's visit with Picasso is particularly revealing in this context. Picasso shows him a furtive series of portraits of one woman. He comments, "You see this one. I made three of her. In the third one I dominated her, and it is the best; in the others she dominated me. Women devour you!"

Bonnard's 'The Breakfast Room'Such insights into the artist are humorous but a little jarring. It may be folly to verbalize what happens in one cortex of our brain with words from another, to measure visual artist by the inanities that emerge from his limps. Picasso comes off as a paranoid, obsessed mash of a human being. The sight of his hidden cave reduces him to less than he was before his work appeared out of thin air.

matisse's living roomLiberman escaped Paris during the second World War with his babysitter, who he later married. He worked at Condé Nast during its golden years. Throughout his ass-kissing book, he is incredibly unprepared to interact with his own idols and models. Never a gifted writer, Liberman's mastery originates in his photography and, to a lesser extent, his painting.

joan miroThere is a fascination with haunted spaces where the formerly living once practiced their most essential work. At the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and Monet's garden at Giverny, ghosts present paintings, as if by doing so they might entrance the passerby and so become alive again. These are places that no longer exist for the purpose they were intended, and so they must necessarily resemble coffins.

monetLiberman writes of the scene below:

Kandinsky’s Paris studio as he left it at his death in 1944. On an easel next to his painting cabinet, which he called “my keyboard,” stands a large serene composition, Two Green Dots, painted in 1935. The two oils under glass, done in 1911, are among the first abstract paintings. The photograph on the wall is of Kandinsky, taken in 1933.

Like MTV's Cribs and that time you saw where your girlfriend's father lived, entering these private rooms seems a violation. I think we all remember the Redman episode of Cribs where we found out the guy spent all his money and ended up in a two bedroom on Staten Island. I almost cried. In contrast, Master P had a chandelier of solid gold.

bonnard's house

Learning more about such people turns them into pathetic representations of themselves, something like drawn figures in a painting, less real, less solid to the touch. Years ago I worked as an assistant for a writer who resided in a cluttered apartment in the Lower East Side. After seeing his bedroom, where a television lurked at the foot of his bed, paired with a VCR he could barely operate, across from a kitchen where he took his meds, I could no longer take his fictions the least bit seriously.

It is always a mistake to expect anything of anyone you admire.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. You can buy The Artist In His Studio here.

the last studio cezanne built for himself in 1902Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny — very tiny, content.

- de Kooning

"Rock Center Paranoia" - Ford & Lopatin (mp3)

"Channel Pressure" - Ford & Lopatin (mp3)

"Emergency Room" - Ford & Lopatin (mp3)

The new album from Ford & Lopatin, the duo formerly known as Games, is called Channel Pressure and will be released on June 7. You can pre-order the album here.

braque

Wednesday
Dec022009

In Which The Artist Inhabits His Studio

Studios of the Damned

by ALEX CARNEVALE

There are two kinds of painting, hard and soft, with and without the discipline of an imposed dimension. Painting is very difficult. The good painting is the solution of all these difficulties and differences of space, tactile value, and color. Strange how in parts of the world where there is stone you have sculpture, and in the countries of light you have painting.

- Georges Braque

cezanneThe photographer Alexander Liberman, for his 1960 book The Artist In His Studio, ventured to collect an appraisal of the art and person of the major painters working at the time, beginning with the deceased Expressionists. There is something almost sociopathic about the result, like reading a yearbook of a senior class that never matriculated.

braqueThe resultant grand masters are a bickering, incredibly arrogant group of stunted individuals. Braque in particular sounds like a tremendous asshole. The men of The Artist In His Studio are compulsive, egocentric, and wittily urbane, to whatever degree befits their paintings.

This is the opposite problem of most. Usually you have to overlook how horrid's someone's art is so you can respect them as a person. The studio itself, in Liberman's photographs, becomes an explanation for the malformed behavior. It is the idealization of all hoarding, of all self-representation.

pupkaAn artist is rarely a success in life. It requires the sacrifice of one's art, to whatever small or large extent, to perfect the day-to-day events of life. Although I had to drop Logic because my professor looked like a golem and there was warranted fear over whether or not I'd pass the exam, it follows that if someone has a great relationship with a loved partner or partner, they probably can't put together a sentence or landscape canvas.

bonnardLiberman's visit with Picasso is particularly revealing in this context. Picasso shows him a furtive series of portraits of one woman. He comments, "You see this one. I made three of her. In the third one I dominated her, and it is the best; in the others she dominated me. Women devour you!"

Bonnard's 'The Breakfast Room'Such insights into the artist are humorous but a little jarring. It may be folly to verbalize what happens in one cortex of our brain with words from another; a charge of reductionism would be justly levied. This grand master comes off as a paranoid, obsessed mash of a human being.

matisse's living roomLiberman escaped Paris with his babysitter, who he later married. He worked at Condé Nast in the years before it became a backwards dictatorship for people who can barely read or write. He is incredibly unprepared to interact with his own idols and models. Never a gifted writer, Liberman's mastery originates in his photography and to a lesser extent his painting.

joan miroThere is a fascination with the haunted spaces of the dead. At the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and Monet's garden at Giverny, ghosts present paintings, as if by doing so they might entrance the passerby and so become alive again.

monetLiberman writes of the scene below:

Kandinsky’s Paris studio as he left it at his death in 1944. On an easel next to his painting cabinet, which he called “my keyboard,” stands a large serene composition, Two Green Dots, painted in 1935. The two oils under glass, done in 1911, are among the first abstract paintings. The photograph on the wall is of Kandinsky, taken in 1933.

Like MTV's Cribs and that time you saw where your girlfriend's father lived, entering these private spaces seems a violation. I think we all remember the Redman episode of Cribs where we found out the guy blew his money and ended up in a two bedroom on Staten Island.

bonnard's houseIt is almost always a mistake to expect anything of anyone you admire.

the last studio cezanne built for himself in 1902Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can buy The Artist In His Studio here.

"Pink Batman" - Dan Deacon (mp3)

"Snake Mistakes" - Dan Deacon (mp3)

"Trippy Green Skull" - Dan Deacon (mp3)

braque