Happy Birthday Fernand Léger

Today is the 134th birthday of the French artist Fernand Léger. His developed style of painting is distinctively his own. I see a combination of Picasso and Rivera cubism and the linear Art Deco formality. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Fernand Léger
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: February 4, 1881
DEATH DATE: August 17, 1955
EDUCATION: Paris School of Decorative Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Argentan, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Gif-sur-Yvette, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: French painter Fernand Léger created the abstract painting series “Contrast of Forms.” His work blended elements of Cubism with his own unique style, “tubism.”

Fernand Léger was born to a peasant family in the rural town of Argentan, France, on February 4, 1881. Léger’s father was a cattle dealer who hoped his son would follow in his footsteps and choose what he deemed a practical trade. Although Léger was initially discouraged from becoming an artist, his father became supportive once he recognized Léger’s gift for drawing.

With his father’s approval, Léger enrolled in architecture school and accepted an apprenticeship under an architect in Caen. In 1901, upon completion of his two-year internship, Léger moved to Paris, France, where he worked as an architectural draftsman.

Wishing to further pursue his art education, Léger applied to the prestigious École des Beux-Arts and was unfortunately rejected.In 1903 he stated attending the Paris School of Decorative Arts instead, while also being unofficially mentored by two École des Beux-Arts professors who recognized his potential. Up until this point, Léger’s painting style blended Impressionism with Fauvism. In 1907 he attended a retrospective of Paul Cézanne’s work. From then on, Léger’s work took on more elements of Cubism, but with his own unique style of slicing forms into tubular cylinders, casually referred to as “tubism.”

In 1913, he started a series of abstract paintings called “Contrast of Forms.” A year later, he put his art career on hold to serve in the French army during World War I. In 1916, he was gassed at Verdun. Having incurred a head injury, he was sent home and hospitalized until 1917.

After the war, Léger continued to paint but also tried his hand at other mediums, including book illustrations and set and costume designs for the theater. In 1924, Léger ventured to make his first film, Ballet Mécanique. That same year, he opened his own school of modern art.

As Léger’s work matured in the 1920s and ’30s, he increasingly incorporated elements of modernism—particularly representations of machinery and human figures expressing speed and movement. His notable paintings from this period include “The Mechanic,” “Mona Lisa with Keys,” “Adam and Eve,” and “Composition with Two Parrots,” among others.

With the arrival of World War II, in 1940, Léger temporarily relocated to America. During this time, he produced a series of paintings called “Divers,” noted for its unique use of large patches of color that overlapped outlines to portrayed stylized figures of swimmers diving off docks in Marseille. This series was followed by two others also portraying human figures in motion: “Acrobats” and “Cyclists.” In 1946, Léger went back to France, where he revitalized his art school and became active in the Communist Party. In the 1950s, Léger’s work focused on the theme of the common man, and further expanded to include tapestry, pottery, stained glass and mosaics.

Léger died on August 17, 1955, in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

Happy Birthday Gertrude Stein

Today is the 141st birthday of the eternal wit Gertrude Stein.  She was an artist collector as much as she was an art collector, influencing, promoting, supporting and to some extent creating the art, literature and music from an extremely talented group of people that were in Paris between the wars.  She named them “The Lost Generation.”  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Gertrude Stein
OCCUPATION: Art Collector, Publisher, Poet, Author, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: February 3, 1874
DEATH DATE: July 27, 1946
EDUCATION: Radcliffe College, John Hopkins Medical School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Allegheny, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: Gertrude Stein was an American author and poet best known for her modernist writings, extensive art collecting and literary salon in 1920s Paris.

Writer and art patron Gertrude Stein was born on February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Gertude Stein was an imaginative, influential writer in the 20th century. The daughter of a wealthy merchant, she spent her early years in Europe with her family. The Steins later settled in Oakland, California.

Stein graduated from Radcliffe College in 1898 with a bachelor’s degree. While at the college, Stein studied psychology under William James (and would remain greatly influenced by his ideas). She went on to study medicine at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical School.

In 1903, Gertrude Stein moved to Paris, France, to be with her brother, Leo, where they began collecting Post-Impressionist paintings, thereby helping several leading artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. She and Leo established a famous literary and artistic salon at 27 rue de Fleurus. Leo moved to Florence, Italy, in 1912, taking many of the paintings with him. Stein remained in Paris with her assistant Alice B. Toklas, who she met in 1909. Toklas and Stein would become lifelong companions.

By the early 1920s, Gertrude Stein had been writing for several years, and had begun to publish her innovative works: Three Lives (1909), Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms (1914) and The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress (written 1906–’11; published 1925). Intended to employ the techniques of abstraction and Cubism in prose, much of her work was virtually unintelligible to even educated readers.

During World War I, Stein bought her own Ford van, and she and Toklas served as ambulance drivers for the French. After the war, she maintained her salon (though after 1928 she spent much of the year in the village of Bilignin, and in 1937, she moved to a more stylish location in Paris) and served as both hostess and an inspiration to such American expatriates as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (she is credited with coining the term “the Lost Generation”). She also lectured in England in 1926 and published her only commercial success, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), which she wrote from Toklas’s point-of-view.

Gertrude Stein made a successful lecture tour of the United States in 1934, but returned to France, where she would reside during World War II. After the liberation of Paris in 1944, she was visited by many Americans. In addition to her later novels and memoirs, she wrote librettos to two operas by Virgil Thomson: Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947).

Gertrude Stein died on July 27, 1946, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Though critical opinion is divided on Stein’s various writings, the imprint of her strong, witty personality survives, as does her influence on contemporary literature.

Author of books:
Three Lives (1909)
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933, memoirs)
Yes Is for a Very Young Man (1946)

Happy Birthday W. Somerset Maugham

Today is the 141st birthday of the writer W. Somerset Maugham.  I was given a copy of “The Razor’s Edge” quite a while ago by a former employer stating “this is one of my favorite books and novels.”  He meant that he liked the story and like the look of the book, physically.  The book was given to him by the matriarch of a very prominent Seattle family when she was closing up and selling off her properties on the San Juan Islands.  I still have it and I hope to do the same with it one day.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Born: 25 January 1874 UK Embassy, Paris, France
Died: 16 December 1965 (aged 91) Nice, France
Occupation: Playwright, novelist, short story writer
Notable works: Of Human Bondage, The Letter, Rain, The Razor’s Edge

Today is the birthday of W. Somerset Maugham, born in Paris (1874). His father was in Paris as a lawyer for the British Embassy. When Maugham was eight years old, his mother died from tuberculosis. His father died of cancer two years later. The boy was sent back to England into the care of a cold and distant uncle, a vicar. Maugham was miserable at his school. He said later: “I wasn’t even likeable as a boy. I was withdrawn and unhappy, and rejected most overtures of sympathy over my stuttering and shyness.” Maugham became a doctor and practiced in the London slums. He was particularly moved by the women he encountered in the hospital, where he delivered babies; and he was shocked by his fellow doctors’ callous approach to the poor. He wrote: “I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief; I saw the dark lines that despair drew on a face; I saw courage and steadfastness. I saw faith shine in the eyes of those who trusted in what I could only think was an illusion and I saw the gallantry that made a man greet the prognosis of death with an ironic joke because he was too proud to let those about him see the terror of his soul.”

When he was 23, he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, about a working-class 18-year-old named Liza who has an affair with a 40-year-old married man named Jim, a father of nine. Jim’s wife beats up Liza, who is pregnant, and who miscarries, and dies. The novel was a big success, and Maugham made enough money to quit medicine and become a full-time writer. For many years, he made his living as a playwright, but eventually he became one of the most popular novelists in Britain. His novels include Of Human Bondage (1915), The Moon and Sixpence (1919), Cakes and Ale (1930), and The Razor’s Edge (1944).
Somerset Maugham said,

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.

It was such a lovely day I thought it a pity to get up.

Happy Birthday Cristóbal Balenciaga

Today is the 120th birthday of the Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.  The world is a better place because he is in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Cristóbal Balenciaga
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1895
DEATH DATE: March 23, 1972
PLACE OF BIRTH: Getaria, Spain
PLACE OF DEATH: Valencia, Spain

BEST KNOWN FOR: Cristóbal Balenciaga was a Spanish-French fashion designer and the leading couturier of Spain in the 1920s-30s. He moved to Paris during the Spanish Civil War.

Balenciaga was born in Getaria, a fishing town in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, on January 21, 1895.[1] His mother was a seamstress, and as a child Balenciaga often spent time with her as she worked. At the age of twelve, he began work as the apprentice of a tailor. When Balenciaga was a teenager, the Marchioness de Casa Torres, the foremost noblewoman in his town, became his customer and patron. She sent him to Madrid, where he was formally trained in tailoring.[1] (Balenciaga is notable as one of the few couturiers in fashion history who could use their own hands to design, cut, and sew the models which symbolized the height of his artistry.)

Balenciaga was successful during his early career as a designer in Spain. He opened a boutique in San Sebastián, Spain, in 1919, which expanded to include branches in Madrid and Barcelona. The Spanish royal family and the aristocracy wore his designs, but when the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his stores, Balenciaga moved to Paris. Balenciaga opened his Paris couture house on Avenue George V in August 1937.

However, it was not until the post-war years that the full scale of the inventiveness of this highly original designer became evident. In 1951, he totally transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955, he designed the tunic dress, which later developed into the chemise dress of 1957. And eventually, in 1959, his work culminated in the Empire line, with high-waisted dresses and coats cut like kimonos.

In 1960 he made the wedding dress for Fabiola de Mora y Aragón when she married king Baudouin I of Belgium. The Queen later donated her wedding dress to the Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation.

His often spare, sculptural creations were considered masterworks of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s.

Balenciaga closed his house in 1968 at the age of 74 after working in Paris for 30 years. He decided to retire and closed his fashion houses in Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, one after the other. Balenciaga died March 23, 1972 in Xàbia, Spain.

He taught fashion design classes, inspiring other designers such as Oscar de la Renta, André Courrèges, Emanuel Ungaro, Mila Schön and Hubert de Givenchy. Today the Balenciaga fashion house continues under the direction of Alexander Wang and under the ownership of the Gucci Group.[5]

On 24 March 2011 at San Francisco’s M.H. de Young Museum they celebrated the opening of “Balenciaga and Spain,” a 120-piece fashion retrospective of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s career. “You can’t even measure it,” said Rodarte designer Laura Mulleavy of Balenciaga’s influence. The $2,500-a-ticket fund-raiser for the museum drew 350 guests, including Marissa Mayer, Jamie Tisch, Gwyneth Paltrow, Orlando Bloom, Balthazar Getty, Maggie Rizer, Connie Nielsen, Maria Bello and Mia Wasikowska.

On 7 June 2011, the Balenciaga Museum was inaugurated in his hometown of Getaria by Queen Sofía of Spain and with the presence of Hubert de Givenchy, honorific president of the Balenciaga Foundation. The museum has a collection of more than 1,200 pieces designed by Balenciaga, part of them donations by disciples like Givenchy or clients, like Queen Fabiola of Belgium and the heirs of Grace Kelly.

Happy Birthday Rip Taylor

Today is the 80th birthday of outrageous comedian and prolific confetti thrower Rip Taylor. He was the host of the $198 Beauty Show. The show was crazy and I have no idea the point of this show, but it is hilarious and the 1970’s.

NAME: Rip Taylor
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Comedian, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: January 13, 1934
PLACE OF BIRTH: Washington, D.C.
ORIGINALLY: Charles Elmer Taylor, Jr.

BEST KNOWN FOR: Comedian Rip Taylor is best known for his tacky costumes, handlebar mustache, wacky wigs and manic confetti tossing in his stage and film appearances.

Actor, comedian. Born Charles Elmer Taylor, Jr. on January 13, 1934 in Washington, D.C. Rip Taylor was a page in the U.S. Senate before being conscripted into the Army to serve in the Korean War. After he returned home, he got his start in entertainment as a stand-up comic. What began as a gimmick/tacky costumes, ridiculous props, a handlebar mustache, wacky wigs and manic confetti tossing would become his calling card.

During the 1960s and ??70s, Rip Taylor made regular guest appearances on variety shows for such comedic stars as Jackie Gleason, Phyllis Diller and Bobby Darin. The silly, befuddled comedian then found his ideal audience in children and was soon lending his voice for such cartoons as Popeye and The Addams Family. He also became known as the host for The $1.98 Beauty Show, a beauty pageant parody.

Rip Taylor has also appeared in films, and is probably best remembered for his appearance as a celebrity funeral guest in the cult comedy classic Amazon Women on the Moon. Other films include Wayne’s World 2, Jackass: The Movie and Jackass: Number Two.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Jackass 3D (13-Oct-2010) · Himself
Jackass: Number Two (22-Sep-2006) · Himself
The Dukes of Hazzard (24-Jun-2005) · Himself
The Aristocrats (Jan-2005) · Himself
Alex and Emma (16-Jun-2003) · Polina’s Father
Jackass: The Movie (21-Oct-2002) · Himself
The Silence of the Hams (13-Jul-1994)
Wayne’s World 2 (10-Dec-1993) · Himself
Indecent Proposal (7-Apr-1993) · Mr. Langford
Tom and Jerry: The Movie (2-Dec-1992) [VOICE]
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (20-Nov-1992) · Celeb #1
DuckTales: The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (3-Aug-1990) [VOICE]
Amazon Women on the Moon (18-Sep-1987) · Himself
Things Are Tough All Over (9-Apr-1982) · Himself
The Gong Show Movie (9-May-1980) · Restaurant Maitre D’
The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (7-Sep-1977) · Photographer
Chatterbox (Feb-1977)
I’d Rather Be Rich (26-Aug-1964)

#JeSuisCharlie

I write.  Daily.  Some of what I write makes it to the ether and is read by others, some does not (or perhaps has not yet).  I chronicle and highlight people that inspire me, of which many are writers.  Does that make me by a writer?  Is it what one calls oneself or what appears on one’s paychecks?  Profession or provocation?  I am a writer.

I feel a connection to writers.  I know the feeling of that perfect sentence, of finding the words in the right order that conveys what is inside your head.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

I will defend what you write to the end. Period.

I will not defend your writing when it is violence-inspiring ignorant yelling.  I appreciate a well-written manifesto, regardless how crazy I believe it to be.

Lastly, if your beliefs in your deity/god are on such a sandy foundation that you cannot handle a few satirical cartoons, you have bigger problems than the cartoons.  Research and understand what faith actually means.

We are still here. We are not afraid.

#JeSuisCharlie

Happy Birthday Ford Madox Ford

Today is the 141st birthday of writer, critic and publisher Ford Madox Ford.  I remember coming across his name back when I was heavy into my Lost Generation phase.  I was always so fascinated by the people who supported and promoted the struggling writers of the time.  The benefactors.  Ford sought out good writers to put in his literary reviews, writers who became friends.  He championed their work and was instrumental in their success.  I have always found those who take pride in their friend’s success and promote them unselfishly to be the best sort of people.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Name: Ford Madox Ford
Born: 17 December 1873
Place of Birth: Merton, Surrey, England
Died: 26 June 1939 (aged 65)
Place of Death: Deauville, France

Ford was born to Catherine and Francis Hueffer, the eldest of three; his brother was Oliver Madox Hueffer. His father, who became music critic for The Times, was German and his mother English. His paternal grandfather Johann Hermann Hüffer was first to publish the fellow Westphalian poet and author Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, a Catholic aristocrat. He used the name of Ford Madox Hueffer and in 1919 changed it to Ford Madox Ford (allegedly, in the aftermath of World War I because “Hueffer” sounded too German) in honour of his grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown, whose biography he had written. In 1894 he married his school girlfriend Elsie Martindale and together they had two daughters Christina (born 1897) and Katharine (born 1900). Between 1918 and 1927 he lived with Stella Bowen, an Australian artist twenty years his junior. In 1920 they had a daughter, Julia Madox Ford.

One of his most famous works is The Good Soldier (1915), a novel set just before World War I which chronicles the tragic lives of two “perfect couples” using intricate flashbacks. In the “Dedicatory Letter to Stella Ford”, his wife, that prefaces the novel, Ford reports that a friend pronounced The Good Soldier “the finest French novel in the English language!” Ford pronounced himself a “Tory mad about historic continuity” and believed the novelist’s function was to serve as the historian of his own time.

Ford was involved in British war propaganda after the beginning of World War I. He worked for the War Propaganda Bureau, managed by C. F. G. Masterman, with other writers and scholars who were popular during that time, such as Arnold Bennett, G. K. Chesterton, John Galsworthy, Hilaire Belloc and Gilbert Murray. Ford wrote two propaganda books for Masterman, namely When Blood is Their Argument: An Analysis of Prussian Culture (1915), with the help of Richard Aldington, and Between St Dennis and St George: A Sketch of Three Civilizations (1915).

After writing the two propaganda books, Ford enlisted at 41 years of age into the Welch Regiment on 30 July 1915, and was sent to France, thus ending his cooperation with the War Propaganda Bureau. His combat experiences and his previous propaganda activities inspired his tetralogy Parade’s End (1924–1928), set in England and on the Western Front before, during and after World War I.

Ford also wrote dozens of novels as well as essays, poetry, memoirs and literary criticism, and collaborated with Joseph Conrad on three novels, The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903) and The Nature of a Crime (1924, although written much earlier). During the three to five years after this direct collaboration, Ford’s best known achievement was The Fifth Queen trilogy (1906–1908), historical novels based on the life of Katharine Howard, which Conrad termed, at the time, “the swan song of historical romance.” His poem, Antwerp (1915), was praised by T.S. Eliot as “the only good poem I have met with on the subject of the war”.

Ford’s novel Ladies Whose Bright Eyes (1911, extensively revised in 1935) is, in a sense, the reverse of Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

In 1908, he founded The English Review, in which he published works by Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, May Sinclair, John Galsworthy and William Butler Yeats, and gave debuts to Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence and Norman Douglas. In 1924, he founded The Transatlantic Review, a journal with great influence on modern literature. Staying with the artistic community in the Latin Quarter of Paris, he befriended James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and Jean Rhys, all of whom he would publish (Ford is the model for the character Braddocks in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises). As a critic, he is known for remarking “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” George Seldes, in his book Witness to a Century describes Ford’s recollection of his writing collaboration with Joseph Conrad, and the lack of acknowledgment by publishers of his status as co-author. Seldes recounts Ford’s disappointment with Hemingway: “‘and he disowns me now that he has become better known than I am.’ Tears now came to Ford’s eyes.” Ford says, “I helped Joseph Conrad, I helped Hemingway. I helped a dozen, a score of writers, and many of them have beaten me. I’m now an old man and I’ll die without making a name like Hemingway.” Seldes observes, “At this climax Ford began to sob. Then he began to cry.”

Hemingway devoted a chapter of his Parisian memoir A Moveable Feast to an encounter with Ford at a café in Paris during the early 1920s.

During a later sojourn in the United States, he was involved with Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter and Robert Lowell (who was then a student). Ford was always a champion of new literature and literary experimentation. In 1929, he published The English Novel: From the Earliest Days to the Death of Joseph Conrad, a brisk and accessible overview of the history of English novels. He had an affair with Jean Rhys, which ended acrimoniously.

Ford spent the last years of his life teaching at Olivet College in Michigan, and died in Deauville, France, at the age of 65.