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 Edith Warton

Today is the 153rd birthday of the writer who said, “Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.” She wrote about frustrated love in novels like The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

 

NAME: Edith Wharton
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: January 24, 1862
DEATH DATE: August 11, 1937
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: St.-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
ORIGINALLY: Edith Newbold Jones

BEST KNOWN FOR: Novelist Edith Wharton was born to an old New York family, but is better known for her books Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence.

Edith Warton came from a rich and snobbish New York family who lived off the inheritance of their real estate and banking tycoon ancestors, and she spent several years of her early childhood traveling around Europe. When she was 10, her parents re-settled in New York, around 23rd and Park Avenue. She was a teenage bookworm, reading insatiably from her family’s expansive library and feeling alienated and adrift in the New York high-society circles her family moved in. At 23, she married a family friend, a classy, good-looking sportsman named Edward “Teddy” Robbins Wharton, who wasn’t particularly fond of books. He had a tendency for manic spells, extravagant spending sprees, and infidelity. It was a long and miserable marriage.

She met Henry James in Europe and became good friends with him. He encouraged her to write about the New York City she knew so well and disliked. He said, “Don’t pass it by — the immediate, the real, the only, the yours.” And it was Henry James who introduced her to his friend Morton Fullerton, a dashing, promiscuous, intellectual American expat journalist who reported for the London Times from Paris. Edith Wharton fell hard for the man, filled her diary with passages about how their romance and conversation made her feel complete, wrote him pleading letters, and about a year into their affair, when she was in her late 40s, moved full-time to Paris, where he resided. The affair ended in 1911, the year she published Ethan Frome. She once wrote to him:

“Do you know what I was thinking last night, when you asked me, & I couldn’t tell you? — Only that the way you’ve spent your emotional life while I’ve … hoarded mine, is what puts the great gulf between us, & sets us not only on opposite shores, but at hopelessly distant points of our respective shores. Do you see what I mean?”And I’m so afraid that the treasures I long to unpack for you, that have come to me in magic ships from enchanted islands, are only, to you, the old familiar red calico & beads of the clever trader, who has had dealing with every latitude, & knows just what to carry in the hold to please the simple native — I’m so afraid of this, that often & often I stuff my shining treasures back into their box, lest I should see you smiling at them!

“Well! And what if you do? It’s your loss, after all! And if you can’t come into the room without my feeling all over me a ripple of flame, & if, wherever you touch me, a heart beats under your touch, & if, when you hold me, & I don’t speak, it’s because all the words in me seem to have become throbbing pulses, & all my thoughts are a great golden blur — why should I be afraid of your smiling at me, when I can turn the beads & calico back into such beauty —?”

He left her in 1911, and she stayed married to Teddy for a couple more years, though the two lived apart from each other during the last part of their 28-year marriage. She loved living in Paris, and there she mingled with people like André Gide, Jean Cocteau, Theodore Roosevelt, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she once told: “To your generation, I must represent the literary equivalent of tufted furniture and gas chandeliers.” But she wasn’t prim or overly proper, and she famously enjoyed one of Fitzgerald’s scandalous stories, about an American couple in a Paris brothel, which he drunkenly related the first time he met her.

Modernist writers were among her contemporaries, but she didn’t use modernist techniques like stream-of-consciousness in her own writing, and she wasn’t a fan of it in others’. She once said about James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), “Until the raw ingredients of a pudding make a pudding, I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening.”

She died in Paris at the age of 75. At the time of her death, she was working on a novel called The Buccaneers, about five rich American girls who set out to marry landed British men, so that they can have English feudal titles in their names, like “Duchess.” In her last days, she lay in bed and worked on the novel, and each page that she completed she dropped onto the floor so that it could be collected later, when she was through.
Many of her novels have been made into movies. The House of Mirth, The Glimpses of the Moon, and The Age of Innocence were all adapted into silent films around the 1920s. John Madden directed a version of Ethan Frome in 1993, the same year Martin Scorsese directed a film adaptation of The Age of Innocence. In 2000, Gillian Anderson starred in The House of Mirth, directed by Terence Davies.

Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.”

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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

Cupcakes – Creativity’s Antagonist

“Is there anything more blandly sweet, less evocative of this great city, and more goyish than any other baked good with the possible exception of Eucharist wafers than a cupcake?” – David RakoffHalf Empty