Happy Birthday Victor Mature

Today is the 102nd birthday of the movie actor Victor Mature.  His fame and popularity rivaled any other male actor of the time.  He starred in every genre of film, then retired to a ranch.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Victor Mature
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor
BIRTH DATE: January 29, 1913
DEATH DATE: August 4, 1999
PLACE OF BIRTH: Louisville, Kentucky
PLACE OF DEATH: Rancho Santa Fe, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Victor Mature was a film actor who became a sex symbol in the 1940s with hordes of adoring female fans.

Actor. Born on January 29, 1913, in Louisville, Kentucky. The son of an Austrian scissors grinder, Mature left school at the age of 15. He then took on a string of odd jobs to support himself, including selling candy. Four years later, he headed out to Hollywood.

Mature started his acting career at the Pasadena Community Playhouse, appearing in more than 60 plays. He got a small role in 1939’s The Housekeeper’s Daughter, making his first on-screen appearance. He graduated to a more substantial part in the movie One Million B.C. (1940). The film made him a star and was the first of many roles that showcased his good looks and muscular physique.

In the early 1940s, Mature appeared in several different types of films – comedy, adventure, drama, and suspense. He even appeared in such musicals as No, No, Nanette (1940), Seven Days’ Leave (1942) with Lucille Ball, and My Gal Sal (1942) with Rita Hayworth. Mature starred in a number of films opposite Betty Grable, including I Wake Up Screaming (1941) and Footlight Serenade (1942). Sometimes called “the Hunk,” he became a very popular film idol and had many adoring female fans.

Putting acting on hold, Mature joined the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. After the war, Mature returned to Hollywood and turned in arguably two of his best performances. In the John Ford-directed western My Darling Clementine (1946), Mature played the legendary Dr. John “Doc” Holliday alongside Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp. In the crime drama Kiss of Death (1947), he starred as Nick Bianco, an ex-con who tries to go straight, but is menaced by someone from his criminal past.

Two years later, Mature took on one of his most famous roles as the long-haired hero in the biblical epic Samson and Delilah (1949). He starred opposite Hedy Lamarr as the legendary temptress. Mature continued to be to a in-demand leading man in the 1950s and appeared in several more epic films, such as The Robe (1953), The Egyptian (1954), and Hannibal (1960).

At the age of 46, Mature retired from Hollywood. He moved to Rancho Santa Fe, California, and spent his time playing golf and pursuing his hobbies. He was lured back into acting a few times over the years, appearing such films as After the Fox (1966) with Peter Sellers and Every Little Crook and Nanny (1972) with Lynn Redgrave. He made his television debut in Samson and Delilah (1984) as Samson’s father. This role turned out to be his last.

Mature died after battling cancer on August 4, 1999, in Rancho Santa Fe, California. He married five times, but his first two were very brief. Mature married for third time in 1948 but got divorced in 1955. His fourth marriage to Adrienne Joy Urwick in 1959 lasted a decade. In 1974, he married Lorey Sabena, and they had a daughter named Victoria. Besides his many marriages, Mature was romantically linked to co-star Rita Hayworth and other several other actresses.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Samson and Delilah (1-Apr-1984)
Firepower (27-Apr-1979)
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (26-May-1976)
Every Little Crook and Nanny (14-Jun-1972)
Head (6-Nov-1968) · The Big Victor
After the Fox (8-Sep-1966) · Tony Powell
The Tartars (1961)
Hannibal (21-Dec-1959)
The Big Circus (5-Jul-1959) · Henry Jasper Whirling
The Bandit of Zhobe (Apr-1959)
Timbuktu (31-Mar-1959) · Mike Conway
Escort West (2-Nov-1958) · Ben Lassiter
China Doll (8-Jun-1958) · Capt. Cliff Brandon
Tank Force (22-Apr-1958)
The Long Haul (27-Aug-1957)
Pickup Alley (2-Apr-1957) · Charles Sturgis
Zarak (Dec-1956)
Safari (20-Jun-1956) · Ken
The Sharkfighters (1956)
The Last Frontier (7-Dec-1955) · Jed Cooper
Violent Saturday (Apr-1955)
Chief Crazy Horse (Apr-1955) · Crazy Horse
Betrayed (7-Sep-1954) · The Scarf
The Egyptian (24-Aug-1954)
Demetrius and the Gladiators (18-Jun-1954) · Demetrius
Dangerous Mission (6-Mar-1954) · Matt Hallett
Veils of Bagdad (7-Oct-1953)
The Robe (16-Sep-1953) · Demetrius
Affair with a Stranger (20-Jun-1953)
The Glory Brigade (20-May-1953) · Lt. Sam Pryor
Million Dollar Mermaid (4-Dec-1952) · James Sullivan
Androcles and the Lion (Dec-1952)
Something for the Birds (Oct-1952)
The Las Vegas Story (1-Jan-1952) · Dave Andrews
Gambling House (17-Mar-1951)
Stella (20-Jul-1950)
Wabash Avenue (31-Mar-1950)
Samson and Delilah (31-Oct-1949) · Samson
Red, Hot and Blue (19-Oct-1949)
Easy Living (8-Oct-1949) · Pete Wilson
Cry of the City (29-Sep-1948)
Fury at Furnace Creek (30-Apr-1948)
Kiss of Death (27-Aug-1947) · Nick Bianco
Moss Rose (30-May-1947)
My Darling Clementine (3-Dec-1946)
Seven Days’ Leave (13-Nov-1942) · Johnny Grey
Footlight Serenade (1-Aug-1942)
My Gal Sal (30-Apr-1942) · Paul Dresser
Song of the Islands (5-Feb-1942) · Jefferson Harper, Jr.
The Shanghai Gesture (25-Dec-1941) · Dr. Omar
I Wake Up Screaming (14-Nov-1941) · Frankie Christopher
No, No, Nanette (13-Dec-1940)
Captain Caution (9-Aug-1940) · Dan Marvin
One Million B.C. (26-Apr-1940) · Tumak
The Housekeeper’s Daughter (1-Sep-1939)

Happy Birthday Jackson Pollock

Today is the 103rd birthday of Jackson Pollock.  Some of his art pushes some people’s definitions of art because they do not see it as a representation of anything they recognize.  Fortunately, the definition of art is not if someone can see a red barn on a grassy hill in it.  His art elicits emotions, questions and wonder; it draws the viewer in, blurs the periphery and creates a pure experience.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Jackson Pollock
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: January 28, 1912
DEATH DATE: August 11, 1956
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cody, Wyoming
PLACE OF DEATH: East Hampton, New York
FULL NAME: Paul Jackson Pollock

BEST KNOWN FOR: Famous 20th century artist Jackson Pollock revolutionized the world of modern art with his unique abstract painting techniques.

Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. His father, LeRoy Pollock, was a farmer and a government land surveyor, and his mother, Stella May McClure, was a fierce woman with artistic ambitions. The youngest of five brothers, he was a needy child and was often in search of attention that he did not receive.

During his youth, Pollock’s family moved around the West, to Arizona and throughout California. When Pollock was 8, his father, who was an abusive alcoholic, left the family, and Pollock’s older brother, Charles, became like a father to him. Charles was an artist, and was considered to be the best in the family. He had a significant influence on his younger brother’s future ambitions. While the family was living in Los Angeles, Pollock enrolled in the Manual Arts High School, where he learned to draw but had little success expressing himself. He was eventually expelled for starting fights.

In 1930, at age 18, Pollock moved to New York City to live with his brother, Charles. He soon began studying with Charles’s art teacher, representational regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock spent much of his time with Benton, often babysitting Benton’s young son, and the Bentons eventually became like the family Pollock felt he never had.

When Pollock’s father died suddenly in 1933, he fell into a deep depression. He got drunk one night and started a fight with Charles’s wife, Elizabeth. During the fight, Pollock threatened her with an ax, and then turned around and sliced through one of his brothe’’s paintings, which had been scheduled for an upcoming exhibition. Pollock was forced to leave Charles’s house, and in 1934, his brother Sanford arrived in New York to help take care of him.

During the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started a program called the Public Works of Art Project, one of many intended to jumpstart the economy. Artists such as Pollock were given $24.86 to do 20 hours of work a week. The program resulted in thousands of works of art by Pollock and contemporaries such as José Clemente Orozco, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

But despite being busy with work, Pollock could not stop drinking. In 1937, he began receiving psychiatric treatment for alcoholism from a Jungian analyst who fueled his interest in symbolism and Native American art. In 1939, Pollock discovered Pablo Picasso‘s show at the Museum of Modern Art. Picasso’s artistic experimentation encouraged Pollock to push the boundaries of his own work.

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was.”

In 1942, Pollock met Lee Krasner, a Jewish contemporary artist and an established painter in her own right, at a party. She later visited Pollock at his studio and was impressed with his art. They soon became romantically involved.

Around this time, Peggy Guggenheim began expressing interest in Pollock’s paintings. During a meeting she had with the painter Pete Norman, he saw some of Pollock’s paintings lying on the floor and commented that Pollock’s art was possibly the most original American art he had seen. Guggenheim immediately put Pollock on contract.

Krasner and Pollock married in October 1945, and with the help of a $2,000 loan from Guggenheim, bought a farmhouse in the Springs area of East Hampton, on Long Island. Guggenheim gave Pollock a stipend to work, and Krasner dedicated her time to helping promote and manage his artwork. Pollock was happy to be in the country again, surrounded by nature, which had a major impact on his projects. He was energized by his new surroundings and by his supportive wife. In 1946, he converted the barn to a private studio, where he continued to develop his “drip” technique, the paint literally flowing off of his tools and onto the canvases that he typically placed on the floor.

In 1947, Guggenheim turned Pollock over to Betty Parsons, who was not able to pay him a stipend but would give him money as his artwork sold.

Pollock’s most famous paintings were made during this “drip period” between 1947 and 1950. He became wildly popular after being featured in a four-page spread, on August 8, 1949, in Life magazine. The article asked of Pollock, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” The Life article changed Pollock’s life overnight. Many other artists resented his fame, and some of his friends suddenly became competitors. As his fame grew, some critics began calling Pollock a fraud, causing even him to question his own work. During this time he would often look to Krasner to determine which paintings were good, unable to make the differentiation himself.

In 1949, Pollock’s show at the Betty Parsons Gallery sold out, and he suddenly became the best-paid avant-garde painter in America. But fame was not good for Pollock, who, as a result of it, became dismissive of other artists, even his former teach and mentor, Thomas Hart Benton. Furthermore, acts of self-promotion made him feel like a phony, and he would sometimes give interviews in which his answers were scripted. When Hans Namuth, a documentary photographer, began producing a film of Pollock working, Pollock found it impossible to “perform” for the camera. Instead, he went back to drinking heavily.

Pollock’s 1950 show at the Parsons gallery did not sell, though many of the paintings included, such as his “Number 4, 1950,” are considered masterpieces today. It was during this time that Pollock began to consider symbolic titles misleading, and instead began using numbers and dates for each work he completed. Pollock’s art also became darker in color. He abandoned the “drip” method, and began painting in black and white, which proved unsuccessful. Depressed and haunted, Pollock would frequently meet his friends at the nearby Cedar Bar, drinking until it closed and getting into violent fights.

Concerned for Pollock’s well-being, Krasner called on Pollock’s mother to help. Her presence helped to stabilize Pollock, and he began to paint again. He completed his masterpiece, “The Deep,” during this period.

But as the demand from collectors for Pollock’s art grew, so too did the pressure he felt, and with it his alcoholism.

Overwhelmed with Pollock’s needs, Krasner was also unable to work. Their marriage became troubled, and Pollock’s health was failing. He started dating other women, and by 1956, he had quit painting, and his marriage was in shambles. Krasner reluctantly left for Paris to give Pollock space.

Just after 10 p.m. on August 11, 1956, Pollock, who had been drinking, crashed his car into a tree less than a mile from his home. Ruth Kligman, his girlfriend at the time, was thrown from the car and survived. Another passenger, Edith Metzger, was killed, and Pollock was thrown 50 feet into the air and into a birch tree. He died immediately.

Krasner returned from France to bury Pollock, and subsequently went into a mourning that would last the rest of her life. Retaining her creativity and productivity, Krasner lived and painted for another 20 years. She also managed the sale of Pollock’s paintings, carefully distributing them to museums. Before her death, Krasner set up the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which gives grants to young, promising artists. When Krasner died on June 19, 1984, the estate was worth $20 million.

In December 1956, the year after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and then another in 1967. His work has continued to be honored on a large scale, with frequent exhibitions at both the MoMA in New York and the Tate in London. He remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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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 George Balanchine

Today is the 111th birthday of the dancer and choreographer George Balanchine.  He is considered the father of modern ballet, meaning the ballet that we think of as ballet today.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: George Balanchine
OCCUPATION: Ballet Dancer, Choreographer
BIRTH DATE: January 22, 1904
DEATH DATE: April 30, 1983
EDUCATION: Imperial School of Ballet, Soviet State School of Ballet, Petrograd State Conservatory of Music, Mariinsky Theatre
PLACE OF BIRTH: St. Petersburg, Russia
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: George Balanchine was a ballet choreographer who co-founded and served as artistic director of the New York City Ballet.

Georgy Melitonovich Balanchivadze was born on January 22, 1904, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The son of a composer, Balanchine had a robust understanding of music. In 1914, he enrolled at the Mariinsky Theatre’s ballet school. He graduated in 1921 and subsequently attended the Petrograd State Conservatory of Music, leaving the conservatory after three years.

In 1922, George Balanchine married a 15-year-old ballet student named Tamara Gevergeyeva. This was the first of four separate marriages to dancers, and for each of his wives, Balanchine would make a ballet.

In 1924, Balanchine was invited to tour Germany as part of the Soviet State Dancers. A year later, the young choreographer joined Serge Diaghilev‘s Ballet Russes. (His birth name, Balanchivadze, was shortened to Balanchine at Diaghilev’s insistence.) At just 21 years old, Balanchine took over as choreographer for the group, one of the most renowned ballet companies in the world.

After the Ballet Russes collapsed, Balanchine created the company Les Ballets in 1933. Following a performance, American dance aficionado Lincoln Kirstein approached Balanchine about collaboration and the two began a 50-year creative partnership, co-founding the School of American Ballet in 1934. The following year, the professional company known as the American Ballet emerged, becoming the official company of New York’s Metropolitan Opera until 1936.

In 1946, Kirstein and Balanchine co-founded a company that would become the New York City Ballet. Balanchine served as artistic director of the company, based out of New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. He produced more than 150 works for the company, including “The Nutcracker.” While money was tight, Balanchine presented the dancers in practice clothes instead of ornate costumes.

In addition to ballet, George Balanchine choreographed Hollywood movies and Broadway musicals. He is known for his connection to Igor Stravinsky; Balanchine created many ballets to his work, some in collaboration with the composer. He made more than 465 works, which have been performed by nearly every ballet company in the world.

Balanchine created plotless ballets, where the dancing upstaged glitz and storytelling. His work never featured a star, as he believed the performance should outshine the individual. He is credited with developing the neo-classical style distinct to the 20th century. Balanchine served as the artistic director of the New York City Ballet until his death, on April 30, 1983, in New York City.

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 Jeff Koons

Today is the 60th birthday of the artist Jeff Koons.  He is one of the most important modern artist living today.  The world is a better place because he is in it.

NAME: Jeff Koons
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1955
EDUCATION: Maryland Institute of Art
PLACE OF BIRTH: York, Pennsylvania

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jeff Koons is a famous contemporary artist whose work is influenced by an eclectic array of sensibilities.

Jeff Koons was born on January 1, 1955, in York, Pennsylvania. After high school, he headed south to Maryland, where he attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. While earning his M.F.A. there (1976), he attended a show at the Whitney Museum in New York, an exhibition that would change his life.

“I remember being an art student and going to the Whitney in 1974 to see the exhibition of Jim Nutt, the Chicago imagist,” Koons says. “It was then I transferred to school in Chicago, all because of that show.” So Koons enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an institution that would grant him an honorary doctorate more than 30 years later (2008).

Koons’ first show was staged in 1980, and he emerged onto the art scene with a style that blended several existing styles—pop, conceptual, craft, appropriation—to create his own unique mode of expression.

An “idea man,” Koons now runs his studio as he would a production office, often using computer-aided design and hiring out the actual construction of his pieces to technicians who can bring to life his ideas with more precision than he himself could.

His work takes on, in usually unconventional ways, such hot-button subjects such as sex, race, gender and fame, and it comes to life in such forms as balloons, bronzed sporting-goods items and inflatable pool toys. His knack for elevating the stature of such items from kitsch objects to high art has made his name synonymous with the art of mass culture.

And the transformation that takes place from Koons’ finding the objects he’ll use and the art he creates with them often gives birth to an unexpected psychological dimension, as shifting color, scale and representation take on new meaning, and the viewer can often find something wholly new in how humans, animals and anthropomorphized objects come to life.

Koons’ exhibits have always elicited inspired responses, a trait that perhaps itself is a marker in his importance as an artist, and since his first show in 1980 his works have been widely exhibited across the globe. In 2014, the Whitney, the museum that gave Koons a huge jolt of artistic inspiration as a student, held a retrospective of his body of work, the first to do so.

Of Koons, the Whitney says, “Throughout his career, he has pioneered new approaches to the readymade, tested the boundaries between advanced art and mass culture, challenged the limits of industrial fabrication, and transformed the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity and the global market.”

He has also done solo shows at the château de Versailles in France (2008–09), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the Helsinki City Art Museum (2005), the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2004) and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (2003).

Along with high-profile exhibits, Koons’ career has been notable for the wide array of prestigious awards he has received, which span the entire course of his career. Notable among them are the State Department’s Medal of Arts (awarded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012) and becoming an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London (2010), and an officer of the French Legion of Honor (2007).

Koons was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 2005.

Happy Birthday Christian Dior

Today is the 110th birthday of the fashion designer Christian Dior.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Christian Dior
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1905
DEATH DATE: c. October 23, 1957
EDUCATION: École des Sciences Politiques
PLACE OF BIRTH: Granville, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Montecatini, Italy

BEST KNOWN FOR: Christian Dior was a French fashion designer whose post–World War II creations were wildly popular, and whose legacy continues to influence the fashion industry.

Christian Dior was born on January 21, 1905, in Granville, a seaside town in the north of France. He was the second of five children born to Alexandre Louis Maurice Dior, the owner of a highly successful fertilizer manufacturer, and his wife, Isabelle. When he was a boy, Dior’s family moved to Paris, where he would spend his youth. Although Dior was passionate about art and expressed an interest in becoming an architect, he submitted to pressure from his father and, in 1925, enrolled at the École des Sciences Politiques to begin his studies in political science, with the understanding that he would eventually find work as a diplomat.

After his graduation in 1928, however, Dior opened a small art gallery with money he received from his father, who had agreed to lend his son his financial support on the condition that the family name would not appear above the gallery door. In the few years it was open, Dior’s gallery handled the works of such notable artists as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob. He was forced to close the gallery in 1931, a year that included the deaths of both his older brother and mother and the financial collapse of his father’s business.

Following the closing of his gallery, Dior began to make ends meet by selling his fashion sketches, and in 1935, landed a job illustrating the magazine Figaro Illustré. Several years later, Dior was hired as a design assistant by Paris couturier Robert Piguet. However, when World War II began the following year, Dior served in the south of France as an officer in the French army.

Following France’s surrender to Germany in 1940, Dior returned to Paris, where he was soon hired by couturier Lucien Lelong. Throughout the remaining years of the war, Lelong’s design house would consistently dress the women of both Nazis and French collaborators. During this same time, Dior’s younger sister, Catherine, was working for the French Resistance. (She was captured and sent to a concentration camp, but survived; she was eventually released in 1945.)

In 1957, several months after appearing on the cover of Time magazine, Christian Dior traveled to Italy to vacation in the town of Montecatini. While there, on October 23, 1957, he suffered what was his third heart attack and died, at the age of 52.

Marcel Boussac sent his private plane to Montecatini to bring Dior’s body back to Paris, and Dior’s funeral was attended by an estimated 2,500 people, including all of his staff and many of his most famous clients. He was buried in Cimetière de Callian, in Var, France. At the time of his death, Dior’s house was earning more than $20 million annually.