Happy Birthday Man Ray

Today is the 124th birthday of the photographer Man Ray.

NAME: Man Ray
OCCUPATION: Painter, Photographer, Filmmaker
BIRTH DATE: August 27, 1890
DEATH DATE: November 18, 1976
PLACE OF BIRTH: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
FULL NAME: Man Ray
ORIGINALLY: Emmanuel Radnitzky

BEST KNOWN FOR: Man Ray was primarily known for his photography, which spanned both the Dada and Surrealism movements.

Born Emmanuel Rudnitzky, visionary artist Man Ray was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father worked as a tailor. The family moved to Brooklyn when Ray was a young child. From an early year, Ray showed great artistic ability. After finishing high school in 1908, he followed his passion for art; he studied drawing with Robert Henri at the Ferrer Center, and frequented Alfred Stieglitz‘s gallery 291. It later became apparent that Ray had been influenced by Stieglitz’s photographs. He utilized a similar style, snapping images that provided an unvarnished look at the subject.

Ray also found inspiration at the Armory Show of 1913, which featured the works of Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Marcel Duchamp. That same year, he moved to a burgeoning art colony in Ridgefield, New Jersey. His work was also evolving. After experimenting with a Cubist style of painting, he moved toward abstraction.

In 1914, Ray married Belgian poet Adon Lacroix, but their union fell apart after a few years. He made a more lasting friendship around this time, becoming close to fellow artist Marcel Duchamp.

Along with Duchamp and Francis Picabia, Ray became a leading figure in the Dada movement in New York. Dadaism, which takes its name from the French nickname for a rocking horse, challenged existing notions of art and literature, and encouraged spontaneity. One of Ray’s famous works from this time was “The Gift,” a sculpture that incorporated two found objects. He glued tacks to the work surface of an iron to create the piece.

In 1921, Ray moved to Paris. There, he continued to be a part of the artistic avant garde, rubbing elbows with such famous figures as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Ray became famous for his portraits of his artistic and literary associates. He also developed a thriving career as a fashion photographer, taking pictures for such magazines as Vogue. These commercial endeavors supported his fine art efforts. A photographic innovator, Ray discovered a new way to create interesting images by accident in his darkroom. Called “Rayographs,” these photos were made by placing and manipulating objects on pieces of photosensitive paper.

One of Ray’s other famous works from this time period was 1924’s “Violin d’Ingres.” This modified photograph features the bare back of his lover, a performer named Kiki, styled after a painting by neoclassical French artist Jean August Dominique Ingres. In a humorous twist, Ray added to two black shapes to make her back look like a musical instrument. He also explored the artistic possibilities of film, creating such now classic Surrealistic works as L’Etoile de Mer (1928). Around this time, Ray also experimented with a technique called the Sabatier effect, or solarization, which adds a silvery, ghostly quality to the image.

Ray soon found another muse, Lee Miller, and featured her in his work. A cut-out of her eye is featured on the 1932 found-object sculpture “Object to Be Destroyed,” and her lips fill the sky of “Observatory Time” (1936). In 1940, Ray fled the war in Europe and moved to California. He married model and dancer Juliet Browner the following year, in a unique double ceremony with artist Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning.

Returning to Paris in 1951, Ray continued to explore different artistic media. He focused much of his energy on painting and sculpture. Branching out in a new direction, Ray began writing his memoir. The project took more than a decade to complete, and his autobiography, Self Portrait, was finally published in 1965.

In his final years, Man Ray continued to exhibit his art, with shows in New York, London, Paris and other cities in the years before his death. He passed away on November 18, 1976, in his beloved Paris. He was 86 years old. His innovative works can be found on display in museums around the world, and he is remembered for his artistic wit and originality. As friend Marcel Duchamp once said, “It was his achievement to treat the camera as he treated the paint brush, as a mere instrument at the service of the mind.”

Happy Birthday Coco Chanel

Today is the 131st birthday of Coco Chanel.  I admire a person that creates their life how they wish it to be.  Determination, focus, drive, and perseverance.

NAME: Coco Chanel
BIRTH DATE: August 19, 1883
DEATH DATE: January 10, 1971
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saumur, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: With her trademark suits and little black dresses, fashion designer Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today.

Famed fashion designer Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France. With her trademark suits and little black dresses, Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today. She herself became a much revered style icon known for her simple yet sophisticated outfits paired with great accessories, such as several strands of pearls. As Chanel once said,“luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”

Her early years, however, were anything but glamorous. After her mother’s death, Chanel was put in an orphanage by her father who worked as a peddler. She was raised by nuns who taught her how to sew—a skill that would lead to her life’s work. Her nickname came from another occupation entirely. During her brief career as a singer, Chanel performed in clubs in Vichy and Moulins where she was called “Coco.” Some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing, and Chanel herself said that it was a “shortened version of cocotte, the French word for ‘kept woman,” according to an article in The Atlantic.

Around the age of 20, Chanel became involved with Etienne Balsan who offered to help her start a millinery business in Paris. She soon left him for one of his even wealthier friends, Arthur “Boy” Capel. Both men were instrumental in Chanel’s first fashion venture.

Opening her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910, Chanel started out selling hats. She later added stores in Deauville and Biarritz and began making clothes. Her first taste of clothing success came from a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. In response to the many people who asked about where she got the dress, she offered to make one for them. “My fortune is built on that old jersey that I’d put on because it was cold in Deauville,” she once told author Paul Morand.

In the 1920s, Chanel took her thriving business to new heights. She launched her first perfume, Chanel No. 5, which was the first to feature a designer’s name. Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.

In 1925, she introduced the now legendary Chanel suit with collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Her designs were revolutionary for the time—borrowing elements of men’s wear and emphasizing comfort over the constraints of then-popular fashions. She helped women say good-bye to the days of corsets and other confining garments.

Another 1920s revolutionary design was Chanel’s little black dress. She took a color once associated with mourning and showed just how chic it could be for eveningwear. In addition to fashion, Chanel was a popular figure in the Paris literary and artistic worlds. She designed costumes for the Ballets Russes and for Jean Cocteau’s play Orphée, and counted Cocteau and artist Pablo Picasso among her friends. For a time, Chanel had a relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky.

Another important romance for Chanel began in the 1920s. She met the wealthy duke of Westminster aboard his yacht around 1923, and the two started a decades-long relationship. In response to his marriage proposal, she reportedly said “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster—but there is only one Chanel!”

The international economic depression of the 1930s had a negative impact on her company, but it was the outbreak of World War II that led Chanel to close her business. She fired her workers and shut down her shops. During the German occupation of France, Chanel got involved with a German military officer, Hans Gunther von Dincklage. She got special permission to stay in her apartment at the Hotel Ritz. After the war ended, Chanel was interrogated by her relationship with von Dincklage, but she was not charged as a collaborator. Some have wondered whether friend Winston Churchill worked behind the scenes on Chanel’s behalf.

While not officially charged, Chanel suffered in the court of public opinion. Some still viewed her relationship with a Nazi officer as a betrayal of her country. Chanel left Paris, spending some years in Switzerland in a sort of exile. She also lived at her country house in Roquebrune for a time.

At the age of 70, Chanel made a triumphant return to the fashion world. She first received scathing reviews from critics, but her feminine and easy-fitting designs soon won over shoppers around the world.

In 1969, Chanel’s fascinating life story became the basis for the Broadway musical Coco starring Katharine Hepburn as the legendary designer. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the book and lyrics for the show’s song while Andre Prévin composed the music. Cecil Beaton handled the set and costume design for the production. The show received seven Tony Award nominations, and Beaton won for Best Costume Design and René Auberjonois for Best Featured Actor.

Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz. She never married, having once said “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” Hundreds crowded together at the Church of the Madeleine to bid farewell to the fashion icon. In tribute, many of the mourners wore Chanel suits.

A little more than a decade after her death, designer Karl Lagerfeld took the reins at her company to continue the Chanel legacy. Today her namesake company continues to thrive and is believed to generate hundreds of millions in sales each year.

In addition to the longevity of her designs, Chanel’s life story continues to captivate people’s attention. There have been several biographies of the fashion revolutionary, including Chanel and Her World (2005) written by her friend Edmonde Charles-Roux.

In the recent television biopic, Coco Chanel (2008), Shirley MacLaine starred as the famous designer around the time of her 1954 career resurrection. The actress told WWD that she had long been interested in playing Chanel. “What’s wonderful about her is she’s not a straightforward, easy woman to understand.”

Happy Birthday Mata Hari

mata hari

NAME: Mata Hari
OCCUPATION: Spy, Dancer
BIRTH DATE: August 7, 1876
DEATH DATE: October 15, 1917
EDUCATION: Teachers’ College in Leiden
PLACE OF BIRTH: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
PLACE OF DEATH: Vincennes, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: Mata Hari was a professional dancer and mistress who became a spy for France during World War I. Suspected of being a double agent, she was executed in 1917.

Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, on August 7, 1876, to father Adam Zelle, a hat merchant who went bankrupt due to bad investments, and mother Antje Zelle, who fell ill and died when Mata Hari was 15 years old. Following her mother’s death, Mata Hari and her three brothers were split up and sent to live with various relatives.

At an early age, Mata Hari decided that sexuality was her ticket in life. In the mid-1890s, she boldly answered a newspaper ad seeking a bride for Rudolf MacLeod, a bald, mustachioed military captain based in the Dutch East Indies. She sent a striking photo of herself, raven-haired and olive-skinned, to entice him. Despite a 21-year age difference, they wed on July 11, 1895, when Mata Hari was just shy of 19. During their rocky, nine-year marriage—marred by MacLeod’s heavy drinking and frequent rages over the attention his wife garnered from other officers—Mata Hari gave birth to two children, a daughter and a son. (The couple’s son died in 1899 after a household worker in the Indies poisoned him for reasons that remain a mystery.)

By the early 1900s, Mata Hari’s marriage had deteriorated. Her husband fled with their daughter, and Mata Hari moved to Paris. There, she became the mistress of a French diplomat who helped her hatch the idea of supporting herself as a dancer.

All things “Oriental” were the fad in the Paris of 1905. The time seemed ripe for Mata Hari’s exotic looks and the “temple dance” she created by drawing on cultural and religious symbolism and that she had picked up in the Indies. With characteristic confidence, she siezed the moment. She billed herself as a Hindu artist, draped in veils—which she artfully dropped from her body. In one memorable garden performance, Mata Hari appeared nearly naked on a white horse. Although she daringly bared her buttocks—then considered the most tittilating part of the anatomy—she was modest about her breasts, generally keeping them covered with brassiere-styled beads. Completing her dramatic transformation from military wife to siren of the East, she coined her stage name, “Mata Hari,” which means “eye of the day” in Indonesian dialect.

Mata Hari took the Paris saloons by storm, then moved on to the bright lights of other cities. Along the way, she helped turn the striptease into an art form and captivated critics. A reporter in Vienna described Mata Hari as “slender and tall with the flexible grace of a wild animal, and with blue-black hair.” Her face, he wrote, “makes a strange foreign impression.” Another enthralled newspaper writer called her “so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.”

Within a few years, however, Mata Hari’s cachet had faded. As younger dancers took the stage, her bookings became sporadic. She supplemented her income by seducing government and military men; sex became strictly a financial practicality for her. Despite the growing tension in Europe in the years leading up to World War I, Mata Hari foolishly knew no borders with her lovers, who included German officers. As war swept the continent, she had some freedom of movement as a citizen of neutral Holland and took full advantage of it, country-hopping with trunks of clothing in tow. Before long, however, Mata Hari’s cavalier travels and liaisons attracted attention from British and French intelligence, who put her under surveillance.

Now nearing 40, plumpish and with her dancing days clearly behind her, Mata Hari fell in love with a 21-year-old Russian captain, Vladimir de Masloff, in 1916. During their courtship, Masloff was sent to the Front, where an injury left him blind in one eye. Determined to earn money to support him, Mata Hari accepted a lucrative assignment to spy for France from Georges Ladoux, an army captain who assumed her courtesan contacts would be of use to French intelligence.

Mata Hari later insisted that she planned to use her connections to seduce her way into the German high command, get secrets and hand them over to the French—but she never got that far. She met a German attaché and began tossing him bits of gossip, hoping to get some valuable information in return. Instead, she got named as a German spy in communiqués he sent to Berlin—which were promptly intercepted by the French. Some historians believe that the Germans suspected Mata Hari was a French spy and subsequently set her up, deliberately sending a message falsely labeling her as a German spy—which they knew would be easily decoded by the French. Others, of course, believe that she was in fact a German double agent. In any case, the French authorities arrested Mata Hari for espionage in Paris on February 13, 1917. They threw her in a rat-infested cell at the Prison Saint-Lazare, where she was allowed to see only her elderly lawyer—who happened to be a former lover.

During lengthy interrogations by Captain Pierre Bouchardon, a military prosecutor, Mata Hari—who had long lived a fabricated life, embellishing both rearing and resume—bungled and facts about her whereabouts and activities. Eventually, she dropped a bombshell confession: A German diplomat had once paid her 20,000 francs to gather intelligence on her frequent trips to Paris. But she swore to investigators that she never actually fulfilled the bargain and always remained faithful to France. She told them she simply viewed the money as compensation for furs and luggage that had once disappeared on a departing train while German border guards hassled her. “A courtesan, I admit it. A spy, never!” she defiantly told her interrogators. “I have always lived for love and pleasure.”

Mata Hari’s trial came at a time when the Allies were failing to beat back German advances. Real or imagined spies were convenient scapegoats for explaining military losses, and Mata Hari’s arrest was one of many. Her chief foil, Captain Georges Ladoux, made sure the evidence against her was constructed in the most damning way—by some accounts even tampering with it to implicate her more deeply.

So when Mata Hari admitted that a German officer paid her for sexual favors, prosecutors depicted it as espionage money. Additionally, currency she claimed was a regular stipend from a Dutch baron was portrayed in court as coming from German spymasters. That amorous Dutch baron, who could have shed light on the truth, was never called to testify. Nor was Mata Hari’s maid, who acted as an intermediary for the baron’s payments. Mata Hari’s morals conspired against her, as well. “Without scruples, accustomed to make use of men, she is the type of woman who is born to be a spy,” concluded Bouchardon, whose relentless interviews were the blueprint for the prosecution.

The military tribunal deliberated for less than 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. “It’s impossible, it’s impossible,” Mata Hari exclaimed, upon hearing the decision.

Mata Hari was executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917. Dressed in a blue coat accented by a tri-corner hat, she had arrived at the Paris execution site with a minister and two nuns and, after bidding them farewell, walked briskly to the designated spot. She then turned to face the firing squad, waved away her blindfold and blew the soldiers a kiss. She was killed in an instant when their multiple gunshots exploded as one.

It was an improbable end for the exotic dancer and courtesan, whose name became a metaphor for the siren spy who coaxes secrets from her paramours. Her execution merited a scant four paragraphs inside The New York Times, which called her “a woman of great attractiveness and with a romantic history.”

Mystery continues to surround Mata Hari’s life and alleged double agency, and her story has become a legend that still piques curiosity. Her life has spawned numerous biographies and cinematic portrayals, including, most famously, the 1931 film Mata Hari, starring Greta Garbo as the courtesan-dancer and Ramon Novarro as Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff.

Happy Birthday Yves Saint Laurent

Today is the 78th birthday of Yves Saint Laurent.

NAME: Yves Saint Laurent
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: August 1, 1936
DEATH DATE: June 1, 2008
PLACE OF BIRTH: Oran, Algeria
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
FULL NAME:  Yves Henri-Donat-Mathieu Saint Laurent

BEST KNOWN FOR: Yves Saint Laurent was best known as an influential European fashion designer who impacted fashion in the 1960s to the present day.

Yves Henri Donat Matthieu Saint Laurent was born on August 1, 1936, in Oran, Algeria, to Charles and Lucienne Andrée Mathieu-Saint-Laurent. He grew up in a villa by the Mediterranean with his two younger sisters, Michelle and Brigitte. While his family was relatively well off—his father was a lawyer and insurance broker who owned a chain of cinemas—childhood for the future fashion icon was not easy. Saint Laurent was not popular in school, and was often bullied by schoolmates for appearing to be homosexual. As a consequence, Saint Laurent was a nervous child, and sick nearly every day.

He found solace, however, in the world of fashion. He liked to create intricate paper dolls, and by his early teen years he was designing dresses for his mother and sisters. At the age of 17, a whole new world opened up to Saint Laurent when his mother took him to Paris for a meeting she’d arranged with Michael de Brunhoff, the editor of French Vogue.

A year later, Saint Laurent, who had impressed de Brunhoff with his drawings, moved to Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, where his designs quickly gained notice. De Brunhoff also introduced Saint Laurent to designer Christian Dior, a giant in the fashion world. “Dior fascinated me,” Saint Laurent later recalled. “I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at his side.” Under Dior’s tutelage, Saint Laurent’s style continued to mature and gain still more notice.

In 1960 Saint Laurent was called back to his home country of Algeria to fight for its independence. He managed to secure an exemption based on health grounds, but when he returned to Paris, Saint Laurent found that his job with Dior had disappeared. The news, at first, was traumatic for the young, fragile designer. Then it became ugly, with Saint Laurent successfully suing his former mentor for breach of contract, and collecting £48,000.

The money and the freedom soon presented Saint Laurent with a unique opportunity. In cooperation with his partner and lover, Pierre Berge, the designer resolved to open his own fashion house. With the rise of pop culture and a general yearning for original, fresh designs, Saint Laurent’s timing couldn’t have been better.

Over the next two decades, Saint Laurent’s designs sat atop the fashion world. Models and actresses gushed over his creations. He outfitted women in blazers and smoking jackets, and introduced attire like the pea coat to the runway. His signature pieces also included the sheer blouse and the jumpsuit.

By the 1980s, Yves Saint Laurent was a true icon. He became the first designer to have a retrospective on his work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Under the direction of Berge, who continued to manage Saint Laurent’s firm even though the two had broken up in 1986, the fashion house flourished as a money making venture.

But Saint Laurent struggled. He became reclusive, and fought addictions to alcohol and cocaine. Some in the fashion world complained that the designer’s work had grown stale.

In the early 1990s, Saint Laurent found firmer footing. His designs were rediscovered by a fashion elite that had grown tired of the grunge movement that dominated the runways. Saint Laurent, too, seemed to have conquered his demons. By the end of the decade, with Saint Laurent slowing down his work pace, he and Berge had sold the company they’d started, netting the two men a fortune.

In January 2002, Saint Laurent participated in his final show and then retired for good in Marrakech. Five years later, Saint Laurent’s imprint and importance on French culture was cemented when he was appointed Grand Officer of the Legion d’honnerur by French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Yves Saint Laurent passed away in Paris on June 1, 2008 after a brief illness.

Happy Birthday Edward Hopper

Today is the 132nd birthday of the artist Edward Hopper.

NAME: Edward Hopper
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: July 22, 1882
DEATH DATE: May 15, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Nyack, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Artist Edward Hopper is the painter behind the iconic late-night diner scene Nighthawks (1942).

Edward Hopper was born in 1882, in NY, into a middle class family, which encouraged the art work and career that he wanted to pursue. From 1900 to 1906 he studied at the NY School of Art, and while in school, shifted from illustration to works of fine art. Upon completing his schooling, he worked as an illustrator for a short period of time; once this career path ended, he made three international trips, which had a great influence on the future of his work, and the type of art he would engage in during the course of his career. He made three trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910. In retrospect, Europe meant France, and more specifically, Paris, for Edward Hopper. This city , its architecture, light, and art tradition, decisively affected his development.

When he arrived in 1906, Paris was the artistic center of the Western world; no other city was as important for the development of modern art. The move toward abstract painting was already underway; Cubism had begun. There, in 1907, Picasso painted his legendary Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Hopper, however, later maintained that when he was in Paris he never heard of Picasso, who was to become so important for the development of modern literature. For Hopper, the encounter with Impressionism was decisive. The light in these paintings and the thematic treatment of architecture and nature particularly attracted him and were to influence all of his work. His reaction to the Impressionists is directly reflected in his own art. He forgot the dark, Old Master-like interiors of his New York student days, when he was influenced mainly by the great European artists – Goya, Caravaggio, El Greco, and Diego Velazquez. The influence of Impressionists, like Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, is directly reflected in his own art. His palette lit up and he began to paint with light and quick strokes. Even in 1962, he could say, “I think I’m still an Impressionist.”
In 1910 Hopper returned to the United States, never to leave North America again. During the 1910s, Edward Hopper struggled quite a bit to gain any recognition for the works he had created. During this period a number of his works were distributed through various shows and exhibits in New York, but very little, if any attention, was given to his pieces. Oil painting was a focal point of the work he had done, but a majority of the sales he made during this period, was for works he had created doing etching work and murals.

At the age of 37, Edward Hopper received his first open invitation to do a one person exhibit, featuring some of this finest pieces of art. 16 pieces of his work were shown at the Whitney Club, and although none of the pieces were sold at this exhibit, it did point his career in a new direction, it got his art work out to the general public, and he became a more notable name in the type of work and the art forms which he most wanted to focus his career on, for the future works he would create.

A few years later, Edward Hopper found his career had taken a turn for the better, and he was doing well in sales, and financially with the works he had created. He was invited to do a second one person exhibit, to feature new works, and to create a buzz about the work he had created in recent years. The Frank KM Rehn Gallery in NYC, was where this second exhibit took place, and it received far more attention and a much larger crowd, due to the location where the exhibit was taking place, and also because of the fact that more people were now aware of the works Edward Hopper had created.

House by the Railroad, was a famous painting created by the artist, which was the first work to be acquired for the Museum of Modern Art, which had only recently been opened for general viewing. Strongly defined lighting, clearly defined lines, and cropped viewpoints, were some of the features which this art work captured; and, this embodied the style in which Edward Hopper would use later on in his career, and with the future works that he would produce during the course of his career as an artist.

In 1923, Edward Hopper married a fellow student who attended the NY Academy where he got his education, Josephine Nivision. Not only did she pose for nearly half of the female figure pieces which he created during his career, she also encouraged and pushed him to engage in different art forms during his career as well. She pushed him to work with water colors, and she kept records of all the pieces he designed, the exhibits he was to be a part of, and all of the sales of the pieces which were made, during these exhibits in which his work was presented.

In 1933, Edward Hopper received further praises for the works he had done, and for a piece that was on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. His highly identifiable style, and mature painting styles, were some things he had become known for during this period. The gorgeous landscapes, the quiet rooms and empty rooms he designed, and the transitory effect which many of his works posed, created a sense of contemporary life and a new style, which many in the art world recognized, and many praised him for this distinct style he had created in his art forms.

In Edward Hopper’s most famous piece, Nighthawks, there are four customers and a waiter, who are in a brightly lit diner at night. It was a piece created during a wartime; and many believe that their disconnect with the waiter, and with the external world, represent the feelings of many Americans during this period, because of the war. The piece was set up in 1942, in the Art Institute of Chicago, and was seen by many people while it was on exhibit for a show.

Between the 1930s and 1950s, Edward Hopper and his wife spent quite a bit of time, and most of their summers, visiting Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In many of the works that Hopper created during this period, many of the scenes, the common locations, and nearby attractions which they visited, were often seen in the art forms that he created during his career. He also started to travel further out, and visited regions from Vermont out to Charleston, in order to add more new points of interest to his collection, and to broaden the works and the locations which he would include in many of the images that he created over the course of his career.

Later in his career, many of his works were displayed in various exhibits, namely at the Whitney Museum, which was located in New York City. Later in his career, during the 1940s, was a period in which he found the most commercial success. But, soon after, and even during this time period, he began losing critical favors. This was namely due to the new forms of art, and the fact that abstract pieces were beginning to enter the art world, which took over the work he did, as well as the work of many famous artists prior to him.

His choices of subject matter – particularly the places he painted – seem to have been somewhat unpredictable, since they were part of his constant battle with the chronic boredom that often stifled his urge to paint. This is what kept Hopper on the move – his search for inspiration, least painfully found in the stimulation of new surroundings. As he explained to one critic:

“To me the most important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you’re traveling.”

In the 1940s and 1950s, Hopper found himself losing critical favor in the wake of Abstract Expressionism. Among the new vanguard art movement emerged in the early 1940s, artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko advanced audacious formal inventions in a search for significant content. By breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, those artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches, and attempted to tap into universal inner sources. Even during this era of national prosperity and cultural optimism, Edward Hopper’s art continued to suggest that the individual could still suffer a powerful sense of isolation in post-war America. Hopper never lacked popular appeal, however, and by the time of his death in 1967, Hopper had been reclaimed as a major influence by a new generation of American realist artists.

Happy Birthday Ernest Hemingway

Today is the 115th birthday of Ernest Hemingway.

NAME: Ernest Hemingway
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: July 21, 1899
DEATH DATE: July 2, 1961
EDUCATION: Oak Park and River Forest High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois
PLACE OF DEATH: Ketchum, Idaho

BEST KNOWN FOR: Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway is seen as one of the great American 20th century novelists, and is known for works like A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois. Clarence and Grace Hemingway raised their son in this conservative suburb of Chicago, but the family also spent a great deal of time in northern Michigan, where they had a cabin. It was there that the future sportsman learned to hunt, fish and appreciate the outdoors.

In high school, Hemingway worked on his school newspaper, Trapeze and Tabula, writing primarily about sports. Immediately after graduation, the budding journalist went to work for the Kansas City Star, gaining experience that would later influence his distinctively stripped-down prose style.

He once said, “On the Star you were forced to learn to write a simple declarative sentence. This is useful to anyone. Newspaper work will not harm a young writer and could help him if he gets out of it in time.”

In 1918, Hemingway went overseas to serve in World War I as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army. For his service, he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery, but soon sustained injuries that landed him in a hospital in Milan.

There he met a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky, who soon accepted his proposal of marriage, but later left him for another man. This devastated the young writer but provided fodder for his works “A Very Short Story” and, more famously, A Farewell to Arms.

Still nursing his injury and recovering from the brutalities of war at the young age of 20, he returned to the United States and spent time in northern Michigan before taking a job at the Toronto Star.

It was in Chicago that Hemingway met Hadley Richardson, the woman who would become his first wife. The couple married and quickly moved to Paris, where Hemingway worked as a foreign correspondent for the Star.

In Paris, Hemingway soon became a key part of what Gertrude Stein would famously call “The Lost Generation.” With Stein as his mentor, Hemingway made the acquaintance of many of the great writers and artists of his generation, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. In 1923, Hemingway and Hadley had a son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. By this time the writer had also begun frequenting the famous Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain.

In 1925, the couple, joining a group of British and American expatriates, took a trip to the festival that would later provided the basis of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. The novel is widely considered Hemingway’s greatest work, artfully examining the postwar disillusionment of his generation.

“Grace under pressure” – Hemingway’s famous phrase in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (20 April 1926), published in Ernest Hemingway : Selected Letters 1917-1961 (1981) edited by Carlos Baker. In the letter, he wrote that he was “not referring to guts but to something else.” The phrase was later used by Dorothy Parker in a profile of Hemingway, “The Artist’s Reward,” in the New Yorker (30 November 1929)

Soon after the publication of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway and Hadley divorced, due in part to his affair with a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer, who would become Hemingway’s second wife shortly after his divorce from Hadley was finalized. The author continued to work on his book of short stories, Men Without Women.

Soon, Pauline became pregnant and the couple decided to move back to America. After the birth of their son Patrick Hemingway in 1928, they settled in Key West, Florida, but summered in Wyoming. During this time, Hemingway finished his celebrated World War I novel A Farewell to Arms, securing his lasting place in the literary canon.

When he wasn’t writing, Hemingway spent much of the 1930s chasing adventure: big-game hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, deep-sea fishing in Florida. While reporting on the Spanish Civil War in 1937, Hemingway met a fellow war correspondent named Martha Gellhorn (soon to become wife number three) and gathered material for his next novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which would eventually be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Almost predictably, his marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer deteriorated and the couple divorced. Gellhorn and Hemingway married soon after and purchased a farm near Havana, Cuba, which would serve as their winter residence.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Hemingway served as a correspondent and was present at several of the war’s key moments, including the D-Day landing. Toward the end of the war, Hemingway met another war correspondent, Mary Welsh, whom he would later marry after divorcing Martha Gellhorn.

In 1951, Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which would become perhaps his most famous book, finally winning him the Pulitzer Prize he had long been denied.

The author continued his forays into Africa and sustained several injuries during his adventures, even surviving multiple plane crashes.

In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Even at this peak of his literary career, though, the burly Hemingway’s body and mind were beginning to betray him. Recovering from various old injuries in Cuba, Hemingway suffered from depression and was treated for numerous conditions such as high blood pressure and liver disease.

He wrote A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his years in Paris, and retired permanently to Idaho. There he continued to battle with deteriorating mental and physical health.

Early on the morning of July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in his Ketchum home.

Hemingway left behind an impressive body of work and an iconic style that still influences writers today. His personality and constant pursuit of adventure loomed almost as large as his creative talent.

When asked by George Plimpton about the function of his art, Hemingway proved once again to be a master of the “one true sentence”: “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

Happy Birthday Edgar Degas

Today marks the 180th birthday of Edgar Degas.

NAME: Edgar Degas
OCCUPATION: Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: July 19, 1834
DEATH DATE: September 27, 1917
EDUCATION: University of Paris (Université de Paris), Lycée Louis-le-Grand, École des Beaux-Arts (formerly the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris)
PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
AKA: Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas, Edgar De Gas, Edgar Degas
FULL NAME: Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

BEST KNOWN FOR: Painter and sculptor Edgar Degas was a highly celebrated 19th century French Impressionist whose work helped shape the fine art landscape for years to come.

Edgar Degas was born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas on July 19, 1834, in Paris, France. His father, Auguste, was a banker, and his mother, Celestine, was an American from New Orleans. Their family were members of the middle class with nobler pretensions. For many years, the Degas family spelled their name “de Gas”; the preposition “de” suggesting a land-owning aristocratic background which they did not actually have.

As an adult, Edgar Degas reverted back to the original spelling. Degas came from a very musical household; his mother was an amateur opera singer and his father occasionally arranged for musicians to give recitals in their home. Degas attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, a prestigious and rigorous boys’ secondary school, where he received a classical education.

Degas also displayed a remarkable skill for drawing and painting as a child, a talent encouraged by his father, who was a knowledgeable art lover. In 1853, at the age of 18, he received permission to “copy” at the Louvre in Paris. (During the 19th century, aspiring artists developed their technique by attempting to replicate the works of the masters.) He produced several impressive copies of Raphael as well, studying the work of more contemporary painters such as Ingres and Delacroix.

In 1855, Degas gained admission into the École des Beaux-Arts (formerly the Académie des Beaux-Arts) in Paris. However, after only one year of study, Degas left school to spend three years traveling, painting and studying in Italy. He painted painstaking copies of the works of the great Italian renaissance painters Michelangelo and da Vinci, developing a reverence for classical linearity that remained a distinguishing feature of even his most modern paintings.

Upon returning to Paris in 1859, Degas set out to make a name for himself as a painter. Taking a traditional approach, he painted large portraits of family members and grand historical scenes such as “The Daughter of Jephtha,” “Semiramis Building Babylon” and “Scene of War in the Middle Ages.” Degas submitted these works to the all-powerful Salon, a group of French artists and teachers who presided over public exhibitions. It had very rigid and conventional ideas of beauty and proper artistic form, and received Degas’s paintings with measured indifference.

In 1862, Degas met fellow painter Edouard Manet at the Louvre, and the pair quickly developed a friendly rivalry. Degas grew to share Manet’s disdain for the presiding art establishment as well as his belief that artists needed to turn to more modern techniques and subject matter.

By 1868, Degas had become a prominent member of a group of avant-garde artists including Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, who gathered frequently at the Café Guerbois to discuss ways in which artists could engage the modern world. Their meetings coincided with tumultuous times in the history of France. In July 1870, the Franco-Prussian War broke out and the highly nationalistic Degas volunteered for the French National Guard. At the war’s conclusion in 1871, the infamous Paris Commune seized control of the capital for two terrifying months before Adolphe Thiers reestablished the Third Republic in a bloody civil war. Degas largely avoided the tumult of the Paris Commune by taking an extended trip to visit relatives in New Orleans.

Returning to Paris near the end of 1873, Degas, along with Monet, Sisley and several other painters, formed the Société Anonyme des Artistes (Society of Independent Artists), a group committed to putting on exhibitions free of the Salon’s control. The group of painters would come to be known as the Impressionists (though Degas preferred the term “realist” to describe his own work), and on April 15, 1874, they held the first Impressionist exhibition. The paintings Degas exhibited were modern portraits of modern women—milliners, laundresses and ballet dancers—painted from radical perspectives.

Over the course of the next 12 years, the group staged eight such Impressionist exhibitions, and Degas exhibited at all of them. His most famous paintings during these years were “The Dancing Class” (1871), “The Dance Class” (1874), “Woman Ironing” (1873) and “Dancers Practicing at the Bar” (1877). In 1880, he also sculpted “The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” a sculpture so hauntingly evocative that while some critics called it brilliant, others condemned him as cruel for having made it. While Degas’s paintings are not overtly political, they do reflect France’s changing social and economic environment. His paintings portray the growth of the bourgeoisie, the emergence of a service economy and the widespread entrance of women into the workplace.

In 1886, at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in Paris, Degas exhibited 10 paintings of nude women in various stages of bathing. These nude paintings were the talk of the exhibition and also the source of controversy; some called the women “ugly” while others praised the honesty of his depictions. Degas went on to paint hundreds of studies of nude women. He also continued to paint dancers, contrasting the awkward humility of the dancer backstage with her majestic grace in the midst of performance.

In the mid-1890s, an episode known as the “Dreyfus Affair” sharply divided French society. In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish captain in the French military, was convicted of treason on spying charges. Although evidence that proved Dreyfus’s innocence surfaced in 1896, rampant anti-Semitism kept him from being exonerated for another 10 years. With the country deeply divided between those in support of Dreyfus and those against him, Degas sided with those whose anti-Semitism blinded them to Dreyfus’s innocence. His stance against Dreyfus cost him many friends and much respect within the typically more tolerant avant-garde art circles.

Degas lived well into the 20th century, and though he painted less during these years, he promoted his work tirelessly and became an avid art collector. He never married, though he did count several women, including American painter Mary Cassatt, among his intimate friends. Edgar Degas died in Paris on September 27, 1917, at the age of 83.

While Degas has always been recognized as one of the greatest Impressionist painters, his legacy has been mixed in the decades since his death. The misogynist overtones present in his sexualized portraits of women, as well as his intense anti-Semitism, have served to alienate Degas from some modern critics. Still, the sheer beauty of his early works and the distinctly modern self-conscious elusiveness of his later portraits ensure Degas a lasting legacy. One thing remains indisputable about Degas: His were among the most painstakingly polished and refined paintings in history. An obsessive and careful planner, Degas liked to joke that he was the least spontaneous artist alive. “If painting weren’t difficult,” he once remarked, “it wouldn’t be so fun.”