Archive for February, 2008

Great thoughts always come from the heart.

February 19, 2008

Marquis de Vauvenargues

vauvenargues1.jpg Moralist and essayist, born in Aix-en-Provence, SE France. A soldier, he served in the wars of the Polish (1733–9) and Austrian (1740–8) successions, but his health failed and he lost his sight after smallpox. He turned to literature, spending the rest of his life in Paris in poverty. A friend of Mirabeau, Voltaire, and Marmontel, he gathered notes written during his life in Maximes (1746), whose universal visions recall those of Kant, but met with no success.

I don’t think there’s any artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.

February 18, 2008

Francis Ford Coppola

francis_ford_coppola-712008.jpgFrancis Ford Coppola (born April 7, 1939) is a five-time Academy Award winning American film director, producer, and screenwriter. Coppola is also a vintner, magazine publisher, and hotelier. He earned an M.F.A. in film directing from the UCLA Film School. He is most renowned for directing the highly regarded Godfather trilogy, The Conversation, and the Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now.

Art is Art. Everything else is everything else.

February 17, 2008

Ad Reinhardt

10088428alife-artist-ad-reinhart-creating-black-1966-posters.jpgAdolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt (“Ad” Reinhardt) (December 24, 1913August 30, 1967) was an Abstract expressionist painter, a writer, and a pioneer of conceptual and minimal art. He was also a critic of abstract expressionism. Reinhardt’s earliest exhibited paintings avoided representation, but show a steady progression away from objects and external reference. His work progressed from compositions of geometrical shapes in the 40s to works in different shades of the same color (all red, all blue, all white) in the 50s. Reinhardt is best known for his so-called “black” paintings of the 1960s, which appear at first glance to be simply canvanses painted black but are actually composed of black and nearly black shades. Among many other suggestions, these paintings ask if there can be such a thing as an absolute, even in black, which some viewers may not consider a color at all.

Reinhardt was born in Buffalo, New York, and studied art history at Columbia University, where he was a close friend of Robert Lax and Thomas Merton. It is interesting and instuctive to see how the three developed similar concepts of simplicity in different directions. Reinhardt went on to study painting with Carl Holty and Francis Criss at the American Artists School, then at the National Academy of Design under Karl Anderson. From 1936, he worked for the WPA Federal Art Project, and he soon became a member of the American Abstract Artists group.

Having completed his studies at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts, Reinhardt became a teacher at Brooklyn College and later at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, the University of Wyoming, Yale University and Hunter College, New York.

His writing includes interesting comments on his own work and that of his contemporaries. His concise wit, sharp focus, and abstraction make them interesting reading even for those who have not seen his paintings. Like his paintings, his writing remains controversial decades after its composition.

You do have to be fairly selfish when you have a gift. You cannot afford to let too many outside things get in the way.

February 16, 2008

Sarah Brightman

sarah.jpgSarah Brightman (born 14 August 1960) is an English classical crossover soprano, actress and dancer.Brightman debuted as a dancer in troupes such as Hot Gossip and later released a string of disco singles. She achieved greater fame as a musical theatre performer and partner of theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, with whom she originated several roles including Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera. Her 1984 marriage to Lloyd Webber, which ended in 1990 in divorce, attracted tabloid coverage.

After her divorce, Brightman became a crossover artist with former Enigma producer Frank Peterson. Her style, a blend of classical vocals and pop-inspired instrumentation and arrangement, earned her further success. Brightman has received over 150 Gold and Platinum awards in 34 countries and is the only artist to hold #1 spots on the Billboard Classical and Dance charts simultaneously. She has sold over 25 million albums worldwide.

A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else.

February 15, 2008

Charles Baudelaire

charles_baudelaire2.jpgOne of the greatest French poets of the 19th century, called ‘the father of modern criticism,’ who shocked his contemporaries with his visions of lust and decay. Baudelaire formed with Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine the so-called Decadents. Baudelaire was the first to equate modern, artificial, and decadent. In LE PEINTRE DE LA VIE MODERNE (1863, The Painter of Modern Life) Baudelaire argued in favor of artificiality, stating that vice is natural in that it is selfish, while virtue is artificial because we must restrain our natural impulses in order to be good. The snobbish aesthete, the dandy, was for Baudelaire the ultimate hero and the best proof of an absolutely purposeless existence. He is a gentleman who never becomes vulgar and always preserves the cool smile of the stoic.

Love is love’s reward.

February 14, 2008

John Dryden
Happy Valentine’s Day

dryden.jpgJohn Dryden’s contribution to English literature, besides his poems and plays, was the invention of a direct and simple style for literary criticism. He improved upon the prose of the Elizabethan writers in the matter of ridding English of its involved forms, even if through that process he lost some of its gorgeous ornament and rugged strength. Jonson‘s method in criticism was after all not much more than the note-book method of jotting down stray thoughts and opinions and reactions. Dryden elaborated his ideas, sought the weight of authority, argued both sides of the question, and adduced proofs. Dryden performed an inestimable service to his countrymen in applying true standards of criticism to the Elizabethans and in showing them a genuine and sympathetic if occasionally misguided love for Shakespeare. Dryden also enjoyed the advantage of being able to bring his knowledge of the drama of Spain and France to bear on his criticism of English dramatists.

JOHN DRYDEN was born at Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, in 1631. He came of a Puritan family, which had been for years very active in the political world. Dryden was sent to school at Westminster. He published some verses at the age of eighteen. In 1650 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, and took a degree of B.A. four years later, but it is probable that he spent also the next three years at Cambridge. He went to London in 1657. His first important literary effort, Heroic Stanzas to the memory of Cromwell, was published in 1659. This was followed the next year by verses on the return of Charles. In order to add to his slender income, he turned to the stage, and after two unsuccessful attempts he produced his first play, The Wild Gallant, in 1663. This comedy was not well received, and Dryden confesses that his forte was not comedy. The same year he produced The Rival Ladies, and married Lady Elizabeth Howard. The Indian Queen (1664), written in collaboration with Sir Robert Howard, his wife’s brother, enjoyed considerable success. Dryden followed this with The Indian Emperor (1665). During the Plague Dryden lived with his father-in-law in Wiltshire, where he wrote his Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668). Howard’s preface to his Four New Playes (1665) called forth a reply from Dryden: A Defence of an Essay of Dramatique Poesie (1668). From the re-opening of the theaters in 1666, to 1681, Dryden wrote little except his plays. The production of Buckingham’s satirical play The Rehearsal in 1671, in which Dryden was the chief personage, called forth the preface Of Heroic Plays and Defence of the Epilogue (1672). All for Love, in all probability the poet’s greatest play, was performed in 1678. He continued to produce plays to the end of his career. In 1681 he turned to satire and wrote Absalom and Achitophel, which achieved instant and widespread popularity. This was followed by other satires. In 1687, after his conversion to the Catholic Church, he wrote The Hind and the Panther, a plea for Catholicism. His Catholic leanings lost for him the laureateship and other offices when the Revolution came. During his last ten years he translated many of the Latin classics: Virgil, Ovid, Lucretius, Horace, Theocritus, and others, and modernized Chaucer. He died in 1700, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.

February 13, 2008

Dale Carnegie

dale-carnegie.jpgDale Breckenridge Carnegie (originally Carnagey until 1919) (November 24, 1888November 1, 1955) was an American writer and lecturer and the developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills. Born in poverty on a farm in Missouri, he was the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936, a massive bestseller that remains popular today. He also wrote a biography of Abraham Lincoln, titled Lincoln the Unknown, as well as several other books.

Carnegie was an early proponent of what is now called responsibility assumption, although this only appears minutely in his written work. One of the core ideas in his books is that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s reaction to them.

Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.

February 12, 2008

 Alfred Eisenstaedt
alfred.jpgIf the 20th century has had a preeminent master of the candid photograph, it is certainly Alfred Eisenstaedt. Called “the father of photojournalism,” Eisenstaedt perfected certain techniques for capturing the spontaneous moment that has given us some of our most enduring photographic images.

Born in 1898, Eisenstaedt was fascinated by photography from his youth and began taking pictures at the age of 14 when he was given his first camera, an Eastman Kodak Folding Camera with roll film. In 1927 Eisenstaedt sold his first photograph and at the time had no idea that professional photography even existed. Photojournalism was at its very infancy. Eisenstaedt began his free-lance career for Pacific and Atlantic Photos’ Berlin office in 1928. It was taken over by Associated Press in 1931. “Photojournalism had just started,” Eisenstaedt has remarked “and I knew very little about photography. It was an adventure, and I was always amazed when anything came out.”Using cumbersome equipment with tripods and glass plate negatives, Eisenstaedt produced many photos on assignment of musicians, writers, and royalty. One famous photograph from 1932 depicts a waiter at the ice rink of the Grand Hotel. “I did one smashing picture,” Eisenstaedt has written, “of the skating headwaiter. To be sure the picture was sharp, I put a chair on the ice and asked the waiter to skate by it. I had a Miroflex camera and focused on the chair.” Another very famous Eisenstaedt photograph reveals the opera house La Scala, Milan from 1934. Eisenstaedt was looking for the telling detail to place in the foreground of his image. “Suddenly,” he said, “I saw a lovely young society girl sitting next to an empty box. From that box I took another picture, with the girl in the foreground. For years and years this has been one of my prize photographs. Without the girl I would not have had a memorable picture.”

By 1935 Eisenstaedt had acquired a Rolleiflex camera and immigrated to America. A year later he became one of the original staff photographers for Life Magazine. By now, he was a master of the candid photograph.

Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement.. for transfiguration, not for the sake of play.

February 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Max Beckman

max1.jpgMax Beckmann, a metaphysical protagonist of reality, expressed in his own terms, crudely, softly, finely; which ever the subject demanded. But the subject did not dictate, Beckmann held the brush!
Beckmann was born in Leipzig on February 12, 1884, to farmer parents from the farming area of Braunschweig. After Max’s birth they gave up the farm and moved into Leipzig where his father, Carl, worked as a real estate agent and flour merchant. Later he took work in a laboratory making artificial meerschaum. Young Max preferred drawing to schoolwork, and began his formal studies in 1900 at the Weimar Art Academy. 

In 1903 he married Minna Tube and they both moved to Paris. Beckmann was never influenced by any art movement, or the work of any artist. That is a hard thing to say and mean about any artist living or dead.  Oh yes, he studied the classics, but had so very real an energy, so real a need to express himself that imitation of any kind, outside the Aristolean meaning, would never have satisfied his lust or vision. He painted freely. Beckmann probably painted more self-portraits than any other artist. He painted subjects from the entertainment world, many portraits of family and friends, and countless allegorical compositions with characters symbolic of ancient myths.
  Beckmann was drafted into the First World War and wrote much of what it was like:
“I went across the fields to avoid the straight highways, along the firing lines where people were shooting at a small wooded hill, which is now covered with wooden crosses and lines of graves instead of spring flowers. On my left the shooting had the sharp explosion of the infantry artillery, on my right could be heard the sporadic cannon shots thundering from the front, and up above the sky was clear and the sun bright, sharp above the whole space. It was so wonderful outside that even the wild senselessness of this enormous death. whose music I hear again and again, could not disturb me from my great enjoyment!”
Beckmann spent the years of World War Two in Germany, outlawed by Hitler from exhibiting, but his paintings, though branded as “degenerate by the Third Reich, were never confiscated or destroyed. He was drafted, but rejected as unfit. After the war he came to America where he and his wife lived in Missouri. Beckmann was a Painter in residence at Washington University in St. Louis.In the late ’40s he moved to Manhattan, where he died of a heart attack enroute to see his work in a show at the Metropolitan Museum on December 27, 1950. many say he was merely walking his dog, but at any rate he was caught in the middle of living.
Nothing meant more to Max Beckmann than his own originality, as a human being, and as an artist. He was a deeply spiritual man, with his own ideas, and we end with this quote, the one we started with, for it sums up this man entirely: “The greatest mystery of all is reality.”

Art is a sense of magic.

February 10, 2008

Stan Brakhage

brakhageview.jpgStan Brakhage (January 14, 1933March 9, 2003) was an American non-narrative filmmaker. He is regarded as one of the most important experimental filmmakers of the 20th century. He worked with various kinds of celluloid: 16mm, 8mm, 35mm, and IMAX, and was a practitioner of what he referred to as “pure cinema“.