[Images directly above and below are from Billy Reid's spring 2012 lookbook.]
Whether it's something really specific, like a particular fabric, or the more subtle hits of peacock-blue in these Billy Reid images, for the past few weeks I've been making sporadic, admittedly loose connections between pieces in the traveling exhibition, The Cult of Beauty (opening tomorrow in San Francisco), and design I encounter in my everyday life. If you've just stumbled here while Googling, the show explores the Victorian avant-garde -- often misunderstood styles that have had surprising impact well into the 20th and 21st centuries.
Take photography. Until I started reading the exhibition catalogue, I didn't realize how much amateur experimentation was going on during the era.
[Top: George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893–95. Collection RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History), The Hague; Bottom: George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in a kimono (Geesje Kwak) at Breitner’s house on Lauriersgracht, n.d.. Collection RKD, The Hague. Both from Snapshot.]
In addition to the photographs covered in the show, right now on the opposite coast there's an exciting Philips Collection exhibition, Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard, which deals with the Nabis (Parisian avant-garde artists active from the late 1880s through the early 20th century) who embraced Kodak's earliest handheld cameras, first on the scene in 1888.
[Henri Rivière. Left: The Painter in the Tower, from Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower, 1888-1902, Lithograph, 8 1/4 x 6 5/8 in. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY. Right: Painter on a knotted rope along a vertical girder, below an intersection of girders, 1889, Gelatin silver print, 4 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Mme Bernard Granet and her children and Mlle Solange Granet, 1981. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.]
Not unlike how we play with iPhone picture apps today, these painters appreciated sometimes unpredictable results, and they experimented with cropping, unorthodox vantage points, and candid (or not-so-relaxed) portraits of subjects in motion and holding still.
[Edouard Vuillard. Top: The Newspaper, c. 1896-98, Oil on cardboard, 12 3/4 x 21 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1929. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Bottom: Thadée and Misia Natanson in the salon, rue St. Florentin, 1898, Gelatin silver print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. Private collection. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]
While the show demonstrates how the artists' photos informed their paintings, and vice versa, it also offers a wonderful opportunity to simply sneak a peek at their private domains. Again, like us, they snapped everything that captured their imagination. Culled from family and museum archives, these personal images were never exhibited during the artists’ lifetimes. And there are a lot to see: more than 200 photographs paired with roughly 70 paintings, prints, and drawings.
[A companion catalogue with nearly 300 color reproductions is available.]
With George Hendrik Breitner's beautifully layered Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893–95 (both the gelatin silver print and the oil on canvas) we see another example of the 19th-century Japonisme mentioned the other day. According to the Philips, Breitner made seven paintings of model Geesje Kwak, a 16-year old hat seller from Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, wearing a kimono. In the process, the artist photographed her in various poses and altered the composition or vantage point in his paintings.
Snapshot continues through May 6, 2012. See more here.