Leonard. Oh, Leonard.

You have left us.

But you have left us the music. Leonard Cohen, fare well.

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Erwin Blumenfeld, from Dada to Vogue

Today is the last day of the office in Cavendish Square, with the advantage of the Mayfair galleries just a short step away. So very glad to have caught a great exhibition of work by Erwin Blumenfeld this lunchtime at Osborne Samuel on Bruton Street – Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue.

The exhibition includes some of his brilliant early work in collage as well as a wonderful selection of his experimental photography.

Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue

Nude, Paris, 1938

Above, Left: Nude, Paris, 1938

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Above: Hitlerfresse, Amsterdam, 1933

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Above: Shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Born in Berlin in 1897 Blumenfeld left Germany after the First World War, settling first in Holland, where he established a Dutch arm of the Dadaist movement, then Paris, where he made some of his most famous images, including Nude Under Wet Silk (1937).

Fleeing France in 1941 he settled in New York where he became one of the most internationally sought-after portrait and fashion photographers in the 1940s and 1950s. Remember his iconic Vogue cover of 1950 (not in the exhibition):

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For more information see http://www.erwinblumenfeld.com/

From Dada to Vogue until 29th October 2016: www.osbornesamuel.com

William Eggleston at The NPG

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I wish I could say I had known all about and studied ‘legendary Memphis photographer’ William Eggleston before I read about the current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. But, I don’t think I had ever heard of him. And that’s a big omission because his work is extraordinary. An education for the eye.

The pin sharp focus and vivd colour of his portraits give them a stunning presence, combined with a certain mystery and, in some cases, dread. Like the shot of his friend, the strange Memphis dentist TC Boring (though on this evidence boring he most certainly wasn’t; except perhaps in his day job), standing nude in his graffitied, black and red bedroom; it’s as if the image prefigures the violent death of its subject – Boring was later murdered by locals and his house set on fire.

And this strange picture (above) of Marcia Hare in Memphis, lying on the grass and yet almost floating above the surface – an effect created by the sharp focus on just the small area of the buttons on her dress, her outstretched arm and the camera. Hanging alongside this image is another portrait of Marcia, this time dancing (as if no one’s watching) – with a very similar body configuration, as this photo of the exhibition shows, taken before I discovered no photography was allowed:

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The portraits are not portraits in the traditional sense; frozen moments in time but not character studies. Most are ‘Untitled’, the name of the subject in some of the photos revealed for the first time in this exhibition.

Another stand out image, printed in grand scale, of the artist’s uncle with his assistant who unconsciously mimics his employer’s pose; the one open door lends a strange, uneasy air to the image.

eggleston 3Whatever your knowledge or interest in photography, if you possibly can do go see this exhibition. It’s a glimpse of the work of a master.

William Eggleston, Portraits. National Portrait Gallery, 21 July – 23 October 2016.

Picasso Ceramics at Sotheby’s

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By chance on Bond Street because I needed to take a photo of the Atkinsons building for my nearly finished book on Mrs Dalloway and caught the last day of the exhibition of ceramics by Picasso at Sotheby’s.

The extraordinary vigour and certainty of his line, his playfulness and use of colour never fail to enthral. And always that feeling of excitement being in the presence of work imagined, moulded, touched by that ferociously creative genius.

With ceramics and prints there is also the temptation towards recklessness that you could actually buy one; take away a work bearing that iconic signature.

Being sensible was helped by the fact the ones I really liked (inevitably) still retained a hefty guide price. In any case, ownership is not the key issue; it’s the capacity to enjoy the work that really matters. (Nonetheless …).

The work dates largely from the 1950s when, aged 65, Picasso moved back to the south of France after the war –

While staying with the printer Louis Fort in Golfe-Juan, the two came across Madoura and this led quite simply to the artist’s engagement with the pottery traditions of the area. There was also an influence on a personal level as the artist met his second wife, Jacqueline, when she was working in the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris. She began to live with Picasso in Paris in late 1954 and they together moved to the villa La Californie in 1955. (Lucy Rosenburgh)

And of course it was one of the ‘Jacqueline’ earthenware dishes I wanted most.

Jacqueline Dish

Jacqueline’s strong features, her prominent profile, and her dark hair and eyes are readily found in much of the art Picasso made during these joyful years. Earlier portrayals often depict Jacqueline with her abundant hair covered by a headscarf, as seen in these two red and white earthenware empreinte. In the empreinte, the artist’s carved and modelled plaster mould would be pressed into the clay, leaving the unpainted impression as the only decoration. Picasso developed the method at the Madoura studio, inspired by the process of print making. (Lucy Rosenburgh)

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And more, just because…

Picasso ceramics

 

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Irving Penn – Flowers

Very glad to have caught the Irving Penn Flowers exhibition at Hamiltons Gallery yesterday. This is, apparently, the first time all the pictures in Penn’s flower series have been shown together and it makes for a brilliant exhibition.

The fabulously rich colours blaze off the walls of the gallery space, each flower revealed in exquisite detail against a plain white backdrop.

Flowers by Irving Penn

 

The images capture the sensual beauty of the form, pattern and colour of each flower and, by choosing to photograph specimens that “have passed the point of perfection, when they have already begun spotting and browning and twisting on their way back to the earth” Penn also imbues each image with a sense of time passing – Life, sex and death; it’s all here.

There is an intense physicality about some of the flowers, with their petals spread wide to expose the stamens and ovaries – pollination as aching desire. Nevertheless the photographs I would really love to hang on my wall are the almost monochrome Dandelion and Single Oriental Poppy, the taut delicacy of each tiny filament caught in thrilling detail.

Irving Penn Flowers

About the Flower series

From the catalogue:

Penn’s Flowers series was initiated from an assignment by American Vogue for the 1967 Christmas edition. This became the first of seven annual assignments that Penn would photograph flowers for Vogue, each year devoting himself to one class of flower. The photographs were collectively published as a book Flowers in 1980: 1967, Tulips; 1968, Poppies; 1968, Peonies; 1969, Orchids; 1970, Roses; 1971, Lilies; 1973, Begonias (Penn also photographed wildflowers in 1973 which appeared in Vogue’s 1974 Christmas edition but were excluded from the Flowers book). Thereafter, Penn returned to the subject right up until his death in 2009.

Irving Penn Flowers

 

The Circle

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The circle of the last year is complete; the new one just beginning. The party’s over, or it’s just beginning. Let’s face the music, and dance. Wishing you, dear Reader, a happy New Year.

[Image/post in response to this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme of Circle]

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Bond Street Christmas lights, for this week’s WordPress photo challenge.

Also gives me the opportunity to let you know about my Mrs Dalloway and Virginia Woolf guided walk, 26 November, 6-8pm. More details and booking here.

‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ But even as she steps out into the clamour and commotion of the street, the squeak of the hinges casts her mind back to her youth and the fateful summer at Bourton when she stood ‘on the theshold of her adult life.’ Just as the past is always present in the fabric of the city, so our own past reverberates throughout our lives as individuals.

Westminster, St James’s, Piccadilly, Bond Street, Oxford Street, Harley Street, Fitzrovia and then across to the famous squares of Bloomsbury. This walk takes us through the historic centre of the dynamic metropolis, brought to life on the page so vividly in Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece.

Few books convey the sheer wonder, the miracle of being alive, here, now and in the city as vividly as Mrs Dalloway. This walk, in the footsteps of Mrs Dalloway and Virginia Woolf, provides the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the city and the novel. To immerse ourselves in a London busy, crowded and lit up for Christmas; a London, in other words, getting ready for a party.

As Virginia Woolf wrote in her essay Oxford Street Tide – ‘The charm of modern London is that it is not built to last; it is built to pass.’ Book here 

Canary Wharf

TESM exhibited at the ServiceNow NowForum at Excel in London docklands recently.

Having worked on the promotional material I was invited to the after-show drinks at Canary Wharf. These are a couple of snaps taken on my way there.

(Wouldn’t have been a good idea to look up this precipitously on the way home)
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Documentation, Disrupted

Just came across this great presentation by Google tech writer Riona MacNamara at WriteTheDocs recent Portland conference (May 19, 2015).

The subject area is technical documentation, and is very interesting on that score. But it’s about so much more – most importantly, what you can achieve by being audacious (but not reckless), focused (but open and generous), and unafraid.

I love the subtle qualifications that make all the difference – audacious, but not reckless, for example. Though note that there is no qualification for unafraid: you’ve just got to be unafraid (or, maybe as likely, feel the fear – and do it anyway. There’s also a lot of good stuff on happiness, work and making a difference.

Now looking at ways to get to the WriteTheDocs conference in Prague.

Anyway, enjoy – and one thought to take away:

“Authority and influence don’t derive from your resumé, but from action and impact.” Riona MacNamara