Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Toulouse-Lautrec's Jane Avril (La Melinite) French, 1868-1943

I recently visited Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NYC and happened upon their exhibit about Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. I am not a major fan of his paintings, am familiar with some, was fascinated with his muse, Jane Avril. She was everywhere! Unfortunately, I could not find much about her life and a few photographs survive. So, here is the real woman behind the man.


Jane Avril was born Jeanne Beaudon in Belleville, on 9 June 1868. She grew up in Paris to a French prostitute known as “La Belle Elise”, and the Marchese Luigi de Font who was an aristocratic Italian émigré. She was forced into prostitution at an early age by her mother. She suffered from chorea which was a nervous condition. It was treated at an asylum, Salpetriere by Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot. 

At Le Moulin Rouge, Paris, 1888, she started dancing when she returned from a fancy dress ball that her doctor threw.  She enjoyed much success as a dancer then a choreographer in numerous cabarets throughout Paris including Le Divan Japonais and Le Jardin de Paris, 1890s. She was nicknamed, ‘La Melinite’ which is a form of explosive or dynamite used by militant anarchists of the time. She performed on the London stage in 1897 and New York in 1901. Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, became a close friend of hers and she modeled for him throughout both their lives. After he died, in 1901, she became an actress; appearing in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt and Colette’s Claudine a Paris

Connected to her nervous condition, she suffered from bouts of what now would be classified as manic depression during which she would not dance or act. In 1905, she married Maurice Biais who was a designer and journalist. She gave birth to a son and stopped dancing. She left Paris around 1919. Her husband died in 1930; financially ruined by the collapse of the stock market. He moved into the home for the elderly in Jouy-en-Josas. She died basically unknown in Jouy-en-Josas, France, 1943 at the age of 75 interred at Pere Lachaise Cemetery. 


Sunday, August 24, 2014

A review of Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland

In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.

With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (August 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068173
When we meet Lisette she is married to Andre and her life is in flux. She is an orphan, newly moved from city life in Paris, France to the village of Roussillon, Provence. She has a passion for art. The nice aspect of her marriage is the fact that her husband's grandfather, Pascal was a pigment salesman and frame maker. Andre continues his legacy until the day he goes off to war and she is left with his ailing grandfather.  Unfortunately, I had  a very difficult time connecting to and with any aspect of Lisette as a character making reading, Lisette's List a struggle. I wanted so much to be swept away in the marriage and love between Lisette and Andre but this is not a romance novel and their marriage and bond is not a very strong one. Lisette does not gush over her husband and he is definitely the more 'romantic' one. This could be because she gives up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice to follow Andre's need to live in Provence. When Andre goes off to war and she later finds out that he dies there, her grief is not established for very long and she soon gets involved with his best friend, Maxime as well as maintaining a friendship with Bernard.  Andre is hardly mentioned after his death while the last half of the novel bounces between her 'relationships' with Andre's best friends and the presence of art.  For instance, the paintings of Chagall, Pisarro, and Cezanne in particular are weaved throughout this story as Lisette becomes friends with Pisarro and Cezanne through Pascal. 

The second issue I have with this novel is it reads more as a reference guide between the topography of Provence juxtaposed against the paintings of Pisarro and Cezanne. For instance, the colors of the landscape, the rich browns, greens, and orange hues are richly presented through painting descriptions. I got the feeling that the author did not want to write a novel at all but longed to write more about the beauty of Provence through its painters.  Also, there is this list that Lisette writes of 'vows' she makes to herself about life after advice from Pascal. So, weaved throughout Lisette's List is a sociological thread of life lessons and her passion for painting.  Many mixed messages are presented as Lisette's life changes and she tries to grow emotionally.  Another issue I had was the aspect of the novel that deals with 'the hidden paintings' that Andre hides before going off to war. He does not tell his wife anything about it and by the time the reader finds out the reasons and explanations behind the 'true' hiding of these paintings, it is so implausible that I wish the author would have taken more time to incorporate  a stronger plot twist and fleshed out the characters a bit more. As the years progress Lisette does not emotionally grow or evolve; instead she puts so much effort in to maintaining her male friendships  it negates her 'list'.  I just felt so frustrated reading, Lisette's List and sadly I truly could not connect with the characters and wanted more of a solid foundation behind the hidden paintings  and her list. It just didn't support her emotional stability as a written character.

Susan Vreeland's love for Provence shines within the pages of Lisette's List as does her passion for art. I just believe that this novel  was not the right one for me but perhaps it will be for you!

I was given a free review copy in exchange for my honest and fair review so thank you,  Random House

Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland will be published on August 26, 2014 in the USA. You can purchase it at,  Amazon


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Julia Margaret Cameron discovered at MOMA!

So, there I was with a free pass in hand for MOMA- (The Museum of Modern Art) -- (thank you Debbie) walking through this beautiful building with a friend of mine in search of Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso paintings. I have seen the Van Gogh's though another excuse to gaze upon perfection is always required. My friend wanted to see the Monet's which are spectacular. Two of his wall canvases of water lilies...beauty and perfection personified. Anyay, there we were walking floor by floor when we saw a photography exhibit featuring the work of Edward Steichen. I had to go in. Am I glad I did. In the first room sat two small photographs; sepia in color and soft in focus.  The first one I did not recognize but the second one I immediately did! My friend was talking away as we approached and I had to apologetically say, 'I'm sorry but I must look at those Cameron photos and I can't focus any longer on what you're saying'!  We laughed and those around us looked at me strangely which I'm accustomed to. I don't care. Two twenty something year old's hovered around both Cameron photos as I glared at them they moved away to let the loud short large woman through!  Yes, me!

 "Mrs. Cameron is making endless Madonnas and May Queens and Foolish Virgins and Wise Virgins and I know not what besides. It really is wonderful how she puts her spirit into people". Lady Emily Tennyson in a letter to Edward Lear

 Madonna with Child by Julia Margaret Cameron  1864 Albumen silver print MOMA


Untitled (Mary Ryan?) by Julia Margaret Cameron 1867 Albumen silver print MOMA

Although, the sitter in the photo on the right is believed to be Mary Ryan, I am going out on a limb to say that it does not look like the other photographs taken of Mary Ryan by Julia Margaret Cameron. I do not believe it is her but another unidentified woman whom Mrs. Cameron knew. Possibly a part of her staff who worked at Dimbola. The features do not match. Check it out for yourself and form your own opinion in Bob Cotton's blog site,  The Julia Secession


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ma Jolie and El Diablo or a review of Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

 Eva Gouel (Marcelle Humbert)

Marcelle Humbert (1885-1915) came to Paris with fierce determination and starry eyed dreams of becoming a star. She was working at the Moulin Rouge hiding in the wings backstage sewing costumes for stage actresses during their performances. She longed for the spotlight and found it upon meeting Pablo Picasso. With him she became his third muse, lover, and the woman he truly wanted to marry. For it was with her that he found peace and faithfulness; at least for a little while! She became his ‘Ma jolie’ (my pretty one) in every sense of the word. Their affair began in 1911 until December 1915 upon her sudden death from Tuberculosis or cancer.
 
Within the pages of, ‘Madame Picasso’ Eva Gouel now stands in the spotlight out of the shadows of Moulin Rouge and into Pablo’s studio. She walks off his canvas radiating energy, youth and innocence coming to life with every word on every page. Author, Anne Girard stays loyal to Pablo Picasso’s life as a womanizer and pulls no punches representing his relationship with Gouel during parts II and III of the novel. They seem to be true soul mates. He feels she understands his needs and temperament. She tames this ‘El Diablo’ of a Spaniard. He in turn takes her innocence, bringing out the woman inside the girl, loving her so deeply, so intimately with such dedication to each other amongst rumors, heated affairs, jealous friends, and alongside the backdrop of World War I France.
 
I was greatly impressed by the skill and research Anne Girard makes with the life of Eva Gouel (Marcelle Humbert). There is little written or known about this young woman except her short time with one of the greatest painters of all time. Her Author’s Note is of great importance. I highly recommend the beautifully written, ‘Madame Picasso’ by Anne Girard to readers curious about how Ma Jolie tamed her El Diablo!
 
 Pablo Picasso in 1915 The year Eva Gouel died (note the guitar painting)

Lastly, there are many characters in this novel based upon real artists who became a very important circle of friends during World War I France. For instance, I was introduced to the poetry of Guillame Apollinaire. The author uses it throughout the novel. He apparently led a very interesting life involving the theft of the Mona Lisa! Also, apparently a lot of parties took place at the home of one Gertrude Stein. Oh, if those walls could talk!
 
 Pablo Picasso Ma Jolie guitar painting

 I hope everyone interested in Picasso during one of his briefest yet most meaningful relationships decides to buy Madame Picasso by Anne Girard. I can’t imagine being bored or disappointed by it!

 Thank you for my review copy in exchange for my review,  Harlequin MIRA Publishers

To anyone wanting to pre-order Madame Picasso by Anne Girard the publishing date is August 26, 2014 available to buy,  Amazon

 Here is a song that kept running through my mind as I was writing my review. To me, it represents the relationship between Picasso and Gouel, El Diablo Amor by Joshua Kadison.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Upcoming Reviews 2014:

There will be two novels with similar themes released in the U.S. on August 26th, 2014. I will be reviewing both here.  I am currently reading the early review copies!  The UK publishing date is September 1, 2014 for Madame Picasso. Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland will be released on August 26th in the U.K. as well. Come back again to check out the following:

Novelist Anne Girard brings to life the mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time.

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso's life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.


From Susan Vreeland, bestselling author of such acclaimed novels as Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany, comes a richly imagined story of a woman’s awakening in the south of Vichy France—to the power of art, to the beauty of provincial life, and to love in the midst of war.

In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.

With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.


Also, I am very excited to bring a review of the most anticipated novel by Sherry Jones to be published on October 7, 2014 in the U.S. and on December 1, 2014 in the U.K.

The first retelling of the passionate, twelfth-century love story since the discovery of 113 lost love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the original Romeo and Juliet.

He was the most famous philosopher in the world, a headmaster and a poet whose dashing good looks would make any woman swoon. She was Paris’s most brilliant young scholar, beautiful and wry, and his student. Forbidden by the church and society to love each other, these enchanting lovers defied all the rules to follow their own hearts and risk everything that mattered to them, including each other. An illicit child, a secret marriage, a vengeful uncle: nothing can come between them—until a vicious attack tears them apart forever…or does it?


Incorporating original text from their achingly beautiful love letters, this is the tale of Heloise and Abelard, whose love affair, like that of Romeo and Juliet, and Antony and Cleopatra, has become one of the greatest stories of all time. The Sharp Hook of Love is an imaginative, intimate, and erotic portrayal of the star-crossed lovers whose tale of passion and tragedy still touches hearts today.


Thank you Gallery Books and Simon and Schuster for the review copies.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Elsie Leslie (August 14, 1881-October 31, 1966)

Elsie Leslie by female photographer Zaida Ben-Yusuf, Platinum print, 1899
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
  
  Elsie Leslie as Lord Fauntleroy, NYPL, (note her surname Lyde still being used)

Elsie Leslie was born in New York City on August 14, 1881. She was the daughter of Evelyn Burdick Lyde and Benjamin Tanner Lyde. Her father enjoyed a career as a successful merchant until his health began to fail. In order to help her parent’s make money, Elsie Leslie made her first appearance in Joseph Jefferson’s production of Rip Van Winkle in 1885 at the age of four years old. Her parents were family friends of Jefferson’s. Her first successful performance was as Editha in William Gillette’s Editha’s Burglar at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City with E.H. Sothern. She would later become known for the original title role in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy in Boston, Massachusetts in 1888. Three years later she appeared in Daniel Frohman’s production of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper in which she played both parts, co starring with William Faversham.

Lyceum Theatre, NYC, 1870s 

Lyceum Theatre, NYC, present day

Leslie then retired from acting to attend school only to return to the stage in 1898 where she starred as Lydia Languish in The Rivals with Otis Skinner. Later, she played Dot in The Cricket on the Hearth, Glory Quayle in The Christian (1901), Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (1903), the female lead in The Man on the Case and Alias Jimmy Valentine (1909), toured in The Man on the Box, and starred with George Arliss in Louis N. Parker’s Disraeli (1912).

Elsie married Jefferson Winter, a fellow actor and son of poet-critic, William Winter in 1901. They lived on Staten Island in New Brighton but were subsequently divorced. In 1918 she married Edwin J. Milliken, an investment banker. Elsie Leslie died on October 31, 1966 in New York City. She was 85 years old and was survived by her husband.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Two reviews in one: Rossetti and Victorian and deviant sex -- seems appropriate!

Poor Splendid Wings The Rossettis and their Circle by Frances Winwar
1933, Little Brown and Company

I bought this on a whim because I thought it would be an interesting take on The Rossettis.  Well, not so much about them or him as a chapter by chapter mini-biography on EVERY Pre-Raphaelite painter and artist to have ever met! Seriously, it begins with one of my favorite's Millais before Effie and after!  Swinburne gets a chapter focus, The Rossetti Family get a few chapters which is interesting reading but Burne-Jones receives some mentions artistically mainly as being enamored by and with Rossetti himself. He is made to look like  a soppy fangirl following DGR around London like a lost puppy and maybe he was. However, by 1933, I believe the focus should have been of an artistic one instead!  

Rossetti's paintings are covered thematically by chapter including summarisations on his poetry which is fascinating reading but this is a dated novel of types that in present day can only be read more as fun fiction than anything else. If you are an ardent scholar or fan of the  PRB, do not look for authenticity but mythology instead and you will not be disappointed. 

There is a wonderful illustration section including a sketch of John Ruskin's favorite 'Rose La Touche.' The chapter dedication to John Ruskin is an interesting read as well dealing more with his 'yearnings' toward the young girls and nature with anecdotes of his artistic friendships. It just made me chuckle really. To concentrate on his religious upbringing and ideology with romantic yearnings is typical of the stigma out there about him.
 
I found the chapter focus interesting. I mean, Watts, Holman-Hunt, Madox Brown, Rossetti and family, Rossetti and Lizzie, Jane Morris get mentioned in subject matter really. Where were Ned and Topsy? No chapters dedicated to William Morris or Sir Edward Burne-Jones except in passing! Horrifying really but within context of the novel, I would love to know why the author left out two of the greats of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement?
Overall, funny and sad at the same time but an edition I would add to your collection anyway!

Now to the talk of deviant Victorian Sex...Well, I hate to disappoint you but another review mainly about sex during the 19th century.
I thought this would be a read that would make me chuckle and laugh throughout which it did. However, have we come a long way baby!! Historically, it is interesting reading about the nature of how sex changed from era to era. The focus here is on married couples and sex during marriage when it was for procreation and not purely for hedonistic pleasure...sorry swingers or bohemians you'll have to get together in secret. Here within these pages, author Fern Riddell writes scientifically and medically about anatomy and the history of intercourse...BORING!!! The author made a statement during the chapter on MENSTRUATION that almost made me throw the book across the room in anger but I didn't! She actually stated that 'menstruation was very wonderful'! I checked to see if the author was indeed a man because only a man would say this! After a three paragraph description on puberty in young girls and the shedding of the womb, I could see this author and I were not going to get along. 

Anyway, moving steadily on, there are some wonderful 19th century illustrations and humorous reference chapters giving advice to the single and married girl. For instance, how to attract a man, how to keep herself 'clean' until she finds her husband and for the married woman well the chapters focus on sex and child rearing to how husbands can keep their wives from becoming 'hysterical'. The focus shifts to 'instrumentation women should use to avoid becoming nervous, uptight or suffering from HYSTERIA...what was it with the Victorian era and hysterical women? This phenomanon where crazed overemotional women ran rampant around the streets being out of control! Really, it was just an excuse for men to have ownership rights over women...don't get me started.  Some interesting examples of the history of the dildo, the vibrator and the condom with pictures well sketches really!

So, if you want a look back into the history of sex, fornication, and instruments, than look no further than The Victorian Guide to Sex!  I'm really surprised there were no mentions of Ruskin and or DGR himself!!  Simeon Solomon and Swinburne for that matter!! 

How far have we come when it comes to sex? Anyone remember when this video hit MTV back in 1991...SORRY MOM ;)
 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My review of The Gordian Knot by Kevin Marsh

Twelve months has passed since the traumatic events that almost claimed her life and Dr Orlagh Gairne is looking forward to a well-earned holiday. With her partner, Jerry, they jet off for the Aegean coast where they plan to make the most of the Mediterranean sun and visit the ancient sites of Anatolia. The Phoenix Legion, still reeling from a humiliating defeat, have re-grouped and are now planning the next phase of their quest. They are in possession of the Belgae Torc, but this is not enough to ensure total power so they must rely on the druids and their connection with the spirit world. Whilst searching for treasure in the Sea of Azov, Jack Harrington and his team make an unexpected discovery and with the past merging with the present are unable to avoid being drawn in to another deadly battle. The Belgae Torc, Jack Harrington and The Phoenix Legion are far from her thoughts, but as Orlagh enjoys her holiday with the man she loves, these forces come together. Will she manage to avoid another conflict or will she become a victim of circumstances that are beyond her control? "People had died because of the Belgae Torc and somehow she felt responsible." From the author of The Belgae Torc.

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing (July 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782222650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782222651

This is the third novel by Kevin Marsh that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. Now, I love Celtic history mainly involving Ireland and Britain and have read numerous novels headed under the theme of ‘Time Travel’ (yikes) but when it comes to The Gordian Knot he has continued the plot by involving a World War II storyline with a Germanic Paganism subtext! Don’t worry, you don’t have to know very much about the history of the war so don’t let this throw you off in any way! Simply, there is so much adventure, espionage, spy tactics, juxtaposed against a present day storyline and Celtic mythology the reader will not be able to stop reading!  

For instance, some of my favorite chapters involved Orlagh’s past issues with the Druids, being haunted by Goddesses and a certain love story that plays out with Jerry Knowles.The Gordian Knot is a true historic adventurous tale that I hope everyone will seek out and enjoy.  

There is a lot going on from chapter to chapter, a lot of history during various eras supported by a brilliant cast of characters. The sense of place is presented so succinctly that you would swear you were standing right there in the room! Hopefully, readers will not get overwhelmed with all the action, blood and guts. There is romance, friendship and humor beautifully written within these pages. The author has done his research and his passion for history comes across clearly.

My hope is that everyone gives The Gordian Knot a chance and buys it for themselves. I promise it is a beautiful and engaging read. However, take note that there is a prequel of sorts called, The Belgae Torc. So, if you want an introduction to Orlagh, Jerry, and The Celts, why not check out The Belgae Torc as well! 


To purchase The Gordian Knot on  Amazon

If you live in the United Kingdom and want to purchase The Gordian Knot  Amazon UK 

  

The Last Bronte: The Intimate Memoir of Arthur Bell Nicholls by S.R. Whitehead: A Review

He was Mr Brontë's right hand man and Charlotte's husband. He fell in love with two sisters and revered a third while, to the trou...