Archive for the ‘ART, PHOTOGRAPHY, & DESIGN’ Category

"My Fair Lady" soundtrack poster. Miss Hepburn wears the Ascot ensemble.

“My Fair Lady” soundtrack poster

On June 19, 2011,the Ascot dress and hat worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 Academy Award-winning film, “My Fair Lady,” sold at auction for an incredible $3.7 million. The ensemble was designed by Cecil Beaton and was sold from the Debbie Reynolds Collection. Originally, the actress Debbie Reynolds paid $100,000 for the outfit.

Worn by Miss Hepburn in the most memorable scene in the film, it is perhaps the most famous garment ever designed for a motion picture and, most assuredly, Mr. Beaton’s magnum opus.

Art designer Cecil Beaton checks Audrey Hepburn's Ascot costume on the set of "My Fair Lady," 1963

Art designer Cecil Beaton checks Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot costume on the set of “My Fair Lady,” 1963


Cecil Beaton's sketch for Audrey Hepburn's Ascot costume, "My Fair Lady" (1964)

Cecil Beaton’s sketch for Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot costume, “My Fair Lady” (1964)

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle at the Royal Ascot horse races. In the film, Eliza is every inch a refined English lady until the horserace tightens. Then she erupts in a stream of Cockney speech that threatens to blow her cover as a Covent Garden flower girl.

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle at the Royal Ascot horse races. In the film, Eliza is every inch a refined English lady until the horserace tightens. Then she erupts in a stream of Cockney speech that threatens to blow her cover as a Covent Garden flower girl.

For more on Audrey Hepburn, click here.

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Audrey Hepburn as Cockney flower seller in 1964 musical film, "My Fair Lady." Julie Andrews had played the lead in the Broadway play but producer Jack Warner wanted Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle for his film. Warner's film was to cost him $5 million. Audrey was well-known, talented, and her films never lost money. He wanted Audrey, not Julie. It caused quite a flap in the movie industry, with many feeling Julie Andrews should have had the role. Julie Andrew was then cast as Mary Poppins. That year, Audrey was snubbed at the Academy Awards, not even being nominated for her "My Fair Lady" performance. Julie Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar for "Mary Poppins."

Audrey Hepburn as Cockney flower seller in 1964 musical film, “My Fair Lady.” Julie Andrews had played the lead in the Broadway play but producer Jack Warner wanted Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle for his film. Warner’s film was to cost him $5 million. Audrey was well-known, talented, and her films never lost money. He wanted Audrey, not Julie. It caused quite a flap in the movie industry, with many feeling that singer Julie Andrews should have had the role. So Audrey was cast in “My Fair Lady.” Shortly Disney cast Julie Andrews in the musical spectacle, “Mary Poppins”. That year, Audrey was snubbed at the Academy Awards, not even being nominated for her “My Fair Lady” performance. Julie Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar for “Mary Poppins.”

In the 1964 Academy Award winning musical, “My Fair Lady,” linguistics professor Henry Higgins places a bet with his colleague Colonel Pickering. He boasts that, in six months time, he can transform a low-bred, disheveled Cockney flower seller named Eliza Doolittle into a duchess by teaching her to speak properly. Eliza is agreeable; she wants to speak better so she can get a job in a flower shop.

Eliza appears at Professor Higgins’ house to make arrangements for language lessons. Higgins’ housekeeper Mrs. Pearce escorts her into the library, where Higgins is discussing the possible experiment with Pickering.

Pickering: Won’t you sit down, Miss Doolittle?

Eliza (coyly): Oh, I don’t mind if I do. (She sits down on sofa.)

(Eliza offers to pay for voice lessons but Pickering wants to sponsor her.)

Eliza: Oh, you’re real good. Thank you, Captain.

Higgins (tempted, looking at her) It’s almost irresistible. She’s so deliciously low – so horribly dirty!

Eliza: Aoooow! I ain’t dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did.

Higgins: I’ll take it! I’ll make a duchess of this draggletailed gutter-snipe!

Eliza: Aoooooooow!

Higgins: (carried away): I’ll start today! Now! This moment! Take her away and clean her, Mrs. Pearce. Sandpaper if it won’t come off any other way. Is there a good fire in the kitchen?

Mrs. Pearce: Yes, but -

Higgins (storming on): Take all her clothes off and burn them. Ring up and order some new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper till they come.

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle

Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins

Wilfrid Hyde-White as Colonel Hugh Pickering

Mona Washbourne as Mrs. Pearce, Higgins’ housekeeper

Mrs. Pearce follows instructions to bathe Eliza Doolittle.

Mrs. Pearce follows instructions to bathe Eliza Doolittle.

Mrs. Pearce prepares the bath for Eliza.

Mrs. Pearce prepares the bath for Eliza.

Cecil Beaton, in charge of sets and costumes, recalls the day this scene was taped for “My Fair Lady”. He recalled it in his diary:

Wednesday, 21 August (1963)

…I wanted to congratulate Audrey (Hepburn) on her appearance, so went down on to the set for a word with her. I watched her being shot, listening to Higgins telling Pickering that, but for her appalling accent, Liza (sic: Eliza) could be passed off as a duchess. The play of expression on her face was such that one could almost see her brain at work with ideas that followed one another like a succession of pictures….

Thursday, 22 August (1963)

At lunch-time Audrey, wearing her dirty hair and face, came into my room to say ‘Ullow’. Every dawn Audrey has to have her hair covered with grease, then with a lot of brown Fuller’s Earth. The effect is really dirty, and psychologically must be very depressing. Tiring, too: it takes another hour to wash out the dirt before going home after the day’s shooting….

Audrey is remarkably disciplined: her memory never at fault, she appears on the set word  perfect, and she can give exactly the same performance over and over again. She confessed, however, that yesterday’s pea-shelling scene had been the greatest strain for she had to eat so many raw peas; at best, she does not care for them even when they are at their youngest and smallest, but having had to eat a bushel of huge Californian peas out of their inflated pods, she then went home to dinner and was served duck and green peas!

Tuesday, 27 August (1963)

On the set Audrey was still doing ‘Loverly’. Finding it difficult to work to different ‘play-backs’ she had been nervously taut most of the day. Now, by mid-afternoon, she was tired out. Her hairdresser was massaging the back of her neck: everyone sorry for her, and the atmosphere tense.

Cecil Beaton's costume design for character Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" musical film 1964

Cecil Beaton’s costume design for character Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” musical film 1964

Although Audrey practiced extensively to be able to sing in “My Fair Lady,” in the end it was decided that 90% of her vocal numbers would be dubbed with the voice of Marni Nixon. However, she did sing ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly,’ shown in the following video:


For more on Audrey Hepburn, click here.

“My Fair Lady” movie trivia

“My Fair Lady” movie quotes


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Audrey Hepburn 1953

Audrey Hepburn 1953

In 1954, British photographer and creative artist, Cecil Beaton, wrote this article for “Vogue” about a rising film star named Audrey Hepburn. Miss Hepburn was 25 and the newest sensation. She had just won the Academy Award for Best Actress for “Roman Holiday.”

It is always a dramatic moment when the Phoenix rises anew from its ashes. For if “queens have died young and fair,” they are also reborn, appearing in new guises which often create their own terms of appreciation. Even while the pessimists were predicting that no new feminine ideal could emerge from the aftermath of war, an authentic existentialist Galatea was being forged in the person of Miss Audrey Hepburn.

No one can doubt that Audrey Hepburn’s appearance succeeds because it embodies the spirit of today. She had, if you like, her prototypes in France – Damia, Edith Piaf, or Juliet Greco. But it took the rubble of Belgium [sicHolland] an English accent, and an American success to launch the striking personality that best exemplifies our new Zeitgeist [spirit of the age].

French waif

French waif

Nobody ever looked like her before World War II; it is doubtful if anybody ever did, unless it be those wild children of the French Revolution whose stride in the foreground of romantic canvases. Yet we recognize the rightness of this appearance in relation to our historical needs. And the proof is that thousands of imitations have appeared. The woods are full of emaciated young ladies with rat-nibbled hair and moon-pale faces.

Heron's eyes

Heron’s eyes

What does their paragon really look like? Audrey Hepburn has enormous heron’s eyes and dark eye-brows slanted towards the Far East. Her facial features show character rather than prettiness: the bridge of the nose seems almost too narrow to carry its length, which bares into a globular tip with nostrils startlingly like a duck’s bill. Her mouth is wide, with a cleft under the lower lip too deep for classical beauty, and the delicate chin appears even smaller by contrast with the exaggerated width of her jaw bones. Seen at the full, the outline of her face is perhaps too square; yet she intuitively tilts her head with a restless and perky asymmetry.

Madame Pompadour by Amedeo Modigliani, 1914.

Madame Pompadour by Amedeo Modigliani, 1914.

She is like a portrait by Modigliani where the various distortions are not only interesting in themselves but make a completely satisfying composite.

Beneath this child-like head (as compact as a coconut with its cropped hair and wispy monkey-fur fringe) is a long, incredibly slender and straight neck.

A rod-like back continues the vertical line of the nape, and she would appear exaggeratedly tall were it not for her natural grace.

1954 Sabrina dress

Audrey appears in a Givenchy dress from the 1954 movie, “Sabrina.”

Audrey Hepburn’s stance is a combination of an ultra fashion plate and a ballet dancer. Indeed, she owes a large debt to the ballet for her bearing and abandon in movement, which yet suggest a personal quality, an angular kinship with cranes and storks. She can assume almost acrobatic poses, always maintaining an innate elegance in her incredibly lithe torso, long, flat waist, tapering fingers and endless legs.

Audrey Hepburn was an accomplished ballerina. Undated photo, ca. 1954

Audrey Hepburn was an accomplished ballerina. Undated photo, ca. 1954

With arms akimbo or behind her back, she habitually plants her feet wide apart–one heel dug deep with the toe pointing skywards. And it is more natural for her to squat cross-legged on the floor than to sit in a chair.

Fratellini Poster

Fratellini Poster

Like the natural artist that she is Audrey Hepburn is bold and sure in her effects. There is no lack of vigor in her rejection of the softly pretty. She wears no powder, so that her white skin has a bright sheen. Using a stick of grease paint with a deft stroke, she draws heavy bars of black upon her naturally full brows; and almost in Fratellini fashion, liberally smudges both upper and lower eyelids with black.

To complete the clown boldness, she enlarges her mouth even at the ends, thus making her smile expand to an enormous slice from Sambo’s watermelon. The general public, in its acceptance of such an uncompromisingly stark appearance, has radically forsaken the prettily romantic or pseudo-mysterious heroines of only two decades ago.

1953 Audrey Hepburn grins upon receiving her Oscar for "Roman Holiday."

1953 Audrey Hepburn grins upon receiving her Oscar for “Roman Holiday.”

In clothing, this ingénue Ichabod wears a “junior miss” version of highwayman coats, clergyman cassocks, or students’ pants, overalls, scarfs.

Audrey Hepburn in loafers and scarf. Undated photo

Audrey Hepburn in loafers and scarf. Undated photo

Yet she is infinitely more soignée than most students, possessing, in fact, an almost Oriental sense of the exquisite.

Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 film, "Sabrina."

Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 film, “Sabrina.”

Barnardo's Boys were orphans

Barnardo’s Boys were orphans

And she is immaculately shod, whether in pumps, sandals, or court shoes. Audrey Hepburn is the gamine, the urchin, the lost Barnardo boy.

Audrey Hepburn from the 1954 film, "Sabrina"

Audrey Hepburn from the 1954 film, “Sabrina”

Sometimes she appears to be dangerously fatigued; already, at her lettuce age, there are apt to be shadows under the eyes, while her cheeks seem taut and pallid.

She is a wistful child of a war-chided era, and the shadow thrown across her youth underlines even more its precious evanescence. But if she can reflect sorrow, she seems also to enjoy the happiness life provides for her with such bounty.

It is a rare phenomenon to find a very young girl with such inherent “star quality.” As a result of her enormous success, Audrey Hepburn has already acquired the extra incandescent glow which comes as a result of being acclaimed, admired, and loved. Yet while developing her radiance, she has too much innate candor to take on that gloss of artificiality Hollywood is apt to demand of its queens.

Audrey Hepburn winks in sunlight. undated photo, ca. 1952

Audrey Hepburn winks in sunlight. undated photo, ca. 1952

Her voice is peculiarly personal. With its unaccustomed rhythm and sing-song cadence on a flat drawl, it has a quality of heartbreak. Though such a voice might easily become mannered, she spends much time in improving its musical range.

In fact, with the passing of every month, Audrey Hepburn increases in dramatic stature. Intelligent and alert, wistful but enthusiastic, frank yet tactful, assured without conceit and tender without sentimentality, she is the most promising theatrical talent to appear since the war. Add to this the remarkable distinction she emanates, and it is not rash to say she also gives every indication of being the most interesting public embodiment of our new feminine ideal.

US Vogue, November 01, 1954

 Click here for more on Audrey Hepburn.

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About a month before doctors amputated her right leg at the knee, Frida Kahlo drew a picture of her severed feet on a pedestal. It is one of many diary entries in which she expresses her anguish at the impending operation. In public, though, she acted lighthearted, saying playfully to friends, "Did you know they are going to cut off my paw?"

From Frida Kahlo’s diary, “Why do I need feet if I have wings to fly.”

About a month before doctors amputated her right leg at the knee, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo drew a picture of her severed feet on a pedestal. Instead of healthy veins protruding from the amputated feet, dead, thorny vines snake out. The flesh is yellow, anemic, and the page is stained with her blood.

This is one of many diary entries in which Frida explores her anguish over the impending operation. She knew that she had no other choice but to cut off her leg. In truth, her right leg was skinny, crippled, shriveled, and lame. It hung from her body as if it were broken. Two toes were missing from the foot. The leg was infected with gangrene. It hurt her terribly.

Her husband Mexican muralist Diego Rivera urged her to accept her fate and submit to yet another operation. Maybe she would be able to get a good prosthetic leg, he urged, and walk a little.

For Diego’s sake, she said to the doctors,

“Prepare me for the operation!”

Then, putting on a brave face for her friends, she asked them, 

“Did you know they are going to cut off my paw?”

For more on Frida Kahlo on this blog, click here.

Herrera, Hayden. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1983.
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait. Introduction by Carlos Fuentes. Essays by Sarah M. Lowe. New York: Abradale, 1995.

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From ABC News/Univision

Frida Kahlo’s Closet is Opened After 58 Years

Frida Kahlo is seen smoking after a 1946 operation.

Frida Kahlo, wearing Chinese pajamas, is seen smoking after a 1946 operation.

“Imagine being in Frida Kahlo‘s childhood home and opening up a closet that has been locked for decades. Inside are hundreds of personal items – personal photographs, love letters, medications, jewelry, shoes, and clothing that still hold the smell of perfume and the last cigarette she smoked.

That is exactly what happened when Hilda Trujillo Soto, the director of the Frida Kahlo Museum opened the closets that had been locked since the Mexican artist’s death in 1954. Inside were over 300 items belonging to Frida Kahlo, and now, a wide array of what was found is on display at the Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in the Coyoacán neighborhood of Mexico City.

The exterior of Frida Kahlo's home called Casa Azul outside Mexico City, 1952.

The exterior of Frida Kahlo’s home called Casa Azul outside Mexico City, 1952.

The exhibit, Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo, a collaboration between the museum and Vogue Mexico, brings to an end an elaborate 50 year scheme to keep private the intimate details of Kahlo’s life. It started when she died in 1954, as a distraught Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist and Frida Kahlo’s husband, locked the doors to her closet and never let anyone enter for fear that the contents would be mishandled and ruined.”

Kahlo contracted polio when she was six, leaving her right leg shorter and thinner than her left. Then, when she was 18, a metal tube pierced  through Frida’s abdomen during a bus crash, subjecting her to painful operations and  long periods of bed rest throughout her life.

In keeping with her flamboyance and ebullient spirit, Frida wore long, flowing tehuana skirts, lacy and colorful, that hid this affliction and celebrated her Mexican heritage.


Frida Kahlo’s dresses in the Tehuantepec style are on exhibit in Mexico City at the Casa Azul, January 2013.

Frida Kahlo Self-Portrait, 1848, shows her dressed in traditional Tehuantepec costume.

Frida Kahlo Self-Portrait, 1848, shows her dressed in traditional Tehuantepec costume.

Later in life, Frida’s right leg had to be amputated. Included in the exhibit is a ornate red boot with the prosthetic leg Kahlo wore after the amputation.

Mexico Frida Fashion

A prostetic leg belonging to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is on exhibit at the Casa Azul in Mexico City (Jan. 2013). Frida’s fashion sense combined both form and function – a red boot attached to an artificial leg. Frida Kahlo’s right leg was amputated in 1953 due to gangrene.

Also on view are three ornate corsets, one styled by Jean-Paul Gaultier in memory of Frida after her death. Frida had to wear plaster corsets to alleviate her excrutiating spine pain.

Frida Kahlo, 1941, displays her Communist sympathies with her therapeutic plaster chest cast

Frida Kahlo, 1941, displays her Communist sympathies with her therapeutic plaster chest cast

For more on Frida Kahlo on this blog, click here.

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As a young man, French painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) abandoned the traditional approach to painting – standing in a studio, copying the old masters - in favor of painting scenes in the open air. Monet delighted in the interplay of color and light found in nature. He loved to paint in his garden at Argenteuil, a pretty, bustling village just outside of Paris.

"Monet Painting in His Argenteuil Garden," by Auguste Renoir, 1873

A spectacular stretch of the Seine, where the river reached its widest and deepest points, ran through Argenteuil.  Shortly after moving there in 1871, Monet bought a boat and converted it into a floating studio. He kept it moored near his home and used it to get a vista of the riverbank from the water.

"Claude Monet Painting on His Studio Boat," by Édouard Manet, 1874. The shadowy female figure sitting with the artist is his wife and model Camille Doncieux Monet.

Living with Monet at Argenteuil were his wife Camille Doncieux and their son Jean. Camille had been Monet’s model since they met in 1865. The couple lived in depressing poverty.

Claude Monet (1860) and wife Camille Doncieux Monet (undated)

Right up to her death, Camille posed for her husband’s paintings, more often than not, appearing as an indistinct female figure in a rural landscape.

"River Scene at Bennecourt," Claude Monet, 1868

Sometimes Camille has her back to the observer; othertimes her face is veiled or hidden.

"Camille on the Beach at Trouville," by Claude Monet, 1870

Camille was quite the devoted model. In Monet’s painting, “Women in a Garden” (1866-67), she posed for all four female figures!

"Women in a Garden," Claude Monet, 1866-67

Camille was so cooperative that she freely posed for Monet’s painter friends, too.

"The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil," by Édouard Manet, 1874. Camille and son Jean relax while Claude Monet tends his garden.

Auguste Renoir painted Madame Monet – known as “La Monette” – several times.

"Camille Monet Reading," by Auguste Renoir, 1872

Here is one of the rare times her husband paints her face clearly enough to distinguish her features, particularly her huge and sad-looking eyes. She often looks melancholy.

"The Bench," by Claude Monet, 1873

In 1876, Camille Monet fell ill with what is believed to have been cervical cancer. In “Camille Holding a Posy of Violets,” below, one can see the toll the disease has had on her health. She looks tired, older, and pale. It is speculated that her expression betrays her disgust with her husband who, by then, was openly carrying on a flirtation with their mutual friend, Alice Hoschede. Alice and her two children shared a house with the Monets.

"Camille Holding a Posy of Violets," or "Portrait," by Claude Monet, 1877

In 1878, Camille gave birth to a second son, Michel. Her health was dangerously weakened. Although Monet was not as attentive as he could have been to his wife, he loved Camille and was devastated that she was dying. For a time, he lost the desire to paint.

Finally Camille’s long suffering came to an end on September 5, 1879. Monet was grief-stricken. But even his internal pain could not stifle his passion to paint. Camille – his model-wife – was his muse, his inspiration to paint. At her deathbed, he took out his paints and painted her last portrait.

"Camille on her Deathbed," by Claude Monet, 1879

“I caught myself watching her tragic forehead,” Monet wrote afterwards to a friend, “almost mechanically observing the sequence of changing colours that death was imposing on her rigid face. Blue, yellow, grey and so on… my reflexes compelled me to take unconscious action in spite of myself.”

Little is known about Camille Doncieux Monet (1847-1879) mainly because Monet’s mistress and second wife, Alice Hoschede, was so jealous of Camille that she demanded that Monet destroy all mementos – letters, photos – anything – that attested to Camille’s very existence. (1)

(1) Gedo, Mary Mathews. Monet and His Muse: Camille Monet in the Artist’s Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

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Pigeons gather in a square in Barcelona.

Note: Pigeons and doves form the bird family Columbidae, of which there are 300 species. Ornithologically, there is no simple way to distinguish a pigeon from a dove. Some specialists refer to the smaller species as “doves” and the larger ones as “pigeons,” but this is not consistently applied.  

Collared Doves can be tamed in urban areas, such as these two being handfed in Poland.

Collared doves can be tamed in urban areas, such as these two sweeties being handfed in Poland.

In reference to the works of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, the issue is further muddled. The titles of many of his works include the Spanish word la paloma, which means both “pigeon” and “dove,” so we aren’t sure which bird he intended to depict, if, indeed, he did intend to create such a distinction.  

Finally, Picasso biographers, art curators, and translators have added their own layers of confusion. For example, the painting, “Child Holding a Dove,” (National Gallery, London) has been given two different French title translations: “L’Enfant A La Colombe” (Child With the Dove)  and “L’Enfant Au Pigeon” (Child With A Pigeon). 

Therefore, for the purpose of this article, the terms, “pigeon” and “dove,” are used interchangeably, as is common practice, except when otherwise explicitly stated.  

Now for our story:

"Picasso in Underwear," photo by David Douglas Duncan, 1957. From the earliest age, the most famous artist of the 20th Century did whatever he wanted, which might include posing in his jockeys on his front doorstep at age 76.

Famed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) grew up around pigeons. His father, José Ruiz Blasco, an artist in his own right, bred pigeons (rock doves), which became his favorite subject to paint. Ruiz became known as El Palomero (The Pigeon Fancier). Pablo’s father taught him how to paint pigeons. (1) 

In Pablo’s hometown of Málaga, Spain, pigeons roosted in the sycamore trees in the Plaza de la Merced, where he and his sisters played. While the girls frolicked in the square, Pablo used a stick to make bird drawings in the dirt. (2)    

Much to the dismay of his elementary school teachers, Little Pablo, or “Pablito,” drew constantly. Every once in a while, he brought a pigeon to class and spent his time sketching it rather than doing his assigned schoolwork.    

"Pigeons" by Pablo Picasso, 1890 (at age 9)

Pablo used every inch of his drawing paper, covering the page with scenes of his favorite subjects: bullfights and pigeons. (3)  

"Bullfight and Six Studies of Doves," 1892. Picasso was 11.

Guided by his father, Picasso received professional art instruction. His talent grew and was recognized. By the age of 15, he was successfully exhibiting his artwork. By 1901, he was splitting his time between Barcelona and Paris, falling increasingly in the company of artists heavily influenced by post-impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh.  

That same year, at the age of 20, Picasso had become so respected an artist that he had a Paris show in the Galerie Vollard almost to himself, sharing it with another Basque. At this exhibition, Picasso  

sold 15 of his 65 paintings and drawings before the exhibition had even opened.” (4) 

Through all these changes, however, pigeons still charmed him, as is evident in his sentimental 1901 painting, “Child Holding a Dove” (1901), a piece that ushered in his somber Blue Period.  

"Child Holding a Dove," by Pablo Picasso, 1901.

Pigeons even appeared during his cubist period, as in “Woman With Pigeons” ( 1930).  

"Woman With Pigeons," by Pablo Picasso, 1930.

Before 1937, Picasso had not used his art for political expression. It was in that year, though, that he was to create his most famous work. Commissioned by the Spanish Republican government, Picasso created an enormous mural called “Guernica.” It was named after a Spanish town in the Basque country that had been firebombed by Nazis, backers of the Nationalist forces of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War (1937-1939).   

Guernica, Spain, after the April 26, 1937, aerial bombing by Nazis. It was market day and the quiet village was filled with women and children. There were few men left in Guernica, as most were off fighting in the Spanish Civil War against Franco. The Nazis bombed the town for two hours, slaughtering hundreds of innocents. When the town caught fire, those not burned to death tried to escape the inferno by taking refuge in the outskirts of town. Yet there was no escape, as they found themselves trapped all around by bombed-out bridges and roads. Some of these women and children were gunned down by aerialists. The Nazis supported the rebel forces of General Franco to test out war tactics and weapons. Although there was a military target outside Guernica, a munitions factory, it was left unscathed by the April 1937 bombing. It is believed that the bombing was used to intimidate those in opposition to Franco's impending rule.

After the painting “Guernica” (see below) was exhibited in the Paris International Exhibition (1937), it toured Europe and the U.S., drawing international attention to the Spanish Civil War and the horrors of war. 

"Guernica," by Pablo Picasso. (1937)

 “Guernica” gained monumental status, becoming a potent anti-war symbol and thrusting Pablo Picasso to the forefront of the Peace Movement. In May of 1940, Hitler invaded France. Throughout WWII, Picasso lived in Nazi-occupied Paris, where he was continually harassed by the Gestapo who were familiar with his anti-Nazi mural. 

Picasso continued to paint and draw pigeons and doves. In 1949, author Louis Aragon chose the artist’s lithograph, “La Colombe,” (The Dove) for the poster commemorating the Peace Conference in Paris. (5) 

"La Colombe" (The Dove) by Picasso, 1949

Posters of “La Colombe” were all over Paris when Picasso’s daughter was born that April so he named his daughter Paloma (Spanish for dove). 


In this 1951 image, Pablo Picasso is shown with 2 of his 4 children, whose mother was Francoise Gilot: Paloma (b. 1949) in his arms and Claude (b. 1947)

The model for the famous “peace dove” was one of artist Henri Matisse ‘s doves.  

Henri Matisse in his studio with his doves. Vence, France. 1944. photo by Henri-Cartier Bresson

Matisse and Picasso had known each other since 1904 when they were introduced at the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein, an important collector of art, particularly Matisse’s. Matisse and Picasso had a profound influence on one another and their art.  

After Matisse died in 1954, Picasso was deeply saddened. He moved his family to a large villa near Cannes in the south of France and painted a series called “Studio” in homage to Matisse. He painted almost a dozen canvases of the same view from his third floor studio window - with the lush background of sky and garden and sea – while, in the foreground, “white doves” (6) nested and played in a dovecote Picasso had built on his terrace. Picasso did not ordinarily paint what he saw; he drew upon his imagination for artistic inspiration. It was his old friend Matisse who drew from nature. Therein lay Picasso’s tribute to Matisse.  

"The Studio (Pigeons)," by Picasso, 1957, is painted in a style reminiscent of Matisse.

Meanwhile, the “Dove of Peace” Picasso had created for the 1949 Paris Peace Conference had caught on. It had become a symbol for the peace movement, the Communist Party, and other liberal groups. In the years that followed, Picasso agreed to create other peace doves for conferences across Europe.

The modern peace dove is a more whimsical bird than the 1949 original. This proud bird is portrayed in happy flight, bearing numerous bouquets of olive branches and flowers in its wings, beak, and feet.

one of the many versions of Picasso's iconic "Dove of Peace"

(1)”Lines That Kept Moving and Knew No Boundaries,” by Smith, Roberta. New York Times, October 7, 2011.

(2) Hart, Tony. Famous Children: Picasso. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 1994.  

(3) Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought). New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995.  

(4) link  

(5) Clark, Hiro. Picasso: In His Words. New York: Welcome Books, 2002. 

(6) Douglas, David. Viva Picasso: A Centennial Celebration 1881-1981. Studio, 1980.

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Pablo Picasso and sister Lola, 1888. (What’s up with the haircut, Pablo?)
Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) could draw before he could walk. According to his mother, 

his first word was piz, short for the Spanish word lapiz, meaning pencil. 
“Pablito” asked for a pencil constantly and, once he got one in hand, would draw for hours, covering entire sheets of paper with countless spirals. (1)   


A Spanish "caracola" filled with candied fruit and iced with a confectioner's sugar glaze

In later interviews, Picasso revealed that his passion for spirals came from the caracolaor Spanish sticky bun, his favorite pastry. “Caracola” means “snail” in Spanish. Caracolas started with a single strip of dough wound tightly around the center, creating a spiraling snail-like design in the cake. Caracolas were served hot in the market stalls in Málaga, Spain, Picasso’s home for his first ten years.  

Pablo found artistic inspiration in nature as well as at the breakfast table. With Málaga situated on the Costa Del Sol, Pablo would walk on the beach with his father, finding dazzling variety in the shells washing up on the Mediterranean shore.     

Málaga, Spain

There were so many patterns, he discovered, spiralling and more!  


Shells found on a beach in Málaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso's birthplace. 2010

Pablo was entranced. From a young age, Pablo became a voracious collector of seashells as well as peach pits, pebbles, cherry stems, and leaves.   

Picasso grew up and became very famous, but he never lost his early love for spirals and curvy, coiling lines. 


Picasso Draws a Centaur, 1949

As an adult artist, he used spirals over and over again in his drawing and painting.  

An undated Picasso line drawing of a Harlequin. image from book, Pablo Picasso, by Ernest Raboff)

"Two Dressed Models and a Sculpture of a Head" by Pablo Picasso, 1933. Notice the cascade of spiraling vines on all 3 heads.

 Often Picasso’s predilection for curves and spirals would show up in his paintings of women’s breasts. (3)     

"Girl in Front of Mirror," by Pablo PIcasso, 1932

(1) McNeese, Tim. Pablo Picasso. New York: Chelsea House, 2006.      

(2) Lepscky, Ibi. Pablo Picasso. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1984.      

(3) Penrose, Roland. Picasso, His Life and Work. Berkeley: The University of California, Icon Editions, 1973.     


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Next month, Kate Middleton makes the cover of the UK magazine “Tatler. ” This February 2011 issue  is a royal special, commemorating the engagement of Ms. Middleton to Prince William.

The cover montage of four brilliantly-colored photos of Ms. Middleton are reminiscent of American pop artist Andy Warhol‘s 1962 silkscreen prints of  movie star Marilyn Monroe.

 Warhol began experimenting with making mass-produced images of famous people in August 1962 when Marilyn Monroe committed suicide. This method became Warhol’s signature style and made him very rich and famous.

This publicity shot of Marilyn Monroe by Gene Korman for the film “Niagara,” made in 1953 was used by Pop Artist Andy Warhol to create his famous 1962 silkscreen prints of the actress, following her suicide by overdose.

This 1962 silkscreen print by Andy Warhol shows the repetitive image of Marilyn Monroe in bright shades of canary yellow, aqua blue, and shocking pink. These tiny prints are still worth millions of dollars.

Princess Diana (1961-1997) was often featured on the cover of "Tatler." This is from 1990.

Readers: For more on Kate Middleton and Princess Diana on this blog, click here.

Readers: For more on Marilyn Monroe on this blog, click here.

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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton tie the knot in Montreal on March, 1964.

Since they began their affair on the movie set of “Cleopatra” in January, 1962, Richard Burton delighted in giving bride Elizabeth Taylor extravagant jewels.

The Taylor-Burton Diamond

One of the most famous pieces Burton gave Taylor is the pear-shaped, 69.42 carat Taylor-Burton Diamond. Fifth husband Richard Burton bought the diamond from Cartier in 1969 after a Sotheby’s auction, paying over $1 million for it. Burton agreed to allow the jeweler to display the jewel for a limited period in New York and Chicago, beginning on November 1. Crowds of more than 6,000 a day circled the store’s Fifth Avenue shop in New York to “gawk at a diamond as big as the Ritz.” 

Meanwhile, Taylor had Cartier remount the stone as a pendant suspended from a V-shaped necklace of graduated pear-shaped diamonds, mounted in platinum. Elizabeth admitted that even for her the Cartier Diamond – now called the Taylor-Burton Diamond – was too big to wear as a ring. 

The Taylor-Burton Diamond hangs from a diamond necklace created by Cartier.

Elizabeth is no stranger to heavy rings. She wears the Krupp Diamond on her left hand almost every day and has worn it in most if not all of her films and TV appearances since she bought it in 1968 for $305,000. The stone weighs 33.19 carats. 

Liz Taylor's everyday ring: The Krupp Diamond

The Krupp Diamond, Liz Taylor's everyday ring

Elizabeth chose to debut the Taylor-Burton Diamond at Princess Grace of Monaco’s  fortieth birthday bash at L’Hermitage in Monte Carlo. Princess Grace, formerly known as film star Grace Kelly (1929-1982), who would officially turn 40 on November 12, 1969, wanted to share this special occasion with sixty of her closest friends. Many of them were celebrities she knew from her film days like Rock Hudson, the Taylor-Burtons, and David and Hjordis Niven.

Film star Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco in Monte Carlo, April 1956 and becomes Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.

Princess Grace’s invitations were designed like horoscopes and the party was to have a Scorpio theme – as that was Grace’s astrological sign. Grace was a lifelong believer in astrology, and often called a Hollywood astrologer for a personal daily horoscope. (1) 

Princess Grace of Monaco (center) is flanked by her 2 sisters on the day of her fortieth birthday party. Monte Carlo, Monaco. November 15, 1969.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1932) planned her big entrance to Princess Grace’s party. Aside from choosing her wardrobe and hairstyle, she and Richard decided that the Taylor-Burton Diamond required more then ordinary security: 

First, the diamond was flown from New York to Nice in the company of two security guards, who delivered it to Elizabeth Taylor and her husband aboard their yacht, the Kalizma. The Burtons were then escorted to the party with their security guards, who were armed with machine guns as added protection.” (2) 

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor arrive at Princess Grace's 40th birthday party, Monaco, November, 1969. Notice that Liz Taylor wears a robe in keeping with the party's Scorpio theme, the Princess's astrological sign. On her left hand she wears the Krupp Diamond. The necklace pendant is the Taylor-Burton Diamond. November, 1969 ("Bling-Bling, Bang-Bang: Elizabeth Taylor Attends Princess Grace's Scorpio Ball," Lisa's History Room)

Princess Grace of Monaco with Richard Burton at her 40th birthday party, Monaco, November 1969

Princess Grace of Monaco, 1969

Although it was Grace’s birthday, Elizabeth Taylor clearly upstaged the princess, dazzling all the guests with her new jewel and her beauty. After the ball, Grace wrote friend Judy Balaban Quine that she found it hard to take her eyes off Elizabeth, whom she considered

 “unbearably beautiful.”

Turning forty, added Grace, was equally unbearable. (1)

Richard Burton escorts wife Elizabeth Taylor to the April 1970 Academy Awards. Elizabeth wears the Taylor-Burton Diamond necklace and an Edith Head chiffon gown.

After the Taylor-Burton divorce in 1978, Elizabeth sold the diamond for $5 million, pledging to use part of the profit to build a hospital in Botswana (which, my mother tells me, blew away).

(1) Glatt, John. The Royal House of Monaco: Dynasty of Glamour, Tragedy, and Scandal. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
(2) Taylor, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

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American actress Grace Kelly looks over her shoulder in Hollywood, California, March 1954. In April 1956, Kelly married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and became Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco. ("Grace Kelly: Floating on Chiffon," Lisa's History Room)

I was so excited to read in Vanity Fair that London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was featuring an exhibition of Grace Kelly‘s clothes. What a treat! I thought. Imagine all those beautiful 1950s dresses designed for actress Grace Kelly (1929-1982) together in one place. Of course I couldn’t get to London, I knew; I was recovering from spine surgery and we were building an addition to our house. 

But what did that matter? I had my computer. With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, I could cyber fashion stroll. I just assumed the V & A Museum would put the collection online as they had done with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert‘s jewelry collection. (See “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love & Teeth”)

I jumped to the museum website and found the exhibition: “Grace Kelly: Style Icon.” I got even happier after I read the promising blurb:

“Featuring dresses from her films including ‘High Society’ and ‘Rear Window,’ as well as the gown she wore to accept her Oscar in 1955, the display will examine Grace Kelly’s glamorous Hollywood image and enduring appeal.

It will also explore the evolution of her style as Princess Grace of Monaco, from the outfit she wore to her first meeting with Prince Rainier in 1955 to her haute couture gowns of the 1960s and ’70s by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.”

But much to my chagrin, I discovered that the exhibit is not posted online at the V & A. I was, at first, incredibly disappointed. In a mad haste, I scoured the Internet for images of the fashion display on newssites and blogs. I found a lot of articles but precious few images of the actual exhibit. But what I did find told a lot. To illustrate a point, here are two of those V & A showcase windows:  

A mannequin displays the dress Grace Kelly wore in "The Swan." (1956) The exhibit, "Grace Kelly: Style Icon," is at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London from April 17- September 26, 2010

The exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, "Grace Kelly: Style Icon," includes dresses worn by Grace Kelly after she became Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956.

Yawn. Pretty dry stuff, huh? Dresses on mannequins have no sparkle. What they needed was Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 thriller, "Rear Window." ("Grace Kelly: Floating on Chiffon," Lisa's History Room)

So instead of trying to catalog for you all the dresses in the V & A, I have picked my personal favorite and shown it as worn by the eternally beautiful Grace Kelly. It is the Paris dress she wore as sophisticate Lisa Carol Fremont in the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic, “Rear Window.”

The dress with a fitted black bodice and deep V-cut bustline was designed for Kelly by Paramount Picture’s chief costume designer Edith Head. The full skirt falls to mid-calf, gathered and layered in white chiffon and tulle. From the nipped-in waist, a spray branch pattern falls playfully over the hip. Grace accessorized her high-fashion gown with white silk gloves, pearls, and a chiffon shoulder wrap.

To read the “Rear Window” script excerpt wherein “Lisa-Carol- Fremont” enters Jimmy Stewart‘s apartment wearing this outfit, click here.

Grace Kelly sits on steps in her "Paris" dress she wore in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 "Rear Window." The gown had a light & airy quality with a slender waist and a beautiful skirt made from yards and yards of tulle and chiffon. The black and white confection was created by Paramount Pictures costume designer Edith Head. ("Grace Kelly: Floating on Chiffon," Lisa's History Room)

For more on Grace Kelly, click here.

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"What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me," by Frida Kahlo, 1938. Frida painted herself in the bath. The right foot shows a bleeding sore between the deformed big toe and second toe. By the early 1940s, Frida would be in constant pain from her back and right foot. She would be forced to take to her bed and wear a series of body casts.

(First see “Frida Kahlo Had Childhood Polio Part 1.”)

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo‘s childhood polio caused more than a slight deformity in her right leg. The decreased circulation to the limb caused her lifelong problems and pain.

From November 1-15, 1938, the first exhibition of Frida’s paintings was held at the avant-garde Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. At her opening, Frida looked spectacularly exotic in her Mexican costume, her starched bouffant skirts falling below her ankles.

"Frida on White Bench," photograph by Nickolas Muray, 1939

While the effect of her unusual outfit was striking and a perfect complement to her 25 paintings displayed in Mexican folkloric frames of metal, glass, and tin, Frida’s skirts played more than a decorative role. Frida explained:

“I must have full skirts and long, now that my sick leg is so ugly.”

The press was delighted with the paintings and Frida was the “flutter of the week in Manhattan.” During the course of the exhibition, Julien Levy wanted to show Frida the town. He took her bar-hopping in Harlem. He recalls:

“She didn’t jump to it, possibly because she was tired, and she couldn’t enjoy herself late at night. Bar-hopping is not easy to do if you are not light on your legs. She couldn’t overcome invalidism. After walking three blocks, her face would get drawn, and she’d begin to hang on your arm a little bit. If you kept walking, that would force her to say, ‘We must get a cab.’”

Frida’s right foot was the problem – again. She had developed warts on the sole of her foot. Of course, her spine ached. After her exhibit closed, she fell seriously ill. She saw a round of specialists, finally discovering Dr. David Glusker, who succeeded in closing the trophic ulcer that she had had on her foot for years.

Frida Kahlo in bed c.1950s

That was in 1938. Frida was to suffer pain for many more years, her degenerative spinal condition a result of the childhood polio and her streetcar accident in 1926. Some historians have suggested that Frida may have suffered from yet a third problem. They think that Frida could have been born with spina bifida, which further complicated her spine and leg issues.

Over the course of her lifetime, Frida would endure over 30 surgeries, multiple hospitalizations, and countless months of bedrest. Frida managed the constant pain with copious amounts of brandy and pills.

In 1953, gangrene set into her right foot and her leg had to be amputated below the knee. Frida was devastated.

After the 1953 amputation of her right leg below the knee because of her gangrenous right foot, Frida drew this image of her feet in her diary. She tried to make light of the loss, writing the poignant phrase, "Pies para que los quiero, si tengo alas pa' volar?" (Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly?)

The next year, Frida was dead from a morphine overdose, self-administered, probably a suicide.

READERS: For more posts on Frida Kahlo, click here.

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Diego Rivera shown with wife, Frida Kahlo. Frida's mother called them "the Elephant and the Dove."

Elvis Presley at his shiniest

What did Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and rock sensation Elvis Presley have in common?

They both had twin brothers who died.

Diego Rivera and his twin brother Carlos were born on December 8, 1886 in Guanajato, Mexico. Carlos, however, died eighteen months later.

"The Flower Carrier" by Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

On January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Gladys Presley gave birth to identical twin boys. The first one, Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn. Thirty-five minutes later, Elvis Aaron (Aron) Presley entered this world. Gladys told Elvis that, as the surviving twin, he had been destined for great things.

READERS: For more posts on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, click here.

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“Portrait of My Father,” (1951), Mexican artist Frida Kahlo shows us her photographer father Guillermo Kahlo with the tool of his trade – a camera.

From an early age, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) identified with her German-born father, Guillermo Kahlo, a portrait photographer. In her diary, she wrote (in Spanish):

“My childhood was marvelous because, although my father was a sick man [ he had epilepsy], he was an immense example to me of tenderness, of work (photographer and also painter)….”

Frida Kahlo as photographed by her father, Guillermo Kahlo (1872-1941) in 1926 at about age 19. This was taken after Frida's horrific bus accident.

Guillermo Kahlo taught young Frida how to use a camera and how to develop, retouch, and color photographs. He adored Frida and photographed her often. Perhaps this is when Frida developed her obsession for self-portraiture.

Frida Kahlo (l) at about age 19 with her family (c. 1927)

Definitely, by this time, Frida Kahlo had discovered how to seduce the camera. In this 1927 (perhaps 1924?) family photo, Frida appears androgynous, flouting convention by wearing a man’s suit and slicking back her hair. She was quite the rebel. Meanwhile, her sisters and mother pose demurely nearby in period flapper attire. Frida, however, has adopted a jaunty pose and an expression that says:

“Don’t look at them. Look at me!”

We can’t help staring at her.  At 19 she is already an exotic creature. Thus began Frida Kahlo’s long and celebrated career of using personal dress as theatre.

READERS: For more posts on Frida Kahlo, click here.

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Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

At the age of six, Frida Kahlo was stricken with polio. It affected her right leg. She spent nine months in bed.

“‘It all began with a horrible pain in my right leg from the muscle downward,” she remembered. ‘They washed my little leg in a small tub with walnut water and small hot towels.’”

Once she was out of bed, her doctor insisted that Frida exercise to build up her weaker leg. Her father got her involved in all kinds of sports, a decidedly male domain in 1914 Mexico. However, Frida played soccer, boxed, wrestled, and became a champion swimmer. (1) She climbed trees, rowed on the lakes of Chapultepec Park, and played ball.

Frida Kahlo is shown at far right, with sister Cristina (l) and best friend Isabel Campos (c). The photo was taken by Frida's father, Guillermo Kahlo, in 1919, when Frida was about 12.

Despite her best efforts, her right leg remained very skinny. To disguise that fact, she wore three or four socks on her thin calf and shoes with a built-up right heel. While some of her friends admired her stamina despite her deformity, other children teased her:

“Frida’s childhood friend, the painter Aurora Reyes, says: ‘We were quite cruel about her leg. When she was riding her bicycle, we would yell at her, ‘Frida, pata de palo!’ [Frida, peg leg], and she would respond furiously with lots of curses.’”

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at a demonstration of the Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors, May 1, 1929

In this photo, Frida is shown marching in a skirt that hits below the knee – thus exposing her obviously thinner right calf. Not long after this photo was taken, Frida began to wear elaborate, floor-length skirts -  to hide her emaciated leg from public view.

Frida Kahlo with pigeons, ca. 1940s by Juan Guzmán.

(1) Herrera, Hayden. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. New York, Harper, 1983.

Now read: “Frida Kahlo Had Childhood Polio Part 2.”

READERS: For even more posts on Frida Kahlo, click here.

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