Tag Archives: France

Franz Marc, 8 February 1880 – 4 March 1916

Franz Marc's palette, from the archives of the Franz Marc Museum, Kochel.

Franz Marc’s palette, from the archives of the Franz Marc Museum, Kochel.

Franz Marc’s “Aphorism 82,” from Die 100 Aphorismen, 1915.

“Ich sah das Bild, das in den Augen des Teichhuhns sich bricht, wenn es untertaucht: die tausend Ringe, die jedes kleine Leben einfassen, das Blau der flüsternden Himmel, das der See trinkt, das verzückte Auftauchen an einem andern Ort, – erkennt, meine Freunde, was Bilder sind: das Auftauchen an einem anderen Ort.”

“I saw what the moorhen sees as it dives: the thousand rings that encircle each little life, the blue of the whispering sky swallowed by the lake, the enraptured moment of surfacing in another place. Know, my friends, what images are: the experience of surfacing in another place.”

Franz Marc’s Visions of Egypt

Donkey Frieze from Egypt

Donkey Frieze from Egypt


A couple pending matters before getting along to new business; thus, before too much more time goes by, my adventures in Hull, England, in which it turned out that donkeys were very important. Incredibly before last fall, I had never been to England, let alone Yorkshire…*

When I first became aware of Botschaften an den Prinzen Jussuf, the story around which I originally intended to discuss at the University of Hull’s Visions of Egypt: History and Culture from the 19th Century to the Present conference, my immediate reactions was, “Wow…So Sylvester!” I’m sure you are aware of who Sylvester is but, as a reminder, before Boy George, before Lady Gaga, there was Sylvester.

In addition to being an amazing soul and HiNRG dance music recording artist, Sylvester was known for hanging out in San Francisco dressed in amazing costumes, including his trademark pharaoh outfit. One of the only two times I snuck underagedly into a nightclub with a fake ID (the other time was to see the Thompson Twins) was to see Sylvester at El Goya.

So. Visions of Egypt was a conference mostly attended by actual Egyptologists, not art historians, and thus there was a lot of humor and pop-culture-referencing in many of the presentations so I think Sylvester would have been well-received. However owing to the great enthusiasm for donkeys expressed by insurgent quadruped fans, I did not get to work in any sort of reference to Sylvester in my presentation.
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Apollinaire in Germany


Apollinaire was very popular in Bonn and in Berlin, where he befriended Herwarth Walden, who, among other things, occupied a societal role similar to that of Apollinaire. Apollinaire also wrote and drew quite prolifically, of course, in addition to being a tastemaker around whom a circle of other artists and authors coalesced.

In early 1913, August Macke was very excited when not only Apollinaire but Robert Delaunay (and later Max Ernst) came to hang out at his place. Apollinaire spoke German very well, also. Anyway, AM just loved these guys, and generally began trailing them around and writing to them all the time and so on.

There is much more to this story, some of it very exciting, and be assured I will get to it all shortly…

However not everyone was enchanted by Apollinaire. That “not everyone” included, well… for the immediate subject at hand, Franz Marc. FM actually had little use for Delaunay, after a (short) while, either. During 1913, FM pesters Delaunay with tons of perplexing, unsolicited criticism, finally in one outburst declaring that RD wasn’t a very good writer, either.

Apollinaire did like FM’s work, but FM kept a distance. Today upon discovering that it is Apollinaire’s birthday, well, what can I say? It explains a lot. Here is a very comprehensive if somewhat outdatedly designed Website about Apollinaire.

AM finally told FM, basically, to stop embarrassing him in front of his cool new friends. FM pointed out that it was he who had introduced these three to one another, and, that also, RD was kind of a jerk, refusing to give AM anything but a scrap of used drawing paper (like literally AM was begging for any type of memento and that was what RD let him have!). Anyway, RM and AM fought all the time as it was, so this altercation of course could not be resolved swiftly or in a few words and continued over the course of some petulant correspondence and huffy silences…full citations to come. FM was jealous, of course, but also he hated to see AM fall in with people he thought embodied the worst characteristic of all, that of being fake.

Fortunately, since everything that has happened before will happen again, this throwdown has been re-enacted by  two parallel characters in one of the most important documentaries of our time (it had to be peddled as fiction because of the potency of its truth), Mean Girls (2004).

Above is the epic scene in which Janis Ian (as FM) confronts Cady Heron (as AM)  [we won’t even get into the whole LiLo thing here, or about… nevermind) about being plastic…

With a special guest appearance by Damian as Helmuth Macke.


What it costs to be happy

Le lendemain revint le petit prince.

– Il eût mieux valu revenir à la même heure, dit le renard. Si tu viens, par exemple, à quatre heures de l’après-midi, dès trois heures je commencerai d’être heureux. Plus l’heure avancera, plus je me sentirai heureux. A quatre heures, déjà, je m’agiterai et m’inquiéterai; je découvrirai le prix du bonheur ! Mais si tu viens n’importe quand, je ne saurai jamais à quelle heure m’habiller le cœur… Il faut des rites.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

White Face et Wordsworth


Here are some more recent acquisitions from the rueful “Island of Misfit Books” project.

You probably know all about William Wordsworth, the English Romantic poet who was friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom he visited Rheinland-Pfalz where they first got the idea to translate Goethe’s Faustus.

This volume is called Poems of Wordsworth Chosen and edited by Matthew Arnold. Arnold was an English professor (at Rugby and then Oxford) who was also a poet; “Dover Beach” is often referenced by Ian McEwan and appears in Fahrenheit 451. This book is a printing from 1893. The spine is very bent and there are fingerprints and some faint traces of pencil on almost every page…someone really liked this book.

Crime novelist and short story writer Edgar Wallace was also quite a character and became, in 1927, one of the first authors to secure a deal with a movie studio for stories and scripts. This turned out to be a good thing because Wallace was also, earlier, the creator of King Kong. (In the scene in the basement tavern in Inglourious Basterds during the “Who Am I?” game there are references to both King Kong and Wallace.) As you can see by the cover of White Face, Wallace was also academically ahead of his time, having devoted several hundred pages lo in 1930 to the exploration of the astonishing theory that, indeed, some segment of the population — perhaps even you — is in fact white. A film was made of White Face as well; it premiered in March 1932, just a few weeks after Wallace’s death in February of the same year.

Speaking of trends in scholarship, of course it is no longer necessary to speak French or go to France in order to become a person of letters on French subjects. Nonthetless, my favorite book in this trio is the Brief French Grammar. It was the property of a the New York Public Library in the second decade of the 1900s, and then of the Board of Education of the City of New York where it circulated until 1936. A very enthusiastic student marked a routing slip left inside the book with an emphatic red date: Le Juin 22, 1920. Completely adorable.









On “Situationism: A Primer” by Marina LaPalma (Grim)

Situationist GraffitiSituationist grafitti, Menton, Occitania, 2006 (the 1968 slogan “It is forbidden to forbid”, with missing apostrophe). Wikipedia Commons

“Rather — just as certain biologists argue for the maintenance of species diversity among plants in order to preseve them for potential use by future generations — we should battle on the side of the obscure, the small, the powerless, the marginalized in order to maintain bio-diversity of memes, of ideas and aesthetic and imaginary realms.”

Marina LaPalma’s “Situationism: A Primer” is one of the best readings in existence for art history students because it is very easy to digest, in terms of distilling the much more difficult prose of situationists from the 1960s, particularly Guy Debord, but also because it is a call to action that clearly illuminates some of the social conditions to be acted against.

Written in 1988 in honor of the approximate twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Society of the Spectacle, “Primer” notes that the intervening decades have made DeBord’s observations seem even more absolutely correct. (Time has done the same for “Primer.”) LaPalma describes a completely dystopic society, yet in the last quarter of the article makes clear that her intent overall mood is hopeful.

Like the original SI group, LaPalma makes a few incorrect assessments, identifying simple sociopathy (“Can any pleasure we are allowed to taste compare with the indescribable joy of casting aside every form of restraint and breaking every conceivable law?”) and the Los Angeles riots as appropriations of situationism.

Yet many – most – of LaPalma’s statements about the Spectacle, like DeBord’s, seem even more valid today than when written: “The world we see is not the real world, it is the world we have been conditioned to see; a world constructed from the black and white of tabloids, a world framed by the mahogany veneer of the television set, a world of carefully constructed illusions – about ourselves, about each other, about power, authority, justice and daily life. A view of life from the perspective of power.”

LaPalma uses the commodification of superficially “rebellious” music (punk and techno) to illustrate the idea of recuperation, and is also, mercifully, extremely critical of hippie-collectivist modes of dropping out. “Revolution is a process, a process that can be started now,” says LaPalma.

The problems – isolation through the work/home/consumer system, totally immersive media that purports to broadcast reality, the replacement of the citizen by the consumer – are clear. The extremity of the endless war, continuous states of celebrity meltdown, and now, recession, makes action seem like the only choice. LaPalma does not provide any guidance for resisting the Spectacle within society without perpetuating it.

“Labourages Nivernais” by Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur - Labourage nivernais.

Rosa Bonheur – Labourage nivernais.

If 19th century French painter Rosa Bonheur believed in reincarnation, she would surely have chosen to return to life not as one of the regal lions or leggy gazelles she shared her Bordeaux estate with, but as a sturdy, common barnyard bull. The slyly successful painter had great affection for domestic animals, and enjoyed her greatest artistic success depicting them.
Bonheur was especially adept at imbuing cattle with nobility without giving them airs of humanity.
Though best known for The Horse Fair (1853), a canvas from a few years later in her career, Labourages Nivernais, completed in 1850, is actually a less derivative, more personal, visually individualistic image of Bonheur’s favorite creatures. Nivernais also marks the beginning of a period of commercial and public success for Bonheur, a good fortune enjoyed by few women artists then as now.
At first glance, Nivernais seems a relatively innocuous, though beautifully rendered, ode to agrarian life, and there is nothing “incorrect” with that interpretation. However, Nivernais offers much more to viewers who, like the team of oxen shown, take the time to turn over the well-trodden earth.
Rosa Bonheur, was born in Bordeaux, France on March 16, 1822, the eldest child of Sophie Marquis and Raimond Oscar-Marie Bonheur. The couple called the baby Marie Rosalie, but she almost immediately came to be known as Rosa.
Her father, himself a painter and philosopher, and artists with whom he was friends captured many images of the youthful RB.
Her father shows RB the infant idolized as a cherub in a crib in a painting in 1823. By the time Raimond Bonheur captured Rosa at Four, the child had the set jaw, solemn gaze, erect posture and short tousled hair that would identify her for the rest of her life.
One alleged portrait of RB, showing a square-jawed, serious child in a brimmed hat with feather trim, was painted by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. After RB’s death, though, her companion Anna Klumpke, came forward to say that she thought the sitter for the portrait was instead a male. Such confusion regarding appearance and gender shadowed RB all her life.
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