Sunday, October 30, 2011

Haunting Inspirations

Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland, home to Michael Bowes-Lyon, the 18th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Birthplace and childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Reputedly one of the most haunted castles in Britain.  William Shakespeare chose Glamis Castle as the setting for 'The Scottish Play'. I can't bring myself to write the true name of the play, old habits die hard and I am a bit superstitious!

Top Withens, Nr Haworth, West Yorkshire, the plaque below explains...

Whitby Abbey, Whitby, North Yorkshire, easy to see why it inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula.

Daphne du Maurier at her home, Menabilly, Cornwall. The house she fell in love with, the house that inspired Mandelay and Rebecca.

I hope you will all be hauntingly inspired this Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Nice, The Friendliest City in France?

Crusoe on the Promenade des Anglais

A slight intermission in blogging due to a spur of the moment decision for an interlude in Nice. I have driven through and round Nice many times but this was the first time I have actually visited, and yes, I think it possibly is the friendliest city in France.  The friendly, laid back attitude of the locals did not just extend to us, Crusoe has never had so much attention, he was admired and fussed over wherever we went, bar and restaurant staff could not do enough for him, his every wish was catered for, even fellow diners at the local restaurants and cafes were eager to indulge him by feeding him titbits, if like us you like to travel with a furry, K9 friend, Nice is the place to go.

The Royal Salon, The Negresco Hotel

The friendliness, laid back attitude and love of dogs is apparent even in the smartest hotel in town; The Negresco, although unfortunately we did not reside there we did pop in for a look round and an early evening coupe de Champagne.  We headed for the bar but we spied the resident cat in there, fortunately before Crusoe spotted him, now Crusoe positively loathes cats and if we had taken him in there all hell would have broken lose and I really don't think the other patrons of the bar would have appreciated an impromptu re-enactment of Tom and Jerry.  We went in search of the other bar, located in the Carousel restaurant, we were warmly greeted by Madame La Patronne; Jeanne Augier, the rather eccentric owner, she just happened to be dining in the restaurant as we arrived, she is The Negresco. Madame Augier and her hotel have a rather fascinating story; here.  I found the Carousel restaurant slightly bizarre it is just like being on a carousel, with the music and horses to match, we ordered two coupes, unfortunately, the Champagne was flat and my glass was chipped, we informed the waiter, who opened a new bottle and brought us two fresh glasses.  Needless to say without having to ask a very large bowl of water was served to Crusoe.

The rest of the time was spent exploring, with many eating and drinking stops, I especially loved the old town, the colours and the architecture are magnificent, bearing in mind that Nice was part of Italy until 1860, sometimes it's hard to figure out if you are in an Italian town or a French one.

The other highlight for me was the huge flea market in the Course Saleya, held every Monday, I could have had a field day, there were some fine antiques on offer and the vendors were perfectly happy to haggle, so there are plenty of opportunities to bag a bargain, I wondered around in my element until the market just about wrapped up.  Due to the space limitations of a two seater sports car with tiny boot space, my only purchase was a beautifully made mirrored and chrome, hexagonal Art Deco tray (something I have been after for a while) haggled down from 50 to 25 Euros, next time I am coming in a van!

Crusoe, in Nice, working his baby seal impression, he has no shame!

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fabulous Photographer, George Hurrell

Bette Davis

When you think of the Golden age of Hollywood you cannot help but think about the wonderful photographic images of the stars.  Image was everything in old Hollywood, important for the studios and important for the stars, nothing less than perfect would do, there was not much room for gritty realism, with the great worldwide depression of the thirties people had enough of that in their lives, they looked to Hollywood for escapism and to fuel new aspirations.  The stars could not look like mere mortals, they had to look like Gods and Godesses.  George Hurrell was one of the best photographers in the business, a creative force with lighting, skilled at sculpting faces with shadow and a master at retouching. He did not go in for the girl and boy next door look or the cheesecake, pin up photographs that became so popular in the late forties and fifties, his genre was pure glamour, he was in the business of creating icons...

Bette Davis

The man dubbed the "Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait," was born in Covington, KY, across the river from Cincinnati, in 1904. By the time he was eight, young George Hurrell had developed an interest in painting and drawing. He fell into photography almost by accident, originally learning how to use a camera so that he could photograph his paintings.

 After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Hurrell was commissioned to photograph paintings and painters in Laguna Beach, CA art colony in 1925. Hurrell moved west hoping to continue his art studies. Before long, however, taking pictures took the place of painting pictures as he found more work shooting portraits.

Norma Shearer

One of Hurrell's first subjects was the famed aviatrix Poncho Barnes. Through her, he met silent-screen star Ramon Novarro, who commissioned a series of portraits from Hurrell. Thrilled with the results, Novarro showed off his new stills to co-workers at MGM, where they caught the eye of leading lady Norma Shearer. Shearer was desperate to convince her husband, MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg, that she could generate enough sex appeal to play the lead in The Divorcée. She hired Hurrell to take some sizzling photos that landed her the role. Thalberg and Shearer were so impressed with Hurrell's work that he was hired as head of the MGM portrait gallery in 1930.

Norma Shearer

For the next two years, Hurrell photographed every star at MGM, from Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Greta Garbo to Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler. His work set a new standard for Hollywood portraits. It even inspired a new name for the genre — glamour photography.

Norma Shearer

After a disagreement with MGM publicity head Howard Strickling, Hurrell left to set up his own studio on Sunset Boulevard. The stars flocked to Hurrell for portraits.

Greta Garbo

 But movies remained Hurrell's first love. After six years, he moved to Warner Bros., helping build the careers of such stars as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, and James Cagney. Hurrell moved to Columbia, where he shaped Rita Hayworth's image.

 Rita Hayworth

Marlene Dietrich

After service with the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army Air Force, where he shot training films and photographed generals at the Pentagon, Hurrell returned to Hollywood, but soon found that the old style of glamour photography had fallen out of fashion. He relocated to New York, where he continued shooting advertising and fashion lay-outs through the 50s.

Hedy Lamarr

 Tallulah Bankhead

 Veronica Lake

 Carol Lombard

 Myrna Loy

In 1952, Hurrell returned to Hollywood and started a television production company with his wife, Phyllis. It was located on the Disney lot. After two years, he returned to New York. He settled in Southern California permanently in 1956, eventually moved back into the film industry as a unit still man.

Jean Harlow

Beginning in 1965 with an exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art, his work has been showcased at museums throughout the world. He published The Hurrell Style, with text by Whitney Stine, in 1976, followed by other commemorative books and special-edition prints of his work. It was during these years that he shot stars like Liza Minelli, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford. Even after his retirement in 1976, he continued to shoot portraits, adding to his portfolio such representatives of the new Hollywood as Sharon Stone, Brooke Shields, and John Travolta. Among his last assignments were photographing Warren Beatty and Annette Benning for Bugsy, Natalie Cole for the best-selling "Unforgettable" album, and a fashion layout with Jennifer Flavin, his last photographic subject.

Jean Harlow

During the last years of his life, Hurrell worked with producer J. Grier Clarke and producer-director Carl Colby on Legends in Light, the first major retrospective of his work. George Hurrell died of cancer in 1992.

Lupe Velez

 Lupe Velez

Joan Crawford

 Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

These two photographs of Joan Crawford, demonstrate Hurrells retouching talents, today airbrushing and digitally enhancing photographs is a matter of pressing buttons but in the early days, it was a painstaking process, done by hand and often took hours.

Gene Tierney

Katherine Hepburn

 Susan Hayward

Barbara Stanwyk

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Indian Summer

Philip Wilson Steer, Young Woman on the Beach, 1886. Musée d'Orsay Paris. A particular favourite of mine.

Down here in the Pyrenees we are experiencing an Indian summer, only the falling leaves and colder nights, give the game away that it is in fact autumn.

Hope your all having a fantastic Sunday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Renée Perle Redux

My fascination with Renée Perle, Jacques Henri Lartigues most famous muse continues.  She is almost as mysterious as the Mona Lisa, we know very little about her.  She was with Lartigue for two years and she painted, I suspect she was influenced and encouraged by Lartigue and the artistic crowd he ran around with, she probably felt she needed to explore her own artistic capabilities.  These photographs by Lartigue are of Renée in Lartigues studio in Paris with her work.  The paintings are naive and as you can see she had a tendency to paint portraits in her own image, whether this was because she was narcissistic or merely practising with what she new best and felt comfortable with is something we shall probably never know.

I would love to know what happened to her after her break up with Lartigue, the only information that I have managed to unearth is she died in the south of France in 1977.  She must have married as she did have a step daughter who had an oil painting of Renée, all Renées carefully preserved belongings and collections were dispersed by the Paris auction house Tajan in 2000 and 2001.  One thing we do know is that she has been immortalised by Lartigues photographs. Renées image, great personal style and mystique continue to inspire...

Alexi Lubomirski for German Vogue March 2009

Strange to think if Lartigue had not met Renée by chance in Paris in 1930, she would be a forgotten lady, sunk without trace.

To see previous posts on Renée go here