Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Anne Harvey, the 31 Women Number twenty-four, Her Birthday is in November

Anne Harvey was a painter and illustrator, her birthday is in November but I don’t know which day, only that she was born in 1916 and died only 51 years later, in 1967. Marcel Duchamp was a fan, he wanted to arrange a posthumous exhibition of her work, but he too died before this was possible. She is so little known that until now I was unable to find a photograph of her, but this one is from the Met Museum archives. This article on Anne Harvey replaces my earlier, incomplete version.

Anne Harvey, photo by Brancusi
Anne Harvey would be regarded as a European artist, except for the fact that she was born in Chicago in November 1916. She is also not so much a forgotten artist as an artist who was never really known, even though her work was admired by some of the masters of twentieth century art, including Henri Matisse and sculptor Constantin Brancusi. She painted a remarkable portrait of Brancusi when she was only eighteen and this is the only work of hers to have received much acknowledgement outside her immediate circle. Even though you might think you’ve heard of an artist named Anne Harvey, it’s probably not this Anne Harvey, which is a shame. As a painter she was both talented and original.

 Anne was born into a wealthy, educated and unconventional family, she and her brother Jason were sent to progressive schools in the USA. Harry Harvey, their father was an advertising executive and author. He wrote a biography of Debussy, which was published in 1948. Their mother, Dorothy Dudley Harvey was a writer and poet and one of the four famous Dudley sisters, she published a biography of American novelist Theodore Dreisner in 1932.   

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Jacqueline Lamba: the 31 Women number twenty-three - her Birthday is 17 November

Jaqueline Lamba (Breton) born Paris 1910 -died 1993 -  French painter

Surrealist godfather Andre Breton became obsessed with Jacqueline Lamba on their first meeting. She was his muse and he wrote obsessively about her in L’Amour Fou – a surrealist record of their momentous first meeting on 29 May 1934. Jacqueline, an orphan, was apparently earning her living as a swimmer in an aquatic burlesque show – however she was no guttersnipe. She spent her early childhood in Egypt where her father, Jose Lamba was an agricultural engineer.  He died in a car accident when Jacqueline was only four and his wife, Jane Pinon returned to France with her daughters Huguette and Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Lamba
Jacqueline was sent to boarding schools in Neuilly and then Versailles, though times were not always easy as her mother died of TB. She studied at l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, with photographer Dora Maar, who remained a close friend.  Maar later photographed Lamba, Breton and other Surrealists whilst holidaying with Picasso in the mid 30’s. Jacqueline moved up to the Beaux-Arts where her tutor was cubist André Lhote.

While Breton always maintained that his first meeting with Jacqueline Lamba was chance/fate, this was typical of how he wished to see the world. Lamba was already a politicised woman, rebellious against conventional social and political attitudes. Attracted by Breton’s writing, she was interested in both his politics and his art. The dice of chance leading to their meeting was heavily weighted in her favour by her own prior knowledge, assisted by friends. Thus she was subverting Breton’s romantic ideal of the fateful chance encounter, while he was oblivious to any other interpretation of the event.

Jacqueline became involved in the surrealist dream in which her creativity became immersed, almost drowned, for a number of years. She experimented with automatism and began painting surreal dream-scapes.  Her work appeared in surrealist exhibitions between 1934 and 1948, but like the other women associated with surrealism, her art was not taken very seriously. However she created imaginative and very sophisticated surrealist drawings, collages and objects which were greeted with enthusiasm by the men and exhibited alongside their work.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

'Wild Abandon' by Joe Dunthorne - book review

The main characters in Joe Dunthorne's second novel are teenager Kate and her 11 year old brother Albert. Their father, Don is the patriarch of the commune at Blaen-y-Llyn and thinks it's all about him. He's wrong of course, but patriarchs generally are.

Kate drops out of the commune to go to school, her sights set on Cambridge, via a sojourn in the suburbs with a boyfriend who ultimately proves boring. Albert is furious at his sister's desertion and prepares for the coming apocalypse, which nobody else believes in, not even his faithful little acolyte Isaac. Freya, their mother, decides to leave Don and goes to live alone in the woods, in a geodesic dome abandoned by Patrick. 

Patrick and Janet are the only other founder members of the commune still there... they are not a couple... The newer arrivals, known as the wwoofers, are few in number; they come and go and are generally lacking commitment, never mind finance. Patrick is the oldest communard, but he drops out too after an excess of hand-crafted substances. This probably seals the commune's fate as, unbeknown to everyone except Don, Patrick has been funding Blaen-y-Llyn for years.

I've tried writing about people living in a commune and they always turn out more dysfunctional than I expected. I can't say that Joe Dunthorne had the same problem with this book, because his cast in Wild Abandon are obviously intended to be dysfunctional from the start. I just wonder if anyone has ever written a novel about a functional commune.

Anyway, Wild Abandon is full of funny set pieces and apt descriptions. It's engagingly written and a very entertaining read. I absolutely loved the (maybe) apocalyptic and certainly orgiastic ending. This would make a great film, provided no Americans get their hands on it - they don't know where Wales is.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Milena Pavlović Barili; the 31 Women number twenty-two - her Birthday is 5 November

Yugoslavian painter, poet, graphic artist, theatre designer, born in Pozarevac,05/11/1909 - died in New York, 03/06/1945.

Milena in Spanish costume
Milena Pavlović Barili was one of the European artists who moved to the USA during the Second World War. She was talented, imaginative and committed to her painting, sometimes to the point of obsession. Despite constant travelling, she produced 400 known works in a career of only eighteen years, while also working as a designer for Vogue, Harpers and other up market magazines. Although her exhibited work was often well received, she never became popular in her lifetime and her associations within the art community are not well documented.  However she can’t be accurately described as a forgotten artist; she is remembered and well loved in her home country, Serbia, where a museum is dedicated to her art.

Milena was an only child born in Pozarevac, Yugoslavia. She was an aristocrat of sorts, a distant cousin of King Peter II of Yugoslavia though her parents were not hugely wealthy. She actually spent part of her childhood in the royal palace in Belgrade, where her mother Danica worked.  Danica was a pianist and music teacher, her Italian husband, Milena's father was composer Bruno Barili, from Parma in Italy. Milena's parents seldom lived together. Bruno was an influential businessman and intellectual, a music critic, poet and founder of the literary journal, La Ronda. Music played a major part in Milena’s life, her friends were musicians and Milena herself received some training as a singer, though she never sang professionally.