26 July 2021

A Sign Of Summer: La rayure bretonne

"The body of the shirt will count twenty-one white stripes, each twice as wide as the twenty to twenty-one indigo blue stripes." -  Admiral Ferdinand-Alphonse Hamelin, Minister of the Marine for Brittany1858

How French, you may say, to be so precise about specifications. The French are proud of their navy and  its many victories over the British. The rivalry is apparent in their dueling names for the body of water that separates the two countries: Pas de Calais or English Cannel.

So the design of a new uniform was also a matter of symbolic import. The colors blue and white were chosen for their nautical associations; the three-quarter length sleeves were practical for physical tasks and sailors soon realized that it was easier to spot a man overboard in  a striped shirt. Although the French like to boast that the stripes represent Napoleon's naval victories, the truth is more prosaic; technical innovations in the production of cloth made it possible to knit a continuous, precisely striped shirt on one piece. Once the mariniere or rayure bretonne became the official sailor's uniform it was quickly adopted by fishermen and onion sellers along France's northern coast.

Stripes have a long history among the marginalized, from wandering minstrels and jesters to lepers and madmen. They were worn by men who existed on the fringes of society. 

At the time stripes were considered suitable male attire. Guy de Maupassant always wore a striped jersey when he was aboard his boat or when was was onshore mixing with the tough guys who hun around the docks.

However the young woman pictured in La voyageuse au bateau painted by Marcel Gromaire in 1930 owes her 'garconne' look to Coco Chanel. The young Chanel had had some success as a hat maker in Deauville where she  opened a shop in 1913.  Being a woman, Chanel recognized that women were looking for a simpler style that would be chic but afford them greater freedom of movement. She introduced her striped jerseys in her couture collection in 1917.

Marcel Gromaire (1892-1971) was a painter of the modern pursuit of leisure,  golf, tennis, swimming, and sunbathing.

For further reading: The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes &  Striped Clothing by Michel Pastoureau, translated from the French by Jody Gladding, New York, Columbia University Press: 2001.\

Image: Marcel Gromaire - La voyageuse au bateau, 1930, oil on canvas, Musee d'Art moderne de la ville de Paris.

19 July 2021

"Voce et intellecto" Barbara Hoogeweegen

"Voce et intellecto." These were the qualities the poet Dante admired in art and when I look at  Barbara Hoogeweegen's portraits of women, voce et intelletco are what comes to mind. Representation is the process of re-presenting something so it is no accident that Hoogeweegen portrays her  contemporary women as self-possessed, and much more than the sum of  their lineage, pace portraits of wealthy and aristocratic women of  the Italian Renaissance .

For each one Hoogeweegen chooses a  color palette; the one she chose for Jeepers Creepers Where'd you Get Them Peepers is made up of the three primary colors with small daubs of the complementary colors on the neck  Applied in broad strokes that often overlap, the paint gets maximal effect without looking labored.
And what is natural about a portrait?  Until Leonardo da Vinci posed his female sitters facing the viewer, Renaissance painters presented women in profile, eyes chastely turned away from the viewer. And although da Vinci influenced younger artists like Giorgione, Raphael, and Titian, museums are filled with paintings of vacant, mask-like faces. If that brings Picasso to mind, then everything that is old can be made new. A few years ago Britain's National Portrait Gallery held an exhibition of portraits from its collection that are rarely seen because the sitters have not been identified.

We know that painting dates back to the time of the cave painters at Lascaux and Altamira. They depicted the natural world around but is painting something more than natural when it hang on the walls of a museum?  As recent events have reminded us, paintings hang against a background of social and political issues.

Barbara Hoogeweegen is truly an international artist.  Born in the Netherlands, she studied art in France and Great Britain and she now lives in London.

Image: Barbara Hoogeweegen - Jeepers Creepers Where'd you Get Them Peepers, 2017, oil on canvas, collection of the artist.

12 July 2021

The Blue Lantern Turns Fourteen

The Blue Lantern first appeared on July 12, 2007. In the beginning, I posted frequently to discover if there was an audience for what I wanted to do when I wasn't writing to order. Since the early days I have deleted a majority of posts (hundreds, actually) because I was dissatisfied with them. Also there was a website that copied my articles verbatim and then used them to solicit advertising, a clear violation of fair use of images. After taking a hard look at those articles, I either rewrote them or deleted them. 

I would like to thank very much the people who have devoted Pinterest boards to images published on The Blue Lantern. To celebrate the 14th anniversary of The Blue Lantern I decided to share some  comments that warmed my heart and kept me writing

Wednesday, 15 July 2009 - The Edinburgh Scotsman

Subtitles "Arts Journalism for the Love of It," this devastatingly beautiful blog covers a wide range of topics and mediums from known artists such as Marc Chagall, to unknown discoveries, (well, unknown to us) such as Kathleen Dustin who makes exquisite handbags in the shapes of seed pods from a special type of colored polymer clay. The site is named for the blue-shaded lamp that French writer Colette used as a guiding light for her imaginary journeys, after she became too frail to leave home. "Her invitation, extended to all, was 'Regarde!' Look, see, wonder, accept, live." It is written by Jane Librizzi, an American broadcaster blessed with great intelligence and an eye for the rare and marvellous."

Sunday 22 August 2010 - The Linosaurus

"I have done a good deal of rainy-day back-reading on Jane's blog (it should be a book really)..."

Friday 16 September 2011 - Wuthering Expectations

Librizzi is a master of pairing text and image, whether the text is a famous poem or her own essay.  This piece on Mariana Griswold von Rensselaer is a good example.  She also understands how literature and images interpenetrate – see this expert review of Theodor Fontane  and this little biography of Djuna Barnes.


 Wednesday 11 Janaury 2012 at Just A False Alarm

EVERY now and then you stumble across a very impressive blog or two whilst trawling the internet during  moments in which you experience rare solitude and freedom. Tonight I have been absorbed for a good hour or two by this blog: ... The writer is Jane Librizzi, a New Yorker, apparently a freelance journalist and a radio broadcaster, who I wouldn't know from a bar of soap- and yet, becoming absorbed in her thought-provoking blog, you can't help but feel you know her a little. She covers a wide range of subjects, mostly Art and Literature, and she does so comprehensively and professionally with acknowledgement of sources and detailed bibliographies. And you learn so much from her blog- or at least I did- because she covers some really interesting and esoteric subjects. At the moment, in 2012, she seems to be absorbed with Belgian art and Belgian photography. Then there is poetry by an Austrian, Ingeborg Bachmann, a fascinating study of the construction of stairs under the lovely heading 'Evanescence', a discussion of a Paul Signac painting under the equally beguiling heading, 'Luminance', and the professional relationship between Duncan Phillips (patron) and Augustus Vincent Tack (painter). Now I have only gone back in my discussion here to December 3, 2011, and Librizzi has been blogging since September 2005. So she has an incredible wealth of interesting blog entries over a number of years. She also includes a library of books read under a link called 'Library Thing.' Here once again I was introduced to the names of many writers and their books totally new to me."

The Human Flower Project, Julie Ardrey, editor, Austin, TX. 

Dear Jane - The Blue Lantern is a masterpiece.  I have been a dazzled reader for awhile and am preparing to wind down my own site, The Human Flower Project.  Having attempted to make something beautiful and thoughtful online, I deeply admire the ambition and generosity of your work!  - Julie Ardrey 

2009, The Curated Object, Joanne Molina, editor, Chicago

It's my absolute delight to introduce Jane Librizzi to our readers, Her intellectually stimulating and aesthetically astute blog, The Blue Lantern, has captivated me for more long  mornings, afternoons, and evenings than I would care to admit. Originally from northern New Jersey, she lived in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and now lives in upstate New York. She studied piano for several years and began writing stories at age nine. Aside from freelance writing, she has worked in music broadcasting on her local Public Broadcasting station for the past nine years. The place in the world she woud most like to visit is the Wolong Panda Center in China.

04 July 2021

The Immigrants: Theresa Bernstein

One of the ideas running like Javascript behind this blog is that the history of the arts is more than a reductive mythology of large personalities. Like the writer who pens one or two good books but gets overshadowed by the colorful character who attracts academic acolytes, there are artists who produce a handful of memorable images but not enough to launch ancillary careers.  Theresa Bernstein is one (1890-2002) despite a very long career. 

Bernstein was known for her portrayals of the bustling crowds of New York City.  The Immigrants is  something quite different, a maritime picture of a kind, people huddled together on an ocean-going ship,  waiting hopefully for the sight of land. They are heroic in a way we are not accustomed to think of as heroic, voyagers into an uncertain future.  Anchoring the picture at center front is a young woman holding a baby; around her head an envelope of air that draws the viewer to the tiered decks receding behind her. A deft way to suggest the depth of space with sparse shadowing.

Before she painted The Immgrants, Bernstein's work was exhibited alongside that of Edward Hopper.  Bernstein pretended that she had been born in America but her compassion for the trials of her fellow immigrants shines clearly in The Immigrants (1923).  The group stands on the deck of the Cunard R.M.S. Aquitania. Although the immigrations numbers were falling during the 1920s, nativism was rising and  Congress passed two laws to restrict immigration and set ne birthplace quotas.

Born in Kracow in 1890, Theresa Bernstein was brought to the United States by her parents and  raised in Philadelphia.  The Bernsteins were a well-educated., cultured family.  When the Bernstein family moved to New York City in 1912, Theresa established a studio of her own near Bryant Park. She enrolled at the Arts Students League where she studied with William Merritt Chase and attended the earthshaking Armory Show in 1913 where ordinary Americans were introduced to all manner of non-representational painting.  Bernstein had already been impressed by the works of Manet, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso on two trips to Europe in 1905 and again in 1911. Bernstein continued to produce art during every decade of her life, dying in 2002 at the age of one hundred eleven.

Image: Theresa Bernstein - The Immigrants 1923, oil on canvas, private collection.