This Surrealist object was inspired by a conversation between Oppenheim and artists Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar at a Paris cafe. Admiring Oppenheim’s fur-covered bracelet, Picasso remarked that one could cover anything with fur, to which she replied, “Even this cup and saucer.” Soon after, when asked by André Breton, Surrealism’s leader, to participate in the first Surrealist exhibition dedicated to objects, Oppenheim bought a teacup, saucer, and spoon at a department store and covered them with the fur of a Chinese gazelle. In so doing, she transformed genteel items traditionally associated with feminine decorum into sensuous, sexually punning tableware.
“If a story seems too random, or perhaps too brilliant, for a “madman” to have conceived of it himself, then consider that the “author” might be reality and the “madman” just the reader. After all, only reality can escape the limits of our imagination.”
From Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
La Gerbe (The Sheaf) is a large-scale ceramic mural by Henri Matisse which was commissioned in the early 1950s by Sidney and Frances Brody for their new home in California. The mural occupied a large empty wall in their sunny patio, and was the centrepiece of their home. Apart from La Gerbe, the Brodys had an extraordinary collection of modern art which included works by Picasso, Braque, Giacometti, Calder, and Moore, all of which were displayed in their elegant home designed by Quincy Jones.
Frances described the mural as having “a marvellous luminosity” and said “its simplicity of design never fails to bring warmth, gaiety, color and beauty to an area observed by all who pass through any part of the house. This is truly the heart of our home.”
LACMA has published the amusing account Frances Brody wrote on her experience commissioning the ceramic mural from Matisse. Click here to read it. The mural Apollo (pictured below) was Matisse’s initial proposal for the Brodys’ commission, they rejected it and persuaded him to make a new design. Frances wrote in the manuscript that she “disliked it intensely”, luckily she was thrilled with his next proposal. This piece is now in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. Personally, I think its beautiful also, but maybe not as appropriate for the setting.
In 2010, after Frances’ death, La Gerbe was relocated (a very difficult operation considering its weight of 1,000 Kg.) to LACMA, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
It doesn’t look half as magical without the tree and the warm and comfortable ambiance, but still, if it means more people can enjoy it, it’s ok with me. There’s still something wonderful and fulfilling about walking through an art museum/gallery, standing and gazing at works of art. I hope someday I’ll stand in front of this one! It makes me wonder, although Matisse is one of my all-time favourite artists, and I’m in love with this mural, if I lived with it, would it lose its magic?
Images thanks to LACMA
Creative exercise: Spend long periods of time contemplating tea stains on a napkin or clouds in the sky. Imagine magnificent creatures and landscapes, let your imagination run wild!
“I love the clouds… the clouds that pass…
up there… up there… the wonderful clouds!”
[The Stranger, Charles Baudelaire]
And if you’re a hard-core cloud lover, you might even consider joining the Cloud Appreciation Society!
Here’s a peek from their manifesto:
We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.
Now let’s look at some Clouds in Art:
Dutch artist Berndnault Smilde is known for his man-made indoor clouds. He makes them from a combination of “frozen smoke” and moisture and he immortalises them in photographs.
Clouds have featured in many of this Californian artist’s work. He’s represented the cloud as a brain, and he’s tried to mimic the shapes of clouds using cigar smoke.
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz created the wonderful series, Equivalents, where he photographed cotton wool clouds in various different shapes. Can you picture them in the sky?
And, of course, there’s the Belgian Surrealist artist, René Magritte. Clouds were a recurring theme in his work and are said to represent the unconscious mind. He was known for his witty and thought-provoking images which challenged preconditioned perceptions of reality.
Inside the Artist’s Studio
Landscape in art, De Chirico says here, is not a copy of the exterior world, as the ordinary viewer naturally thinks, but a reflection of the artist’s mind.
A Sense of Time is a short story by Finnish writer Tove Jansson from her collection Art in Nature.
The book is full of beautiful and amusing stories which all allude to art in some way. A Sense of Time, my favourite from the collection, is about an old lady who has lost all sense of time. She lives with her grandson and brings him breakfast for dinner, tells him it’s bed time when he’s just woken up, and takes mid-morning strolls in the middle of the night. The conclusion is that her senility is a blessing — while her grandson lives in a state of anxiety, worrying about deadlines and trying to keep up with society’s expectations, the old lady lives a calm and stress-free life.
“Grandmother’s private, interior world must be very strong if she can so serenely deny the sun and the moon. I wonder what it is that shines for her that makes her so terribly certain and calm.”