Friday, July 1, 2011

Behind the Seen


Head of Hermes - Portonoccio Temple - Veii - 500 BC

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Sydney Pollack (July 1, 1934 - 2008) was one of the great reliable Hollywood directors who could always turn a lemon into lemonade…

Sydney Pollack was also a good actor, unlike most of his director colleagues…

Leslie Caron (b. July 1, 1931) is a French film actress and dancer, who appeared in 45 films between 1951 and 2003. Caron is best known for the musical films An American in Paris (1951), Lili (1953), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and Gigi (1958)…

Leslie Caron is 80 today…!

Olivia de Havilland (b. July 1, 1916) is a British-born, American film and stage actress with two Academy Awards to her name. She is the elder sister of actress Joan Fontaine. Along with her sister, de Havilland is one of the last surviving female stars from 1930s Hollywood. She is also the last living lead cast member from Gone with the Wind

A very young Olivia de Havilland…

Born on the 1st of July, French proto-feminist novelist, George Sand (1804 - 1876)…

“One is happy as a result of one’s own efforts once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and above all, a clear conscience.” — George Sand

Portrait: Félix Nadar


Louis Blériot (July 1, 1872 – 1936) was a French aviator, inventor and engineer. In 1909 he completed the first flight across a large body of water in a heavier-than-air craft, when he crossed the English Channel…

Ilya Bolotowsky (July 1, 1907 - 1981): Architectural Variation, 1971 - acrylic on canvas (Smithsonian)

Born on the 2nd of July, 1923 - Wisława Szymborska, Polish poet and Nobel Laureate (1996) “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality…”


Wisława Szymborska: The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Again we’ll need bridges
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
Someone listens
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.

From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
rust-eaten arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown
reasons and causes,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

(Photo: Węglowski, 1954)


Vladimir Nabokov, Russian-born American writer and lepidopterist - died this day in 1977, aged 78, from bronchitis…

According to his son Dmitri, Nabokov died “with a triple moan of descending pitch. The echo is so strong that I imagine that it is indeed all staged, that he will soon speak again.”

“Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically.” — Vladimir Nabokov (Pnin)


Ernest Hemingway, champion of lean prose - died by shotgun on this day in 1961…

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” — Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was an American author and journalist whose distinctive writing style was characterized by economy and understatement

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style…”

Today marks the 50th anniversary of his death.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway

Photo: Hemingway in Milan, 1918


Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 - 1962), German-Swiss author of many fine novels (including 1960s cult classic, Steppenwolf) and 1946 Nobel Literature Laureate “for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style…”

“Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.” — Hermann Hesse (Siddhartha)


Kevin MacDonald (July 2, 1946 - 2006): Sofa and TV, n.d. - colored pencil on paper (Smithsonian)

André Kertész (July 2, 1894 – 1985) was a Hungarian-born photographer known for his groundbreaking contributions to photographic composition and by his efforts in establishing and developing the photo essay…

A small portfolio of his work to follow…

Above: Carnival, Paris (woman reading behind stage), 1926 (photo via CMOA)

André Kertész: Woman Holding Sign, 1940s (Stephen Daiter Gallery)

André Kertész: Glass Birds of New York, 1978

André Kertész: Distortion, No. 41, 1933

André Kertész: New York (boy eating ice cream on a pile of newspapers), October 12, 1944 - gelatin silver print

© Courtesy Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures 2007/Carnegie Museum of Art

André Kertész: Distortion, No. 8, 1933

André Kertész: The Animal Market, Quai Saint Michel, Paris, 1927-1928

It’s a big Czech day today on OF:

Born 3rd of July, playwright Tom Stoppard (1937, in Czechoslovakia, as Tomáš Straussler) - author of the excellent meta-play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead…

“Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking: Well, at least I’m not dead.” — Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead)

Photo by Fay Godwin, 1975 - bromide fibre print (NPG, London)


Born on the 3rd of July, Franz Kafka, Czech-born Jewish-German writer (1883 - 1924), author of excellently absurdist short stories and novels…

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” — Franz Kafka

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” — Franz Kafka

Also, amazing English film director Ken Russell is 84 today…

Works: Women in Love (D.H. Lawrence adaptation), The Music Lovers, The Devils (Huxley adaptation), Savage Messiah (the gripping story of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska), Mahler, Altered States, Tommy (The Who’s rock opera), Song of Summer (Delius biopic), Dance of the Seven Veils (on Richard Strauss), Lisztomania, Gothic…

Russell excels at composer and artist biopics, music films and literary adaptations with highly charged sexual content…

Photo by Paul Joyce, November 1977 - cibachrome print (National Portrait Gallery, London)


Born on the 4th of July, 1927:

Italian actress and sex symbol of the 1950s…

Still from Where the Hot Wind Blows!, 1959 (a.k.a. La Legge or The Law)


Born on the 4th of July:

Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of tales of mores and habits among the Americans (1804 -1864)…

“We men of study, whose heads are in our books, have need to be straightly looked after! We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter)

Photo - c. 1860, wet collodion (Brady-Handy Photograph Collection; Library of Congress)


Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Garden City, NY, July 4, 1942 (LIFE)

Photo: Sam Shere, Coney Island, July 4, 1946 (LIFE)


Photo: William Vandivert, Coney Island, July 4, 1942 (LIFE)

Born on the 4th of July, 1924:

Eva Marie Saint - American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. Saint won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in On the Waterfront (1954), and later starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller North by Northwest (1959)…


Chuck Close (b. July 5, 1940) - American painter and photographer…

Above: Kate, 2007 - daguerrotype


Born on the 5th of July, Jean Cocteau (1889 - 1963) - a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, boxing manager, playwright, artist and filmmaker…

“The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.” — Jean Cocteau

“If a poet has a dream, it is not of becoming famous, but of being believed.” — Jean Cocteau

Photo: André Papillon, 1939

“The world owes its enchantment to these curious creatures and their fancies; but its multiple complicity rejects them. Thistledown spirits, tragic, heartrending in their evanescence, they must go blowing headlong to perdition.” — Jean Cocteau (Les Enfants Terribles)

Photo of Cocteau, with ballerina Ricki Soma and dancer Leo Coleman, 1949 - Philippe Halsman for LIFE

Jean Cocteau: Untitled, 1957 - Colored crayon drawing

André Lhote (July 5, 1885 – 1962) was a French sculptor and painter of figure subjects, portraits, landscapes and still life. He was also very active and influential as a teacher and writer on art…

André Lhote: Untitled, Landscape in Green and Orange, n. d.


Born on the 6th of July: Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954), vibrant Mexican painter and activist…

Photo, Nickolas Muray, 1941 - via George Eastman House

Frida Kahlo: El abrazo amoroso del universo, 1949

Frida Kahlo: Self-Portrait, 1947

Frida Kahlo: Without Hope, 1945 - oil on canvas

On the back of the painting Kahlo wrote, “Not the least hope remains to me….Everything moves in tune with what the belly contains.”


Beat poet Harold Norse was born on July 6, 1916. He died, aged 92, in 2009…


Harold Norse: Let go and feel your nakedness

Let go and feel your nakedness, tits ache to be bitten and sucked
Let go with pong of armpit and crotch, let go with hole a-tingle
Let go with tongue lapping hairy cunt, lick feet, kiss ass, suck cock and balls
Let the whole body go, let love come through, let freedom ring
Let go with moans and erogenous zones, let go with heart and soul
Let go the dead meat of convention, wake up the live meat of love

Let go with senses, pull out the stops, forget false teachings and lies
Let go of inherited belief, let go of shame and blame, in brief
Let go of forbidden energies, choked back in muscle and nerves
Let go of rigid rules and roles, let go of uptight poses
Let go of your puppet self, let go and renew yourself and be free
Let go the dead meat of convention, wake up the live meat of love

Let go this moment, the hour, this day, tomorrow will be too late
Let go of guilt and frustration, let liberation and tolerance flow
Let go of phantom worries and fears, let go of hours and days and years
Let go of hate and rage and grief, let walls against ecstasy fall for relief
Let go of pride and greed, let go of missiles and might and creed
Let go the dead meat of convention, wake up the live meat of love


Photo of Norse, ca. 1950s


Verner von Heidenstam (July 6, 1859 - 1940) was a Swedish poet and novelist - Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature in 1916…

Verner von Heidenstam at his level best…

Josef Albers: Four Studies for Homage to the Square

The presentation of Josef Albers is something of a sensation, since it is showing a large number of works that have never been shown before. This exhibition is – also for Louisiana’s visitors – a chance to experience a new side of an old acquaintance. Albers was a designer in the Bauhaus context and is known for his abstract paintings – his ‘squares’. But what he himself called his “obsession with colour” led him from 1940 on to a number of experiments with color on paper, where he investigated color and abstract form in both sketches and more finished works in the smaller format.

Louisiana Museum of Contemparary Art, today..


American s-f author, Robert A. Heinlein was born July 7, 1907 (d. 1988). Heinlein was known for hard s-f with a tendency towards space imperialism (Starship Troopers), until he published Stranger in a Strange Land in 1961, a queer book that became a cult text for the 60s counter-culture for its depictions of alternative life styles and sexuality…

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” — Robert A. Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land)

Photo of the Heinleins - Robert and Virginia - in their smart-home, 1952 vintage - courtesy of Popular Mechanics


Marc Chagall (July 7, 1887 – 1985), was a Russian-born, Jewish artist, naturalized French in 1937, associated with several key art movements and one of the most successful artists of the twentieth century…

Photo by the great master - Yousuf Karsh, 1982

Marc Chagall: Rain, 1911 - Oil and charcoal on canvas (The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice)

Marc Chagall: Couple of Lovers on Red Background, 1983 - Oil on canvas (Private collection)

James Lechay (July 7, 1907 - 2001): Trapeze Artist, 1940 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

Abraham Rattner (July 8, 1895 - 1978): In the Mirror, No. II, 1962 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)
Abraham Rattner: Gargoyles No. 3, 1959 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)

Stanton MacDonald-Wright (July 8, 1890 – 1973): Kyoto, 1966-7 - woodcut on paper (Smithsonian)


Käthe Kollwitz (July 8, 1867 – 1945) was a German painter and sculptor whose work offered an eloquent and often searing account of the human condition in the first half of the 20th century…

Käthe Kollwitz: Ruf des Todes (Call of Death), 1934/35 - Lithograph (Collection of The Boston Public Library, Print Department)

Anjelica Huston - 60 today - a fine actress and third generation of Hustons to win an Academy Award…

Photo: Bob Richardson


One more Tom Gauld for the road…

Bob Richardson/Vogue Italia: A cinematic fashion shoot from 1972, featuring Angelica Huston and the model Lipp Jens as her Nazi lover…

Barbara Morgan (July 8, 1900 - 1992) was one of the great dance photographers…

Barbara Morgan: Martha Graham, American Document, 1938 - silver print
Barbara Morgan: Martha Graham, El Penitente, (Erick Hawkins solo, “El Flagellante”), 1940 - silver print

Baroque artist of great distinction, Artemisia Gentileschi: July 8, 1593 – 1652/1653…

Above: Saint Cecilia, or Woman Playing a Lute, c. 1610-12 - oil on canvas (Spada Gallery, Rome)

Artemisia Gentileschi’s best-known painting is Judith Decapitating Holofernes - a work created in response to her rape by Tassi, a painter and friend of her father. The painting above is a companion piece to the more violent decapitation picture, reflecting Artemisia’s continued work of coming to terms with her violation…

Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith and Her Maid-Servant, 1613-14 - oil on canvas (Palazzo Pitti, Florence)


Ernst Bloch, a philosopher to my liking, born this day in 1885…

Author of The Principle of Hope, Bloch was a communitarian humanist:

“My faith is in justice … on earth, in the right of each man to live his life as decently and usefully and giving to the community what he has to give, according to his gifts, his forces.”


Terry Toedtemeier (July 8, 1947 - 2008): Owyhee River from the North end of “The Tongue”, 1999 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

July 8, 1907 saw the premiere of The Ziegfeld Follies in NYC…

Later Ziegfeld branched out into “Midnight Frolics,” staged at New York City’s New Amsterdam Roof, 1912-29…

Above: Helen Barnes, wearing a costume and headpiece decorated with balloons, for the Midnight Frolics… (The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts / Jerome Robbins Dance Division)

Evelyn Law of The Ziegfeld Follies

Photograph by Macfadden Studio, pre-1920 - sepia (The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts / Jerome Robbins Dance Division)


Tom Gauld’s a bit of a loony genius…

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Romantic poet and revolutionary - died at sea this day in 1822, aged 29…

On A Dead Violet

The odor from the flower is gone
Which like thy kisses breathed on me;
The color from the flower is flown
Which glowed of thee and only thee!

A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,
It lies on my abandoned breast;
And mocks the heart, which yet is warm,
With cold and silent rest.

I weep—my tears revive it not;
I sigh—it breathes no more on me:
Its mute and uncomplaining lot
Is such as mine should be.


Ill. by unknown artist, early 19th century - ink and wash (NPG, London)


Mervyn Peake (July 9, 1911 – 1968) was an English modernist writer, artist, poet and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, a trilogy of strange surrealist and fantastic tales of a boy’s life in the huge castle of Gormenghast. Peake also illustrated numerous books, showing a taste for the grotesque, painted, and wrote plays and (nonsense) poetry.

Peake in sapper’s uniform, early 1940s

“We are all imprisoned by the dictionary. We choose out of that vast, paper-walled prison our convicts, the little black printed words, when in truth we need fresh sounds to utter, new enfranchised noises which would produce a new effect.” — Mervyn Peake (Titus Groan)

Above: Mervyn Peake: The Glassblowers, 1940s - wash

Portrait (c. 1940) by Mervyn Peake of his wife Maeve, herself an artist…

Franz Boas (July 9, 1858 – 1942) was a Jewish German-American pioneer of modern anthropology who laid the groundwork for cultural relativism, which requires that a culture be understood on its own terms, without a hierarchy ranking some cultures as better or more advanced than others…

Photo: Boas posing for figure in US National Museum exhibit entitled ‘Hamats’a coming out of a secret room’ (Kwakiutl Indian ceremony for expelling cannibals), 1895 or before.


David Hockney, towering English artist, b. July 9, 1937…

Above: Photo by by John Hedgecoe, 1971 - platinum print (NPG, London)

David Hockney: David Hockney (‘Self-Portrait with Charlie’), 2005 - oil on canvas (NPG, London)
David Hockney: Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures), 1972 - acrylic on canvas

Minor White - influential American photographer: July 9, 1908 - 1976…

Above: Beginnings, Frosted Window (Rochester, New York), 1962 - gelatin silver print

Minor White: Two Barns, Dansville, New York, from the Jupiter Portfolio, 1955 - gelatin silver print (Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The “equivalents” (a term of Stieglitz’s which influenced White) of White were often photographs of barns, doorways, water, the sky, or simple paint peeling on a wall: things usually considered mundane, but often made special by the quality of the light in which they were photographed…

Minor White: Untitled [Flowers], reproduced in the book Celebrations: An Exhibition of Original Photographs, Selections and Text by Minor White and Jonathan Green, published in 1974 by Aperture…

Minor White: Mark Adams, 1950

White was a closeted bisexual man and felt tormented through much of his life by his then socially-unacceptable feelings for young men. Much of this erotic turmoil expressed itself in his post-war subject matter and style, and in his spiritual search for peace and simplicity. Several of his photographs of male nudes are considered to be the masterworks of the genre, but were only published in 1989.

Minor White: Moon and Wall Encrustations, Pultneyville, New York, 1964 - gelatin silver print (MoMA)


Camille Pissarro (July 10, 1830 - 1903) was a French Impressionist painter - and a great influence on Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin…

Above: Boulevard Montmartre au printempts, 1897 - oil on canvas (Hermitage, St. Petersburg)


Birthday of the great rememberer, Marcel Proust, July 10, 1871 (d. 1922, pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess), author of the great novel sequence À la recherche du temps perdu

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” — Marcel Proust


Bernard Buffet (July 10, 1928 – 1999) was a French Expressionist painter and Member of the Anti-Abstract Art Group L’homme Témoin

Above: Sitting Nude, 1979

Musée Bernard Buffet


A quiet, intense contemporary of ours: Alice Munro, Canadian prose artist, is 80 today - recently honoured with the Man Booker Prize lifetime award…

“Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories - and telling other people a somewhat different version of our stories.”


Giorgio de Chirico (July 10, 1888 – 1978) was a pre-Surrealist and then Surrealist Greek-Italian painter born in Volos, Greece, to a Genovese mother and a Sicilian father. He founded the scuola metafisica art movement…

Giorgio de Chirico: The Child’s Brain, 1914 (Moderna Museum, Stockholm, formerly owned by André Breton)

De Chirico: Self-Portrait, 1928 - oil on canvas (Toledo Museum of Art)

De Chirico: Melancholy and Mystery of a Street, 1914 - oil on canvas (private collection)

July 10, 1856 was the birthday of one of the great scientists of the Victorian epoch, Nikola Tesla (d. 1943)…

He is best known for many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

Photo: Tesla reading by the light created by his coils - NOTE: apparently a composite photo!!


John McWilliams (b. July 11, 1941): Untitled, 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)

John McWilliams: Plant Bowen, Ga., 1975 - gelatin silver print (Smithsonian)


Notorious speed-reader and self-appointed guardian of the Western canon, Harold Bloom, turns 81 today!

“We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are. Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading…is the search for a difficult pleasure.” — Harold Bloom


Delmore Schwartz, American poet and short story writer - died this day in 1966, aged 52, of a heart attack. His body remained at the morgue, unclaimed for two days…

“Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.”
— Delmore Schwartz (“Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day”)


James McNeill Whistler (July 10 - or 11, 1834 - 1910) was the foremost portrait painter of the 1870s, but also a master of early Impressionist city-scape ‘Nocturnes’…

Portrait photo, c. 1885…

James McNeill Whistler: Head of a Young Woman, c. 1890 - oil on canvas mounted on wood panel (Smithsonian)

Richard Misrach (b. July 11, 1949): Salton Sea (Concrete Slab), 1985 - chromogenic development print (Smithsonian)

Richard Misrach: Bomb, Destroyed Vehicle and Lone Rock, 1987, printed 1989 - Ektacolor Plus print on paper (Smithsonian)


R. Buckminster Fuller, July 12, 1895 - 1983 - American inventor, thinker, writer…

“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.” - Bucky Fuller: I Seem to Be a Verb (1970)


Amedeo Modigliani (July 12, 1884 – 1920) was an Italian artist who worked mainly in France. Primarily a figurative artist, he became known for paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form…

Amedeo Modigliani: Nude Sitting on Sofa, n.d. - oil on canvas (Private collection, Paris)

Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate: July 12, 1904 - 1973…


Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.


Andrew Wyeth (July 12, 1917 - 2009): Self-Portrait, Dr. Syn, 1981 - tempera on panel

Stefan George (July 12, 1868 - 1933) - German poet and precursor of Modernism…


Come to the park they claimed was dead, and view
The shimmering of smiling shores beyond,
The purest clouds and unhoped-for blue
Light up the spangled paths and ponds.

There, take the yellow deep and tender grey anew
Of birch and boxwood trees that only breezes knew.
The roses that bloom late – before they wane,
Caress and pick them all to braid a chain.

Do not forget the last asters there to glean,
The purple strands of the wild-grown vine.
Around the autumn vision lightly twine
All that remains of living green.

— Transl., Bent Sørensen


Thoreau’s Cove, Lake Walden, Concord, Mass - 1908 - Library of Congress

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” — Henry David Thoreau (Walden and Other Writings)

Title-page of the 1st ed. of Thoreau’s Walden; or, Life in the Woods, 1854 - an essay on self-reliance…

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” — Henry David Thoreau (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods)


Henry David Thoreau walked the earth gently from July 12, 1817 - 1862. He lies in Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord Mass., alongside Hawthorne and Emerson… Before he died Thoreau exclaimed: “Now comes good sailing!”

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” — Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience and Other Essays: Collected Essays of Henry David Thoreau)


Max Jacob was a French poet, painter, writer, and critic - and an important link between the symbolists and the surrealists, as can be seen in his prose poems Le cornet à dés (Dice Box, 1917, illustrations by Jean Hugo) and in his paintings, exhibitions of which were held in New York City in 1930 and 1938…


Poem of the Moon

There are on the night sky three mushrooms, which are the moon. As abruptly as sings the cuckoo from a clock, they rearrange themselves each month at midnight. There are in the garden some rare flowers which are little men at rest that wake up every morning. There is in my dark room a luminous shuttle that roves, then two … phosphorescent aerostats, they’re the reflections of a mirror. There is in my head a bee that talks.


Jacob was good friends with painter Amedeo Modigliani who also shares July 12 as his birthday…

“Friendship is inexplicable, it should not be explained if one doesn’t want to kill it.” —
Max Jacob

Photo: Rogi André (Centre Georges-Pompidou - RMN) - The french writer Max Jacob at his working table (1937)


Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, born July 18, 1933 - best known for his poem “Babi Yar” where he declares solidarity with the Jews who perished in the WW II massacre near Kiev at the hands of SS officers and local Ukrainian collaborators:

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
a Jew.
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified, on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
The Philistine
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
spat on,
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
“Beat the Yids. Save Russia!”
some grain-marketeer beats up my mother.
0 my Russian people!
I know
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these anti-Semites-
without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!
I seem to be
Anne Frank
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
My need
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
or smell!
We are denied the leaves,
we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much —
embrace each other in a darkened room.
They’re coming here?
Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it’s the ice breaking …
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
like judges.
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
turning gray.
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
I am
each old man
here shot dead.
I am
every child
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget!
The “Internationale,” let it
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am a true Russian!

Chelsea Girls, film by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, 1966 - poster by Alan Aldridge…

Andy said to Alan, ‘I wish the movie was as good as the poster’


July 19, 1545 – While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, the Tudor warship Mary Rose sinks in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight…

Ill.: The Mary Rose as depicted in The Anthony Roll of Henry VIII’s Navy (Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge)


German philosopher of the Frankfurt School, Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 - 1979) became an unlikely hero of the American Counterculture in the 1960s…

“Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.” — Herbert Marcuse


The fascinating Soviet poet-hunk Vladimir Mayakovsky (July 19, 1893 - 1930) who never could reconcile his aesthetics (Futurist-Dadaist) with his politics (Leninist)…

From A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912), Mayakovky with Burliuk, Kruchenykh and Khlebnikov:

“We alone are the face of our Time. Through us the horn of time blows in the art of the world. The past is too tight. The Academy and Pushkin are less intelligible than hieroglyphics. Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity. He who does not forget his first love will not recognize his last.”

“Formerly I believed books were made like this: a poet came, lightly opened his lips, and the inspired fool burst into song – if you please! But it seems, before they can launch a song, poets must tramp for days with callused feet, and the sluggish fish of the imagination flounders softly in the slush of the heart. And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth of loves and nightingales, the tongueless street merely writhes for lack of something to shout or say” — Vladimir Mayakovsky (The Bedbug and Selected Poetry)

If stars are lit
It means there is someone who needs it,
It means someone wants them to be,
That someone deems those specks of spit

— Vladimir Mayakovsky (Listen! Early Poems)


Atom Egoyan (b. July 19, 1960) is a critically acclaimed Canadian film maker of Armenian descent, known as one of the most remarkable figures of contemporary independent filmmaking for works such as Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter

Photo: Johnnie Eisen


The great French Impressionist Edgar Degas was born July 19, 1834 (d. 1917). Degas preferred to label himself a realist painter, and he is among the finest chroniclers of aspects of contemporary Parisian life…

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” — Edgar Degas

Above: Self-Portrait, c. 1895

Degas’ canvases of the performing arts are his most famous works, particularly his numerous depictions of dancers - but here we have:

The Singer in Green, c. 1884 - Pastel on light blue laid paper (The Metropolitan, NYC)

Another Degas specialty - women cleaning up:

After the Bath - Woman Drying her Nape, 1895

Women can never forgive me; they hate me, they feel that I am disarming them. I show them without their coquetry. — E.D.


July 19, 1900 – The first line of the Paris Métro opens for operation…

Photo of the construction of the Paris Métro, ca. 1900; Jules Girard, photographer (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)


Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 - 1967), painted the loneliness of American cities better than anyone else, but also the vibrant colours of American landscapes and waters…

Photo: Arnold Newman, 1941

Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room, 1963 (Private Collection. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Hopper was 81 when he painted Sun in an Empty Room, his last great painting. The original plan for the picture included a human figure, but in the end, the patch of light and the wind-swept trees were enough. “Whether we like it or not,” Hopper wrote, “we are all bound to the earth with our experience of life and the reactions of the mind, heart, and eye, and our sensations, by no means, consist entirely of form, color, and design.” (More…)

I know I post this almost every year on Hopper’s birthday, but there is good reason…

Edward Hopper: Nighthawks, 1942 - oil on canvas (Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois)

Hopper was notoriously reticent when interviewed - to wit:

O’Doherty: “Are your paintings reflective of the isolation of modern life?”
Hopper: “It may be true. It may not be true.”

O’Doherty: “What draws you to the dark landscapes you paint?”
Hopper: “I suppose it’s just me.” (Source)


Alexander ‘Sandy’ Calder, the great innovator of the mobile as an art form, was born July 22, 1898 (d. 1976)…

When Calder (1898–1976), arrived in Paris in 1926, he aspired to be a painter; when he left in 1933, he had evolved into the artist we know today: an international figure and defining force in twentieth-century sculpture.

Photo: Marc Vaux, 1931

Alexander Calder: Kiki de Montparnasse (III), 1930 - wire (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris)

Alexander Calder: Aluminum Leaves, Red Post, 1941 - Sheet metal, wire and paint (Private Collection, California)

July 22, 1933 – Wiley Post, the one-eyed aviator, became the first person to fly solo around the world, traveling 15,596 miles (25,099 km) in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes…

Photo of Wiley and his Lockheed Vega 5B “Winnie Mae of Oklahoma”, before embarking on his record-breaking solo circumnavigation, July 15th, 1933. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


July 22, 1894 – The first ever motorized racing event was held in France between the cities of Paris and Rouen. The race was won by Comte Jules-Albert de Dion, but his steam driven car needed a stoker and therefore he was disqualified and first prize was awarded to the runner-up…

Above: Vanity Fair caricature of de Dion, 1899, entitled “Automobile”


Paul Schrader (b. July 22, 1946) is an American film director and screenwriter. I think his best work is found in the screenplays he did for Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, both of which were filmed by Scorsese…

Irreverent novelist Tom Robbins is 75 today! His novels, such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, read like Pynchon without the paranoia, but with more drugs and laughs…

“The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens — but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it’s love and love alone that really matters.” — Tom Robbins

Photo of Robbins w. friends during his stint as a copy writer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1972


Carl Sandburg, honest American poet - died this day in 1967, aged 89…

“Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what was seen during a moment.” — Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg: Under the Harvest Moon (Poetry - A Magazine of Verse, Oct. 1915)

Willem Dafoe is an actor who is very well in touch with the dark side - 56 today!

Photo: Mark Abrahams


Stanley Kubrick, July 26, 1928 - 1999, one of the best (and most demanding) directors ever…

Photo by Dmitri Kasterine, 1970 - digital print 2010 (NPG, London)

Kubrick stills:

James Mason in Lolita, 1962

Kubrick stills:

Peter Sellars in Dr. Strangelove, 1964

Kubrick stills:

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, 1971

Kubrick stills:

Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut, 1981

Kubrick stills:

Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, 1960


Carl Gustav Jung (July 26, 1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology…

Jung had a dream:

One summer day when Carl Jung was a 12 year old schoolboy in Basel, Switzerland, he fell to admiring the cathedral in the town square. In his autobiography called “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” he recalls his train of thought:

The sky was gloriously blue, the day one of radiant sunshine. The roof of the cathedral glittered, the sun sparkling from the new, brightly glazed tiles. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight, and thought: “the world is beautiful and the church is beautiful, and God made all this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne and …” Here came a great hole in my thoughts, and a choking sensation. I felt numbed, and knew only: “Don’t go on thinking now! Something terrible is coming…”

He was completely panicked and dared not finish the thought. He agonized over it for days, having trouble sleeping and feeling tormented, trying so hard to not finish the thought. In the middle of the night of the third day, he finally decided that “It must be thought out before hand.” So he went through a long process of thinking why he should not think “that thought”. His rationalized reasoning went on for three pages! Now remember, this is a 12 year old boy. Carl finally decided it would be okay with God for him to finish, saying “Obviously, God also desires me to show courage. If that is so and I go through with it, then He will give me His grace and illumination.”

Jung continues, “I gathered all my courage as though I were about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky, God sits on His golden throne, high above the world — and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder.”

Even as a boy, Jung found the scatalogical image redemptive. “I felt an enormous, indescribable relief. Instead of the expected damnation, grace had come upon me… I wept for happiness and gratitude.”

From the start, Jung understood this newfound connection to the deity to be different in kind from anything he’d been offered by his own church. Jung’s father was a Protestant minister but one, we gather from Jung, for whom the church had become lifeless. As a child he thought his father was reliable but powerless, and after his epiphany, he says, “a great many things I had not understood became clear to me. That was what my father had not understood, I thought; he had failed to experience the will of God, had opposed it for the best reasons and out of the deepest faith. And that is why he had never experienced the miracle of grace.”



Aldous Huxley, English novelist and essayist, was born July 26, 1894 (d. 1963). Huxley’s modern fame rests on his dystopian novel Brave New World (Shakespeare quote, natch) and on his acid dropping account The Doors of Perception

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” — Aldous Huxley

Photo by Dorothy Wilding, 1930 - chlorobromide print on tissue and card mount (NPG, London)


Antonio Machado, Spanish poet (July 26, 1975 - 1939) and one of the leading figures of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of ‘98, is known for one poem in particular, The Wanderer (Caminante)…

Wanderer, your footsteps are

the road, and nothing more;

wanderer, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

By walking one makes the road,

and upon glancing behind

one sees the path

that never will be trod again.

Wanderer, there is no road—

Only wakes upon the sea.


Caminante, son tus huellas

el camino, y nada más;

caminante, no hay camino,

se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino,

y al volver la vista atrás

se ve la senda que nunca

se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante, no hay camino,

sino estelas en la mar.


George Bernard Shaw, the eminent Irish playwright, is the only person to have been awarded both the Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion, respectively.

Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honors, but accepted it at his wife’s behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of Swedish books to English…

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw

Photo by Frederick Henry Evans, 1896 - platinum print (NPG, London)


Diane Arbus, 1921 - July 26, 1971…

Photograph: Roz Kelly/Getty Images, 1968

Diane Arbus, American photographer specializing in capturing Otherness - died this day in 1971, aged 48, by suicide…

Above: Double self-portrait w. her daughter Doon, 1945

Diane Arbus: Mia Farrow, age 17…

André Maurois (July 26, 1885 - 1967) was an eminent French author, known for his biographical works, both fictional and factual…

“We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity – gunpowder and romantic love.” — André Maurois


Gertrude Stein, American ex-pat writer - died this day in 1946, aged 72, from stomach cancer…

“Eating and sleeping are not like loving and breathing. Washing is not like eating and sleeping. Believing is like breathing and loving. Religion can be believing, it can be like breathing, it can be like loving, it can be like eating or sleeping, it can be like washing, it can be something to fill up a place when someone has lost out of them a piece that it was not natural for them to have in them.” — Gertrude Stein (The Making of Americans)

Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Carl Van Vechten, January 4, 1935


Today’s big art birthday: Marcel Duchamp, July 28, 1887 (d. 1968), French artist associated with Dada and Surrealism, and a huge enabler and influence for several generations of artists that followed. Duchamp moved the conception of art and its boundaries more than any other 20th C. figure…

Solarized portrait photo by Man Ray, 1930

Victor Obsatz: Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, 1953 - gelatin silver print (Moeller Fine Art / New York & Berlin)

In March 1953, the Greenwich Village gallery owner Michael Freilich (RoKo Gallery) asked 28 year-old Victor Obsatz to photograph Marcel Duchamp in his apartment on West 14th Street. The resulting double-exposure print pleased Duchamp very much, as he chose it especially for the front and back covers of Robert Lebel’s 1959 catalogue raisonné.

Marcel Duchamp: With Hidden Noise, 1916 - mixed media

On Easter Day in 1916, the artist Marcel Duchamp gave his friend Walter Arensberg a ball of nautical twine and asked Arensberg to insert an object into the center of the ball. Duchamp asked Arensberg not to tell him what was in the center of his own artwork. He sandwiched the ball between two brass plates held together by four screws, and titled the sculpture With Hidden Noise because when you shake it, the secret contents make a rattling sound.

Florine Stettheimer: Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, 1925 - oil on canvas (Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts)

Marcel Duchamp: A propos de jeune soeur (Apropos of Little Sister) - Oil on canvas, 1911

Stanley Kunitz was an American poet, twice Poet Laureate, born July 29, 1905. He died at the age of 100, in 2006…

Stanley Kunitz: The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

(Photo: Chris Felver)


Clara Bow, the ‘It girl’ - American silent film actress - July 29, 1905 - 65…

July 29, 1948 was the opening day of the London Olympic Games, the first to be held after the end of WW II (the previous Games had been held in Berlin in 1936)…

Today is the birthday of the great English sculptor, Henry Moore (July 30, 1898 - 1986). He is best known for his abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art.

Henry Moore, w. a version of: Reclining Figure, 1929

Henry Moore: Reclining Figure, 1929 (Leeds Museums and Galleries)

Henry Moore: Hill Arches, 1978 - in front of the Karlskirche in Vienna…

Michelangelo Antonioni, Italian film director - died, aged 94, on this day in 2007, same as Ingmar Bergman…

Still from Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte, 1961 - Monica Vitti

One more Monica Vitti…

Ingmar Bergman, Swedish film director - died peacefully in his sleep on this day in 2007, aged 89…

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” — Ingmar Bergman

Still from Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, 1966 - Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann

Alexander Trocchi (July 30, 1925 – 1984) was a Scottish Beat-style novelist of the 1950s…

“No doubt I shall go on writing, stumbling across tundras of unmeaning, planting words like bloody flags in my wake. Loose ends, things unrelated, shifts, nightmare journeys, cities arrived at and left, meetings, desertions, betrayals, all manner of unions, adulteries, triumphs, defeats… these are the facts.”

One of Alexander Trocchi’s books, Cain’s Book, is “Just slightly less graphic than Henry Miller…”

Alex Trocchi was, for a while, a member of The Situationist International - along with theorist Guy Debord and Danish COBRA artist, Asger Jorn…


July 31, 1919 was the birthday of Jewish-Italian chemist and author Primo Levi who survived Auschwitz and wrote about it immediately after WW II in his memoir If This is a Man. Levi wrote a few other literary works in his life time, including a sequence of short stories inspired by the elements, collected in The Periodic Table. In 1987 he died following a fall from the landing outside his third floor apartment. Biographers disagree on whether this was an act of suicide or an accident…

“Even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last — the power to refuse our consent.” — Primo Levi (Survival in Auschwitz)

Photo of Levi in the lab…


Jean Dubuffet was a French artist (July 31, 1901 - 1985), who aimed to create an art free from intellectual concerns (what he termed as Art Brut, inspired by the art of mental patients), and his work often appears primitive and child-like. One of his specialties was moo-cows…

Photo: Arnold Newman, 1956

Jean Dubuffet: Spotted Cow, 1954 - oil on canvas


Cow with the Beautiful Muzzle
Soft and unwrinkled, all of her. Just mottled, tipped with pink, white, and brown. A cocoa-color, really, and a bit of tangerine. She lifted her muzzle to greet us, chew and nod.

Mottled Cow
Same cow, different view. Today everything else might change.

— from Diane Wald: Improvisations on Titles by Jean Dubuffet (Mudlark, No. 10, 1998)

Jean Dubuffet: La belle encornée, 1954


Naphtha by Frank O’Hara

Ah Jean Dubuffet
when you think of him
doing his military service in the Eiffel Tower
as a meteorologist
in 1922
you know how wonderful the 20th Century
can be
and the gaited Iroquois on the girders
fierce and unflinching-footed
nude as they should be
slightly empty
like a Sonia Delaunay
there is a parable of speed
somewhere behind the Indians’ eyes
they invented the century with their horses
and their fragile backs
which are dark

we owe a debt to the Iroquois
and to Duke Ellington
for playing in the buildings when they are built
we don’t do much ourselves
but fuck and think
of the haunting Métro
and the one who didn’t show up there
while we were waiting to become part of our century
just as you can’t make a hat out of steel
and still wear it
who wears hats anyway
it is our tribe’s custom
to beguile

how are you feeling in ancient September
I am feeling like a truck on a wet highway
how can you
you were made in the image of god
I was not
I was made in the image of a sissy truck-driver
and Jean Dubuffet painting his cows
“with a likeness burst in the memory”
apart from love (don’t say it)
I am ashamed of my century
for being so entertaining
but I have to smile


July 31, 1954 – First successsful ascent of K2 is made, by an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio…

Photo: K2 from the east, photographed during the unsuccessful Italian 1909 expedition, led by Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi who also took the photo…


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