Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gustav-Adolf Mossa (1883-1971)

Les Mortes (The Dead Women) -1906

Gustav-Adolf Mossa was born in Nice, the son of Alexis Mossa (1844-1926), himself an artist of numerous posters for the Nice Carnaval at the end of the 19th century.

Influenced by his father, Gustav-Adolf began painting in 1903, drawing his inspiration from the Quattrocento of the early Renaissance in Italy, the Pre-Raphaelites in England and Art Nouveau movement in France. Then, after 15 years of intense creativity, he suddenly abandoned painting completely, with most of his paintings only coming to light after his death.

A collection of 38 of his humorous and often decadent works are on display at Nice's Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Dalila s'amuse (Delilah amuses herself) - 1905

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

Rue de Paris temps de pluie -  Rainy Day in Paris (1877)

Gustave Caillebotte was a man of substance, in addition to being a great artist. 

Born into an upper class Parisian family, he had both wealth and high standing, inheriting the family textile business, as well as practising law and even serving as a judge. He was a qualified engineer, and as a soldier campaigned in the ill-fated Franco-Prussian war which led to the collapse of the Second Empire and the creation of the Third Republic in 1870.

He began painting after the war, and in 1876 became an active member in the ranks of the impressionists, contributing as an artist, but also as a patron, due to his personal wealth.

In 1877 Caillebotte painted his Jour de pluie à Paris, a charming street scene on the Place de Dublin, not far from the Place de Clichy and the Gare St. Lazare train station. The painting became one of the main attractions at the Third Impressionist Exhibition in Paris.

His other works include a quasi-photographic picture of a young man standing at a window. The location this time is the family residence from 1868 to 1879 on the corner of the Rue de Lisbonne, and the young man is the artist's brother. But the painting was too realistic for Emile Zola, who regarded it as anti-artistic and bourgeois, believing that reality 'which is not enhanced with the original imprint of artistic talent, is a pitiable thing'. Despite being a great writer and a friend of many artists, Zola also has the uncanny knack of annoying one or two - Paul Cézanne in particular!

C'est la vie, quoi !

Jeune homme à la fenêtre (1875)

Monday, 23 January 2012

Aberrant Apostrophe (aka Greengrocer's Apostrophe aka Little Flying Commas)

Those naughty greengrocer's.... erm, sorry, greengrocers

Thou whoreson apostrophe! Thou unnecessary punctuation!
[With apologies to Shakespeare]

Until his death in 2009, English novelist and newspaper columnist Keith Waterhouse fought a never-ending battle against the use of the aberrant apostrophe, spreading through common English usage like an outbreak of flu.

The usage consists of placing an apostrophe in a substantive noun or number with the aim of making it into a plural. Thus we see 1960's used to mean Nineteen Sixties, rather than the correct 1960s.

The use of this rough punctuation began among immigrant workers in Liverpool for whom English was an acquired language, and is also known as the greengrocer's apostrophe as it is often seen on fruit and vegetables e.g. Apple's, Pear's, Banana's.

As self appointed Life President of the Association for the Annihilation of the Aberrant Apostrophe (AAAA) Keith Waterhouse hated the usage and claimed to have had an apostrophe incinerator in his back garden. While another advocate of its abolition, Lynne Truss, wrote in her bestseller Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Book to Punctuation - 'If you still persist in writing "Good food at it's best", you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave'. 

Other annoying grammatical gaffs and howlers are the use of the replacement of the possessive pronoun your with the peripatetic apostrophe you're; and the confusion of its and it's, the first the possessive of it, the second the abbreviation of it is

And should it Charles' birthday or Charles's birthday?

Comments (or comment's if you're a greengrocer) welcome.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Louis Daguerre, Queen Victoria, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, The Beatles. Boulevard du Temple, Abbey Road, #womanontheleft, Hugh Grant and the year of the world elsewhere 1838

Boulevard du Temple (1838) by Louis Daguerre

The year 1838 was - in some ways - a good year. In England Queen Victoria's penny-pinching coronation took place, and the paddle steamer SS Great Western, built by the magnificently named Isambard Kingdom Brunel, made its inaugural transatlantic crossing in just 15 days. In the same year a London pedestrian walked backwards for 20 miles, and then forwards for 20 miles, in order to prove (perhaps) the impossibility of him not doing so (or because he was a loony). Meanwhile, a stone's throw away in the French capital, Louis Daguerre pointed his daguerreotype invention at the Boulevard du Temple in the 3rd arrondisement, and in a space of ten minutes (the length of the exposure), made one of the modern world's most memorable images, comparable with the Beatles on Abbey Road, and #womanontheleft ogling Hugh John Mungo Grant and  smiling kittenishly at the name Mungo. (Controversial - and pathetic comparisons, for which grovelling apologies!!!)

Daguerre's image is probably the first photograph to include living humans. No moving traffic has been captured, due to the long exposure, but look closely and you can see a man having his shoes shined, and another man sitting on a bench reading a newspaper. Remember, too, that it's all the wrong way round, as the daguerreotype saw everything inverted. 

So there you go....

Thursday, 19 January 2012

666: the Number of the Beast; and other sacred numbers.

Angel of the Revelation by Alonso Cano

WARNING! This posting contains religious content.

In ancient times, when the gods were seen as a vital influence in human affairs, and when inexplicable natural phenomena were considered for their psychic effect on the population, there existed a literary canon of sacred numbers of which 666 and 1080 were the most prominent.

These numbers each had a correspondence within the canon, the number 1080 corresponding with the Moon, the intuition, the unconscious mind and the female aspect, and its opposition, the number 666, corresponding with the Sun, the intellect and the will, and the generative power of the male. (On its own the number 6 corresponded with the cosmos,)

666, however, is also the number in Revelation, the apocalyptic work of St. John the Divine, and the cause of much embarrassment to the Catholic Church, by its inclusion, at the insistence of gnostic heretics, in the scriptural canon.

Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three-score and six.

Much speculation has been made by scholars and fanatics in an effort to identify the 'beast', each putting forward his own candidate and his own solution to the enigma.

The second century Bishop of Lyon, St. Irenaeus, began the fashion when he proposed TEITAN, an archaic solar diety, and LATEINOS, a word meaning 'the Latin'. His method of inquiry lay in gematria, the science of relating numbers to words whereby each letter has a numerical correspondence to any given lexicon. By calculating thus the numerical value of component letters making up a word or phrase, the numerical sum may be used to communicate a message which is deemed too subtle for direct translation.

Following the example of Irenaeus, interpretations of 666 by gematria flourished, and in the 18th century a group of protestant theologians proposed the number referred to the POPE. There is indeed a phrase: "I am God on earth", which, when calculated in the Greek, gives 666. Also "the Pope of Rome" has the number of the beast, the latter favoured by Lord Napier, the Scottish inventor of logarithms. 

Of course in our own secular age, in which prophesy and revelation are frowned upon, it is perhaps not surprising that apocalyptic interpretors should suggest that the numbers refers not to the Pope but to the ROMAN EMPEROR NERO, since "Neron Caesar" in the Hebrew letters also has the value of 666.

In Revelation St. John refers to two beasts, the First Beast 'whose deadly wound was healed', and the Second Beast that 'causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast... saying that they should make an image of the beast, which has the wound by the sword, and did live'. To some this refers to the wounded and crucified man, set up as an idol of compulsory worship and used as an instrument of tyranny. The gematria evidence is found is St. John's phrase "an image of the beast", which in the Greek gives 2260, the number belonging to the ANTICHRIST and the SON OF MAN. 

In defence, it should be said that all hierarchies need an element of 666, since it relates to the masculine aspect and is therefore a symbol of strength and materialism. But the aim of good authority should be to balance the various demands made it upon, which would mean tempering 666 with the feminine influence of 1080. This is demonstrated by adding together the two numbers to give 1746, the number of "the grain of mustard seed", which is the symbol of cosmic unity in which all is possible.

But finally maybe it's all just playing with numbers. As was once humorously pointed out, if English letters are given numbers where A = 100, B = 101, C = 102, etc., the number of HITLER is 666.

Monday, 16 January 2012

BREAKING NEWS! Great Fire Sweeps Across London! Prominent citizen Mr Samuel Pepys gives an eyewitness account of the dreadful conflagration.

The Great Fire of London of 1666 by an unknown artist

- Breaking news on this Lord’s Day, the second of September, 1666. In the early hours of the morning, in the Blackfriars district of the capital, not far from the Tower, a great fire broke out, and even as we speak is raging out of control, devouring everything that lies in its path. Not far from the epicentre of the tragedy, from his house in Seething Lane, the whole sad drama was witnessed by Senior Admiralty Official, Mr Samuel Pepys, who joins us now. Tell us what you saw, Sam? I believe it was your maid Jane who alerted to you to the terrible conflagration?

- Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose and slipped on my nightgowne, and went to her window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest; but being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again…

- (laughs) You went to bed again? Sam, are you telling us you went to be again? What happened next?

- About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. ….. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down Fish-street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places ….. and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge….

- So it was already an inferno? What did you do then?

- So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire.

- And what about the poor citizenry caught up in the fire? I image they were struggling to save whatever they could?

- Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into the lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into the boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.

- Poor pigeons. Could you tell which direction the fire was moving in?

- Having staid, and in an hour’s time see the fire rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City, and every thing, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches….

- I believe you were the first to inform His Majesty and his brother the Duke of York of the terrible event? How did they react?

- They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor from him, and command him to spare no houses, but to pull down before the fire every way. The Duke of York bid me tell him he would have more soldiers he shall…

- So we went to Sir Thomas Bludworth, the Lord Mayor? How did you find him?

- Like a man spent, with a handkercher about his neck. To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman, “Lord! what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it.” That he needed no more soldiers; and that, for himself, he must go and refresh himself, having been up all night. So he left me, and I him, and walked home, seeing people all almost distracted, and no manner or means used to quench the fire. And houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tarr, in Thames-street, and warehouses of oyle, and wines, and brandy, and other things.

- Was the King still being appraised of the situation as it developed? Did you meet with him again? Did he have any new orders?

- Met with the King and Duke of York in their barge, and with them to Queenhith and there called Sir Richard Browne to them. Their order was only to pull down houses apace, and so below river the water-side; but little was or could be done, the fire coming upon them so fast. Good hopes there was of stopping it at the Three Cranes above, and at Buttolph’s Wharf below bridge, if care be used; but the wind carries it into the City so as we know not by the water-side what it do there.

- Indeed, a terrible tragedy. I believe you’ve seen it once more from the river, with your wife? Can you describe what you saw?

- All over the Thames, with one’s face to the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of firedrops. This is very true; so as houses were burned by these drops and flakes of fire, three or four, nay, five or six houses, one from another. When we could endure no more upon the water; to a little ale-house on the Bankside, over against the Three Cranes, and there staid till it was dark almost, and saw the fire grow; and as it grew darker, appeared more and more, and in corners and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the hill of  the City, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of the ordinary fire. …. And a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruins. So home with a sad heart….

- A sad heart for all Londoners, Sam. We’ll take a break now, and we’ll be back with more breaking news on the fire. And as the fad for periwigs continues to sweep across Europe, we’ll be asking the all important question: Should a gentleman have his hair cropped to wear this latest indispensable head adornment? Stay with us…..

Citations from Samuel Pepys’s Diary 2 September 1666.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Théodore Géricault - The Raft of the Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse)

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault

1815 and Louis XVIII is installed once more on the French throne following the final abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the same year, as part of the peace settlement with Great Britain, the West African country of Senegal is returned to French colonial rule. 

June 1816, the French naval frigate Méduse, a four-mast frigate, sets sail for the Senegalese port of Saint-Louis. Aboard is the colony's new governor, Colonel Schmaltz, together with his family and more than 400 passengers. Three other naval vessels accompany the Méduse, the whole flotilla under the command of one Duroy de Chaumarey, an inexperienced officer who has not navigated for over 20 years. 

The Méduse is the fastest and most modern vessel in the French naval fleet. Very quickly it outpaces two of the accompanying vessels. Only the Echo, a corvette, remains in touch. Then, on the night of the 1st to the 2nd of July, the Echo signals the Médusa by lantern to warn that they are too close to the shore. The officer on the Médusa who sees the signals either does not understand them, or refuses to believe them. On 2 July, at 4 p.m., the ship runs aground, 60 miles from the shore. It has only six life boats.

Attempts to free the frigate end in failure. On 5 July the order is given to abandon ship. 223 officers and dignitaries, including the governor and his family, make themselves comfortable in the life boats, and 149 of the crew and passengers squeeze onto a raft constructed in haste the night before. Through lack of space, 17 persons are abandoned on the Médusa, of which three are found alive and half mad 52 days later.

The raft endures two consecutive days of storms. Several men are swept into the sea. Seven soldiers, in utter despair, want to destroy the raft. Fights break out and the mutineers are thrown into the sea. On the third day the survivors begin eating the dead. More die and are cast overboard. By the seventh day, those injured with no chance of survival are likewise consigned to the deep. On the tenth day, several attempt suicide. Then, on the thirteenth day, a boat appears on the horizon. The vessel, the Argus, almost doesn't see them. It finally picks up the remaining survivors, reduced in number from 149 to just 15.

********** ********** **********

Théodore Géricault painted his picture in 1818-1819, just 2-3 years after the disaster. It is a large canvas measuring 491 cms x 716 cm (193.3 in x 282.3 in). It was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1819 where it produced mixed impressions from the critics, some finding it distasteful, others praising it for its boldness and modernity. In 1820 the painting was exhibited in London, where it received more positive praise, and where it was seen by around 40,000 visitors. After the artist's death in 1824, the work was purchased by the Louvre in Paris, where it now resides.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pont des Arts, Paris

The Institut de France overlooking the Pont des Arts

The Pont des Arts in the heart of Paris is a pedestrian bridge which connects the Institut de France, the home of the French Academy, with the courtyard of the Louvre palace. 

The original bridge was constructed between 1801-1804 and was the first metal bridge in the French capital. On the day of its inauguration 65,000 Parisians turned up to pay their 2 sous toll to use the bridge to cross the river.

Le Pont des Arts by André Kertész
In 1929 the Hungarian born photographer André Kertész, in one of his most startling pictures of Paris, photographed the bridge through the clock face of Institut de France. And during the Second World War the bridge was the clandestine meeting place of Jacques Lecompte-Boinet and members of the resistance movement known as Ceux de la Résistance (Those of the Resistance). It was here also that copies of publications of Editions de Minuit, the clandestine publisher founded by Jean Bruller, known as Vercros, were passed to Lecompte-Boinet for General de Gaulle.

In 1977 the bridge was closed after being deemed unsafe for public use due to damage it had received during the bombardments of the Second World War and numerous collisions of river boats. And in 1979 it collapsed after being hit by a barge. It was rebuilt in 1981 with seven arches in place of the original nine, and was inaugurated on 27 June 1984 by the then mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac.

Since 2008 the Pont des Arts has also became known for its Cadenas d'amour, or Locks of Love, whereby couples attach padlocks to the railings of the bridge, with names or initials, dates, and sometimes message of eternal love, inscribed on them. Between the 10th and 12th of May 2010 almost all of the locks were removed during the night, though the public authorities denied that they were behind it. The practice, which is believed to have began in Hungary in the 1980s, and is now spread throughout Europe, was quickly resumed, though the Paris municipality is searching for an alternative structure for the love-struck to hang their tokens on, in order, they say, to preserve the heritage of the bridge, which has been a national monument since 1975.

Padlocks of Love on the Pont des Arts

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Harry "Hipster" Gibson - Who's Going Steady With Who?

Harry "The Hipster" Gibson was a flamboyant singer-songwriter and pianist at his peak in the 1940s with his unusual and whacky songs, such as Get Your Juices at the Deuces; Handsome Harry the Hipster; Who put the Benzadrine in Mrs Murphy's Ovaltine; and our all-time favourite Who's Going Steady With Who?

So far as we know, the full lyrics of Who's Going Steady With Who? are not on the Internet. But now they are.....


     Now there's a funny situation in our neighbourhood
     I hope I'm able to make myself understood
     It's about the boys and girls down the avenue
     The question is Who's going steady with who?

     Well right now...
     I'm going steady with Betty
     And Betty's going steady with me
     Now Betty used to run around with little Eddie
     But Eddie broke her heart, you see.
     I was very shy with Vi
     Beside Eddie he was the apple of her eye
     And Betty's big brother Freddie
     He didn't like little Eddie
     Now Eddie's going steady with Vi
     He calls her Vee
     And Betty's going steady with me.

     Now I took Betty to a party just the other night
     Everybody there got to feeling kinda bright
     I looked around to see if Freddie was watching me
     But Freddie was holding hands with my sister Dee
     Dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee...

     Now my other sister Heddy
     She had an eye on Fred
     I was eyeing Vi and Betty had eyes for Ed
     Eddie was watching Dee 
     And oh gosh oh gee
     This is how it turned out to be...

     Now Freddie's going steady Heddy
     And Heddy is my sister, you see
     (Well I know that, I know that!)
     Long as Freddie kept running around with Heddy
     Well that was great for little Betty and me
     (I was doing all right with that kid)
     But Freddie had to fall in love with Nelly
     Nelly happens to be the sister of Ed
     So now Freddie's letting Betty go steady with Eddie
     Vi's going steady with Ted
     He calls her Vee
     And I's going steady
     Just getting ready
     I's going steady with me oh my
     I don't know what it's all about
     Tell me do you
     Who's going steady with who?
     (I don't know...)

The song is available in a live performance on compilation album Ice Cream on Toast 1937-47

Harry was also an accomplished boogie woogie and rock and roll pianist (even before rock and roll!) as he demonstrates in this YouTube video from the 1940s......