Rodchenko, artist

I recently saw a cover of The Economist where use had been made of a design by the Russian artist Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956).  It recalled the era after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 when, amidst the ideological whirlwinds, there was a surge of creative activity as has seldom been seen before or since.

 

Rodchenko’s propaganda poster, 1920s. Was the model his wife Varvara?l

In film it was Eisenstein.  In theatre it was Meyerhold.  In music it was Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  In painting, graphics, sculpture and photography it was Rodchenko.  The pity of it was that many political leaders, especially Stalin, did not have time for art that was not obviously in line with the dominating ideology.

“Dance”, Rodchenko, 1915

Rodchenko was not only a multi-talented artist, he was also an iconoclastic theorist in the spirit of Modernism, believing that he should work “against art” to produce an aesthetic that breaks from all tradition.

Rodchenko’s poster for the Russian film Battleship Potemptkin

If we consider what he achieved, we search with  difficulty or in vain for another artist as versatile, pursuing any and every medium as he did, with startling creativity.

His partner Varvara Stepnova was herself a remarkable talent.  That would be a subject for another day.

Rodchenko, 1935

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2019

 

Source

Wikipedia Alexander Rodchenko

 

Images

The Economist

artsy.net

wikipedia

postercrazy.com

fineartamerica.com

theartstory.org

alarmy

pinterest.com

 

 

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The legend of the hermit, Cap d’Antibes

We can sneer at legend, we moderns.  Myths are jokes.  Give us facts, we say.  But we lose a treasure beyond reckoning.  We serve ourselves, our minds, our souls, by sensing the meaning below the obvious.

In the 4th-century, years after Christianity gained status in the Mediterranean world (see Edict of Milan 313 a.d.), the mother of Constantine the Great, Helena, who had been canonized, paid a visit to the then-Antipolis, now Antibes.  She wanted to encourage the new Christian communities and called for an oratory to be built on the Cap d’Antibes.  She especially wanted it constructed on the ruins of the temple where the Greeks had revered Artemis, where the Romans had invoked their pagan goddesses.   The modest structure was erected and served the community of sailors in Antibes.

Towards the end of the millennium, it was decided that the oratory would be dedicated to the Virgin and not to Saint Helena, as it had been, as much as she was respected.  This happened in the time when Mariology was rising in the church.

At that time there was a pious hermit who lived among the shrubs where he had built a shelter near the oratory.  A statue of the Virgin had been installed there and the hermit spent his days and much of his nights in solemn prayer at the foot of this statue.  The safety of sailors was his deep concern.

One winters night, the archive tells us, the wind, roaring violently, the rain falling in torrents mingling its resounding bursts with the roar of the angry sea, the thunder threw fear into the whole upsidedown world.

The hermit ran to the oratory and bursting through the door, saw that the niche was empty.  The statue had gone.

His shock and horror brought on painful lamentations.

Suddenly the door of the oratory swung open and the hermit felt, the archive says, “the crease of the robe.”

“Oh, my Mother,” he exclaimed, “where are you?”

“I have returned,” came the voice, “from the high sea to aid a ship which summoned my help.  I saved the whole crew, with the exception of the Captain who blasphemed the name of my Son.”  The figure, the archive reports, was wet with rain, from head to toe.

The next day the sailors, rescued from the wreckage, climbed the steep road to the oratory to express gratitude to the Virgin for her protection.  At the height of the storm, she had hovered over the water; she was there until the waves were calmed.  They had seen her … !

From this legend traditional festivals grew in the church at Antibes. On the Cap d’Antibes there is Chapelle Garoupe, a Provencal name for the shrub that grows there.  This church still serves the community of sailors and, on a visit, I was moved to see the niche where sailors that have been saved from the sea in a variety of circumstances, as well as those sailors who have lost their lives, are recorded.

This is the façade of the Chapelle Garoupe, believed by some to be the site of the original oratory.

Tiles depicting St Helena, at Chapelle Garoupe.  At the bottom left hand corner is an image of the iconic view of Antibes.  Tradition has it that, in the Holy Land, St Helena was the one to find the True Cross which she brought to Rome in 327.  The roses show the deep affection for her memory.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2019

 

Source

Pierre Tosan (ed.):  Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins.  Hepta, Antibes. 1998.

 

Images

My drawings

My photographs

 

Note

The historical records tell us that St Helena visited Rome in 327.  We can estimate that Antipolis would have been two days by boat from Rome.

The Cross at Chapelle Garoupe, overlooking the view of Antibes

 

See also,

Destruction of sacred places, 01.09.2018

 

 

 

The Buddha smiles

The figure of the Buddha smiling or even laughing is well known and I saw several in Korea.  We understand it in terms of the two parts of Buddha’s life — that which happens before his enlightenment and that which happens after.  The first part is characterized by a searching intensity and the denial of a bodily existence.  So thin was he, the legend says, that, when he sat in dust, he left the mark of a camel’s hoof.

The emaciated Buddha under the Bo-Tree

After the enlightenment the image of the Buddha changes — mostly the visage is strong and peaceful, and it is noticeable how many images there are of exuberant enjoyment of life:  the smile and laughter from the gut.  And the happily-fat, flourishing paunch.

One wonders about the strangeness of this in a Christian context.  Yet there are two images that we know of where Christ is on the cross and smiling.  One, I heard, is in Switzerland and the other I was privileged to see in the Cathedral of St Honorat on the Island of Lerins, near Cannes, one of the earliest monasteries in Europe.  It has been said that this rare smile has to do with the resurrection.

Christ Souriant, St Honorat

In the case of the Buddha it has to do with joie de vivre, the belief that body and soul are one and that the spiritual life has lust for living.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2019

 

Images

My photographs

Christ souriant – source lost  

                                              This image is in my study in Somerset West, Western Cape

 

Guy de Maupassant, writer

It remains interesting — to walk where they walked, to see what they saw, they of whom the books speak, they who wrote some of those books.  In this case it is Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), the French writer, seen by many as the father of the modern short story.  His fame and influence are vast.

In his short life he published more than 300 stories, six novels and three travel journals.  The likes of Nietzsche and Tolstoy sang his praises.  He had an income that allowed him to purchase a yacht and he travelled widely.  Antibes, where his brother lived, was one of his favourite haunts.  But it is here, or close to Antibes, in Cannes, where the tragedy happened.

Les Remparts with its “horns”, Antibes

In the Dictionnaire of Antibes, it is said that the report of the “terrible night” came from his sailor, Bernard, who could not relate the story without tears.  With him was François, the valet, who is described as a trustworthy man.  It must soon have been clear to them that, in spite of his great talent and ability to produce, de Maupassant was a severely depressed man.  One source says he was suffering from syphilis; another has it as neuralgia.  In an attempt to improve things, he used drugs which did not really help him.

On the “terrible night”, the 2nd January, 1892, he seized his revolver, held it to his head and pulled the trigger … once, twice, three times.  The firearm was empty.  Probably because he had sensed something, François had removed the bullets.  This did not stop de Maupassant.  He grabbed his razor and tried to cut his throat.  Then, as often happens, the stricken man, bloodied and screaming, called for help.  They saved him, but his ability to write had left him, something he had felt coming for some time.  He was then sent to a sanatorium in Paris where he died eighteen months later.  He was forty-two.

About Antibes he wrote, “I have not seen anything as unusual, as beautiful … This small town that attacks the open sea, in the middle of the Great Bay of Nice.  A giant wave crashes over the feet of the Ramparts, breaking into flowery froth; and we could see the houses clambering on one other up to the two towers  against the light, like horns on an ancient helmet …”

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2019

 

Sources

Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins, ed. Pierre Tosan.  Hepta, Antibes. 1998.

Wikipedia Guy de Maupassant

 

Images

Wikipedia Guy de Maupassant

Antibes – Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. Editions A.R.T. 1991.

 

 This is the Cap d’Antibes.  If you pinpoint the centre of the image and you move left, you reach Juan-Les-Pins, the neighbouring town to Antibes. There a street is named after De Maupassant.  If you move to the right you reach the bay featured in the image above.  The mountains are the Pre-Alps.  

 

 

 

Avenue des Dames Blanches

It is said that the world we travel is not made of atoms, but of stories.  What is nice for me is that our creative stuff gets mixed up with the facts.

You see the name of a street and you wonder how on earth did they arrive at that name.  Refer, for example to Kromelbow Lane in the centre of Cape Town.  Less dramatic or absurd is the name Avenue des Dames Blanches (Avenue of the white ladies) which I came upon in my ramblings.

In South Africa a name like this would be experienced in a specific way and there would be interesting speculation about it.

Here in Antibes the facts in the archive are few, if teasing.

This street (avenue), previously private, was named after two ladies who lived there.  Each day, winter or summer, they would dress in white. “From head to toe”, the archive tells us:  hat, jacket, belt, dress and shoes.  The “private” might have had something to do with the fact that the street was a gravel road and did not have cobblestones like the more established part of the town.  They don’t tell us when these ladies lived here.  It could have been two centuries ago;  it could have been five centuries ago.  This is an old town.

The archive tells us that they “were not sisters”.  Does this mean “not from the same family, blood-related”?  Or does it mean that they were not nuns?

Their names were Marthe and Henriette.  No surnames are given.  We know that they worked on the Cape of Antibes at the Chateau des Enfants with children.  The person in charge was one Mister Davidson, an English name sticking out like a sore thumb.  

What was the story?  Were they associated with some cloister?  Was the white garb (even white shoes!) aimed at gaining respect from people?  If this behaviour created superstitious chatter that was probably part of the strategy.  Was the white clothing a kind of armour in a world that did not show much respect for women, where women were often abused?  There is in Europe a long and disturbing history of summary executions of “witches” by hysterical mobs.  Yes, white clothing, a radiant statement, is a universal symbol of purity.

Ah, Marthe, Henriette … who were you?  I see you … an image of striking white moving through a backdrop of sepia.  You pass the peeping, leering eyes, with words to each other that no one else ever heard.

I stand on the sidewalk of the street.  People pass to and fro, each in his own weather.  Cars murmur by.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2019

 

Source

Pierre Tosan : Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins.  Hepta, Antibes, 1998.

 

Images

My photographs

My drawings

 

See too,

Two street names, 24.7.2017

Two street names, Antibes, 28.4.2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach front, Nice

The beach front of this city calls me to pause …

… to take in the vastness of sea near the smallness of things …

 

It’s the sun on the water, the sea clashing swords with the sun, as the poet says …

The morning light makes shadows …

 

The morning light makes silhouettes …

And sihouettes …

The artist leaves his sardonic comment about what’s important …

Another artist makes me look up

 

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2019

 

My photographs

ISADORA

My thoughts on Isadora Duncan are not linear or logical.  And if words about her arrive they are words that march, that shout, gyrate and weep as they celebrate the ecstasy of her dance.  Her dance, they say, had an etherial beauty, stabbed by surprise.  For Nietzsche she would have been the goddess that dances.  A goddess of dance that became primitive to make a flowing poetry.

Her dance struck people everywhere, but as often happens, hardly in America, the country of her birth.  In Europe, audiences stared.  She was unbelievable.  Elegant and raw, a dancer that was more than a dancer with movements that grieved the tragic death of her two children, that celebrated her love for the Russian poet, that praised the great Social Answer to human inequality.  These were the first years after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Her dancing would separate her from the poet.  He would end his own life and she would seek solace in the South of France.  From the window of the Hôtel Bella Vista in Nice she could look on the intense azure of the Bay of Angels.  And she would continue to dance.  Young dancers stared, voiceless.

 

But the gods were jealous.  On the 3rd September, 1927, they cruelly snatched her from life.  She died in a freak accident when her long scarf, magnificently painted by a Russian artist, wrapped around her neck like a snake, caught in the spokes of a Bugatti-coupé and strangled her.  That elegance should end like that …  But did it end?  Does that spirit not dance in every wild rhythmic movement, in the burst of every dance?

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2019

 

Images

Amazon.com

The guardian.com

Source lost 

Source lost

Timelinecostumes.com

My drawing

Babello.com

 

See also,

Suzy Solidor  20.3.2013

La Belle Otero  17.7.2017

 

 

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