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19 December 2013

Redonda history

Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is a little history of the great Kingdom of Redonda.


The Kingdom of Redonda is the name for the micronation associated with the tiny uninhabited Caribbean island of Redonda.

The island lies between the islands of Nevis and Montserrat, within the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain, in the West Indies. Redonda is currently legally a dependency of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. The island is just over one mile long and a third of a mile wide, rising to a 971-foot peak. The island teems with bird life, but is more or less uninhabitable by humans because there is no source of freshwater other than rain, and most of the island is extremely steep and rocky, with only a relatively small, sloping plateau area of grassland at the summit.

Nonetheless, from 1865 until 1912 Redonda was the centre of a lucrative trade in guano mining, and many thousands of tons of phosphates were shipped from Redonda to Britain. The ruins associated with the mineworkings can still be seen on the island.
Redonda also is a micronation which may, arguably and briefly, have existed as an independent kingdom during the 19th century, according to an account told by the fantasy writer M.P. Shiel. The title to the supposed kingdom is still contested to this day in a half-serious fashion. The "Kingdom" is also often associated with a number of supposedly aristocratic members, whose titles are awarded by whomever is currently the "King". Currently there are a number of individuals in different countries who claim to be the sole legitimate "King" of Redonda.

History of the "Kingdom"

The history of the "Kingdom" of Redonda is shrouded in doubt and legend, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.

During Shiel's lifetime

M.P. Shiel (1865-1947), an author of works of adventure and fantasy fiction, was the first person to give an account of the "Kingdom of Redonda," in 1929, in a promotional pamphlet for a reissue of his books.

According to tradition, Shiel's father, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, who was a trader and Methodist lay preacher from the nearby island of Montserrat, claimed the island of Redonda when his son, Matthew Phipps Shiell, was born. Supposedly the father felt he could legitimately do this, because it appeared to be the case that no country had officially claimed the islet as territory. Shiell senior is also said to have requested the title of King of Redonda from Queen Victoria, and as legend has it, it was granted to him, by the British Colonial Office rather than by Victoria herself, provided there was no revolt against colonial power.

The son (originally named Matthew Phipps Shiell but later known as the writer M.P. Shiel) claimed he was crowned on Redonda at the age of 15, in 1880, by a bishop from Antigua. However, as M.P. Shiel's recounting of this story never saw print until 1929, it is possible that some, or most, or possibly all of the story of his being crowned King of Redonda may in fact be pure invention.

In his writings about Redonda, however, Shiel is critical of the egotism that led him to accept the title, suggesting that there was may have been some truth behind the coronation and the kingship. Shiel also gave differing names to the bishop who performed the coronation: the Reverend Dr Mitchinson and the Rev. Hugh Semper.[4] These men were both genuine clerics in the Caribbean during this period. The contradiction could be explained as due to Shiel's faulty memory rather than total invention. In “About Myself” Shiel writes that his attempt to impose a tribute tax on the American guano miners was a request they refused. This early non-recognition of his kingship is another argument that the coronation occurred.

Several of Shiel’s works of fiction concerned various aspects of monarchy. One of his detective heroes is called Cummings King Monk. In Shiel's 1901 end-of-the-world story The Purple Cloud, the protagonist Adam Jeffson, the last man on earth, establishes himself as monarch of the devastated globe, while Shiel’s novel The Lord of the Sea (1901) has Richard Hogarth, another Overman figure, coming to dominate the world. In 1899, Shiel wrote about visiting Redonda in his adventure novel Contraband of War.
In later life, Shiel gave the title, and the rights to his work, to his chief admirer, London poet and editor John Gawsworth (Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong), the biographer of Arthur Machen, who was the realm's Archduke. Gawsworth (1912–70) seems to have passed on the title several times when the writer was low in funds. Gawsworth's realm has been facetiously termed "Almadonda" (by the Shielian scholar A. Reynolds Morse (1914-2000) after the Alma pub in Westbourne Grove, Bayswater, where "King Juan" frequently held court in the 1960s.

During the late 1950s, Gawsworth also apparently promised to make the first son of his friends Charles and Jean Leggett, Max John Juan Leggett, his Redondan heir if they gave the child his royal name of Juan.

Some Redondan scholars accept that Gawsworth bestowed the title on his friend the publican Arthur John Roberts in 1967, by "Irrevocable Covenant". Prior to this the late writer Dominic Behan (1928–89) also claimed Gawsworth transferred the title to him in 1960. It is also said that Gawsworth handed on the throne to one Aleph Kamal, whose peers include the novelist Edna O'Brien.

Self-appointed monarchs of Redonda include Marvin Kitman and William Scott Home. Scott Home's claim to the title was, he says, based on ESP and reincarnation. M.P. Shiel’s granddaughter, Lancashire housewife Mrs Margaret Parry, came to the fore in 1993 and was hailed as “Queen Maggie” of Redonda by various newspapers, including the Daily Mail.

Publisher, author and environmentalist Jon Wynne-Tyson, however, claims that Gawsworth, prior to dying in 1970, bestowed the kingship on him with the literary executorships, although the writer Iain Fletcher was the joint literary executor for Gawsworth.

Later developments

Jon Wynne-Tyson subsequently visited Redonda in 1979, on an expedition organized by the philanthropist and Shielian publisher A. Reynolds Morse. Wynne-Tyson ruled as King Juan II until abdicating in favour of the novelist Javier Marias of Madrid in 1997, transferring the literary executorship of Gawsworth and Shiel along with the title.
Arthur John Robert’s title was subsequently inherited by William L. Gates, whom Gawsworth had given the title of "Baron L'Angelier de Blythswood de Redonda". From his home at Thurlton, Norfolk, Gates, as "King Leo", presides over a group known as "The Redondan Foundation", not be confused with "The Redondan Cultural Foundation" set up by Paul de Fortis (see below). As in Gawsworth’s reign, meetings of these rival groups have been held at the Fitzroy Tavern in London. King Leo has reigned as king since 1989. Bob Williamson, who lived on Antigua until his death in 2009, set himself up as the rival "King Robert the Bald". King Robert the Bald was succeeded in 2009 by yachting writer Michael Howorth.

In 1988, the late London clergyman Paul de Fortis established "The Redondan Cultural Foundation". Because of what he viewed as the inaction of the various rival monarchs, de Fortis promoted a new king, Cedric Boston (born on Montserrat in 1960). Boston claimed the Redondan throne in 1984, winning the allegiance of a number of Gawsworth’s peers.
On the question of the kingdom of Redonda, Wynne-Tyson has written:

The legend is and should remain a pleasing and eccentric fairy tale; a piece of literary mythology to be taken with salt, romantic sighs, appropriate perplexity, some amusement, but without great seriousness. It is, after all, a fantasy.

Wynne-Tyson, Javier Marias, Bob Williamson, William Gates and Cedric Boston were all interviewed in the BBC Radio 4 documentary Redonda: The Island with Too Many Kings, broadcast in May 2007.

List of Kings

Undisputed
Matthew Dowdy Shiell, 1865–1880
Matthew Phipps Shiell, 1880-1947 (styled as King Felipe I)
John Gawsworth, 1947-1967 or 1970 (styled as King Juan I)

Disputed
Arthur John Roberts, 1967-1989 (styled as King Juan II)
Jon Wynne-Tyson, 1970-1997 (styled as King Juan II)
Javier Marias, 1997-2012 (styled as King Xavier)


09 December 2013

A December Dawn

 
A December Dawn






The vagrant birds have fled
away
and the ice blanket of the north
descended
like a blue cloud of deep
sleep.

Bursting, succulent, departed roses haunt as
ghosts.
Grass, buried by inconsiderate snow,
struggles
and thrashes in a silent fight to
survive.

Darkest night coats the promiscuous
sky.
Then, the little sun climbs from the
earth,
A fiery eyewitness, frightened and
demurring.

Winter dawn persists and lingers the entire
day
before again creeps in the reigning
dark
and tomorrows gestate and await their
birth.







R. R. Shea

17 November 2013

Doris Lessing




The Nobel winner Doris Lessing has died at the age of 94.  Her books are on the list of those I'm compiling for my daughter to read one day, and I have found her work to be both insightful and enjoyable, two traits that do not always coexist in literature.   Requiescat in pace.

12 November 2013

What you can do

I'll be donating my "book" and "coffee shop" money for the rest of the year to UNICEF.  If you can, please give to help our friends in the Philippines.  You can donate HERE.


06 November 2013

a few literature news items

First, Pierre Lemaitre wins the Prix Goncourt.  Here is France24 with the news.

Second, here is an interview in English with the supremely talented Andres Neuman.

Lastly, it's NaNoWriMo.  Go forth and produce!


30 October 2013

A Manet day

 


It seems rather sedate now, almost old fashioned on first glance next to our post-modern sensibilities, but Edouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (“Luncheon on the Grass”) caused quite a stir when it first appeared in Paris in 1863.  Rejected for the Salon, it was shown in the added gallery set aside for spurned pieces.  Derision, contempt, and confusion poured from the public and the critics of the day.  Just what was this uneven, contrived painting of dressed men and an unseemly common nude woman all about?  The usual vocabulary of a painting is convoluted.  Many thought it clearly obscene and “unfinished.”  Today it hangs in the Musée d’Orsay and is considered a masterpiece and turning point in the world of art.


The first thing to note is that the painting, while breaking free of the classical themes and mythical nudes of Manet's contemporaries, is actually a quotation of an established classic, Raimondi’s 1515 engraving Judgment of Paris.



Look to the right, and there are the water nymphs from whom Manet drew his inspiration.

The second thing to note is the nude woman who captures the attention of the viewer.  The lines of the painting all steer our eyes to her, and she in turn looks out at us.  She is not bashful.  She feels no need to cover herself.  Yet, she is not provocative either.  Her skin has blemishes and pockets of fat, unlike the painting considered the toast of the salon that year, Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus, which shows the female form in an airbrushed, sugary idealization of great skill, and little interest.

 

The model for the nude woman in Manet's painting was Victorine Meurent, who would go on to be a well-received painter in her own right.  She is 18 at the time of the painting, and no doubt many of the artists and the public would have recognized her, and I think that is part of the point of the painting, if this painting can be said to have a point.  Instead of taking a model and casting her in a mythological landscape, Manet takes her and puts her with her contemporaries, with two men who are fully dressed in the clothes of the day.  The men are a little bohemian, but they still might seem respectable.  They are artists, or perhaps critics.  They are the very people who are looking at this nude woman in this painting.  Perhaps the scandal of the painting was the perception of accusation.  “This is you,” Manet says.  “You see these women, you idealize them, you display their bodies, but I’m giving you the real thing, not the image.”  This is, in short, a painting about art.  The grumblings from the public that the image was one of “a prostitute” are more than just reactionary jabber.  In the painting, on the left edge past the contrived lunch faire, there is a frog looking in the opposite direction. 



“Frog” was the most popular euphemism at the time for prostitute.  That too was something the well-heeled men viewing the painting knew a great deal about.  Manet himself  was involved in many relationships outside of his marriage to a stolid Dutch woman, contracting syphilis in his forties and dying of it in 1883.



The last thing I wish to mention is the afterlife of the painting.  Though there are many other paintings with more drama, with more provocative content, this painting was used by several artists since the showing in 1863.  Emile Zola’s The Masterpiece takes the painting and its reception as the subject of the story.  Picasso, upon first seeing it, remarked that “this is going to cause some trouble later on.”  He tackled the work 6o years later, painting numerous interpretations.






An album cover used members of the group Bow Wow Wow, including the 14 year old lead singer, to reenact the painting, creating one of the most distinctive album covers ever.



Countless artists continue to turn to the work in countless ways.



Isn’t that the mark of a masterpiece?

23 October 2013

The Kingdom of Redonda Read-along (ADJUSTED)

Here it is, the final schedule for the Kingdom of Redonda read-along and movie fest in 2014.  All works are the creations of members of the Court of Redonda or favorites of Javier Marías.  If you'll be joining me, please let me know.  I've never done one of these before, and I can use all the help I can get.  Cheers.

January
Primary book: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
Secondary book (extra credit): Amador by Fernando Savater
Film: The Godfather pt. 1

February
Primary: The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald
Secondary:  Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You by Alice Munro
Film: Patience (After Sebald)

March
Primary: The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa
Secondary:  A Different Sea by Claudio Magris
Film: Tie Me Up, Tie me Down

April
Primary:  Danube by Claudio Magris
Secondary:  Inferences from a Sabre By Claudio Magris
Film: Alatriste

May
Primary:  My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Secondary:  Written Lives by Javier Marías
Film: Don’t Tempt Me

June
Primary:  The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Secondary: The Questions of Life by Fernando Savater
Film: Apocalypse Now

July
Primary:  Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Secondary: The Flight of the Monarch by Michel Braudeau
Film: Volver

August
Primary: Fado Alexandrino by António Lobo Antunes
Secondary: On the Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald
Film: The Skin I Live In

September
Primary:  City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza
Secondary: Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa
Film: Tetro
Secondary film (why not?) Biutiful

October
Primary:  Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear by Javier Marías
Secondary: Cervantes by P. E. Russell (the model for Sir Peter Wheeler)
Film:  The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (a favorite for Marías)

November
Primary:  YFT: Dance and Dream by Javier Marías
Secondary:  The Battle for Spain (first half) by Anthony Beevor
Film:  The Chimes at Midnight (another Marías favorite)

December
Primary:  YFT: Poison, Shadow, and Farewell by Javier Marías
Secondary: The Battle for Spain (last half) by Anthony Beevor
Film: The Godfather pt. II

16 October 2013

coffee house interlude





The half-empty coffee cups of contemplation,
newspapers like the shields of chivalrous knights,
the sea of words, the brays, the nonsense,
Lacan and Freud and cliché and the usual bullshit.

And there she sits, another cliche...a flower
a curse
the relentless metaphor
the Joycean stream, the Proustian digression
the pause in the pause
the catch of breath
the harbinger of death
the icicle forming drip by drip
and there she sits.

And theory fiercely claws at form
and the blood of reputations splashes
in the fresh-washed ring,
in the q & a and pun and witty jabs
of the gladiators clad in flannel and wool.

And in the vortex, in the bowels of the storm
there she sits, and sits, and sits, and...
well, you get the rest.



R. R. Shea

14 October 2013

Ladies and...no, just ladies

 
It was recently ‘International Day of the Girl” for UNICEF and other organizations. Being a father to a little girl, I cannot stress enough the surprise and frustration I feel when I see how we treat girls and women in our “modern” societies, and I am sickened by how they are treated in much of the rest of the world.   

To celebrate the wonderful young ladies in this world, albeit belatedly, here are five images from the history of art I find particularly striking and powerful.  Let’s hear it for the ladies




 A Minoan Fresco










 A Roman image of a girl with a stylus and a book







 Frangonard's painting of a girl reading




Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leading the People"













A drawing of Malala...hero







10 October 2013

A New Nobel

Alice Munro has today been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. I'm pleasantly surprised.




07 October 2013

And the Nobel goes to...





The Nobel Prize for literature will be announced on 10 October.  I'm hoping for Javier Marías, but he looks to be a long shot.  Any predictions?

29 September 2013

A Sorolla Sunday Morning

A quiet Sunday morning, so I give you this:






 
“Children of the Sea.”  !909
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida



I really like Sorolla’s use of color and his compositions, but the little details make it for me.  Here, the looks and the hands. 

Let us start with the hands not clasped.  On the younger girl in white, her hand is blocked by her body.  Is she just in stride?  Or is her hand out in front of her to steady herself?  To feel the water?  Has she seen something (her head is cast downward) and is reaching out or pointing to it?  Now look at the empty hand of the taller and presumably older girl.  Her arm is slightly behind her and her weight is balanced, even though her shoulders are turned, her head is down, and her eyes are cast at the same point as the little girl.  The older girl’s empty hand is half-closed, not committed or engaged in activity, but not relaxed, either.

And now the clasped hands.  First, they are slightly off center.  In fact, the focal point of the painting rests out of view, under the waves.  It is the spot both girls are looking at, a point emphasized not only by their lines if sight, but by the way in which their shirts slip off their shoulders, the elder’s falling farther toward the center.  Those clasped hands, however, do meet directly over a point in the water where the lines run vertical.  Behind the girls, their wake trails off down to our left.  Their motion indicated they could be heading right.  But those hands are suspended over a transition point, and the way in which those hands are clasped shows us yet another change.

Imagine you are the younger child.  You have been to this beach many times, but were always held back by your elders.  “Be careful,” your parents call to you from their blanket on the shore.  “Stay with your sister.”  But today, things are different.  The usual instructions for caution are gone.  Your mother smiles at you and gives you a wink.  You are old enough to not need instructions for going into the water.  Each and every time you went into the sea before, your older sister held you back a little, guiding you, always stopping at a point near your waste, a safe place, not deep enough for a wave to knock you over.  Her hand was always the one in front, holding you back a little, reigning you in.  But today, at this point, you have switched hand positions.  You are pulling her a little.  “Come on, Silly.  Let’s go.  Look!  Look at that, in the water.  Such a beautiful bit of shell down there!”

And the older girl?  She looks.  She plays along.  She is being led today.  Perhaps she is reluctant at first.  Reluctance is the initial duty of the older sibling to the younger.  She has turned her head back to the beach.  Her father smiles and makes a gesture with his brush (he is going to paint this) for her to go on a little farther, that she should let her sister lead, but that she is there in case of danger.  She smiles back and turns.  Her sister is right.  The shell at the younger girl’s feet, just visible beneath the gentle waves, is quite stunning.  She too looks, she leans a little, her free hand relaxed, but ready in case she needs to pull her little sister back.  She is being led and yet, given her posture, she is ready to put on again the mantle of protective older sister.

Children walk in the sea, but where will they go?  Who will lead?  How many times will this scene play itself out in their lives? 

22 September 2013

Cicero's girl




 
Now, as in Tullias tombe, one lamp burnt cleare,
Unchang'd for fifteene hundred yeare,
May these love-lamps we here enshrine,
In warmth, light, lasting, equall the divine
                                                -John Donne


By Tullia’s grave

That gray and cold afternoon I saw him standing by her tomb, his hair disheveled, his clothes dirty, his eyes like rocks.  Cicero, I called out from my carriage as we came nearer.  No answer, though I could see his lips moving.  Citizen, I called out, drawing nearer still.  The sun was peeking out from behind a cloud, and a shaft of light poured down like a waterfall over the great man.  His hands hung at his sides, his fingers occasionally clutching into fists and then straightening out again, more reflex than willed motion.  His feet were bare and clean.  He remained still and unresponsive, his lips, those lips that had fought battles in court and before the senate, that had stood against Caesar’s legions with unmatched eloquence and grace, moved like sluggish caterpillars as he mumbled to himself.  When we pulled up along side him, I signaled and we stopped.  Cicero, I whispered.  His head moved, a twitch of recognition, and then nothing.  The wind, gusting until then, dropped at that moment, and I heard the words of the most powerful orator to ever draw breathe in our empire:
Tullia, my girl.  Tullia.  Tulliolla.  My girl.  My flower.  Tullia.
He spoke as one speaks to the gods.  He was at that moment simply Cicero, father.


R. R. Shea




28 August 2013

Champion Swimmer





Whoever has seen you in the water calls you
Siren.

Winner of contests, on the screen
Of my humble life you seem
My opposite.
But a thread ties me to you, a fragile
Unbreakable thing, while you smile
And go on ahead and do not see me.  All around
You are many friends, young
Boys and girls like you; together you make an uproar
In the bar that welcomes you.  Then one day
A sad shadow fell – oh for an instant! –
From your eyelids, a maternal shadow that curved
The corners of your beautiful, proud mouth,

And married your dawn to my dusk.


By Umberto Saba

27 July 2013

Sorolla Saturday Night 27 July 2013

Another Saturday night, another work by Joaquín Sorolla.





Three Sails.  Oil on Canvas.  1903.



Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida painted Las Tres Velas (Three Sails) on the beach of El Cabañal during the summer of 1903. One of the most luminously eloquent of his many images of the fisherwomen of his native Valencia, Las Tres Velas marks Sorolla's artistic passage to a new level of creativity. Sorolla was already one of the world's most honored painters when he launched his 1903 campaign of open-air painting among the fishing communities on Spain's Mediterranean coast, but in the course of that summer Sorolla pushed his art to a new monumentality and laid claim to a broad new palette of color effects. Lost from public view for a century, Las Tres Velas consolidates a decade of Sorolla's painting experience into an unforgettable image of the womenfolk of his beloved homeland. The asymmetry of Sorolla's eye-catching composition immediately announces the distinctive ambition of Las Tres Velas: three barefoot women of different ages, pulling together as they walk against the wind, are juxtaposed with a sweeping, open line of billowing sails on low-slung fishing skiffs that lumber into shore. Well beyond the picture's edge, the women's progress will intersect with the returning boats, but it is only the empty baskets, swinging awkwardly over the oldest woman's forearms, that connects their purpose to the distant fishing fleet. The very emptiness of the open shore spreading across the lower right corner of the painting emphasizes the unswerving advance of the fisherwomen who know their way without a glance to the boats. Wind snaps their patterned scarves and twists their aprons against their legs; the damp breeze glosses the rude wicker with prismatic color; and the early morning sunlight glances off a feature or a texture with little regard for form or beauty, yet each of the women has her own age, her own identity. One of Sorolla's most ambitious early successes with the theme of the sea La vuelta de la pesca or Bringing in the Catch (Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional) offers a telling comparison to Las Tres Velas. Virtually every Valencian motif to which Sorolla would later return -- billowing sails, brawny oxen, colorfully dressed women, dancing children, and long, streaking shadows -- is introduced in this expansive seascape of about 1897-98. Sorolla's skill at orchestrating color and in marrying complex figural groups is shown to good advantage in La vuelta de la pesca, but the painting gives little indication of the particular gifts that would soon set Sorolla well apart from the vast troupe of marine painters working throughout Europe. By 1901, once again in Valencia, Sorolla took up a subject from the right hand side of the earlier painting, creating Las Sardineras (see fig. 2), a group of women gathered around a tub of fish and the fishwife offering them for sale. Moving his figures well up in the foreground, emphasizing their huddled, pressing eagerness with a jumble of similar baskets, and weaving soft lavendar tints and and acidic green-browns into the prevailing blue and orange color scheme that pulls the women, the sea and the beach into harmony, Sorolla firmly staked a claim to a more sophisticated artistry that would bring so much grace and power to his many subsequent scenes of Valencian fishing life. Finally, in 1903 with Las Tres Velas and perhaps a dozen further seascapes, Sorolla began to make the air and wind, the water and light of Valencia, leading actors as prominent in his paintings as his fisherwomen or bathers; Sorolla's achievement as a profoundly modern master of a realism tempered by abstraction was complete. Sorolla exhibited Las Tres Velas in the Berlin international exhibition of 1904, the last time it would be seen publicly for a century (a black and white photograph in the Sorolla family archives kept the painting's existence on record). Either during the exhibition or shortly thereafter, Las Tres Velas was acquired by Max Steinthal, then one of Berlin's leading bankers. During the mid-1890s, Steinthal and his wife Fanny had built a magnificent home in Charlottenburg, a fashionable, parklike section of Berlin and throughout the first decade of the twentieth-century they built up a collection of both modern and old master paintings displayed throughout the house. Las Tres Velas can be seen hanging above Steinthal's desk in an undated family photo. Steinthal's talents as a financier were as precocious as Sorolla's as a painter: he had been a director of the Deutsche Bank since his early twenties and made an enduring mark on his native city by structuring the complex financing to build Berlin's underground and elevated railways. Steinthal continued to serve the Deutsche Bank as a director well into his eighties, until Nazi proscriptions forced him, as a Jew, to resign in 1939. Soon thereafter, the Steinthals were obliged to sell their home at 119 Uhlanstrasse. Although their sizable family of children and grandchildren escaped the worst of the Nazi persecution, Max and Fanny Steinthal chose to live out the last years of their lives in a hotel in Berlin, dying in 1940 and 1941 respectively, just before they were slated for deportation to a concentration camp. Little of their former life remained to them in those dire years, but Fanny was able to prevent the seizure of their art collection by transferring the works to one of her sons-in-law, a non-Jew, who managed to move the paintings, drawings and prints out of Berlin to Dresden. When that son-in-law, however, chose to flee East Germany following the closure of that sector after the war, he had to leave the crated Steinthal paintings behind. Seized by the GDR as property of a state enemy, the paintings were stored in the basement of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie and forgotten for fifty years. Only with the catastrophic flooding of the Elbe River during the summer of 2002 which threatened much of the artwork and apparatus stored throughout the lower reaches of the Gemäldegalerie complex did the crates come back to light. Through the provenance studies taking place at the museum, the paintings were ultimately returned to the far-flung descendants of Max and Fanny Steinthal.

More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/24130/The-Three-Sails-by-Joaquin-Sorolla-Expected-to-Sell-for-3-to-4-Million-USD-at-Sotheby-s#.UfSgRFO9z6U[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org

The differing ages of the three women from Valencia, the asymmetrical layout between the huddled women and the evenly distributed boats, and the intersecting lines against the wind that can be drawn where the women and the boats will meet outside of the painting make this, for me, a wonderful painting.  And then there is the baby in the mother's arms, head wrapped in that red cloth that reminds me of the color of a sun that might shine over a much more violent ocean than the one depicted here.  The baskets the women carry are empty, the boats are full, but we know this is soon to change.  The young woman and the old look down and ahead, the former to perform these first duties of labor, the latter having done them all her life.  And the mother looks out at us, a midpoint between youth and age.  I almost want her to stop, to let the other two pass, and to come closer.  I want to talk to her, and hear her child laugh.  But she must go along the beach to meet her destiny.

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida painted Las Tres Velas (Three Sails) on the beach of El Cabañal during the summer of 1903. One of the most luminously eloquent of his many images of the fisherwomen of his native Valencia, Las Tres Velas marks Sorolla's artistic passage to a new level of creativity. Sorolla was already one of the world's most honored painters when he launched his 1903 campaign of open-air painting among the fishing communities on Spain's Mediterranean coast, but in the course of that summer Sorolla pushed his art to a new monumentality and laid claim to a broad new palette of color effects. Lost from public view for a century, Las Tres Velas consolidates a decade of Sorolla's painting experience into an unforgettable image of the womenfolk of his beloved homeland. The asymmetry of Sorolla's eye-catching composition immediately announces the distinctive ambition of Las Tres Velas: three barefoot women of different ages, pulling together as they walk against the wind, are juxtaposed with a sweeping, open line of billowing sails on low-slung fishing skiffs that lumber into shore. Well beyond the picture's edge, the women's progress will intersect with the returning boats, but it is only the empty baskets, swinging awkwardly over the oldest woman's forearms, that connects their purpose to the distant fishing fleet. The very emptiness of the open shore spreading across the lower right corner of the painting emphasizes the unswerving advance of the fisherwomen who know their way without a glance to the boats. Wind snaps their patterned scarves and twists their aprons against their legs; the damp breeze glosses the rude wicker with prismatic color; and the early morning sunlight glances off a feature or a texture with little regard for form or beauty, yet each of the women has her own age, her own identity. One of Sorolla's most ambitious early successes with the theme of the sea La vuelta de la pesca or Bringing in the Catch (Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional) offers a telling comparison to Las Tres Velas. Virtually every Valencian motif to which Sorolla would later return -- billowing sails, brawny oxen, colorfully dressed women, dancing children, and long, streaking shadows -- is introduced in this expansive seascape of about 1897-98. Sorolla's skill at orchestrating color and in marrying complex figural groups is shown to good advantage in La vuelta de la pesca, but the painting gives little indication of the particular gifts that would soon set Sorolla well apart from the vast troupe of marine painters working throughout Europe. By 1901, once again in Valencia, Sorolla took up a subject from the right hand side of the earlier painting, creating Las Sardineras (see fig. 2), a group of women gathered around a tub of fish and the fishwife offering them for sale. Moving his figures well up in the foreground, emphasizing their huddled, pressing eagerness with a jumble of similar baskets, and weaving soft lavendar tints and and acidic green-browns into the prevailing blue and orange color scheme that pulls the women, the sea and the beach into harmony, Sorolla firmly staked a claim to a more sophisticated artistry that would bring so much grace and power to his many subsequent scenes of Valencian fishing life. Finally, in 1903 with Las Tres Velas and perhaps a dozen further seascapes, Sorolla began to make the air and wind, the water and light of Valencia, leading actors as prominent in his paintings as his fisherwomen or bathers; Sorolla's achievement as a profoundly modern master of a realism tempered by abstraction was complete. Sorolla exhibited Las Tres Velas in the Berlin international exhibition of 1904, the last time it would be seen publicly for a century (a black and white photograph in the Sorolla family archives kept the painting's existence on record). Either during the exhibition or shortly thereafter, Las Tres Velas was acquired by Max Steinthal, then one of Berlin's leading bankers. During the mid-1890s, Steinthal and his wife Fanny had built a magnificent home in Charlottenburg, a fashionable, parklike section of Berlin and throughout the first decade of the twentieth-century they built up a collection of both modern and old master paintings displayed throughout the house. Las Tres Velas can be seen hanging above Steinthal's desk in an undated family photo. Steinthal's talents as a financier were as precocious as Sorolla's as a painter: he had been a director of the Deutsche Bank since his early twenties and made an enduring mark on his native city by structuring the complex financing to build Berlin's underground and elevated railways. Steinthal continued to serve the Deutsche Bank as a director well into his eighties, until Nazi proscriptions forced him, as a Jew, to resign in 1939. Soon thereafter, the Steinthals were obliged to sell their home at 119 Uhlanstrasse. Although their sizable family of children and grandchildren escaped the worst of the Nazi persecution, Max and Fanny Steinthal chose to live out the last years of their lives in a hotel in Berlin, dying in 1940 and 1941 respectively, just before they were slated for deportation to a concentration camp. Little of their former life remained to them in those dire years, but Fanny was able to prevent the seizure of their art collection by transferring the works to one of her sons-in-law, a non-Jew, who managed to move the paintings, drawings and prints out of Berlin to Dresden. When that son-in-law, however, chose to flee East Germany following the closure of that sector after the war, he had to leave the crated Steinthal paintings behind. Seized by the GDR as property of a state enemy, the paintings were stored in the basement of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie and forgotten for fifty years. Only with the catastrophic flooding of the Elbe River during the summer of 2002 which threatened much of the artwork and apparatus stored throughout the lower reaches of the Gemäldegalerie complex did the crates come back to light. Through the provenance studies taking place at the museum, the paintings were ultimately returned to the far-flung descendants of Max and Fanny Steinthal.

More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/24130/The-Three-Sails-by-Joaquin-Sorolla-Expected-to-Sell-for-3-to-4-Million-USD-at-Sotheby-s#.UfSgRFO9z6U[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida painted Las Tres Velas (Three Sails) on the beach of El Cabañal during the summer of 1903. One of the most luminously eloquent of his many images of the fisherwomen of his native Valencia, Las Tres Velas marks Sorolla's artistic passage to a new level of creativity. Sorolla was already one of the world's most honored painters when he launched his 1903 campaign of open-air painting among the fishing communities on Spain's Mediterranean coast, but in the course of that summer Sorolla pushed his art to a new monumentality and laid claim to a broad new palette of color effects. Lost from public view for a century, Las Tres Velas consolidates a decade of Sorolla's painting experience into an unforgettable image of the womenfolk of his beloved homeland. The asymmetry of Sorolla's eye-catching composition immediately announces the distinctive ambition of Las Tres Velas: three barefoot women of different ages, pulling together as they walk against the wind, are juxtaposed with a sweeping, open line of billowing sails on low-slung fishing skiffs that lumber into shore. Well beyond the picture's edge, the women's progress will intersect with the returning boats, but it is only the empty baskets, swinging awkwardly over the oldest woman's forearms, that connects their purpose to the distant fishing fleet. The very emptiness of the open shore spreading across the lower right corner of the painting emphasizes the unswerving advance of the fisherwomen who know their way without a glance to the boats. Wind snaps their patterned scarves and twists their aprons against their legs; the damp breeze glosses the rude wicker with prismatic color; and the early morning sunlight glances off a feature or a texture with little regard for form or beauty, yet each of the women has her own age, her own identity. One of Sorolla's most ambitious early successes with the theme of the sea La vuelta de la pesca or Bringing in the Catch (Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional) offers a telling comparison to Las Tres Velas. Virtually every Valencian motif to which Sorolla would later return -- billowing sails, brawny oxen, colorfully dressed women, dancing children, and long, streaking shadows -- is introduced in this expansive seascape of about 1897-98. Sorolla's skill at orchestrating color and in marrying complex figural groups is shown to good advantage in La vuelta de la pesca, but the painting gives little indication of the particular gifts that would soon set Sorolla well apart from the vast troupe of marine painters working throughout Europe. By 1901, once again in Valencia, Sorolla took up a subject from the right hand side of the earlier painting, creating Las Sardineras (see fig. 2), a group of women gathered around a tub of fish and the fishwife offering them for sale. Moving his figures well up in the foreground, emphasizing their huddled, pressing eagerness with a jumble of similar baskets, and weaving soft lavendar tints and and acidic green-browns into the prevailing blue and orange color scheme that pulls the women, the sea and the beach into harmony, Sorolla firmly staked a claim to a more sophisticated artistry that would bring so much grace and power to his many subsequent scenes of Valencian fishing life. Finally, in 1903 with Las Tres Velas and perhaps a dozen further seascapes, Sorolla began to make the air and wind, the water and light of Valencia, leading actors as prominent in his paintings as his fisherwomen or bathers; Sorolla's achievement as a profoundly modern master of a realism tempered by abstraction was complete. Sorolla exhibited Las Tres Velas in the Berlin international exhibition of 1904, the last time it would be seen publicly for a century (a black and white photograph in the Sorolla family archives kept the painting's existence on record). Either during the exhibition or shortly thereafter, Las Tres Velas was acquired by Max Steinthal, then one of Berlin's leading bankers. During the mid-1890s, Steinthal and his wife Fanny had built a magnificent home in Charlottenburg, a fashionable, parklike section of Berlin and throughout the first decade of the twentieth-century they built up a collection of both modern and old master paintings displayed throughout the house. Las Tres Velas can be seen hanging above Steinthal's desk in an undated family photo. Steinthal's talents as a financier were as precocious as Sorolla's as a painter: he had been a director of the Deutsche Bank since his early twenties and made an enduring mark on his native city by structuring the complex financing to build Berlin's underground and elevated railways. Steinthal continued to serve the Deutsche Bank as a director well into his eighties, until Nazi proscriptions forced him, as a Jew, to resign in 1939. Soon thereafter, the Steinthals were obliged to sell their home at 119 Uhlanstrasse. Although their sizable family of children and grandchildren escaped the worst of the Nazi persecution, Max and Fanny Steinthal chose to live out the last years of their lives in a hotel in Berlin, dying in 1940 and 1941 respectively, just before they were slated for deportation to a concentration camp. Little of their former life remained to them in those dire years, but Fanny was able to prevent the seizure of their art collection by transferring the works to one of her sons-in-law, a non-Jew, who managed to move the paintings, drawings and prints out of Berlin to Dresden. When that son-in-law, however, chose to flee East Germany following the closure of that sector after the war, he had to leave the crated Steinthal paintings behind. Seized by the GDR as property of a state enemy, the paintings were stored in the basement of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie and forgotten for fifty years. Only with the catastrophic flooding of the Elbe River during the summer of 2002 which threatened much of the artwork and apparatus stored throughout the lower reaches of the Gemäldegalerie complex did the crates come back to light. Through the provenance studies taking place at the museum, the paintings were ultimately returned to the far-flung descendants of Max and Fanny Steinthal.

More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/24130/The-Three-Sails-by-Joaquin-Sorolla-Expected-to-Sell-for-3-to-4-Million-USD-at-Sotheby-s#.UfSgRFO9z6U[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org

26 July 2013

An Aira story






Bomb magazine recommends a great César Aira story here.  Go forth and check it out. 

20 July 2013

Sorolla Saturday Night










Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) painted “Strolling along the seashore” in 1909, and it now hangs in the Museo Sorolla in Madrid.  An exhibition of Sorolla’s work will be on show in San Diego in the Spring of 2014.   

15 July 2013

Face in Sand

The wind from the ocean blew the sand
into a face
from the mirror in my boyhood.
A broken shell stuck out
from grainy cheeks.
I bent to pluck it out,
to smooth the blemish
of ocean acne
but the water
of intervening years
 came and carved
the face away.
The blemish I put in my pocket
and carried off
to put in a box
and view in the mirror
whenever I like.


R. R. Shea

09 July 2013

Bolaño's "muse"

muse
by Roberto Bolaño

she was more beautiful than the sun
and i wasn't even 16 years old.
24 have passed
and she's still at my side.

sometimes i see her walking
over the mountains: she's the guardian angel
of our prayers.
she's the dream that recurs

with the promise and the whistle.
the whistle that calls us
and loses us.
in her eyes i see the faces

of all my lost loves.
oh, muse, protect me, i say to her,
on the terrible days
of the ceaseless adventure.

never pull away from me.
take care of my steps and the steps
of my son lautaro.
let me feel your fingertips

once more over my spine,
pushing me, when everything is dark,
when everything is lost.
let me hear the whistle again.

i am your faithful lover
though sometimes dreaming
pulls me away from you.
you're also the queen of those dreams.

you have my friendship every day
and someday
your friendship will draw me out of
the wasteland of forgetfulness.

so even if you come
when i go
deep down we're
inseparable friends.

muse, wherever i
might go
you go.
i saw you in the hospitals

and in the line
of political prisoners
i saw you in the terrible eyes
of edna lieberman

and in the alleys
of the gunmen.
and you always protected me!
in defeat and in triumph.

in unhealthy relationships
and in cruelty,
you were always with me.
and even if the years pass

and the roberto bolaño of la alameda
and the librería de cristal
is transformed,
is paralyzed,

becomes older and stupider
you'll stay just as beautiful.
more than the sun
and the stars.

muse, wherever you
might go
i go.
i follow your radiant trail

across the long night.
not caring about years
of sickness.
not caring about the pain

or the effort i must make
to follow you.
because with you i can cross
the great desolate spaces

and i'll always find the door
leading back
to the chimera,
because you're with me,

muse,
more beautiful than the sun,
more beautiful
than the stars.


03 July 2013

rocking chair requiem


a memory within the creeeeek of the old rocking chair
we are those children once more
you and me
old and Withered flesh stripped away, scraped back, washed clean
until we are in the woods again, trees and skittish deer
and you and me
eyes darting, lips blooming, painful kisses and giggles and
cold backs and wide hopes and childish whispers
from you and me
bricks of destiny, a blood red stone wall, Dali clocks melting
ropes pulling us apart, and resignation on the childhood faces
of you and me
and never us.


R. R. Shea