The Brothers Sijben de Maroye

Recently Ray Harris made a post on his Novel Activist blog about Dutch painter Marcel von Sijben de Maroye and I liked his style, inspiring my to research him further.  As I did, I encountered another painter with the same last name, Edmond von Sijben de Maroye.  Initially I thought they may have been the same painter; it is not unusual for European artists, who frequently have four or five names rather than the currently customary three, to be listed under more than one combination of their name.  But I happened across a site that had work by both artists, and it gave birth and death dates for both.  Edmond and Marcel were born in 1876 and 1878 respectively, and if I had to guess, I would place them as siblings, owing to the nigh identical Impressionistic style of their work and the very close birth dates.  The trouble is, there is virtually nothing on the internet about either one—not in English anyway.  So, I’m going to put my (rather negligible) reputation on the line and just say outright that they were brothers.  If anyone else has additional information to support or contradict this, I would welcome it.  Although I was only able to pin down the date on of them, I’m fairly certain all of these works were painted in the early part of the 20th century.

[Editorial update, 2016/06/01: Indeed, Edmond (1876–1970) and Marcel (1878–1962) von Sijben are brothers.]

This first piece is Neoclassical in tone, if not in technique.  It is an idyll, which is a kind of allegory of paradise.  Note the filmy, translucent clothing of the boy and girl at right.

Edmond von Sijben de Maroye – Mother and Children in a Field

Edmond von Sijben de Maroye – Two Children in a Meadow

Marcel von Sijben de Maroye – Girl in a Charleston Dress (Portrait of Princess Juliana) (1927)

Marcel von Sijben de Maroye – Nude Girl

Marcel von Sijben de Maroye – Nude Child

Body Image and Healing: The Century Project

In order to honor the intentions of the artist’s work, I want to remind my readers that The Century Project is about diversity and as the title implies a wide range of ages. It should be clear that although Pigtails’ mandate is to cover the portrayal of little girls, our focus on this age range is not a fair representation of the scope of this project. However, having examined and read the book from cover to cover, I found the testimonials of the girls—some later on when they were adults—most compelling and relevant to this site. Therefore I have not included their images to avoid giving fodder to narrow-minded but powerful political interests and avoid undermining any future efforts of the artist. Those interested in an intelligent and compassionate handling of the issue of photographic nudes are urged to purchase the book which has recently been reduced in price and can be ordered at any major bookstore or online.

I first learned of Frank Cordelle and The Century Project through an artist friend of mine. He directed me to his official website which included an image and testimonial about Nora. Hers is a heart-wrenching story of a mother who took innocent photos of her naked daughter in the bathtub when she was 8 and was arrested when the photo processors called the police. It was certainly a story worth noting but I was busy with other projects, so I kept it in the back of my mind to investigate later. I now wish I had done so sooner as the drama of the evolution of this project and how it has helped women is quite touching.

The prosecutor made the patent claim of child abuse and Nora wanted us to look at her photo and hear her words to question the veracity of that claim. Nora suffered a lot of ridicule from her peers but she was also blessed with a lot of friends and their families organized a candlelight vigil and raised money for her mother’s defense. She even wrote to Sally Mann for advice and eventually got a reply. The mother was ultimately exonerated but a court order barred her from taking any more pictures of her daughter. Once Nora saw The Century Project, she knew she had to come forward with her story. The irony is that even though her own mother couldn’t take pictures of her, Cordelle was perfectly free to do so and so she is now immortalized in the annals of The Century Project. I am told that a case that escalates like this occurs about once every month in the United States and what drives these senseless prosecutions is the priceless political opportunity it affords a grandstanding politician who wants to create the appearance of protecting the public. I am not prone to clever arguments myself, but a good one that Cordelle makes is that real pornographers—legal or not—probably have their own darkrooms or can process their own digital prints. Perhaps clerks should refrain from notifying the authorities just because they encounter images they personally object to.

Although it was never Frank Cordelle’s intent, The Century Project has served as a means for many girls and women to confront and overcome various traumas in their life. The problem with boys who have no sisters is they can be ignorant of basic anatomical facts and a natural curiosity serves to overcome this ignorance. The prudish sensibilities in the U.S. about nudity has subjected the young Cordelle—on a couple of occasions—to anger and ridicule whenever he did make some innocent investigation. He unwittingly assimilated this cultural bias which became apparent to him on a visit to a German spa with people all around him seemingly unconcerned about their nakedness.

At the time, he was pursuing a career in biochemistry and his work involved processing images of DNA strands and it would sometimes remind him of his old photographic hobby. He decided to leave graduate school and move to New Hampshire where got involved in covering events featuring handicapped athletes. The unfortunate habit in American culture of avoiding the subject or looking at people with deformities tends to exclude them from commonplace social situations. Cordelle learned that most disabled people would rather have others indulge in their curiosity so they can move on and be regarded as the real people they are. His photographs demonstrated that these athletes were perfectly content with people looking at them.

Now Cordelle began to see the social value of photography. His interest in biological sciences made him curious about the vagaries of human development and aging and the kernel of an idea began. The most potent way to capture the real person is naked because there is simply no way to hide and so Cordelle began to pursue the idea of photographing girls and women in all stages of development and all kinds of body types. Something like this is difficult to get started because of the taboo and he did not really know where this was leading, but finally some generous women agreed to participate. Once he managed to get his first exhibition—along with some other artists—the public began to learn of his project and getting volunteers began to get easier. The problem was that he wanted all kinds of body types to be represented and New Hampshire is not known for its ethnic diversity, so he relocated again, this time to Oakland, California and would make road trips to find a wide range of subjects. His experiences in pursuing this project brought him a treasure trove of personal experiences and moving testimonials, but the taboo of nudity still made the process necessarily slow. Some women were photographed more than once as they aged. The response to the various exhibits in North America was overwhelmingly positive, but it was still difficult to get any publisher to release a book making Cordelle’s work more accessible. Finally, a man determined to have the work published succeeded in 2006 and the result is Bodies and Souls: The Century Project published by Heureka Publishing Co. Heureka’s intent was to publish work dealing with the lifestyles and culture of naturists so the kinds of images presented no dilemma for them. This book was only an effort to reach the general public and the project is not complete by any means with many gaps in age and ethnicity and the oldest participant being only 94. If the project can gain some real momentum and not be sabotaged by nay-sayers, he hopes to publish a more complete version with all new images in the future. To Cordelle’s credit, his sincerity and enthusiasm even inspired his own mother who decided that she should be included. She appears as Else, 87 and the book is partly dedicated to her.

When I first browsed through the book, I was amazed by the ethnic range. He even stayed a couple of times with an African-American family and some of their pictures include Sheka, 10 as well as two of her sisters, a niece and her mother. Cordelle never solicited the participation of children in his project but they came before the camera with the enthusiastic support and permission of the family members. Cordelle felt the project would only have credibility if it portrayed people of all ages and ethnicities. As it progressed, it also became apparent that participating and viewing the images helped many of these girls and women cope with trauma, both physical and emotional.

As I surveyed the words and images of the women, I realized it would be impossible to describe concisely the multitude of scars these women courageously display, not to mention the many tales of sexual and/or physical abuse—some self-inflicted. It is almost indescribable to imagine the kind of trust Cordelle fosters when dealing with his subjects for them to bare themselves in this way. These women participated because they want you to look and know what real women are like. The Century Project does include a few younger girls and Cordelle is aware that these are regarded as the most controversial. For those who have not actually seen his work, there is the erroneous assumption that it is something like the work of Jock Sturges or similar naturist photographers, a tiresome comparison for the artist to be sure. However, he is patient with even the most surprisingly frank questions and he answers them as honestly as he can. He may not be pursuing the kind of physical aesthetic as Sturges, but he does express an important spiritual one. Young girls are especially self-conscious when it comes to their body image and I commend the courage of those who are shown in Bodies and Souls. These girls are acutely aware of their physical flaws whether we see them or not and perhaps the most compelling thing for me about the book is not the images, but the testimonials and other feedback about their experiences. We rarely get to hear about these things because many don’t want to know and validate this work or assume the girls are naively deluding themselves and will regret their actions later. Many would look at Ginger, 9 for example and assume she was asked by the artist to display herself somewhat provocatively. In fact, she is being playful in a way consistent with her age and is experimenting with ways of expressing herself that is perfectly natural. What you see is completely spontaneous and Cordelle thinking he could get a better effect with another background asked her to repeat the performance later, but it lacked the joyful spark of spontaneity and so an image from the original shoot was ultimately used. Ginger and many others have used their participation to accept the flaws they perceive in themselves permitting them
to be more self-possessed.

It is easy to forget how startling these images can be for those who are not accustomed to seeing naked people. Most would assume that the most vocal objections come from women as the subjects in the book are all girls and women and presumably being exploited in some way. In reality, the biggest opposition comes from men. When I brought the book to a bar to share with others, the most adamant reaction came from an Asian middle-aged man about the image of Ginger. No assurance that the photo was taken, processed, printed and published legally would convince him of its legitimacy. On the other hand, his wife loved the book and was the first one to ask to look at it! Members of our society are conditioned to believe that nudity is equated with sexuality and men who experience the shock of a naked girl for the first time are afraid to acknowledge that visual appeal. Their personal stake and status in society means they cannot take the slightest risk or being regarded as some kind of pervert. Ironically, their severe reaction can cause more psychic harm than the purported offense.

It must be acknowledged that the circumstances that brought these girls before the camera were unusual as they came from a culture or family more open to this portrayal. In my research, the most common negative testimonials had to do with the stigma from their society after the fact. The photo session itself may have been a salutory experience, but when a girl is at an age when a boyfriend might learn about the photo, she may ask it to be removed from an exhibit. This is the case with Megan, 7 and when she was 23, she asked Cordelle to put the image back in the exhibit demonstrating with maturity her real pride in participating. It also reflects the long period of time (over 25 years) Cordelle has been working on this and has seen these girls grow up.

The public discourse is rather one-sided and indignantly righteous. As compensation I offer evidence of how fulfilling posing nude can be—different for each person but positive when handled competently and unselfishly. But I would be remiss to ignore the cases where a girl was made to pose through intimidation or insecurity so that she comes away feeling misused. The story of Karen, 50 is a case in point and is also included in the book. She was manipulated and then molested by boys and yet years later posed for The Century Project. Perhaps she did it to tell her story or perhaps in the hope of accelerating the healing process. Whatever the reason, her untrusting gaze speaks volumes to me.

Although it was Cordelle’s notion originally to have a representative photo covering each age from 0 to 100, filling all the age gaps is not paramount although he would like to have someone with a three-digit age! Being moved by the sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes inspirational stories of trauma and healing made him recognize the importance of making us all face our fellow human beings in their flawed and honest forms and reflect on the foibles of human development. It also forces us to confront the ways men disrespect women out of their own insecurities. So far he has done a pretty good job of representing a range of races and even a few with very strictly conservative upbringings. Cordelle is compelled to bring to light both the physicality, the spirituality and the emotion of the human condition. He says he does not want to under- or overrepresent any particular group but sometimes for very rare situations even one image is an overrepresentation such as a transgendered individual. The artist is not trying to document some predetermined set of conditions but usually lets them come to him in due course. However one thing he hopes to include someday is the kind of genital mutilation practiced in places like Kenya which I discuss in my V-Day post.

So far exhibitions have taken place on 31 college and university campuses and have received overwhelming praise by the viewing public inevitably resulting in a few more volunteers. Part of the challenge of getting this exhibit in major galleries and museums—and getting the book published for that matter—is a historical one. After Jesse Helms made a stink about publicly-funded galleries exhibiting the Mapplethorpe photographs, the conservatives have had a stranglehold of what is and is not acceptable to display; most gallery directors would rather avoid the political hassle. A few years after publication enough outspoken professors objected to the project that finding new places to exhibit has tapered off considerably even though a simple examination of the images makes it clear there is no erotic and pornographic intent. What is needed now is the efforts of a few brave and persuasive individuals to get things started again to reignite cogent debate and not let this worthy project drift into obscurity. They say no good deed goes unpunished and I can’t help wondering how long our society is going to continue punishing Frank Cordelle for shining a light on the real lives of girls and women.

The Century Project (official website)

Heureka Publications (official website)

Flowerbuds of the Desert: Girls and Orientalism, Pt. 2

Continuing with our assortment of Orientalist works . . .

Eva Roos – Young Girl

Wikipedia: Eva Roos

Frederick Goodall – An Egyptian Flower Girl

Frederick Goodall – The Song of the Nubian Slave

The Goodall Family of Artists: Frederick Goodall, R.A. (official site)

Wikipedia: Frederick Goodall

Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre – Orientale à la tortue, aux bains

Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre – The Approach of the Master

Gustave Achille Guillaumet – Intérieur à Bou-Saâda – scène orientale

Gustave Achille Guillaumet – Deux enfants arabes assis

Wikipedia: Gustave Achille Guillaumet

Isidore Pils – Kabyles

Wikipedia: Isidore Pils

I really like this next painting. Yes, young children are the same everywhere.

John Bagnold Burgess – The Meeting of East and West

Wikipedia: John Bagnold Burgess

John Singer Sargent – Nude Egyptian Girl (1891)

Tons of online resources for Sargent . . .

John Singer Sargent: The Complete Works

JSS Virtual Gallery

Wikipedia: John Singer Sargent

Edwin Lord Weeks – Moorish Girl Lying on a Couch, Rabat, Morocco

Antonio Fabrés y Costa – Young Oriental Girls

Wikipedia: Antonio Fabrés

Paul Alexandre Alfred Leroy – Idle Moments

Paul Alexandre Alfred Leroy – Portrait of a Young Girl

Paul Elie Dubois – Jeune Morocaine à Figuig 

Paul Elie Dubois – Pastorale au Hoggar

Paul Elie Dubois – The Family of Tinguelouz from Hoggar

Rudolf Ernst (attributed) – An Eastern Bazaar

Wikipedia: Rodolf Ernst

A Few of My Favorite Things: The Saddle Club

Back in the days when I used to go to video stores, a random cover would sometimes catch my eye and I’d look at the description and figure it was too weird for me to check out. This was the case with a video that had three charming girls looking out at me from the box. But after exhausting the store’s inventory for new titles, I finally decided to give it a try and I was in the mood for something lighter anyway. The production quality was about what I expected but for some reason this series started to really grow on me.

It turned out that it was only one of a series called The Saddle Club and is based on books titled The Saddle Club and Pine Hollow written by Bonnie Bryant. Once one looks past the predictable melodrama, one can enjoy the kind of idyllic inner life of girls who also happen to love horses. There are three series but the first one is the best produced in 2001-2002 and is the emphasis of this post. It has the spark of youthful inspiration before getting bogged down by the ravages of its own popularity.

Ultimately, the appeal of this series boils down to two things: little girls and beautiful horses. The Saddle Club is also a kind of fantasy for young horse lovers with the lead characters spending almost all their time at Pine Hollow with the animals and learning about themselves and their world from a safe inner sanctum. Here the girls have some say and power in what transpires around them. There are adults present but they always feel peripheral to the narrative or simply serve as a catalyst for the girls’ adventures—offering words of wisdom. To the writer’s credit, there are no shrinking violets among the female characters and even when their own insecurities create dilemmas, the girls always come out on top. For those interested in horses, practical elements are thrown in giving the stories some plausibility. Some of the discs have extras about competing in show events and advice on the care and maintenance of the animals. The TV series is a joint Australian/Canadian production and due to its early popularity was cobbled together into a set of four movies. This hasty move does create some story continuity problems between Adventures at Pine Hollow and Horse Crazy, but the shifts within each movie are not too jarring. The first film The First Adventure and the last The Mane Event round out this set.

The Saddle Club proper is a core of three girls: Carole, Stevie and Lisa.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Gift Horse (2001-02) (1)

Carole Hanson (Keenan MacWilliam) seems to be the glue of the group. Between the hot temper of Stevie and the insecurities of Lisa, she is watchful—balancing out these extremes and keeping the group focused on its purpose. She has suffered the loss of her mother to cancer and used the money she got in the will to buy her horse Starlight. She also hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a veterinarian. Here she gets the news that she has been accepted as a veterinary assistant.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Greener Pastures Part 1 (2001-02)

Stephanie “Stevie” Lake (Sophie Bennett) seems to be the virtuoso of the group—being a skilled jumper and doing tricks with the horses. Stevie starts out with Comanche, who is Pine Hollow’s best trick horse, but later she adopts Belle whom she rescues from an abusive owner. An amusing running story is how Stevie and Phil (Glenn Meldrum) who really like each other can’t seem to get past a series of misunderstandings that prevent them from getting together. Here she is with Comanche.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club Pilot Episode (2001-02) (1)

Lisa Atwood (Lara Jean Marshall) is the newcomer to the group and spends her first days desperately trying to get the approval of Carole and Stevie, but blunders always seem to get in the way until a heroic moment when she saves Stevie from one of Veronica’s pranks. An exciting time for her was when a movie was being shot at the ranch and the lead actor, who is really just a regular nice guy, takes a special interest in her. Lisa starts out with a paint pony called Patch and later promotes to Prancer. Here Patch is flirting with her before their first ride together.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club Pilot Episode (2001-02) (2)

Marshall is impressive in another way; she is one of the few girls who can get away with saturated orange as her signature color. Another detail I like is how the costume director almost always has her hair in ribbons, accentuating her precious girlishness.

Veronica diAngelo (Heli Simpson) is the beautiful and aristocratic villainess at Pine Hollow. A spoiled but talented rider, she is always jealous of the accomplishments of others and brags whenever she can. She is notorious for neglecting her horses so that one of the other girls has to pick up the slack. This behavior makes her subject to pranks and pratfalls, as the other girls keep trying to teach her a lesson. Her mount is Cobalt—the most expensive horse at the ranch—who has to be put down after an accident caused by Veronica’s recklessness. Her parents later buy her a beautiful mare named Garnet. Here she is trying to manipulatively save face after being scolded yet again by Max (Brett Tucker)—the proprietor and instructor—for shirking the care of her horse.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Herdbound (2001-02)

Kristi Cavanaugh (Kia Luby) is Veronica’s best friend, but they often go their separate ways in various plotlines. She is obsessed with boys and can be seen flirting with Red (Nathan Phillips) the head stable hand when there isn’t someone better on offer. Even though her family has money, she comes across with a disarming down-to-earth quality. One storyline has her seducing a visiting boy named John who is teaching the group to ride Western style. Kristi thinks he is charming and romantic, until she discovers he is only putting on an act for the sake of the workshop and is really a big geek. Her regular mount is Barq, but here she is standing by Garnet, listening to Red describe what a great horse she is.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Set Up (2001-02)

Melanie (Marisa Siketa) is Lisa’s cute kid sister who sometimes hogs the spotlight but does not yet ride at Pine Hollow. A charming storyline is one where she tries to keep the staff from force-feeding a new foal whose mother has mastitis. Max’s mother Mrs. Reg (Catherine Wilkins) helps her figure out a way to persuade the foal to take a bottle instead. Here she is in Lisa’s bedroom tormenting her about a trail ride she desperately wants permission for.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Work Horses (2001-02)

Ashley (Jannelle Corlass-Brown) is a younger rider whose pony is named Dime. When not riding, she and Melanie spend a lot of time together taking care of the horses. An amusing adventure with Ashley is when she believes Comanche has swallowed Max and Deborah’s wedding rings and follows him around all the time, waiting for the rings to pass through the horse’s system. Here she is teaching Comanche to do some new tricks which leads to the mishap.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Bridal Path Part 1 (2001-02)

Megan (Sophie Hensser) is a simple sweet girl who encourages others and is a real team player. She competes with Kristi for a while for the attentions of John, and when Kristi decides he is too much of a geek, she tells Megan the good news that she is not interested in him.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Found Horse Part 2 (2001-02)

There is a feeling of genuine sorority in this program and in this scene the girls officially form The Saddle Club. The club has only two rules: they must look out for each other and be crazy about horses. It seems not to be a secret club, as other characters refer to it by that name from time to time.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club Pilot Episode (2001-02) (3)

It is tempting to think that, because of the animosity of the characters, they don’t hang out together on the set. But in a way Simpson is really a member of the club, and here she is having fun with the other girls in the sound studio.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – Hello World Video (2001)

The second series was shot in 2003 and though the actresses are still young, they are noticeably older. This gives the stories the feeling of being motivated by a more teenage mentality. Melanie and Red were recast and the production style is different so it seems a very different show. Two movies from this series were made: Storm at Pine Hollow and Horse of a Different Color. A third series was made in 2008 and is a remake with all new cast but I have no idea if it is a rehash of the old stories or if new plots were written for the characters. I only became aware of it when researching The Saddle Club for this post.

Bonnie Bryant (b1957) is the author of nearly a hundred books about horses, including ‘The Saddle Club’ series and the ‘Pony Tails’ series. She has also written novels and movie novelizations under her married name, B. B. Hiller.  She began writing The Saddle Club in 1986 and although she had done some riding by that time, she intensified her studies then and it was as though she was learning right along with her characters.  Born and raised in New York City, she still lives there.  In honor of her contribution to this popular series, she was given a cameo appearance in the episode ‘Star Quality’ in Season One.

[June 9, 2014] The surprise success of the series compelled the producers to create these movies which are the most accessible to most people.  The annoying thing is that there a number of continuity issues and bits of missing story that were not included in the feature length films.  I was able to watch the actual episodes from Season 1 online and get the missing pieces and have a clearer idea of the timeline.  Also, there are a few more charming girls that do not appear elsewhere and I felt like covering them here:

Nia (Hannah Daniel) has only a small part in this episode (too bad) and her odd behavior is a clue to the mystery of the Mystery Weekend.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment - The Saddle Club: Mystery Weekend (2001-02)

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Mystery Weekend (2001-02)

Tina (Kate Dorrington) is an old friend of Stevie’s in town for a visit but is now “all grown up” and Stevie is torn between fitting in with the “mature” girls and staying loyal to the Saddle Club girls.  Here Tina (left) is explaining why she going out with Christy (right) instead of hanging out at the stables.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment - The Saddle Club: Gift Horse (2001-02) (2)

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Gift Horse (2001-02) (2)

Andrea (Ashlee Kavanaugh) whose mother travels all the time is staying at Pine Hollow temporarily during an important dressage competition.  Carole, who is also competing, is threatened by the competition and feels as though she is being replaced in the Saddle Club.  I found this an odd casting choice as Kavanaugh is noticeably taller than the other girls and seems out of place when they are standing together.  Here she (left) is standing behind Stevie (right) who is serving as her groom.

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment - The Saddle Club: Jump Off (2001-02)

Crawfords/Protocol Entertainment – The Saddle Club: Jump Off (2001-02)

*Ray at makes a point of keeping track of the careers of young people who are intellectually gifted or exceptionally talented.  He tells me that Heli Simpson participated in the International Science Olympiad, representing Australia in biology and her team won a bronze medal.  The event was covered in a documentary called Battle of the Brains aired by ABC-TV. She also pursued her musical ambitions and released an album and a single.  She is now studying medicine/surgery at Melbourne University entering the program with a perfect score, making her one of the top high school graduate students in the state.

The Saddle Club (official fan website)

Flowerbuds of the Desert: Girls and Orientalism, Pt. 1

Largely a byproduct of the 19th century West’s fascination with Eastern cultures, particularly those of the Middle East, the Orientalist trend in art was widespread in British and European art.  The bright colors and exotic locales (not to mention the more overt eroticism that could be portrayed when dealing with foreign subjects, since they were considered less civilized anyway) attracted artists like a magnet.  One especially tempting draw for these painters were harem scenes, for obvious reasons, and it should be no surprise to anyone that occasionally the subjects were young adolescent girls.  While it is true that there is often an implicit, if not explicit, racism in the attitudes of these Western artists and their portrayals of the Middle East, it is also fair to say that there was likewise a deep-seated admiration, and perhaps even a kind of respect, for a culture which to many Westerners must’ve evoked the scenes and peoples of the Bible, including the harem, which is a tradition that stretches into the ancient histories of the Middle East, Southeast Asia and even in parts of South America.

It is important to note that the Western conception of the harem as a kind of lush prison full of the sultan’s or king’s hundreds of sex slaves, aside from being largely an exaggerated myth of the xenophobic Occidental world, is also a rather simplistic notion of what the harem was.  Essentially the harem was the domain of the women, children and concubines of a Middle Eastern royal’s family, forbidden to all males save for eunuchs and the king, sultan or other high-ranking royalty or leaders, which would include his wives, mother, daughters, and even sons until they came of age.  The harem could be a kind of paradise, a feminine oasis, and other than the slaves and servants, women had a good deal of power here that they would not have outside the harem’s walls.

Like Symbolism, Orientalism was less an artistic movement in itself than a loose confederation of art addressing a common theme.  Ergo, there are many different artists with a wide range of styles that fit into the Orientalist tradition.

Carl Timoleon von Neff – Harem Beauty (1859)

Alois Hans Schramm – Bedouin with Young Girl

Alois Hans Schramm – Counting the Bounty

Armand Point – An Arab Weaver

Armand Point – An Arab Weaver (detail)

Henry d’Estienne – An Arab Girl Carrying Bread

Henry d’Estienne – Jeune orientale aux bijoux

Jean Launois – Juive d’El Oued et son enfant

Marc Alfred Chataud – Fillettes algériennes

Paul Désiré Trouillebert – Harem Servant Girl (1874)

Wikipedia: Paul Trouillebert

Balinese Dancers and Other Native Beauties: Romualdo Locatelli

I’ve been looking at a lot of Orientalist art lately, which is how I discovered the work of Romualdo Locatelli.  Although most Orientalist art dealt with the Near/Middle East, Southeast Asia also received a bit of attention.  Locatelli, for example, did much to bring the islands of Bali and the Philippines to the public’s attention, focusing particularly on girls and young women, especially the dancers of Bali, with their beautiful, intricate costumes.  Locatelli came to Orientalism later than most, with much of his seminal work being produced from the 1920s to the 1940s.  In his native Italy Locatelli’s work was so popular that some of it was even collected by the Pope and Benito Mussolini.

In 1942, at the height of WWII, Locatelli, aged 37, disappeared without a trace while hunting somewhere near Manila in the Philippines, though not before getting to hobnob with General Douglas MacArthur.  The story of events leading up to this disappearance are quite fascinating; you can read about them here.  Anyway, here is a nice sampling of his lovely Impressionist paintings.

I think this first one has to be my favorite. I love the oblong framing technique.

Romualdo Locatelli – La lettura (1926)

Romualdo Locatelli – La mascherina (1927)

Romualdo Locatelli – La Balinese (1939)

Romualdo Locatelli – Legong Dancer (1939)

[Editor’s update, 2016/06/04: there is a larger image of Legong Dancer on Huffington Post.]

Romualdo Locatelli – Nude (1939)

Romualdo Locatelli – Tigah (1939)

Romualdo Locatelli – Portrait of a Young Girl

Romualdo Locatelli – Young Balinese Girl with Hibiscus

Romualdo Locatelli – More Than a Handful

Romualdo Locatelli – Sardine Girls

Romualdo Locatelli – (Title Unknown) (1)

Romualdo Locatelli - (Title Unknown) (2)

Romualdo Locatelli – (Title Unknown) (2)

Made of Sterner Stuff: Albert E. Sterner’s Illustration and Painting

As an avid fan of illustration and an illustrator myself, I mostly encounter new artists through their illustration work.  So it was with Albert Edward Sterner, an English-born American illustrator, painter and lithographer who is best known for his American magazine illustrations and posters.  He eventually moved to Paris, where he studied with some topnotch artists, including Jules Lefebvre and Jean-Léon Gérôme.  He rounded out his career as an art instructor in New York City.

Albert Edward Sterner – Olivia (1903)

Albert Edward Sterner – Portrait of Miss Marion Hoffman (1907)

Albert Edward Sterner – Olivia Age 6, Newport, Rhode Island (1911)

Albert Edward Sterner – Kiss of the Angel (1914)

Albert Edward Sterner – First Steps (1930s)

Albert Edward Sterner – Portrait of a Young Girl

Wikipedia: Albert Sterner

I am also linking to an online book called Ten Tales, written by François Coppée and illustrated by Sterner. A couple of the illustrations are of little girls, but rather than post them here I just figured I would link to the book, which is contained in its entirety at the Project Gutenberg site. You may enjoy reading the stories; they are quintessentially Victorian–bathetic and rooted in Christian ethics–but well-crafted.

Ten Tales

Artists are People Too: Polixeni Papapetrou

This is a personal story, because it is about my evolving friendship with a remarkable artist and so you will forgive a lack of personal detachment when discussing her. Over the years, I have always been impressed how people with some notoriety will nonetheless be quite approachable and personable. This is certainly the case with Polixeni Papapetrou, and through her I discovered that true artists have the intellectual and spiritual depth I really respect and savor—but she was the first and so there is a special place in my heart for this particular artist.

By August 2008 I had just discovered the exquisite work of Sally Mann and some of the ridicule she received “exploiting” her own children. In researching Mann I heard a lot of stories of mothers being arrested for taking innocent pictures of their naked children and I decided that it was time for me to assess the veracity of these stories myself. It was slow going at first, but one item caught my attention early on about a scandal caused when a Melbourne-based artist allowed an image of her naked daughter to appear on the cover of a major art magazine. When I looked into the issue further I learned that it was a cropped image of 5-year-old Olympia Nelson (Papapetrou’s daughter) on the July 2008 issue of Art Monthly Australia (#211):

Polixeni Papapetrou – Olympia as Lewis Carroll’s Beatrice Hatch Before White Cliffs (2003)

This was from her “Dreamchild” series which was produced in 2002, but the cover had reignited the controversy. As you can see, it is a beautiful and tasteful image and I was proud of myself in recognizing that the composition resembled that of one of Charles Dodgson’s nudes—to appear in an upcoming post. Since I knew the artist was under siege, I wanted to lend my support and let her know that the whole world was not against her. I was amazed by her prompt and reasoned reply, and she confirmed that it was indeed an homage. I only later discovered that her doctoral dissertation was on Dodgson’s photography and that she is probably one of the leading experts of her generation.

I was startled that she had such a considered response ready, but as she had received her Ph.D. only a year before, she had the citations readily at hand. In the beginning it was an information overload. I essentially got a reading list which I did my best to follow up on, and she mentioned the issues of other artists who used their children in their work: Edward Weston, Emmett Gowin, Sally Mann, Tierney Gearon, etc. I also learned that Olympia, even at that tender age, was quite strong-willed and was the one who insisted on doing it in the first place. It was especially ironic that the choice to put this image on the cover was carefully thought out as it had been exhibited many times without a peep, so everyone involved thought it safe! After the release of this publication Prime Minister Rudd said some hateful things about the work and the artist’s motivations. The media were camped outside their home for two days until the now 11-year-old Olympia decided she wanted to speak out publicly. Poli did not want her to at first but there was no stopping her, and so she and her father went out and she made her statement (which can be seen here.)

I did my best to read all the research she gave me, and sometimes I would follow up with more questions. I soon felt the need to reciprocate as she was giving me so much, so I tried to understand in more detail what things interested her and slowly I would give her leads of things I myself had discovered. I live in a rather intellectually bereft town, and so I treasured the mental stimulation and eventually the conversation turned to other things like politics, health, family, the rigors of travel and family photos and anecdotes. Before she dedicated herself more exclusively to art, Poli studied law and met and married Robert Nelson, a professor of art history and art critic. Besides Olympia, they have a son, Solomon, who is two years her junior. As a consequence the children are blessed with a strong scholastic legacy. Both children learned piano and violin beginning at age 5 and the violin became one of Olympia’s passions; she even spent six weeks in Italy to master the instrument and learn the language. Poli herself has an almost selfless compassion and recently helped a friend get her health back after the particularly stressful passing of her husband. Lately she has taken an interest in greyhounds and has a male named Lexi.

After much consideration, it occurs to me that there are two running themes in Papapetrou’s work: 1) An emphasis on body image, which is rather ubiquitous in our modern culture yet rarely deeply examined, and 2) a dark and eerie quality to her imagery, which she says she is not shy in exploring. Poli likes the idea of how her artistic vision has evolved organically, and like a true artist, her ideas strain at first for meaning and only later begin to crystallize.

When Olympia was born it seemed inevitable that such an event would affect the artist. Even though it might be said that Papapetrou garnered some notoriety because of the controversial nudes, what really fascinates her most is the cultural developments of the costumes of children over the years. It is fitting that the earliest substantive incorporation of Olympia in her art would focus almost fetishistically on her wardrobe—the eerie element being the toddler’s conspicuous absence. “Olympia’s Clothes” is a series of photographic collages of the 2-year-old’s outfits. Olympia being too young to have a well-developed scheme of self-expression, this collection is really about the projections of her parents and well-intentioned friends and family. As such, the child is endowed somewhat with a cloak of classlessness, sometimes even genderlessness, and families of limited means even manage to spoil their babies and toddlers in this way. Our post-industrial consumer culture has made possible a wardrobe once reserved for princes only a couple of centuries ago.

Polixeni Papapetrou – Olympia’s Clothes (installation detail) (1999)

In the series “Play” we see Olympia in a charming stage of early childhood. Any child development expert will tell you that, as children master the manipulation of their bodies, they begin to experiment with the particulars of their culture. The seeming incongruity of trying on adult clothes—or in this case jewelry—against the wholesome naked frame is irresistibly charming. The peculiar twist social reactionaries have put on this play has made us all hypersensitive, forcing us to be needlessly self-conscious about our enjoyment of this spectacle. It is the artist’s hope that we may review these images again someday and have a more constructive discourse untainted by artificial controversy. Papapetrou is in good company in this respect, and to my eye these images slightly suggest the work of Sally Mann—minus the candid domestic backgrounds. Robert Nelson’s essay about this series quite intelligently uses the word sensuality, which can help us adults divorce the concepts of a child’s natural inclination for self-display from the grown-up connotations of mature sexuality. Children have certain instincts which promote their development, but the viewer should refrain from making patent projections about the child’s future.

Polixeni Papapetrou – Olympia Wearing Grandmother’s Jewelry #2 (2001)

“Phantomwise” is a title drawn from a Lewis Carroll acrostic poem. This fortuitous series was the result of the 5-year-old Olympia being stranded inside the house due to rain. Instead of having an adventure through the looking-glass, she insisted on being photographed—already a long-established pattern. She happened to have finished watching Walt Disney’s Pocahontas and had cobbled together an Indian brave costume to start with. Despite all protestations of inner inspiration, Poli would have to admit that the spontaneous wishes of her children were a strong contributing factor in her choices. Not being formally educated in art history myself, I am slowly learning the jargon. One of the first terms I remember distinctly was tableau vivant which Poli uses extensively. I did not know at the time that this was an almost inevitable form coming from the Victorian psyche during the advent of photography. We are accustomed to photographs serving
a documentary function, but in the early days when composing and processing images was an arduous task, skilled artists had to choose their subjects carefully, and the natural first instincts were to compose scenes theatrically and—especially with children—fantastically. Children’s bodies and personalities lent themselves well to this kind of portrayal while adults tended to participate in portraiture—no less carefully manipulated. This series really demonstrates a more sophisticated form of play as Olympia and her mother experiment with more exotic compositions than before.

Polixeni Papapetrou – Indian Brave (2002)

In “Dreamchild” Papapetrou is playing exclusively with the photographic work of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. She made some reference to his work in earlier series, but her efforts here are more specific. As much flak as Poli and her family received regarding her nude studies and tableaux, I actually found her work quite conservative, which is a testament to how hysterical the debate has become. She is generous and open-minded and respects the efforts of others who experiment with different portrayals of children. A curious issue about child actors comes into play here as they act out or model behaviors they would not do at that age. Here Olympia has not yet learned to hold, let alone play, a violin.

Polixeni Papapetrou – Olympia as Lewis Carroll’s Xie Kitchin (Tuning) (2003)

After a short series called “Fairy Tales” Papapetrou focused even more tightly on the Alice books written by Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. She says it was Olympia’s attitude and excitement about this project that helped her recognize the playful aspects of Dodgson’s original work. “Wonderland” evokes a long legacy of children’s illustrators, and as always, Olympia and her friends make excellent subjects. Papapetrou made use of her formidable education again by staying true to the work of Sir John Tenniel—an important early illustrator of the Alice books—with the help of her painted backdrops.

Polixeni Papapetrou – Pepper Soup (2004)

“Haunted Country” introduces a couple of new elements. One is the expanded awareness of the landscape of Papapetrou’s native Australia, which we see more and more from this point. The other is the introduction of her son Solomon as another subject in her work. It is remarkable as I study the careers of women artists that there is often a consistent progression. Early on—with or without formal education—there is a child or children who are the focus of the artist. As the children grow up, it seems more attention is paid to the environment which is often regarded with a respectful awe. Poli’s explanation for this development in her work is worth reading here.

Polixeni Papapetrou – By the Yarra 1857 #2 (2006)

“Games of Consequence” adds a new dimension of play—both for the actors and for the artist herself. Although there is still a childhood charm to the play, there is an earnestness to assimilate the demands of the adult world; these games have rules and those rules come from a culture we are now a part of and will pass on to our children. The more integral use of the artist’s native Australian landscapes contributes a heightened mood to each scene. In this case the material is drawn from Poli’s own childhood memories of outings with her sister and younger brother. Although the title implies that the girl in the foreground has just had a fall, the really sinister and consequential component is the secret being shared by the other two girls—presumably about the fallen girl. Boys and men who do not give much thought to female psychology should realize that secrets and ridicule are some of the most potent causes of stress among girls.

Polixeni Papapetrou – The Fall (2008)

“Between Worlds” has a special place for me because this was when Poli began to share some details of her thought processes with me. Her idea was that, even though children of this age have assimilated much of their culture, there are still wholesome and spontaneous animal impulses, and these striking juxtapositions speak to the idea of having one foot in each world. In addition, the effect of alienness is a statement about how children have become regarded as the “other” in adult society, as though they were not fully human. At first I had expected the usual stereotypical animal roles, but the somewhat regal sounding titles added a depth to the images that defy convention and open the mind to new possibilities. I believe this sophistication marks a new spiritual depth in Papapetrou’s work. My favorite is the one with horses among the hay bales; by now Olympia has become a skilled violinist and Solomon indulges his mother by toying with gender roles and is the other figure lying against the bale. The obligation of holiday gift giving means that we don’t always give or get the most thoughtful gifts, but Poli chose the perfect image here to be made into a Christmas card.

Polixeni Papapetrou – The Violinist (2012)

“Dreamkeepers” appears to be cut from the same cloth as “Between Worlds” from a production standpoint, but there is a tempest of emotions beneath the surface for both the children and their mother. On the one hand, there is this exuberance for the potentialities of the future with the concomitant insecurities of a child entering adolescence. By this time, Poli has become quite used to working with her children, and as they become more aloof and independent there is a melancholia and an uncertainty about the future. Papapetrou, like many artists who work with children, cannot help comparing the bodily perfection of youth to the progressive signs of aging. Poli sent me an artist book of work from this series and the response was intense; they say no news is bad news and though my guests thought it was weird, it was worthy of comment—many taking snapshots on their mobile phones. The idea was to have some visual cues of youth from the body beneath with masked cues of age on the surface. The stark artificiality of the masks and costumes against a youthful natural frame and skin, and the almost surreal Australian backgrounds, creates an impressionistic effect, and so many viewers at first believed them to be paintings. I asked her about the introduction of clown costumes in the work and she said she began to be intrigued by them and wanted to play with that image in later work. Here is an interview with Robert Nelson which includes some charming excerpts of her work in the field and her family life.

Polixeni Papapetrou – The Wanderer No. 3 (2012)

Papapetrou’s latest series “The Ghillies” is inspired once again by the whims of the children—this time Solomon. He is an avid player of combat video games; he saw and wanted a Ghillie suit he saw in a store, which is a kind of tactical camouflage. Naturally, he asked his mother to take a picture of him in it. Papapetrou continued to make use of Australian backgrounds and the results can be seen on her website and will be exhibited in April 2013 at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in New York City.

My involvement with Pigtails was a sudden development, and so I had not told Poli about it at first. I was pleased to learn that she thought it “a very thoughtful and considered site,” and I can only hope this post also meets with her approval. Pip had already posted a couple of her images, but I felt Poli deserved a proper post all to herself as she contributed greatly to my personal development in art history, appreciation and criticism.

Her children’s passage from childhood into adolescence is cause for bittersweet reflection, but she informs me that she has purchased a new state-of-the-art camera and has found some young girls willing to model should Olympia be unavailable . I have no idea if her clown imagery is going to dovetail with this new development, but in true artistic form, these thoughts will have to incubate in her mind for a while before they are made manifest.

As Olympia turns 16 (and Solomon 14) they may begin to contemplate their childhood experiences, and I hope they will take the time someday to share them with us from an even more mature and self-possessed perspective.  You can hear some recent comments from the children in a downloadable video by Roy Chu here.

* I did not know if Poli wanted me to talk about her illness and prognosis to the public.  I wanted to publish this post in a timely manner so she could see what regard I have for her and her work.  The Age published an article that discusses some of the personal issues  and the latest artistic developments.

Polixeni Papapetrou (official site)

Connections: Jean François Bauret and Jeff Koons

If one is an avid collector of artistic images, then he or she is bound to stumble across things that seem connected somehow.  This is how I discovered the Fränzi Fuhrmann connection among the German Expressionist painters known Die Brücke. So, one day I happened to recognize that an image I had in my collection of a Jeff Koons sculpture closely resembled a photograph I also had in my collection.  With a little bit of searching I discovered it was a photo by Jean François Bauret, though not having a title for the photo to confirm it, I am not even certain it is a Bauret photo.  I have not been able to find it anywhere else on the internet, and that is a problem.  With rare pieces like this I prefer to find at least two versions of it correctly labeled so that I am not just repeating someone else’s error (if an error was made.)  Pictures of the Koons sculpture, however, are more readily available on the internet.

Now, with regard to the Bauret photo, ordinarily I would not post images with such flimsy credit information, or at least not as labeled.  I might list them under the ‘Artist Unknown’ marker.  But in this case the mystery confounds me enough that I am posting both of these in the hope that someone out there might have more accurate information and/or a higher quality version of the photo.  In any case it is quite clear to me that Koons ripped off Bauret’s photo, or maybe Bauret took the photo for Koons to model his sculpture on.  Who knows?  One is hard-pressed to find any real connection between these two artists though.  Jean François Bauret is a classic art photographer who began his career in the 1950s.  His portraiture is pared down and elegant, his nudes very tasteful.  By contrast, Jeff Koons is a postmodern pop artist in the vein of Andy Warhol, and his work is either a critique of pop culture or a shameless wallowing in it; critics are split on this.  He has also used blatantly pornographic images in his work.  Not that I am against porn, even as art, but Koons’ poppy, lowbrow aesthetic I think actually accentuates the trashiness of porn rather than lifting it out of its perceived trashiness.  So what exactly is the connection here?

First, let’s look at the Koons sculpture.  Although it is difficult to tell in photos where it is usually placed against a white background, Naked is actually life-sized, its height just under four feet (45.5 inches to be exact, or around 116 centimeters if you’re on the metric system.)  But the most ironic thing about it is that it is part of a series called Banality.  Essentially a postmodern commentary on kitschy but high-end objets d’art, I can see where Koons was coming from by including it there, even if I don’t necessarily agree with his assessment; however, this was created in the mid 1980s, a bit before the moral panic over child pornography really set in, and nude children in art have since become anything but banal in many people’s eyes.

Jeff Koons – Naked (1985) (1)

Jeff Koons – Naked (1985) (2)

Jeff Koons – Naked (1985) (3)

Jeff Koons – Naked (1985) (4)

And now, here’s the photo from which the sculpture was obviously inspired.

Jean François Bauret – (Title Unknown)

Since I’m already posting a Bauret photo, I might as well post a couple more that fit the blog’s theme.  The first one is a portrait of late actor Klaus Kinski holding a small girl.  The little girl’s name is Nanoï and does not appear to be of any relation to Kinski.  I cannot find any information about her at all, so I am going to assume she was placed in the photo simply for the sake of contrast.

Edit: As I believed the child was actually a girl, I did not happen to look up the info on Klaus Kinski’s son Nikolai, but on a hunch I checked it just today.  Ladies and gents, we have a winner.  Nanhoï is in fact Nanhoï Nikolai Kinski, Klaus’s son.  You can definitely see the family resemblance here.  My confusion over this stemmed from the fact that I have never heard or read of him referred to by his first name, only by his middle name, Nikolai.  Anyway, even though it is a boy I am going to leave the image up, as I find it to be rather charming.

Jean François Bauret – Klaus Kinski & Nanoï (1979)

The cover of a photo book about twins.  The French have two words for twins, depending on gender: ‘jumeau’ (plural ‘jumeaux’) refers to a male twin and ‘jumelle’ (plural ‘jumelles’) to a female twin; hence, the title . . .

Jean François Bauret – Jumeaux & Jumelles (cover)

Jeff Koons (official site)

Wikipedia: Jeff Koons

Jean François Bauret (official site)

Wikipedia: Jean François Bauret (text in French)