Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Great Cy Twombly

About 10 years ago I did an about-face and fell in love with contemporay art.  And one the greatest artists in this category, in my opinion, is Cy Twombly.  His work takes on various forms:   abstract, to minimalism, to pop;  child-like scribbles, to smears, to orbital shapes.

With his passing in Rome today at age 83, it is only fitting today to celebrate his utterly unique life and impressive body of work.

Born in Lexington, Va. in 1928 and nicknamed, like his father, after the baseball player Cy Young, he received his higher education from several schools East Coast art schools.  Throughout his life he was described as "idiosyncratic" which to me often means having a strong sense of self and resisting exterior influences.

Could his work as a cryptologist, deciphering hidden messages, in the U.S, military in the early 1950s been a source of inspiration to his art, which was often compared to calligraphy and graffiti? 

He once stated that he practiced drawing in the dark to make his lines less purposeful.  Many look at his work and think dismissively , "I could do that", but I dare any of us to try!

Before moving to Italy in 1957 (again going against the grain at a time when European artists were moving to the US), he shared a New York studio with Robert Rauschenberg (with whom he had a relationship) and Jasper Johns.  The three were part of a new movement yet Twombly was relegated to a "shadow" position, hovering behind his two contemporaties.  Despite the lack of love from many critics, the sale of his 1967 work "Untitled" at Christie's last year for $15.2M proved that the public thinks differently.

Ditto for the powers that be at the Louvre.  He is the only contemporary artist invited to paint the ceiling (of the Salle des Bronzes), an honor he received last year.

Here are a few more of his works to enjoy:

I recall my Cy Twombly fandom increasing when I started to see his works enlivening many lovely home interiors - proof that his paintings are suited equally against a museum wall or in a modern or traditional home:

Photos:  1 -  Dan Kitwood / Getty Images;  2 - Michael Stravato for The New York Times; 3 - David Lees/Time & Life Images/Getty Images; 7 - Francois Gillot/AFP /Getty Images; 9 & 10 - EscapeToNewYork; 15 - William Waldron/Elle Decor;  16 - Joshua McHugh/Elle Decor; 17 - Fernando Bengoechea/Elle Decor;  18 - Joshua McHugh/Elle Decor; 19 - Pieter Etersohn/Elle Decor; 20 - Grey Crawford/Elle Decor;  21-Thomas Loof/House Beautiful; 

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Treasure Trove for Film and Design Fans

My Fair Lady, To Catch A Thief, The Wizard of Oz, The Seven Year Itch. 

I had the privelege of viewing costumes and props from these films and more as part of a pre-auction exhibit at The Paley Center. This immense lot, from Debbie Reynolds renowned memorabilia collection, represented just 1/7th of the treasure trove she has been amassing over the last half century.  The auction took place this weekend and although I have seen  a few blog posts of photos from the auction catalog, I thought it would be interesting to share photos from the actual exhibit.

(How I wish she had succeeded in her mission of securing the necessary financial backing to open up a museum.)

The star of the exhibit and one of the few costumes behind glass was the ivory rayon-acetate halter dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. You can see that, with time, the dress has turned from ivory to ecru. A small piece of the zipper and two snaps in the back are in need of repair, but other than that the dress looks to be in good condition given its age.

It was astonishing to see how small the mid-section of this dress is.  I overheard the gentleman who put this exhibit together say that standard mannequins have a 23" to 24" waist, but special mannequins with a 18" to 19" waist were made for MM's displayed costumes. He said that earlier in her career she was quite thin, smaller than she appeared on screen and in photos.

Although a full list of "prices realized" has yet to be published for this auction, this dress, purportedly the most iconic costume in film history, fetched $4.5 million.  This is a far cry from the opening bid of $1 million and the expected sale price of $2 million.

The remaining pieces on display were equally amazing to see up close:  from truly iconic pieces in film history to lesser known items that showcased stunning detail and cratsmanship.  Here a few photos from the exhibit: 

Red sequin dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Made of a heavy silk crepe with thousands of hand-sewn sequins spiraling in every direction starting small at the top and finishing in large singular sequins around the bottom to allow them to catch the light from all angles. A deep split to high above the thigh caught by a diamond brooch added to the drama of this dress. The slightly risqué bust area once again fooled the censors by including a shear body-toned fabric from the neck right down to the waist giving the impression of nudity without showing a thing.

Saloon girl dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in River Of No Return. Gold charmeuse gown covered with bugle beading, red fringe accents, and gold velvet train with red netting.

Tropical print pink, black and white skirt, black halter top and hat worn by Marilyn Monroe "There’s No Business Like Show Business.

Beige floor length gown worn by Carole Lombard in No Man Her Own. Ornately pleated back panel and scarf, accented with embroidery wire, sequins, jet beads and seed pearls at neckline, on sleeves and tips of scarf and train.

Gold lame  and emerald gown with train worn by Claudette Colbert in Cleoptra.

Judy Garland "Dorothy Gale" blue cotton test dress with polka dot trim and ivory sheer puff-sleeved blouse by Adrian from The Wizard of OzWorn by Judy Garland as "Dorothy" in the first two weeks of filming in The Wizard of Oz.

Test pair of ruby red slippers for Judy Garland, Wizard Of Oz. Arabian-patterned shoes covered with red sequins and beads lined with red silk. Worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in the first two weeks of filming from The Wizard of Oz.

Charlie Chaplin's "Tramp"  Bowler hat.



Model T used in several Laurel & Hardy films including Big Business.

Signature Stan Laurel suit.

Signature Olive Hardy suit.



Waitress uniform worn by Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce.  Great film.

"Flapper" style dress of knitted sleeveless top in varying blues divided by a diagonal ivory lightning bolt, and pleated skirt in grey wool and ivory sleeveless bodice. Worn by Debbie Reynolds in Singing In The Rain.


Tan chiffon sleeveless dress adorned with faux pearls and red
stones with gold metal chains. Worn by Rita Hayworth in Salome.

Two-piece rose crepe outfit of short-sleeve top which has heavy white wool embroidery, and knee-length full-pleated skirt with drop waist worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. This is one of the most vistually stunning movies, in my opinion, and I hope the gorgeous blue chiffon dress is part of the next previewed lot.

Red-brown nubby jumper with ivory raw linen blouse. Worn by Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music.

Audrey Hepburn’s iconic Ascot dress from My Fair Lady – Designed by legendary costume designer Cecil Beaton.

A magnificant costume.  Two-piece biblical revealing gown, consisting of halter and long skirt both elaborately adorned with peacock-feather eye appliqués worn by Hedy Lamarr in Samson and Delilah. The gown was behind glass and resulted in a glare-ific photo, so this shot is borrowed. 

For much more memorabilia, including an impressive collection of ornate period piece costumes, download the auction catalog here.

And stay tuned for round 2 in December, when an additional lot from the DR memorabilia collection will be previewed and auctioned.

All auction preview photos taken by Jill Crusenberry; each film photo is a still from the aforementioned motion picture owned by the respective studio;  last photo and all memorabilia information from the auction house, Profiles In History
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