Saturday, November 29, 2014

EXHIBITIONS: Hollywood Glamour dazzles at the Boston MFA

Reposted by popular demand:
Glitz and grace from the golden age of Hollywood are now on display at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, through March 8, 2015. The dazzling exhibition Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen showcases shimmering, beaded and bejeweled designer gowns, shoes, and statement jewelry from the 1920s, 30s and ‘40s. It also includes a small exhibition of luminous portrait photos of the period's stars by the great Yousuf Karsh.  

The gowns' color palette of black, beige, sand, wheat, silver, and gold creates an aura of otherworldliness and grace, and captures the glistening light emanating from two chandeliers above. Designer Tomomi Itakura's spot-on room setting, with its wide cascading steps and restrained sensibility, evokes the essence of silver screen elegance.  All in all, a delightful confection -- enjoy your visit!

 silver lamé gown designed by Travis Banton leads the
parade of dresses at Hollywood Glamour.
Banton was the star costume designer at Paramount during the studio's heyday.

Chanel haute couture dress worn by Ina Claire, 1926
Silk netting embroidered with sequins; silk lining: plain weave w/crepe yarns  
Edith Head gold lamé evening gown, 1937 
Worn by Betty Grable

Satin, velvet and chiffon were popular in Hollywood costume design for their 
innate chic, but also because these fabrics didn't make a 
swishing sound when they brushed against a microphone. 

                                                                              Coco Chanel gown in black chiffon

Black velvet gown by Adrian
worn by Greta Garbo in Inspiration, 1931

              Ascending the steps to fashions of the 1940s ...
           The purple dress was designed for Mae West, and
              is the only boldly colored one in the exhibition.
Travis Banton design for 
Marlene Dietrich's costume in Desire, 1936

Accessories: Gloria Swanson's fan and dress clips (left) 
and Mae West's aquamarine baubles, diamond bracelet and shoes

The five-foot-tall actress added 8 inches to her height by 
wearing these double-decker platforms. Silver leather, c. 1948

Multi-use necklace worn by actress June Knight, late 1930s
Platinum, sapphire, and diamond
This could be taken apart and reconfigured as
bracelets,  rings, brooches and dress clips.

Trabert & Hoeffer Mauboussin brooch, white gold & diamond, c.1950
In the 30s through the 50s, jewelry was far more noticeable in films than it is today. 
"The bigger the better," says MFA fashion curator Michelle Finamore.


Grace personified in this Karsh portrait,

"Some films are a slice of life;
mine are a slice of cake." 
... Alfred Hitchcock

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

EXHIBITION: BEMELMANS! Beloved "Madeline" illustrator's work comes to Amherst, MA

“I sketch with facility and speed,” Bemelmans wrote. “The drawing 
has to sit on the paper as if you smacked a spoon of whipped cream on a plate.” 

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market (1955)

In honor of her 75th birthday, the ever-adorable Madeline, along with her creator Ludwig Bemelmans, will be feted in an exhibition running through Feb. 22, 2015 at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, located on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.

"They left the house at half past nine
In two straight lines in rain or shine --
The smallest one was Madeline."

The show explores the iconic illustrator's legacy in a display of more than 90 works: drawings, paintings, magazine covers, comic books, specially commissioned room interiors and objects, archival photographs, and memorabilia such as the artist’s paintbox. Also on view are the original Madeline manuscript and original drawings from all the Madeline books, which illuminate Bemelmans' creative process.

He painted many fantastical wall murals, including those that encircle the interior of the bar at New York's Hotel Carlyle -- now known, of course, as Bemelmans. (See photos below.) A few rare examples of his other commissioned work will be on view at the Carle Museum, including two panels from murals created for the children's playroom of Aristotle Onassis’s yacht The Christina in 1953.

Bemelmans led a sometimes tumultuous life as a bon vivant, hotelier, and restaurateur. 
“I like to write for children because I suffer from a sort of arrested development," he said. 
"I am about six years old really, and I am constantly surprised by everything." 

You can listen here to an interview with exhibition curator Jane Curley
on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio's "Roundtable" show.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

EXHIBITION: MAC CONNOR: The Saga of an Original "Mad Man"

"The Trouble with Love" (1952) © Mac Conner
(Is that Betty Draper on the left?)

For those of us who love graphics from the Mad Men era, there's an embarrassment of riches to enjoy this season at the Museum of the City of New York. Running now through Jan. 19, 2015, this lesser-known gem of the city's Museum Mile will be presenting McCauley "Mac" Conner’s illustrations, hand-painted for advertising campaigns and fiction articles in women’s magazines such as RedbookMcCall’s and Woman's DayConnor's creativity peaked during the years following World War II -- a time when commercial artists were instrumental in redefining American style and promoting the culture of suburbia.

Connor was strongly influenced by Norman Rockwell's tender and humorous portrayal of homespun Americana, and incorporated a touch of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art sensibility into his art as well. He is now 100 years old, and planned to attend the opening of this first-ever museum exhibition of his work. “I intend to be there,” Mr. Conner said, "particularly if martinis are to be served."

Illustration for "Let's Take a Trip Up the Nile" in This Week magazine (1950)

"Strictly Respectable", Redbook (1953)

 "How Do You Love Me",  Woman's Home Companion (1950)

I just had to include this illustration, if only for the title ...
 "The Girl Who Was Crazy About Jimmy Durante", Woman's Day, (1953)

To watch a 2014 interview with Mac Connor produced by the 
Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, link here.

To read an excellent review of this exhibition in the Wall St. Journal, 
written by one of their regular music writers, link here .

Saturday, November 8, 2014

REMEMBRANCE: Alfred Wertheimer's evocative photos of Elvis Presley

Elvis reading his fan mail

Over the course of a few days in March 1956, 26-year-old photographer Alfred Wertheimer shot a series of images of 21-year-old Elvis Presley, who was just at the cusp of becoming a worldwide sensation. His evocative photos capture the singer's innocence and sweetness at a singular moment in time, and the images have become iconic.

Mr. Wertheimer was just starting his own career when he got a call from RCA Records asking him to take some publicity shots of one of its new artists, "a young Southerner about to make his first television appearance". At the time Presley had recently released “Heartbreak Hotel”,  which was soon to become a chart-topper. Mr. Wertheimer had never heard of him.

“He got lucky,” Pam Wertheimer said of her uncle’s encounter with the emerging Presley. “He got there right when Elvis was still a human being.”

Alfred Wertheimer, whose illustrious career included cinematography ("The Making of the President 1960","Woodstock") and film editing, passed away in his home on October 26, 2014.   He was 84 years old.

"The Kiss" -- perhaps Wertheimer's most famous photo

Below: more photos from "Elvis 1956"

The NY Times remembrance of Alfred Wertheimer can be found here