Temptations

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Exhibition catalogue.

In one of the many recent features about Leonora Carrington I noticed a mention of her Temptation of St Anthony painting from 1945 (see below). This was one of eleven works on the theme submitted by different artists for a competition staged to promote Albert Lewin’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), a film adaptation of the Guy de Maupassant novel. Carrington is often mentioned when this competition is discussed, along with the other big names, Max Ernst (the winner) and Salvador Dalí. But you seldom see mention of any of the other competitors, hence this post, an attempt to find all of the competition entries.

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Leonora Carrington. St. Anthony is often shown with a pig companion but only Carrington depicted the animal for this competition. When asked why the saint had three heads, she replied “Why not?”

Albert Lewin didn’t make many films but he had a predilection for arty subjects, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami being preceded by adaptations of The Moon and Sixpence (1942) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). All three films star George Sanders, and all feature special colour sequences when a painting is revealed. 1945 was the peak of America’s brief infatuation with Surrealism (Hitchcock had Dalí working on Spellbound at this time) so Lewin asked a number of Surrealists to take up the challenge. I was surprised to find that Stanley Spencer was one of the entrants, a name you almost never see in this company; less surprising was Ivan Albright whose painting of the decayed Dorian Gray is one of the highlights of Lewin’s earlier film. Leonor Fini was also asked to take part but she didn’t produce anything. The judges were Marcel Duchamp, Alfred J. Barr, Jr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and art dealer Sidney Janis. Ernst won a cash prize variously reported as $2500–3000, while the other entrants received smaller sums. The paintings toured the USA and Britain during 1946–7.

As to the film, I can’t say what this is like because it’s one I’ve yet to see but Self-Styled Siren’s witty review goes into some detail. Hollywood apparently had problems with the adult subject matter (Sanders’ character is described as a sexually predatory social climber), and Lewin was forced to tone things down.

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Ivan Albright.

Albright’s contribution is so frenzied and detailed it approaches psychedelia. Best seen in this large view at Flickr.

Continue reading “Temptations”

Papillons de Nuit, a film by Raoul Servais

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From Homosurrealism to Belgio-surrealism. Papillons de Nuit (1997) is a short homage to the Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux featuring a handful of familiar Delvaux motifs including nocturnal tramcars and large-eyed, bare-breasted women. Raoul Servais had already borrowed some of Delvaux’s imagery for his feature-length fantasy, Taxandria (1994), but that film doesn’t sustain itself over its running time despite the involvement of Alain Robbe-Grillet and François Schuiten. Servais’s blend of live action and animation seems to work better in concentrated doses.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Sirene by Raoul Servais
Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald
Harpya by Raoul Servais
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux

Sirene by Raoul Servais

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Sirene (1968), a short animation by Belgian filmmaker Raoul Servais, isn’t as sinister as his nightmarish Harpya (1979), despite the similar titles. But Sirene does have a collection of anthropomorphic harbour cranes, and a flock of inexplicable pterodactyls like something out of a Gerald Scarfe cartoon. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Harpya by Raoul Servais
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux

Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald

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Saint-Idesbald is a small, unremarkable seaside town on the Belgian coast situated between Ostend and the border with France. I spent a week there on a school camping holiday in the 1970s unaware that it was the home of the great Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux (1897–1994). I suppose you could make the argument that the location of Dalí’s home in Cadaqués was equally unremarkable, but Dalí’s house was well-known, and that area of the Spanish coast is familiar from many of his paintings. The surprise in later discovering that Delvaux lived in Saint-Idesbald, rather than Brussels or Bruges, or even Ostend, is that the town is quite unlike the tram-haunted, cobblestoned, moonlit vistas of his paintings. It’s appropriate that JG Ballard thought highly enough of Delvaux to mention his paintings in some of his stories, and also commission reproductions of two lost canvases; Ballard’s Shepperton was an equally unlikely home for such a vivid imagination.

Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald is a film from the Naxos record label that lasts all of three minutes, but which happens to feature the first footage I’ve seen of Paul Delvaux as a working artist. Despite Ballard’s attention, Delvaux has often been passed over as a subject of Surrealist documentaries in favour of the usual trinity of Dalí, Magritte and Max Ernst. There are older documentaries in existence, however, so I’ll continue to hope they may turn up eventually. For anyone who happens to journey near Saint-Idesbald, many of Delvaux’s paintings can be seen in the museum there.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Public Voice by Lejf Marcussen
Ballard and the painters
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux

Weekend links 90

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Portrait of Dr. Ignacio Chavez (1957) by Remedios Varo (1908–1963) some of whose Surrealist paintings can be seen at Frey Norris, San Francisco, from 19th January. There’s also In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 29th January.

The current crop of Republicans jostling for the Presidential nomination have reminded me of the Downunder people in Harlan Ellison’s post-apocalypse novella A Boy and His Dog (1969): a retrograde, fear-ridden community who send troublesome individuals to be exterminated at “the farm”. Rick Santorum (unforgettably pictured here with family in 2006 after losing an election) almost received the majority of Iowa’s votes for his nomination last week, prompting renewed scrutiny of his negative views about gay people, sexually active people, foreign people (especially Arabs and Mexicans), and anyone generally who isn’t a white, Catholic, Downunder person. Santorum is against gay marriage, of course—it’s hard to find a Republican who isn’t—but he also wants to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and given the opportunity would allow US states to prevent any use of contraception. Add to this his pro-torture stance (which offends current Catholic church policy), and his willingness to wage war with Iran, and it’s easy to see why his name prompts reactions such as this:

I have a history with Rick Santorum. In 2003, when Santorum, in an interview with the Associated Press, first compared gay relationships to child rape and dog fucking (have I mentioned that Santorum has compared gay relationships to child rape and dog fucking?), I held a contest to redefine Santorum‘s last name. The winning definition: “the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” (“Sometimes” is the most important word in the new definition of santorum; if you’re doing anal sex correctly, there won’t be any santorum – lower- or upper-case.) And since 2003, the new definition has been the No. 1 Google return when you search “santorum“.

Rick Santorum’s homophobic frothing by Dan Savage

Related: Santorum was named one of the three “most corrupt” Senators in 2006 | “Homohater fosser fram” which is how Dagbladet, Norway’s second largest tabloid newspaper, introduces Santorum to its readers | “Rick Santorum channels Saint Augustine” an article at Slate exploring the Handmaid’s Tale extent of Santorum‘s attitudes towards sex and morality | Rick Santorum quotes as New Yorker cartoons.

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The Rod (1973) by Brigid Marlin.

• Ballardian posts a long-overdue interview with Brigid Marlin, famous now for having brought two lost Paul Delvaux paintings back to life for JG Ballard, but also a woman with an extensive career as a fantastic artist using Ernst Fuchs‘s laborious mische painting technique.

Quentin Blake on Ronald Searle, in which Blake notes that his hero was given a full-scale exhibition of his work at the Bibliothèque Nationale, France, in 1973 whilst being ignored throughout his life by the major institutions in Britain.

Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life by Alastair Brotchie is reviewed by Michael Moorcock who tells me the Guardian cut out his references to Boris Vian, Maurice Richardson and David Britton.

Ian McKellen stirs things up by suggesting (not for the first time) that Shakespeare was bisexual.

• Ten posters by Only More Never Less inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

An end to bad heir days: The posthumous power of the literary estate.

Peace Eye! Fug! A Long Talk With Ed Sanders.

• Sand sculptures by Carl Jara.

Letterheady

• Skylab: These Are The Blues (1995) | Beyond The Breeze (1995) | Red Light, Blue Light (1995) | Indigo (Sabres of Paradise remix, 1995) | Seashell (Nobukazu Takemura mix, 1995).