“Yes, everything that has truly been seen must become a poem!”
-RAINER MARIA RILKE (1875-1926)
inspired by beauty
a journey through time
art, aesthetics, and all that inspires,
from 18th-century france to the present
As some of you know, my life’s work has been in dance. First, as a dancer and then as a choreographer. Along the way, I have also designed gardens and interiors, lectured on 18th- and 19th- century art, and studied those things about which I am most passionate. Eighteenth-century France, especially in its art, has been a favorite…and the English Romantic poets have recently been pulling at my heart.
Here, I hope to carve out a place where I can gather thoughts on aesthetics…art, beauty, and truth. And yes, there will be poetry!
One of the greatest spokesmen on the value of poetry was the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). He writes, “…the Poet, singing a song in which all human beings join the rock of defense for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love.”
These concepts of truth, human nature, and social conscience are carried over from 18th-century French Enlightenment thinking. The pre-revolutionary thinkers (the philosophes) spoke of freedom as man’s natural right. And going back even farther, the artists of early 1700s France will break with tradition by pursuing beauty for beauty’s sake, thus setting into motion a wave of change in the zeitgeist of the time.
Beginning with the greatest of the rococo painters and draughtsman, Antoine Watteau, we will explore the work and lives of these remarkable artists. Watteau will usher in the 18th-century with complete artistic and philosophic abandon. Freedom to create art that is an expression of one’s own experience of beauty will replace the restrictive, hierarchical art of the previous era.
Our journey will take us to post-revolution England, where again it is the artists who usher in a philosophical movement – a revolution of sorts – in artistic sensibility. Here we will delve into the work of Wordsworth and the Romantic poets. Wordsworth’s important treatise on poetry, written in the year 1800 and titled “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”, will lead us into this next era, which will later be coined Romanticism. In his Preface he writes, “…all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” He further goes on to discuss how poetic expression can elevate our empathy for mankind and thus allow us to fulfill our highest purpose: to enhance society as a whole. How wonderful and exciting it is to visit those moments in time where the soul is ignited through art and aesthetics. These are the moments that connect us to one another, and humankind as a whole.
Living in a society that praises the external over the internal, power and prestige over ethics, the material and physical world over values of love, beauty, and truth, we can find comfort in reading Wordsworth’s declaration of the value of feelings and their expression through poetry. His words strike the chords of truth. We will not stop with Wordsworth, however, but will journey through to the present where these enduring concepts continue to find expression.
Reader, I hope that your brief visit here will provide you with moments of inspiration… moments where we can connect on a level of soul. I believe – that when we share from a place of beauty and truth – we inspire each other to be our best, most alive, and authentic selves. I am happy to invite you to my newly-created Inspired by Beauty, A Journey Through Time – The Blog, Welcome!
the colors of rococo
Seductive pastel colors, introduced by the decorative artists of late 1600s – early 1700s France, will usher in a tide of change. These chalky pastels find expression in art, interiors, and fashion and become synonymous with 18th-century France and the rococo style. The above image is an exquisite example of a European stiff corset, called stays. It is dated 1660-1670 and is from the Victoria and Albert’s collection of historical dress.
antoine watteau (1684-1721)
Seated Young Woman, aux trois crayons drawing. Black, red, and white chalk on buff paper, ca. 1716. From the permanent collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City. I was so fortunate to see this exquisite drawing at the Morgan, when it exhibited in 2009, among an exceptional collection of 18th-century French drawings. Its sensuous and fluid lines seem to dance into place with the most delicate and poetic ease. Standing before Watteau’s original drawing is something I can never forget.
marie-louise otte (contemporary)
Here we have a beautiful pair of hand-sculpted and painted, paper ballet slippers made by Danish artist Marie-Louise Otte. With their powdery soft green hues, subtle gold leafing and mysterious writings, they evoke images of 18th-century France and modern-day fairy tales. Photographed in my designs by Phillip Van Nostrand.
photo by phillip van nostrand
An exquisite painted and gilded Louis XVI style console, created today by Taillardat of France, provides a classical touch to a contemporary room. Marie-Louise Otte’s sculpted, paper flowers with their soft, chalky tones mingle happily with bright colors and modern art. The framed, fine art photographs featured in the above image, and at the beginning of this post, are by Brooklyn-based artists Scott Irvine and Kim Meinelt of WAXenVINE. These hauntingly beautiful works of art are presented in delicate, gilded frames with silk mattes. They have an edgy, almost mystical quality and appear to capture a glimpse of eternity. It is my great pleasure to share these with you. Photograph by Phillip Van Nostrand.
Also featured above – a glass and gilt iron sconce by Maison Baguès (ca 1940) and a contemporary gilt vase by AERIN. The books on the console are Ladurée: The Savory Recipes by Michel Lerouet and CHANEL: The Vocabulary of Style by Jerome Gautier. The lavender fabric, used to create our window curtains, is from Osborne & Little, England.
In our next post, we will meet in the year 1698 when King Louis XIV loosens his reign of control and asks his chief architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, to create lighter and more youthful designs. Hardouin-Mansart’s team of artists introduce the soft, pastel colors that will carry forth into interiors and fashion and set the tone for 18th-century France. They usher in a movement that will revolutionize art, culture and eventually politics. Here we will also examine the paintings and drawings of the first and most important of the French rococo artists, Antoine Watteau (introduced above). Nineteenth- century French art scholars consider Watteau to be “the poet of 18th-century France”. I am so excited to further explore and share this with you.
Lastly, in November 2020, I announced my latest creative project, which is unexpectedly and to my delight evolving into a book. You can read about this work, and catch a glimpse of sample images, on the book page of this website.
Thank you for visiting!
Rainer Maria Rilke quote is posted with kind permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York.
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Deborah Bartok August 4, 2019 at 9:05 pm – Reply
Fabulous my dear… I longingly look forward to lovely images and the stories that make them present in real time!
You have a way with aesthetics:)
August 6, 2019 at 9:34 am – Reply
Thank you for your kind words Deborah!
Betsy Duggan September 15, 2019 at 11:05 am – Reply
September 17, 2019 at 8:42 am – Reply
Thank you so much Betsy. It’s lovely to see you here.
Daniel September 15, 2019 at 7:18 pm
Reply Absolutely gorgeous. Rich in art, information and inspirationThank you Andrea for sharing this with us
September 17, 2019 at 3:23 pm – Reply
Daniel, I truly appreciate your kind words. I’m so happy to read that you felt inspired!
Maria September 21, 2019 at 1:25 pm– Reply
Thank you for taking me on a journey of Beauty, Art, and Poetry…….always inspiring always healing
October 6, 2019 at 4:15 pm
Thank you for your kind reply Maria. I too find art and beauty healing.
Julia September 29, 2019 at 11:18 am
I am delighted to be a part of your audience as you take us on this elegant journey through beautiful and inspiring expressions and stunning images!
October 6, 2019 at 4:17 pm
Julia, it is wonderful to have you as part of this journey!
Michele Tram September 29, 2019 at 4:41 pm
Thank you for sharing your world with us – I am always deeply inspired and moved by your vision. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
October 6, 2019 at 4:18 pm
Thank you so much Michele, that means a lot to me!
Emma October 6, 2019 at 1:19 pm
You make art feel exciting and easy to understand!
October 6, 2019 at 4:20 pm
That is so wonderful to read! It is so satisfying to share this with others. Thank you Emma.
Rochelle Lazarus Saxena October 6, 2019 at 4:44 pm
This blog is a visual feast and your commentary reads like poetry.Sharing historical vignettes with text that reads in the present tense makes it magical and immediate for the reader and your joy for your subject breathes throughout! Your love of art, beauty and truth dance together in complete harmony here in your blog! Congratulations! You did it! And it’s perfect!
January 3, 2020 at 1:05 pm
Thank you for your kind words! I am so appreciative!!!
Antoinette October 7, 2019 at 3:42 am
The world needs Truth and Beauty more than ever — and your blog and book are here to truly inspire us along this path. How I love to relax with a cup of tea after a long day and just take in your words and feast on your sumptuous images — together they are a soothing balm to a weary soul. They provide a place of calm and solitude for all who engage — and serve to remind us to pause, take a deep breath, and return to a life filled with love and integrity. I believe we all started out living that way until “life got in the way.” Your words of Truth and images of Beauty are like a divine roadmap bringing us back to that very special place we are supposed to be! And, for that, I thank you.
January 3, 2020 at 1:08 pm
Thank you Antoinette. Yes, I feel the same. We are meant to return to that place of beauty….love. Wow- thank you so much!!!!
Fata October 22, 2019 at 3:52 pm
What a beautiful blog you have started . So inspirational . You write and display like a delicate flower . I’m so excited to see more . Thank you for this perfection
January 3, 2020 at 1:23 pm
Fata, it is so nice to see you here. Thank you for your lovely comment, it means a lot to me!!!