July 31, 2019
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 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 with him, rejoices in the presence of truth as our visible friend and hourly companion… He is the rock of defence 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 (Rousseau, along with 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, Jean-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 also 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 further 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.
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. When we share from a place of beauty and truth, I believe that 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.
Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Seated Young Woman, trois crayons chalk drawing, ca 1716. From the permanent collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City. I was so fortunate to see this in person in 2009, at the Morgan, when it exhibited among an exceptional collection of 18th-century French drawings. Its sensual 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 Danish sculptor)
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.
In My Designs – A Contemporary Tea Salon
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 modern colors. 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 in the above photo are 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 for 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 team of artists and designers to create lighter and more youthful designs. These 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, Jean-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.
Also…I will soon be announcing details about my latest creative project, which has unexpectedly and to my delight evolved into a book!
thank you for visiting!
The quote at the top of the page is from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Diaries of a Young Poet.”
Rilke entered this line in his Diary on 1 September 1900. It is posted here
with kind permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York.