Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Thursday, 11 July 2013
the Dada Baroness, Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven; the 31 Women number fifteen - her birthday is 12 July
By the time penniless Mrs Elsa Grove, thirty-eight, arrived in New York City in 1912, she had already had two creative husbands, numerous artistic lovers and a varied career in every imaginable field of the arts – actress, author, dancer, designer, model, painter, poet - she had done them all and been taken seriously in none. With this experience, a highly unconventional imagination and a confrontational spirit, Elsa’s life contained all the ingredients for a creative explosion. It took one more failed marriage, to the exiled and penniless Baron Leopold Friedrich von Freytag-Loringhoven, who fled after less than a year, to light the fuse.
After that, for sixteen years nothing stopped her, not rejection, incarceration, depression, permanent poverty and occasional homelessness. She became a consummate pilferer, liberating items to use in the creation of her totally individual art, as well as hoarding random objects she found on the street. She began creating Dada objects, poetry and performance at a time when Dada was barely known in Zurich, never mind New York.
Her found object art, in two and three dimensions, was less intellectualised than Marcel Duchamp’s, though he shared her dedication to irreverence and her scatological sense of humour. Her best known Dada object is God, a twisted, iron plumber’s trap, mounted on a mitre block, which may have been a riposte to Duchamp’s Fountain urinal.
Friday, 5 July 2013
1907 – 1954 Mexico
Frida Kahlo has the peculiar privilege of being the only woman artist whose story has been told in an Oscar winning movie. It also seems possible that more has been written about her than about all the other 31 Women put together. This fame is comparatively recent, for much of the twentieth century she was largely unknown. Frida Kahlo participated in several important exhibitions in her curtailed lifetime and was admired by the cognoscenti in Paris and New York, but after her death in 1954 her work was rapidly forgotten outside her home country of Mexico.In the twentieth century, most tomes which purported to give an overview of Fine Art mentioned very few women artists and Frida appeared as an aside to her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, if she appeared her at all. Even books on Surrealism, the movement she was closely associated with, sometimes fail to mention her. Rivera himself admired and encouraged Kahlo’s painting, saying more than once that she was a better painter than him, but neither was in any doubt that Rivera’s work had the renown and brought home the cash.
Frida Kahlo died in 1954 and her name vanished from view outside Mexico. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s, with rising feminist interest in re-discovering women artists, that Kahlo began to be remembered internationally. Today she is probably the best known woman painter of her era and is regarded as the pre-eminent exponent of an explicitly female position in the twentieth century canon of painters. Her paintings epitomise the personal made universal that so differentiates the work of many (though by no means all) of the century’s women artists from their male contemporaries.She was born in 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico City, to a Mexican mother and a German immigrant father. Her life story, with her terrible accident as a teenager, her physical suffering and complex love life is well known and so I won’t present a timeline as such here. I will just discuss some of the factors which directly influenced her art. Her parents were the earliest of these.