26 September 2020

Man Ray's fabulous fashion photos, Mus­ée du Luxembourg Paris, 2020

Emmanuel Radnitzky (1890-1976)  was born in Philadelphia, the son of Russian immigrants. On moving to Brooklyn in 1911, his father took the surname Ray and Emmanuel took the first name Man. After studying draw­ing, he met Marcel Duch­amp in 1915, who brought him into the small circle of New York Dadaists. Frustrated at the fail­ure of his 3rd exhibit­ion at the Dan­iel Gallery NY, Man Ray set­tled in Paris and joined the Dada group, abandoning of painting.

Man Ray - Wooden Mannequin, 1925

In the first instance, Man Ray entered fashion to finance his art, seeing fashion photography primarily as a mean of supporting his experimental artwork. When he moved from New York to Paris in 1921, he embarked upon various collaborations with the couturiers there including Vionnet, Lanvin, Chanel and Sch­iap­arelli, to finance his studio, brushes and paint. But right from the outset, he resolved to exp­loit the pot­ential for artistic expression within the context of commercial work. His first commission was for Paul Poiret, one of the city’s leading designers. Among the images from the session, the most famous are perhaps the striking portraits of a young Peggy Gug­genheim, draped in a glittering Poiret gown. But Man Ray’s favourite from the series was a Denise Poiret posing next to a Brancusi sculp­ture, which emanated light and combined art and fashion.” 

Kiki de Montparnasse holding an African mask, 1926
Photo credit: Dazed

Secondly Man Ray viewed fashion photography as an important way to spread his artistic ideas, Happily the fashion world was delighted by his surreal approach, and went on to champion some of his most experimental work. Take his famous Rayograph Technique which he dis­­covered accidentally switching on the light in his Paris dark­room, exposing the photo paper mid-development and creat­ing the dramatic contrast of light and dark. Vanity Fair caught wind of this soon af­ter Man Ray had created it, and in 1922 print­ed 4 of his rayog­raphs in a feature. Such mass-market dissem­in­ation would have thrilled the artist; before the age of tv and radio, such publicat­ions were swiftly becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment. 

Man Ray, model, 1930

The Parisian fashion designer Paul Poiret encouraged him to work as a fashion photo­grapher, now that magazines like Vogue, Femina and Vanity Fair were de­d­icating more space to photography. Despite hav­ing no exper­ience, Man Ray practised and soon mastered the method, lending an artistic cachet to his images. Commissions soon flooded in, and in 1933 he became a permanent contributor to the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar. Offbeat or moving composit­ions, reframing and plays of shadow & light were some of the innovations that show­ed his complete talent. In the 1930s the fe­male silhouette chan­g­ed and fashion became a mass spectacle, luckily for Man Ray’s images.

Man Ray allowed for a wide overlap between his personal and comm­er­cial work, with many of the same motifs and stylistic flairs appear­ing in both. See his 1929 photo­graph of Lee Miller’s lips, which formed the basis of his 1936 painting Observatory Time: The Lovers, which he included as the backdrop to a fashion editorial for Harp­er’s Bazaar in Nov 1936. Other elements that showed up in both his private and commis­s­ioned imagery included a fas­cination with hands, a fondness for focusing on one part of the face or body. His pion­eering techniques eg his frequent use of double expos­ures, created interesting visual eff­ects.

His long career was defined by a pioneering quest for experi­m­en­tation and self-reinvention. He was a painter, sculp­t­or, print maker, photographer, filmmaker and poet, although he always des­cr­ibed himself as a paint­er above all else. And his oeuvre spanned Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism.

When WW2 hit Paris in 1940, Man Ray left for Hollywood, where he decided to abandon fashion photography for fear that his commercial reputation was eclipsing his artistic one. But he was proud of his fashion output, scouring America for back iss­ues of the magazines he worked for, he understood that he’d succ­eed­ed in prod­ucing work that went beyond the transitory quality that was typical of magazine work at the time. This was clear in the 1990 photography exhibition in NY, Man Ray/Bazaar Years: A Fashion Ret­ro­spective . He had raised the status of fashion photo­gr­aphy to that of a real art form, paving the way for younger photo­gr­aphers. 

Man Ray - Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli (solarised), 1930 

Man Ray’s fashion images have frequently been subject to reinterp­retation, from his famed early photograph of hands bearing Picasso-painted gloves (1935), which would go on to inspire Schiaparelli’s iconic black leather gloves bearing fake red nails a year later; to the 1999 ad for Jean Paul Gaultier's signature Classique, which mirrored the pose of Kiki de Montparnasse holding an African mask, replacing the mask with the torso-shaped bottle.

Man Ray, Glass Tear, 1932 

When he first ent­er­ed the fashion sphere, Man Ray resol­ved to do something different. The resulting photographs had a last­ing impact on fashion photography as a medium thanks to Man Ray’s refusal to give up on his artistic ambitions, regardless of the form they took. A number of his landmark portraits eg Glass Tears were displayed in the Tate exhibition: The Rad­ical Eye: Modernist Photography 2017.

Man Ray is now so valued for his avant-garde approach that modern viewers forget that for 20 years of his career, 1920-40, he made his living largely from commercial fashion photography in Vanity Fair, Fren­ch Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and with Paris’ most famous des­igners. Now see Man Ray and Fashion at the Mus­ée du Luxembourg Paris from Sept 2020-Jan 2021. His enduring infl­uence, nearly 100 years lat­er, remains as a powerful testament to the uniqueness of his vision. 

My main reference was Daisy Woodward at Dazed.

22 September 2020

Heroic Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter

Egypt and Israel had been engaged in four major military conflicts since the establishment of Israel in 1948, and tens­ions had been particularly high after the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973). Also the Israelis had taken control of the Sinai Penin­sula, which had been under Egyptian control, during the 1967 war.

Egyptian President A Sadat, President J Carter, Israeli Prime Minister M Begin 
Camp David Accords ceremony, White House, 1978. 
Wikimedia Commons (top image)

Hope emerged when Jimmy Carter became US Pres­ident in 1977. Carter was very inter­ested in Israeli-Egypt conflicts, spending time & political capital pushing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat & Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin  to­ a mutually beneficial deal. At first Carter tried to inc­lude all the war­ring Mid­­dle Eastern parties in negotiati­ons, including Jordan, Syr­ia and the Pal­estinians. Plus the Soviet Union. But Egypt and Israel prefer­red dealing just with each other, and Carter was int­uit­ive enough to support them.

The ultimate goal was to establish a framework for Middle Eastern peace by a] formalising Arab recog­nit­ion of Israel’s right to exist securely and b] creating a procedure for the with­drawal of Israeli forces and citizens from the West Bank’s Occupied Territories (to enable the establishment of a Palestinian state).

While the Camp David Accords were negotiated in summer 1978, they were actually the result of months of diplom­at­­ic efforts that began under Jimmy Carter. Resolution of Arab-Israeli conflict had been a holy grail of international diplom­acy since the passage of United Nat­ions Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967. This resolution crit­icised the acquisition of territory by the Six-Day War of 1967 and cited the rights of Palestinians with regard to statehood.

In its role as a world power, and Israel’s biggest ally, the U.S ultimately played a central role in achieving these aims. In doing so, it became a linchpin of Carter’s policies before the 1976 pres­idential election. But leaders in both Israel and Egypt had been slow to get together, UNTIL Sad­­at agreed to speak before the Is­rael’s Knesset parliament in Nov 1977 – he made a famous and brave speech of reconciliation! Just days later, both sides began inform­al peace talks that ul­tim­ately resulted in the Camp David Accords. 

Sadat may have agreed to talk to his rival Israel to gain favour with USA. Egypt’s ec­on­omy had been stagnant for years, esp since the blockade of the Suez Canal, an action taken by Egypt in response to Israel’s incursion into the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank during the Six-Day War.

Acrimony betw­een Egypt and Israel heading into the Camp David talks led Car­ter to speak with each of the leaders separately, in their cabins. The two men were very different and their negotiations were painstaking - Sadat was an Axis sympathiser in WW2 whilst Begin’s parents and brother were murdered by the Nazis! Nonetheless, Egypt and Israel did agree on a number of prev­ious­ly controversial matters.

Camp David Treaty, Gallery of History display

The resulting Camp David Accords contained 2 agreements. 1] A Framework for Peace in the Middle East sought the estab­lish­ment of a self-governing authority in the Israeli Occupied Ter­rit­or­ies of Gaza and the West Bank, as a step toward Palestinian statehood. Full implementation of U.N Resolution 242 included the withdrawal of Israeli forces and civilians from West Bank lands and the Sinai Peninsula. There was also recognition of the legitimate rights of the Pal­es­t­inian people to eventually seek full autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.

The accords restored full diplomatic rel­at­­ions between the two nations! And Egypt allowed Israeli ships to use the Suez Canal and Straits of Tiran, linking Israel to the Red Sea.

2] A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel outlined the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty rat­ified by the two nations 6 months later, in March 1979 at the White House. 

The contentious future of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians wanted as their capital, was intentionally left out of this agree­ment.

The treaty also called for the U.S to provide both countries with military aid: $1.3 billion annually in military aid for Egypt, and $3 billion for Israel. In subsequent years, this financial assist­ance was given on top of other aid packages and investments involving both countries.

So the Camp David Accords were a series of agreements signed by the Egyptian President and the Israeli Prime Minister following a fortnight of secret negotiations at the Presid­ential retreat, Camp David. President Jimmy Carter brought the two sides together, and the acc­ords were signed 17th Sept 1978.

Although the accords were an historic agreement between 2 warring sides, and both Sadat and Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 1978 in recognition of the achievement, their long term sig­nific­an­ce was arguable. Tragically, in Armed Forces Day 1981, Sadat was assassinated by his own Muslim extremists during Cairo’s military parade.

And many other Arab nations disagreed with the details of the Camp David Accords. Seeing Egypt’s formal recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a betrayal, the Arab League alliance of nations in the region sus­pended Egypt from its membership for the next 10 years. Egypt wasn’t fully reinstated until 1989.

NB the U.N never formally accept­ed the first agreement of the accords, the Framework for Peace in the Middle East, because it was written without Palestinian representation.

Though the Camp David Accords didn’t reach peace in the region, they did stabilise relations between the Middle East’s biggest powers. Israel and Egypt never came to blows even once, even when tensions between them remained high. And these accords laid the groundwork for the Oslo Accords, agree­ments signed by Israel and Palestine Liberation Organis­ation leaders in 1993-5 that resolved sig­nific­ant issues to move the reg­ion a step closer to a lasting peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize 1994 was awarded jointly to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East. But why did Jimmy Cart­er not win a Nobel Peace Prize until 2002 for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to inter­national conflicts? 

19 September 2020

Engagement rings: from my mother's half carat to REALLY big diamonds

I met my then boyfriend/now husband in 1969, when he was an impov­erished uni student, and I had even less money than he did. When we were engaged, my mother kindly offered me her own engage­ment ring but I exp­lain­ed that I was a 1960s hippy and thought that dia­m­onds were way too bourgeoise. My mother assured me that I would event­ually come to love precious jewels, so she would wear dad’s prec­ious WW2 treasure until I was ready. Or leave it in the will for me, her only daughter. From my wedding on, I wore a plain silver wedding ring only.

On the day of my beloved mother’s death, I was at the chapel at the cem­etery, then at the graveside and then sitting shiva (7 days of mourning) with my heartbroken dad and all the family. During that first day, every treasure was stolen from my late mother, presum­ably by the relative (by marriage) who asked to have my mother eu­th­anised only four weeks earlier. The police, rabbi and care home staff never found my late mother’s diamond ring.

Above find an image of the engagement ring I would have worn, had I designed it myself. 
It is .5 of a carat.

Now read information from The Jewellery Editor about large, expens­ive and rare diamonds that belong to other people. Pink diamonds are extremely rare, with only 50 or 60 quality gems ap­pearing on the market each year. These blush-coloured stones frequently fetch 20-40% more per carat than the equiv­alent white diam­onds. 

Blue diamonds are am­ong the rarest in the world, accounting for only 0.0001% of all gems mined around the world. The numbers are further whittled down by the fact that only c1% of these stones display the colour tone and satur­ation that allow them to be classified as Fancy Viv­id. 

Pink Star

In 2013 the oval pink diamond Pink Star was cut from a 132.5 carat rough mined by De Beers in Africa 20 years ago. The Pink Star end­ed up as a 59.6 carat pink diamond of internal flaw­lessness, and was the largest Fancy Vivid diamond ever graded by the Gem­olog­ical Institute of America/GIA. At first it was sold to diamond cutter Isaac Wolf at Sotheby’s Geneva in Nov 2013. But the buyer failed to complete the purchase on his $83 million winn­ing bid, leaving the diamond to languish in Soth­eby’s inventory for 3+ years. Then tense telephone bidding war for the Pink Star took place between three interested parties. The proud new owner of the Pink Star diamond, the most expens­ive gem stone ($71.2 million) in the world, is Hong Kong jeweller Chow Tai Fook.

Set into a platinum ring flanked by two shield-shaped white diam­onds, the Graff Pink was previously owned by American jeweller Har­ry Winston. The final selling price in 2010 exceeded the pre-sale estimate of c$40 million, bought by jew­eller Laurence Graff for $46.2 million at Sotheby’s Geneva auction. The Graff Pink’s 24.8 carat emerald-cut Fancy Intense gem was fabulous. 

Graff Pink

Blue diamonds have dominated jewellery auc­tions in recent years, and the Oppenheimer Blue is the second most expensive jewel to sell at auction. This 14.6 carat emerald-cut Vivid Blue diamond was auct­ion­ed at Christie’s Geneva in May 2016, for $57.7 million. This particular indigo-coloured gem being named after Sir Philip Oppen­heim­er, a member of one of the world’s most influential and power­ful diamond families, for his wife. The Oppen­heimers control­led the De Beers Mining Co and Sir Philip oversaw the diamond sales cartel for 45 years until 1993. 

Oppenheimer Blue

The Cullinan is the largest rough diamond ever found, weighing an incredible 3,106.8 carat. Discovered in Cullinan South Africa in 1905, it was then gifted to King Edward VII but not set into a ring by ren­owned jeweller Verdura until the 1990s. The rough diamond was cut into 9 main stones and many small gems, the largest of which was the 530.4 carat Cull­in­an I/Great Star of Africa. The Cullinan I was set in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, an important part of the British Crown Jewels.

The 24.2 carat Cullinan Dream is the largest of the gems cut from the 122.5 carat rough blue diamond unearthed from the Cullinan Mine in 2014. The Fancy Intense blue diam­ond appeared at auction and sold for $25.4 million at Chris­tie’s New York in June 2016. 

Cullinan Dream

As a rough diamond, the Centenary Diamond weighed over 500 carat in 1986 in Premier Mine South Africa. It was later cut to a modified heart-shape, weighing 273.9 carat. It took a total of 154 days for their highly-skilled team to finish the re-cutting process and thankfully, the sacrifice in carat weight improved the colour and flawless clarity grade of this unique diam­ond. The diamond was insured at US$100 million at its unveiling in May 1991, loaned to the Tower of London where it was displayed for a number of years.  

Thankfully celebrity film and music stars don't need 500 carats for their engagement rings. For her second marriage to tycoon Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy only wore a large 40-carat marquise cut, VS2 clarity diamond that was cut from a 601-carat diamond. Kim Kardashian's first engagement ring, from Kris Humphries, was even more modest: 16.2 carats

15 September 2020

Trump's racism in "Chinese Virus" grew out of C19th cholera pandemic racism.

An offensive part of President Donald Trump’s reaction to coronavirus was when he called the novel coronavirus the China Virus.  Despite WHO specifically not naming the disease after any place where the outbreak might have begun, and despite know­ing that racist terminology fueled hate crimes against people of Asian descent, Trump’s anti-Asian discrimination continued.

Because Time’s photo showed the speech-change from “coronavirus” to “Chinese Virus” was in Trump’s own handwriting, I assumed the new label came from Trump’s racist thinking. A number of articles appeared, in sources of varying credibil­ity, criticising Chinese wet markets and tradit­ional medical pract­ic­es, again assigning a deeply cultural culpa­bility for coronavirus. Asian Americans were being harassed across the US, in the language of ill hygiene that many of these incidents occurred.

 In his speech, Pres Trump hand-changed the word "Coronavirus" to "Chinese Virus"  
Time (top image)

Now Sagaree Jain has written a historic view of racism in chol­era pandemics. Historians marked the first cholera pandemic as 1817, spreading along trade routes from India to Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, In­donesia, China and Japan by 1822. The second pandemic began in 1829-32, when the disease circulated from Britain to Canada and the USA, and from Mexico to Cuba. Eng­lish-speaking doctors on both sides of the Atl­an­tic referred to this new cholera by its place of origin. In 1831, the New York City Board of Health requ­ested that 3 of the city’s most prominent doctors quickly collect all information pub­lished in Europe or Asia on the subject of The Oriental Cholera.

English poster warning Clerkenwell citizens about Indian Cholera, 

The cholera epidemic was often blamed on foreigners; nativist groups re­vived fear of the spreading disease as a reason to restrict imm­ig­ration. NY mayor Philip Hone wrote about Europeans, not Asians, in 1832: “Irish and Germ­ans coming by Can­ada, New York and New Orleans, filthy, intemper­ate, unused to the comforts of life and regardless of its prop­riet­ies. They flock to the populous towns of the great West, with dis­ease contracted on shipboard, and increased by bad habits on shore. They inoculate the inhabitants of those beautiful cities, and every paper is only a record of premature mor­tality. The air seems to be corrupted and indulgence in things here­tofore innocent is frequently fatal now in these cholera times.” 

In the first waves of Asiatic Cholera, the British medical estab­l­ish­ment was still deeply influenced by the humoral-body fluids trad­ition found in Galen’s writing. It was believed that dis­ease stemmed from miasmas of bad air, especially in unsanitary con­d­it­ions. In the early C19th, British doctors accepted Indian pract­itioners where the common belief was that it was India’s hot climate that exposed British soldiers to disease. Wealth­ier Brit­ish colonisers moved to cooler hill-stations.

Only in 1854 did the British physician Dr John Snow locate a large outbreak of cholera via a single neighbourhood pump. He thus proved that cholera was transmitted in water.

Existing fears about Indian society increased the anxiety sur­rounding cholera's advance. The sanitary commissioner of Bengal Dr David Smith wrote scath­ingly on disease and unsanitary cond­it­ions in the Hindu pilgrimage to the god Jag­an­nath: “The human mind can’t sink lower than it has done in connec­t­ion with the appalling degeneration of idol-worship at Pooree.” 

In 1884, Dr Charles Macnamara lectured on Asiatic Chol­era at the Westminster Hospital, citing a 1871 government order: Asiatic cholera has a peculiar infectiousness which, when local conditions assist, can operate with terrible for­ce. In the C19th, Asiatic Cholera was used by Western­ers to de­scr­ibe a new disease that originated in Bengal and that was part­ic­ul­arly virul­ent and deadly. The term was also used to define a whole subcont­inent as diseased and unhygienic. South Asia was cast as being in some way to blame for a cholera that rav­aged the world.

British knowledge of sanitation and disease trans­mission advanced rapidly. But rather than leading to a common und­erstanding about the disease, Brit­ish doctors derided Indian hygiene. Hist­orian David Arn­old wrote in Cholera and Colonial­ism in British In­dia (1986): the Indian origins of ch­ol­­era and its global spread from Bengal made the disease a con­ven­ient sym­bol for what­ever the West feared about very diff­erent societies. One of the clearest expressions of this fear arose from the epid­emiol­ogical link between cholera and Hindu pilgrimage. Arnold knew that cholera was only a micro-organism; it acquired meaning and signif­icance from its human context. His research clarified that medical profession­als relied on moral judgments in character­ising Indians pilgrims.

Dr William Eggleston wrote Oriental Pil­grimages & Chol­era (1892): The most riotous imagination could scarcely exaggerate the filth of India & Egypt and of the Hindoo and Moh­ammedan pilgrims, for when peop­le use the same water for bathing, washing soiled clothes and drink­ing, they are scarcely ripe for moral suasion. So long as the pil­grimages continue, Europe and this country will be endangered and will be visited by cholera. 

Asian immigrants examined by medical staff at Angel Island Immigration Station, c1900. 

Asian women detained at Angel Island for up to 6 months before being deported or accepted, c1900.  Berkeley 

The British inquired into the conditions of South Asian people on pilgrimages, then classified pilgrims as a dan­gerous class who needed specific surveillance systems. This revealed the power of the Colonial Gaze, the ability to categ­orise whole practices as senseless and backwards eg Hindu or Muslim pilgrimage.

It would not be until 1883 that scientists discovered that cholera was caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae carried in water.

Sagaree Jain concluded that cholera was used to drive a wedge bet­ween C19th British Empire cultures, intentionally or otherwise. Even as British doct­ors improved their understanding of disease transmission, racism continued. Between fear of cholera and ignorance of pil­grimages, the British medical establish­ment had characterised a whole culture as fil­thy. In 2020, we should not be repeating C19th racist assignations.