A Master of Lyon: Tony Tollet

Tony Tollet was a Lyon-based French painter who had one of the longest and most distinguished careers of his time. Born in 1857, he began his artistic career as a child when, bed-ridden because of illness, he began to produce drawings that impressed his father, who then encouraged him to take up art. In 1873, the 16-year-old Tollet did precisely that, taking up training at the École des beaux-arts de Lyon, where he would flourish under the tutelage of Jean-Baptiste Danguin and Michel Dumas. A mere six years later, he won the Prix de Paris, allowing him to further his education at the even more prestigious École des beaux-arts de Paris. Here he studied under such world-class painters as Alexandre Cabanel, Luc-Olivier Merson and Albert Maignan, and in Paris he also befriended the Flandrins, a well-established family of painters.

In 1885, he won the 2nd Prix de Rome for a piece entitled Themistocles in the Home of Admete (which I’ve not been able to track down on the internet). In 1889, with his mother growing ill, he returned to Lyon and here remained for the rest of his life, marrying Jeanne Pailleux, who bore him six children. He set up his own studio in Lyon where he painted the portraits of notable local personages and taught drawing in the municipality of Guillotière. He suffered a major setback in 1909, when his studio caught fire and was destroyed, along with all of the works contained therein. Luckily, this did not stop Tollet from starting over, and he continued to paint until 1942, well into his eighties by then. Having accomplished many honors and held several important official positions in Lyon, Tollet finally passed away in 1953, at the age of 95.

One of the artist’s most recognizable paintings is this portrait of the Bernard children, painted around 1920. This piece would of course be classified as Realism, but I feel there’s a nice balance here between the romanticism of the 19th century and the modernity of the 20th.

Tony Tollet - Portrait of the Bernard Family in Lyon (ca. 1920)

Tony Tollet – Portrait of the Bernard Family in Lyon (ca. 1920)

Unfortunately, I could never track down a color version of this piece. It is certainly a sweet painting, reminding me somewhat of the work of Mary Cassatt, though with more of a Victorian sensibility than Cassatt’s work tends to have.

Tony Tollet - Le secret

Tony Tollet – Le secret

Tony Tollet - Happy Children

Tony Tollet – Happy Children

And finally, my favorite of Tollet’s paintings, an allegorical work. The central subject of this piece is Flora, Roman goddess of flowers and springtime. Little girls, representing the springtime of human femininity, fit in nicely here.

Tony Tollet - Flore, symbole du Printemps

Tony Tollet – Flore, symbole du Printemps

Are You People Too?

Just something cute for you today. This painting was made by Theodor Grätz, of whom there is virtually no background data for on the web. This little toddler girl approaches what appears to be two orangutans and asks them if they too are people. It is exactly the sort of charming image that would’ve been used on a postcard in the early part of the 20th century, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out it had been at some point. The image required a small amount of clean-up when I found it, but nothing too troublesome.

Theodor Grätz - Seid Ihr auch Menschen?

Theodor Grätz – Seid Ihr auch Menschen?

Children of All Nations

Hetty Brody - Children of all Nations (1972)

Hetty Brody – Children of all Nations (1972)

When I was cleaning my parent’s basement a few weeks ago, I came across a book of rug designs in which I found this charming Children of All Nations rug. Little information was given about it other than it was a punch hook by Hetty Brody of Hollywood California. The book of rug designs was published in 1972, the rug certainly reflects the spirit of the time. The image of children of different races holding hands appears to be inspired by Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It seems appropriate to consider this rug due to the current racial tension after the fatal shooting of an African-American man by a Louisiana police officer. Many sociologists believe that racial tension is approaching a point of the street riots that swept urban American in the late 1960s.

When I discovered the rug, I admired the optimism of the image of nude girls but realize such a spirit can hardly be found today. Why is it so? There’s an atmosphere of skepticism today. The Australian philosopher David Stove called the epistemological gloom “cognitive Calvinism”; Stove observed, “Calvinists believe in the total depravity of human nature: if an impulse is one of ours, it is bad, because it is one of ours.” A cognitive Calvinist in contrast to a religious Calvinist, is one who has no faith in God but still presumes all motives are of self-interest even if actions may appear outwardly good. Contemporary thought operates along these lines of skepticism of intent. Traditional literature and works of art are deconstructed to expose the supposed hypocrisy behind the humanist ideals expressed in the works. Many postmodernists dismiss the notion of universal human qualities and values as an oppressive construction, and if so, why not deconstruct this text?

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

Our society is falling apart due to “cognitive Calvinism”, the presumption of the total depravity of human nature, the idealism found in the 1960’s is greatly needed. No society can function based on distrust. This is why I have come to love images of this kind, it is the very antithesis of our “Orwellian” culture. The irony is, I find that people who have a traditional religious background tend to be open-minded to images of nude children because they still respect the idea of innocence. I have good reason to believe the current state of self-consciousness is due to the “hermeneutics of suspicion”, where things are not accepted at face value. Most feminists presume images of beautiful females are some form of sexploitation. This ideology has atomized society, which I have reason to believe is intentional. The authors of anti-utopias predicted that authoritarianism would intentionally break the ties of the family. The only solution I see is a return to romantic idealism which recognizes how industrialization has alienated the perception of life.

Children of All Nations pattern (1972)

Children of All Nations pattern (1972)

Cool Fascination: The Spy Who Caught a Cold

The charming thing about short films is that they allow the filmmaker to put forth an idea that would not yield enough plot for a feature. The title of this short piece is a take-off on the film, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). However, beyond the wordplay, there is no similarity between the films. The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) is a light-hearted—one might say almost frivolous—British piece. It was written by Lucy Ellmann and directed by Philippa Lowthorpe and was produced by Channel 4 (not to be confused with BBC4, see comment below). The premise is that a single mother (Lesley Nightingale) has decided to spend a few days at a nudist beach along with her daughter, Clozzy (Isabella Nightingale Marsh). Being a 10-year-old girl, Clozzy pretends to be embarrassed by her mother’s interest in this excursion. But her actions throughout speak of a secret fascination. Instead of participating with the others, she prefers to study the goings on with amusement.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (1)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (1)

Early in the film, Clozzy gets into the spirit of things and has a moment of joyful abandon, doing cartwheels along the water’s edge.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (2)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (2)

Her mood is quickly deflated when she observes her mother being friendly with a man.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (3)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (3)

This is the only time Clozzy is seen naked in the film. She and her mother dine out to find the man, a fishmonger, entertaining everyone with his accordion. Mother decides to get his attention and does a kind of seductive dance, again to the dismay of Clozzy. The couple leave together. Cozzy had teased her mother about spending time with a fishmonger—that his clothes probably reek of fish. But when no one is looking, she stops to smell the coat he was wearing

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (4)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (4)

At this point, the girl wears an interesting shirt spangled with stars which serves as a reminder of the symbolic connection between women and nature. The next day Clozzy has a cold, but not being life-threatening, mum decides to leave her to recuperate and rejoins the others in their activities.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (5)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (5)

Clozzy sneaks off to continue her spying, sneezing along the way.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (6)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (6)

When she returns, she finds her mother and the fishmonger making love. She watches quietly.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (7)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (7)

After mum leaves, Clozzy investigates further. She enters the tent where the man is sleeping and waves her hand over his body as though she were stroking him. Then as she leans over to kiss him, mum walks in.

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (8)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (8)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (9)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (9)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann - The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (10)

Philippa Lowthorpe and Lucy Ellmann – The Spy Who Caught a Cold (1995) (10)

After the trip and in a predictably duplicitous manner, Clozzy is heard telling her friends what a silly waste of time it had all been.

This film is currently viewable on YouTube. [I have been informed from a reader that the YouTube link is no longer active.  I could not find another copy online.  Essentially the full story is given here, but for those who wish to see the film, please contact me personally and you will be given a link to download it instead.  Thank you, -Ron]

Laurits Tuxen

Danish painter and sculptor Laurits Tuxen was a member of the Skagen Painters, a group of Scandinavian artists who met in Skagen, Denmark’s northernmost town (situated at the very tip of the Skagen Odde peninsula) during the last decades of the Victorian era. The set also included husband and wife teams Michael and Anna Ancher and Peder Severin and Marie Krøyer, as well as Viggo Johansen, Carl Locher and Christian Krohg. These artists generally preferred outdoor (en plein air) painting, for which the sparsely populated Skagen was ideal. Peder Severin Krøyer was unquestionably the group’s anchor. One of the most popular Danish artists of his time and a dashing, dynamic and magnetic figure, he will get his own post here eventually. But for now, back to Tuxen.

Laurits Tuxen was raised in Copenhagen, where he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In addition to being an early member of the Skagen Painters, Tuxen traveled quite a bit, painting landscapes and portraits, mainly of European and Russian royalty. His style was primarily Realist, though he also dabbled in Impressionism. The following piece falls pretty solidly into the first category, though there are Impressionistic touches here and there. The painting features three young girls in their tween to early teen years on a beach in Skagen, two of them nude. It’s not a particularly unusual painting for its time. In fact, what’s most fascinating about this piece for me is that a set of photographs were taken of this scene as it was being painted, an unusual occurrence for artists of the Edwardian era, for which photography was still a fairly cumbersome activity, though its popularity was growing by leaps and bounds. Anyway, here is the painting:

Laurits Tuxen - Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med figurer (1907)

Laurits Tuxen – Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med figurer (1907)

We also have quite a bit of historical data on this painting. The standing girl and the girl lying on the beach in a pink dress were Tuxen’s own daughters, Yvonne and Nina, aged 13 and 10 respectively at the time. Yvonne was born in 1894, Nina in 1898. The third girl is almost certainly Peder and Marie Krøyer’s daughter Vibeke Krøyer, born in 1895, so she would’ve been about 12 or 13 here as well. She appears to have her father’s red hair. Now, here are the photographs of the scene, showing Tuxen at work in the background. You’ll see that, despite her nudity in the painting, Yvonne is fully clothed in the photos. This modesty may have been for the sake of the photographer, who has not been identified, but also it may have been unnecessary for her to strip, as the artist may simply be touching up some of the details. If you look closely, you can see that the painting appears to be pretty close to completion.

Photographer Unknown - Laurits Tuxen painting 'Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer' (1)

Photographer Unknown – Laurits Tuxen painting ‘Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer’ (1)

Photographer Unknown - Laurits Tuxen painting 'Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer' (2)

Photographer Unknown – Laurits Tuxen painting ‘Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer’ (2)

By the way, there is a wealth of information about this group and several more photos and artworks featuring these three girls, including some closeups (they were all quite beautiful in my estimation) at this site, where the above photos were borrowed from, though it’s all in Danish. If you’re willing to slog through it and do the translations, it is quite a fascinating look at the life of these artists and their children.

Random Image: John Philip Wagner

A reader just shared this sensuous image of fairies.  For some reason there is a transposed version and I am told this one has the correct orientation.

John Philip Wagner - Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner – Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner was born in Philadelphia in 1943, got his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the Philadelphia College of Art and his Masters at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also studied with David Hare and Dennis Leon. As a child, he plastered the walls of his elementary school with paintings of Egyptian pyramids and Roman ships and later studied the theater arts, painting, sculpture and printmaking. He resides in the American Southwest, having lived in New Mexico and then southern Colorado, adding Native American and Southwestern Art to his repertoire. While in Santa Fe, he created the first version of the puppet theater known as “Wagner Marionettes”. Since then, he spent much time entertaining children with his little players on string. In 2005, he was charged with sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl, claiming that he touched her buttocks. Found on his computer were nude photos of the girl the artist says were used for reference. The mother denies giving her consent for these photographs. There is no information about a hearing or trial but, presumably, he agreed to a plea bargain as he was required to register as a sex offender. He no longer has his own website and sells his beautiful art through CafePress. Categories of interest include Fairy Art and Angel Art.

Alexandre Lamotte: Langoureuse

Last April, I bought at Carré d’artistes a second watercolor painting by Alexandre Lamotte. Its French title Langoureuse means “languorous,” and indeed I find it soft and sensuous. It is one of my loveliest, and it hangs above my bed.

Compared to the previous one, it is slightly smaller (25cm×25cm instead of 36cm×36cm); as in the latter, there is a white cardboard inside the frame surrounding the picture, but given the smaller size of the painting, I have cropped the photograph to remove it. Without professional equipment, it is difficult to reproduce exactly the tones and colors of a watercolor having a weak color contrast. Of all my shots and computerized contrast enhancements, I chose the version that seems to me the most emotional. So the background looks a little bit bluish, while in reality it is beige.

Alexandre Lamotte - Langoureuse (2016)

Alexandre Lamotte – Langoureuse (2016)

At Carré d’artistes, paintings rotate between their various galleries. Indeed, the week after I bought Langoureuse, all unsold works by Lamotte had been removed. But the staff told me that he has now other projects beside painting, so instead of being sent to another gallery, his works were returned to him. And his webpage on their site has been reduced to his biography.  They removed the image of one of his paintings that appeared on it; however I had saved it, so I give it here.

Alexandre Lamotte - Carre-d'artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alexandre Lamotte – Carre-d’artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alphonse Isambert

I’m back! At least for awhile. And here’s a taste of what I have in store for you. This piece is by Alphonse Isambert, a student of the master historical painter Paul Delaroche. Isambert, like many artists of the 19th century, was heavily inspired by ancient Greco-Roman art and culture. The style here is Neoclassical, and this piece exemplifies the tradition of the idyll, with two rustic youths, likely young lovers, playing music in the woods. The title translates to Aulos Players in Arcadia.

Alphonse Isambert - Les joueurs d’aulos en Arcadie (1847)

Alphonse Isambert – Les joueurs d’aulos en Arcadie (1847)


Flashbacks within Flashbacks: Körkarlen

Körkarlen (1921) is a Swedish silent film which has gone by the names The Phantom Carriage, The Phantom Chariot, Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! and The Stroke of Midnight. Pip came across this when reviewing a series of silent films and brought it to my attention. The film is based on a novel of the same name written by Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf in 1912. The reason I am mentioning this film here is that it has a scene of an older man bathing a little girl and it got us to wondering if this is the oldest extant appearance of a nude little girl in cinema. It would be fascinating to learn if any of our readers can come up with any older examples.

Victor Sjöström and Selma Lagerlöf - Körkarlen (1921)

Victor Sjöström and Selma Lagerlöf – Körkarlen (1921)

The story itself makes use of an intriguing Swedish folk tale that states that the last sinner to die before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is doomed to drive the Phantom Carriage the following year, collecting all of the souls of the dead. One of the protagonists turns out to be that man and reviews the selfish life he led and its impact on others. Besides being an award-winning film, the movie distinguishes itself as a key work in the history of Swedish cinema. It was notable for its special effects, which were advanced for the time, and a narrative structure that made use of flashbacks within flashbacks. It was also a major influence on filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. You can view it online here.