Saturday, July 26, 2014

Children Listening to a Reading of Books, 1947, the Bronx, by Stanley Kubrick

As he was born on July 26, 1928, had he not died fifteen years ago, Stanley would have turned eighty six years old today.  Prompted by an article in the usually useless New York Times, I was directed to a website set up by the Museum of the City of New York that displays all of the surviving photographs that he shot for LOOK Magazine during the five years he worked for them (beginning at the age of sixteen.)  The photographs shown here were made in 1947, and weren’t published in the magazine as far as I can ascertain.  As can be seen from the cutting, splicing, and marking on some of them, he was assembling them to some definite purpose before setting them aside.  It might be worth noting here that Kubrick was himself a notoriously unwilling student in school and frequently bored by what went on.  I’m assuming that these were taken at a primary school in his native Bronx neighborhood.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


(Pedro Santillana Cruzado)
November 9, 1968 - July 22, 2014

As Aubrey Beardsley said of himself, Pedro Palanca was nothing if he wasn't grotesque.  One may recall the origin of the term grotesque in the strange paintings (with figures that combined elements of the human with those of flora and fauna in metamorphoses far beyond those of Actaeon, Narcissus or Daphne) discovered beneath the Esquiline Hill in what at first was believed to be a grotto but was in fact the remains of Nero's great palace, the Domus Aurea.  These frescoes by Famulus (or possibly Fabulus) served as the models for the decorations Raphael painted in the reception rooms for the Pope's private quarters, but I think that the man for whom the originals were painted (that great lover of Roman low life as well as the highest refinements of taste,) Lucius Ahenobarbus, would have highly approved and truly enjoyed the sort of work Pedro did in such disquieting abundance.  Nero loved perversity and Pedro was nothing if not perverse.  One doesn't need to share Pedro's love of men's feet in order to appreciate the intensity of that adoration and the very humorous and beautiful work it drew from him.



I know that Pedro was deeply saddened of late by the death of his long time long distance lover Chris "Supermarky" Maher.  At one point he seemed to find something very suspicious in his friend's sudden death and the seeming haste in disposing of his remains.  So far I don't know the exact circumstances of Pedro's death, though I would assume that it was a result of liver failure due to the AIDS medication he took.  I don't know if his concerns in regards to Chris's death were ever resolved.  I would be interested to know.  The majority of the drawings that I chose for this post were made within the last two years.  Though I was aware that Pedro was ill, I didn't recognize just how severely his condition had deteriorated.  Though I wasn't completely surprised by his death, I wasn't at all expecting it any time soon.  I find it troubling, but I also find that it is better to be troubled by such friends and their lives and deaths than not to have made these connections.  This last drawing is a portrait Pedro made of his great love, Chris, as Sebastiane.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Aubrey Beardsley's Ink Drawings for Wilde's Salome

Nearly three months ago I presented a post on this blog showing all the illustrations Beardsley made for John Lane’s edition of Wilde’s Salome, as they appeared in reproduction via the process known as electro-engraving.  This present post shows contemporary photographs provided by the various owners of the actual ink drawings.  These owners range from the British Museum (and several other noteworthy London cultural institutions) to the Fogg Museum at Harvard to an anonymous private collector who bought two of them after their recent rediscovery hanging in their former owner’s bathroom.  I believe it’s preferable to see the actual drawings as opposed to their flattened photo-mechanical reproduction, as it gives a greater sense of the labor involved in their production.  It may make one better appreciate how much Beardsley was able to accomplish in his very short life.

It took me some time to track down all of the original drawings for this post, and the last one down is actually not the original but an excellent later reproduction that maintains so many of the details that were lost in its initial reproduction.  This is of course the first version of the Toilet of Salome which was suppressed because the posture of the young man in the foreground apparently indicates that he is masturbating.  It should be noted that Wilde had very mixed feelings about Beardsley’s drawings for his play.  He sensed that Aubrey was making fun of the text, and many of the contemporary critics encouraged him in this view.  For me, Beardsley completely entered into the spirit of this great ornate drama and provided its perfect complement.