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Picturing a World

Mermaid daguerreotype

Website alert: The story of the how this and other daguerreotypes were recovered from a shipwreck is found at "Doomed ship of gold's ghostly picture gallery is plucked from the seabed." It's a good enough tale in itself. But don't you wish you knew more about this woman with her coiffed hair and those racy black lace sleeves? For me, it's one step from the knowing look in her eye and the crooked smile into siren territory. A few more changes, and I could make her a mermaid with dangerous intentions. Or, of course, there is the possibility of gold-rush historical fiction. And get this: there are other unrecovered daguerreotypes and ambrotypes still down there in the same wreck, lying on the seabed. Now how suggestive is that!

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Tension

Eric Ravilious, Submarines in Dry Dock (1940)

Just before Putin attacked Ukraine, I happened to have bought a copy of Ravilious, the catalogue for a 2015 retrospective of work by Eric Ravilious at the Dulwich Gallery, London. What makes this poignant is the fact that Ravilious, who had worked under the auspices of the War Artists Advisory Committee, died on duty when his airplane disappeared over Iceland in 1942. And here we are, witnessing what may be only the start of another war.
 
Aestheticizing war is a bad idea; yet because the human eye sees differently from the camera lens, the artist's record brings its own witness to both combat and mundane efforts. Moreover, works made during war can have lasting value beyond the historic. Looking at the deceptively quiet Submarines in Dry Dock, for instance, says a lot about tension.

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Zelensky/Paddington

The internet is abuzz with the revelation that Volodymyr Zelensky was the voice of Paddinton Bear in the Ukrainian version of the movies. It's hideous a way to find anything endearing in the current disaster; yet to see him at work is irresistible. As a writer, sometimes I act out something in a story to locate actions and feelings in my own body. How marvellous to see a trained actor imparting a whole interpretation to a role when his work will be only heard—and to know that President Zelensky is now giving heart to an entire country.

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Margit Selska

Blog post alert: I plead being as ignorant of Ukrainian artists as the next person, but a post, Women in Ukrainian Art: Blank Spots in Ukrainian Art History at the Wilson Center's Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, has given me a way to begin learning about them. In this case Marit Selska (1903–1980). She was born in Lyiv; studied in Cracow, Vienna, and Paris; escaped the Holocaust (though most of her family perished); and had a productive career after WWII. I chose this image for its blue and yellow Ukrainian colors and for the thoughtful introspection on the subject's face. Would that the choice of a hat and personal stories were all that Ukrainians—and the world—had to worry about today!

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Ukrainian flower seller

Blog post alert: Eye Candy for Today: Easter Matins by Ukrainian artist Mykola Pymonenko introduced me to this artist. Heartbreaking to be turning our attention to Ukrainian artists now, but bittersweet for me to find a flower-seller, one of the topics I look for, painted in my magic year of 1908. And how our own world intrudes on how we see art! The lamplight in the background on the right looks too much like fire.

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Bashkirtseff, Ukrainian

Website alert: I have blogged in the past about Marie Bashkirtseff, on whom I based my character La Russe. Today, I wish I'd called her The Ukrainian. She was in her teens when she posed in this costume of her native Poltava. For another photo from the same session and more, wonderful images, see the excellent essay
"I Am My Own Heroine": How Marie Bashkirtseff Rewrote the Route to Fame by Sonia Wilson.
Image via Wikipedia.

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Double portrait

This striking double portrait caught my attention mostly because it's beautiful, but I lingered over it because it falls in the period of my work-in-very-slow-progress, "Anonymity." I checked, and, sure enough, Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862–1938) was an almost exact of the real Jeanette Smith whose story prompted my delve into the experience of women art students in Paris. (Surprise, surprise! Tarbell also studied at the Académie Julian.)

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Bombed library

This morning, I ran across this photograph in a fascinating new book, Gothic: An Illustrated History by Roger Luckhurst. What interests me is not its connection to all the permutations of sensibility collected under the term Gothic. No, as the world fears a new war in Ukraine, it was the image of horrific destruction that hit me first. Then wonder at the books still so neatly shelved, then a smile at the calm, plucky Englishmen (those hat!) perusing books. But wait, it's probably staged.

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Altar of love?

I admit I don't know a thing about Martin Le Franc's Book of the Ladies' Champion and forgot to research it for today's post, but isn't this a delicious image for Valentine's Day?

Via Jesse Hurlburt's Manuscript Art.

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Jacket design and the text

Edmund Dulac, jacket design (1929)

When I was editing books at Harvard, an author came in one time and asked that a piece of antique Japanese silk be used for the jacket design. "Do you have one we can borrow?" my boss asked politely. That put an end to that and taught me that authors, by and large, should leave book production up to the pros.

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