Life after death

The death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 aged 36 was a shock to the world. It affected artists who would end up giving her life after she was dead through her image. Fun fact, my sister married into the Mortenson family. 

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 The front page of the New York Daily Mirror published on August 6, 1962

Warhol was the first to make a print in tribute of her, below is the original publicity photograph for Niagara by Frank Powolny. It has the black pen lines where Warhol cropped the photograph and his in studio photographers ‘blew it up’.

 Frank Powolny – Publicity still for the 1953 film Niagara, cropped by Warhol. 

The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It all sounds so simple—quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face.

 Andy Warhol – Marilyn Diptych, 1962

Richard Hamilton made a print a few years later using a mocked up contact sheet with images crossed out from a series of photographs taken by George Barris in the Summer of 1962. 

 Richard Hamilton – My Marilyn, 1965

 Robert Rauschenberg – Test Stone #1 (Marilyn Monroe), 1967 

 Michael Rothenstein – She’s American – Cartier Bresson on Marilyn Monroe, 1977

Rothenstein would use Monroe’s image for his prints as well, it was a time when he was using famous starlets like Julie Christie. He juxtaposes them with planks of burnished wood and raw textures. The photographs are screen printed over the woodcut. 

 Michael Rothenstein – Marilyn I, 1978

 James Rosenquist – Marilyn Monroe, 1962

Andy Warhol – Popism, 1980

The Day Marilyn Died

This post came about when I was writing about how artists reacted to the death of Marilyn Monroe and I wondered what the newspapers looked like on that day, well these are the front pages I found for 6th August, 1962, the day Monroe died.

I would guess these last four papers belong to the same company due to the same image of Monroe used, I find it interesting the amount of front page she got, the cropping of the picture. The news commanding the most coverage in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood. 

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I would guess these last four papers belong to the same company due to the same image of Monroe used, I find it interesting the amount of front page she got, the cropping of the picture. The news commanding the most coverage in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood. 

Eric Ravilious – Designs for London Transport’s Green Line

Eric Ravilious – Designs for London Transport’s Green Line

Buttons

Although Rie had been a successful potter in Austria in the 1930s, when she arrived in London in 1938 she had to start afresh and make a living in the face of wartime austerity. Ceramic buttons provided the answer. Working with assistants such as German émigré Hans Coper she first fulfilled orders for ceramic buttons from fellow Austrian Fritz Lampl and his company Bimini. At the height of her so called `Button Factory’ Rie was producing 6000 buttons a month. But by 1955 her pottery production had mainly switched to table wares and later to the now renowned bowls, bottles and vases. The exhibition contains a comprehensive selection of these, as well as hundreds of buttons.

Lucie Gomperz was born into a Viennese family, the daughter of a doctor who worked with Sigmund Freud, she enjoyed an affluent childhood. She had studied pottery at the Kunstgewerbeschule in 1922. By 1925 she had set up a small pottery of her own and was exhibiting works and becoming respected. She had married Hans Rie in 1926, but they parted in 1940.

In 1938, being Jewish, she fled from Nazi Austria to Britain. In London for a short time, she provided accommodation for Erwin Schrödinger (Schrödinger’s Cat).

To makes ends meet in Wartime Britain, Rie had set up a pottery in London but she was yet to produce her iconic thin vases in London, at this point she was surviving by designing and making buttons. In 1946, Lucie Rie gave Hans Coper a job during these years of austerity.

Interest in Rie’s buttons was rekindled in 1984 when Issey Miyake met Rie. She gave him a large collection of her unused buttons which he used as the basis of 1989 Autumn/Winter Collection. Another avid collector of Rie’s buttons was couturier and collector Anthony Shaw. Two outfits designed by Shaw for gallerist Anita Besson in 1992 and adorned with Rie’s buttons have recently been added to the exhibition.

Coper had almost no experience in pottery at all. Born in Chemnitz, his father was Jewish, and had killed himself in 1936 to try to shelter the family from the Nazi’s attention as his mother wasn’t Jewish.

Still Coper left Germany in 1939 for Britain. Here, along with most Germans in Britain, he was arrested. Then deported to Canada. In 1941 he was able to return to Britain as a conscientious objector, serving in the non-combatant corps, doing work that was not aggressive, or not directly aiding destruction.

In the post-war years he went to Lucie Rie’s studio at 18 Albion Mews, he made buttons with her and helped her with the firing. He learnt how to pot from Heber Mathews and then returned to Rie’s studio to work for her making domestic wear like cups and plates.

The Decorative Arts Society

Edward Bawden – Life In An English Village Discovered

A video on the making, inspiration and production of the Noel Carrington and Edward Bawden’s book, Life In An English Village.

Edward Bawden – Life In An English Village Discovered

Keith Vaughan at sea

In the late 1930s on Pagham Beach, West Sussex, Keith Vaughan and some athletic men looked to be having a rather fun day during a heatwave. Likely taken in 1938, the end of July and the start of August were the hottest days of the year with temperatures reaching 28 degrees.

Working still as an art worker for the Lintas Advertising Agency as a painter who had not yet made his name, a year later in 1939 he left his job to become a full time artist. After the War he shared a house with Graham Sutherland and John Minton. 

The tone of the photographs changes a lot, and with the lewd subject matter I wonder if he developed them himself or had a friend do so. Working for an advertising agency in the 30s, photography must have been rather commonplace.

Like many artists used photographs as an aide-memoire and I have seen his pictures posted online a lot, but I haven’t seen any evidence of people looking at the photographs and then seeing if they translated into works. Well I have picked out a few examples of his paintings and placed them next to the photographs.

 Keith Vaughan – Man with army; Idol II, 1940

The picture above is a interesting one, dated 1940 those figured around the man must be an army? Well with the photograph it is likely they are waves. 

 Keith Vaughan – Cain and Abel, 1946

 Keith Vaughan – Figure Throwing at a Wave, 1950

 Keith Vaughan – Drawing of two stylized skeletal figures, 1939-45

 Keith Vaughan – Drawing of a naked male youth lying down, 1939–45

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 Keith Vaughan – Figure lying on beach at night, 1939

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 Keith Vaughan – Male Figure seated against sky, 1939 

Kelpra Studio

In 1957, Chris Prater and his wife Rose, with a working capital of pounds 30, went into business as commercial screenprinters. Rose’s maiden name was Kelly, so they combined it with Prater, and called the workshop Kelpra Studio. Inside a decade, the brilliantly inventive images that Prater printed for many of Britain’s most famous artists had won his workshop an international reputation.

Prater grew up in Battersea wanting to be an artist, and could not remember a time when he did not draw or paint. As his father was a cripple however, he went out to work as soon as he was 15, and it was as teaboy to a signwriter that he first saw screenprints being made.

During the Second World War, he served in the infantry, then as a troop- carrying glider pilot, until his legs were injured in a crash. After the war, he won a scholarship to art school, but when his first wife complained that she would not be able to manage on the grant, he took a job as a telephone engineer. But he also studied drawing and etching five nights a week at the Working Men’s College. 

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 David Hockney – Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, 1964

In 1951 he went on a three-month government training scheme and became a screen printer and worked for many printers in London.

The Kelpra Studio was set up originally in Kentish Town as a screen printing company working off an old kitchen table. Many of the early prints they made were for theatres and arts organisations. In 1959 they made their first artist print for Gordon House.

 Richard Hamilton – Adonis in Y fronts, 1963

Kelpra Studio had printed Adonis in Y-fronts for Hamilton and from that time their studio defined the 60s print scene in London, in 1964 they printed: Gillian Ayres, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Bernard Cohen, Robyn Denny, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, Allen Jones, R.B. Kitaj, Victor Pasmore, Peter Phillips, Bridget Riley and William Turnbull.

 Bridget Riley – Blaze, 1964

 Joe Tilson – Ziggurat, 1964

Pat Gilmour – Obituary: Chris Prater, Friday 8 November 1996 01:02

V.E. Day

 Keith Vaughan – An Orchard by the Railway, 1945

Here is an account from Keith Vaughan’s diary of his Victory in Europe Day. As many in the cities danced and cheered in the streets Vaughan was on the fringes and knew of the news too late. From Keith Vaughan – Journals, 1939-1977:

They had no wireless in the cottage where I had supper, so I didn’t hear the nine o’clock news. Walking back to the camp afterwards, the first sign of anything unusual I noticed was a string of small triangular flags being hoisted up across the road by some workmen. The flags appeared quite suddenly out of the leaf-laden boughs of the chestnut, crossed a patch of sago-coloured sky, and disappeared in the dark foliage of another tree. They looked surprised to be there. They were not new flags. They had flapped for a jubilee and a coronation and numerous local festivals, and now they seemed to be getting a little tired of it all. They were faded and grubby and washed-out looking. They hung languidly in the bluish evening air. The workmen tapped away at the trees and thrust ladders up into the ripe foliage, bringing down showers of leaves and a snow of pink and white blossom. Further on there was a cottage with two new Union Jacks thrust out from the windowsill. They hung down stiffly to attention. Against the mellow sunbleached texture of the stone their strident colours looked ridiculous and, because they were there on purpose to disturb the familiar contours, they gave a feeling of uneasiness. From there onwards all the little cottages were sprouting flags.

There was no one about to see them, and no very clear reason how they came to be there. Menacing each other across the road with their shrill colours they were like a flock of rare and fabulous birds which had alighted suddenly and without warning, clinging to chimney pots, windowsills and door posts. They were of many different sizes and shapes and attitudes corresponding partly to the income levels and patriotic fervor of their owners and partly to a certain capriciousness which they seemed to acquire on their own. Some of them, having been unfurled, had hitched themselves up again shyly over the poles. Others had a narrow strip of wood fastened along the extreme edge, so they were forced to suffer the maximum exposure. The large houses had older flags sewn together with pieces of silk with white painted poles and sometimes a gold tassle. The cottages all had new flags; the pieces of calico dyed with raw-looking colours. And when it rained they would run.

Outside one cottage an old woman was standing in a black dress with folded arms. She stood there most evenings, and I had passed her a hundred times without either of us taking any special notice of the other. But to-night she seemed to be standing there for a special purpose, as though expecting something to happen. As I passed her she smiled broadly at me. It was an indescribable smile that lay right across the road blocking my way and demanding an answer. I acknowledged it and hurried past, feeling guilty and uncomfortable and afraid that I might suddenly be called to play some part I had not rehearsed.

 Keith Vaughan – Army Medical Inspection, 1942

On the dung-crusted door of a stable a V had been made with red, white and blue ribbon, and inside the V, hurriedly chalked as an afterthought, a red E. In the little window of the grocer’s was a newspaper cutting of the Prime Minister. It was stuck on the window with four large pieces of brown tape like a police notice. In the window that has bird seed and bottles of sauce was a gold frame with a reproduced oil-painting of two exceedingly mild and dignified lions, and in the bottom left hand corner the words ‘PEARS.’ In front there was a photograph of the Royal Family in sepia, with the word ‘CORONATION’ underneath and round circle of rust from a drawing pin. All the familiar and reliable things had suddenly disclosed a secret and unsuspected threat, though it would be impossible to say exactly what it was they threatened. But when the last house was passed and there were only fields and hedges and ditched frothing with tall white cow-parsley, there was a feeling of relief and reassurance.

Where the road swings sharply to the right before reaching the camp I crossed the little footbridge and sat down on the stile to smoke a cigarette. Between the layers of high lead-coloured cloud and the horizon, a narrow margin had been left in which the sun burned an enormous liquid orange disc. The air was like a thin violet fluid. In the further field was the boy who drives the tractor every morning past the camp. He was shooing some geese under a fence and into the straw-strewn yard if the cowhouse. He walked slowly forward towards the geese and at each step brought both arms up simultaneously above his head as though he were lifting something large that had suddenly lost all weight. His skin and clothes were soaked with the orange liquid from the sun. When the geese had gone he went out of sight behind the barn.

The near field was full of sheep. The full, woolly forms with sharp accents of light against the dark grass, the alternation between light-coloured sheep and dark ones, small and large, had that air of carefully-planned accident which one sometimes sees in paintings, but not often in nature. They glowed a deep gold colour like lumps of phosphorescent substance, and there were little pools of violet between their legs and in their ears. Two sheep had strayed down on to the steep bank of the ditch and were tearing ravenously at the thick, dark water-grass which met over their backs. They had pushed their way through gaps in the hedge and seemed to be expecting at any moment to be driven back. They were gulping as much as they could in the time, their eye wide with anxiety. Standing almost vertically faced downwards, they seemed to be in the most disadvantageous position both for eating and for coping with any sudden emergency that might arise.

The grass in the field was lighter in colour and had already been grazed down to a short turf like the thick pile on a carpet. Each sheep was eating with a sort of desperate concentration as though it had not seen grass for some time. They just kept their heads down and moved slowly forward, one foot at a time. But some, perhaps, because their necks had got stiff, had bent their front legs and were kneeling on their little fluffy knees with their black hoofs tucked up off the ground so as not to soil them and their backsides sticking absurdly into the air. The rams had hardly any wool and their skins had that grey, flatulent look that dead sheep have. They seemed inflated with eating and walked about painfully and awkwardly as though they were pregnant. They seemed just able to eat and transport their cumbersome genitals and excrete the little shiny damp balls of dung from time to time. That was a complete existence. The only sound was the crisp tearing of grass and an occasional low grunt and from the nearer sheep the muffled reverberations of some digestive process and blowing out of wind suddenly through the nostrils.

This, then, I thought, was the beginning of it all. This was perhaps the oldest thing on earth. Before cities and civilizations men had sat and watched sheep graze. In Canaan and Galilee and Salonica and Thrace, on the mountain slopes of Olympus and the Caucasus, on the plains of Hungary and the shores of the Black Sea, in Lombardy, Burgundy, Saxony, along all the routes where men had fought and followed, searching for a home and a pasture, sheep had grazed and men had watched them. Daphnis, Hyacinthus, Thyrsis, Corydon and the famous and anonymous shepherds of Galilee. And I tried to remember all that had gone on as an accompaniment to that watching, the immense architecture of hope that had been built up round sheep. The burnt offerings and symbols of love and innocence; the preyed-upon, the lost and the helplessly young. Sacrificed, worshipped, or just eaten, through mankind’s long adolescence sheep went on being sheep, somewhere in the background of every picture, greedy and silly and perpetually anxious. And each year the same disappointing story of promise and unfulfilment. The tiny wet thing with enormous legs first learning to kneel in the winter grass, as awkward and dangerous-looking as a child with a deck chair. The insolent butting at the udders. The entirely beautiful and unnecessary prancing of lambs, movement purely for the sake of movement, only to be forgotten in a few months in a complacent and woolly middle age.

Out of the north a flock of Fortresses came flying high. It was time for them to come and they crossed every night. The slowly-mounting noise focused the uneasiness in the air. Then I realized that tonight they would not be carrying bombs; the meaning of all the little flags suddenly became real. It was as if one had dreamt the noise: the approaching impersonal menace, the indiscriminate individual death and obliteration of cities, then at the climax of terror, walking, recognized the cause of the dream – after all, only airplanes flying. A sense of absolute security closed over every thing.

The sun has gone and over the horizon was left a stain of dried blood. The air was the colour of watery ink. At the camp the German bugler was blowing lights out. The sheep had finished eating and sat with folded feet, looking without concern on the first night of peace.

60 Pictures

60 Pictures in ‘51 was part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, a touring exhibition of art with 60 paintings by Britain’s leading artists. It came with a booklet but like many books of the time, all the images were in monochrome. I thought it would be entertaining to present the pictures in colour and though I haven’t found all of the paintings, here is what I amassed.

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 Gerald Wilde cover for the book 60 Paintings for ‘51.

If the Festival of Britain is to achieve its avowed aim of showing the British way of life in all its various facets it is clearly appropriate that a number of our distinguished painters and sculptors should have been given an opportunities to make their contribution.

With this very end in view – and also in the  hope of handing down to posterity from our present age something tangible and of permanent value – the Arts Council has commissioned twelve sculptors and invited sixty artists to paint a large work, not less than 45 by 60 inches on a subject of their own choice. 

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 Keith Vaughan – Interior at Minos, 1950

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 L S Lowry – Industrial Landscape, River Scene, 1950

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 Lucian Freud – Interior Near Paddington, 1951

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 Rodrigo Moynihan – Portrait Group, 1951

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 John Tunnard – Return, 1951

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 Michael Ayrton – The Captive Seven, 1950

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 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, London, 1950

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 John Nash – Afon Creseor, North Wales , 1951

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 Keith Baynes – Hop-Picking, Rye, 1950

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 Elinor Bellingham Smith – The Island, 1951

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 Martin Bloch – Down from Bethesda Quarry, 1951

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 Edward Burra – Judith and the Holofernes, 1951

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 Prunella Clough – Lowestoft Harbour, 1951

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 Roy de Maistre, Noli Me Tangere

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 Hans Feibusch, The Prodigal Son

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 Carel Weight, “As I wend to the Shores…”

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 Ivon Hitchins, Aquarian Nativity, Child of this Age

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 Gilbert Spencer, Hebridean Memory

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 Charles Mahoney – The Garden, 1950

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 Claude Rogers, Miss Lynne

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 Ruskin Spear – River in Winter, 1951

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 Victor Pasmore – The Snowstorm: Spiral Motif in Black and White, 1951

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 Robert Medley – Cyclists against a Blue Background, 1951 

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 William Gillies – The Studio Table, 1951 

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 Patrick Heron – Christmas Eve, 1951

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 William Gear – Autumn Landscape, 1950

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 Peter Lanyon – Porthleven, 1951

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 Robert MacBryde – Figure and Still Life, 1951

Below are some of the sculptures mentioned in the forward, but these really had their own booklet and part of the Battersea Park Festival Of Britain Pleasure Garden.

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 Henry Moore – Reclining Figure, 1951

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 Jacob Epstein – Youth Advances, 1951

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 Barbara Hepworth

Contrapuntal Forms, 1951

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 Frank Dobson – Woman and Fish, 1951

The statue above stood in Frank Dobson Square, Tower Hamlets until it was vandalised and she had her head destroyed. Now with scars she sits in Delapre Abbey, Northampton, pictured below.

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† Philip James – 60 Paintings for ‘51, 1951

Live Chat

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