Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friends I never met, Part One

I carry around a collection of women in my head.  They died long before I was born, but they continue to make quite an impression.  

One of them is Quappi, the second wife of artist Max Beckmann.  
("Portrait of Quappi in Pink Sweater", Max Beckmann, 1935)

Chic and pretty, she poses confidently in front of her husband, biding her time until they leave to meet friends for dinner.  Twenty years his junior, Quappi provided a welcome distraction to Beckmann's often-times tormented life.  By all accounts she adored him.  She loved to laugh and to have a good time.  I love her turban and her elegant style, not to mention the gorgeous navy tufted chair and the wall treatment in the background.  I only wish I could have seen the rest of the apartment.

Here's another lady I know I would have liked, journalist Sylvia von Harden. 
("Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden", Otto Dix, 1926)

Can you believe this was painted in 1926?  Except for the dangling cigarette, she could be sitting at Pastis, waiting to interview John Malkovich.  Although not a typical beauty, it's obvious she was completely at ease with her looks.  Unafraid, opinionated, she looks totally modern, the love child of Anna Wintour and Isabella Blow.  It would have been daunting to meet her, probably, but I bet if you could make her laugh, she'd be a fierce and loyal friend.  And you just know she was Grand Mistress of the clever retort.  I'd definitely want to sit next to her at a dinner party. 

Last but not least, I have a tender spot for this woman, whom I found on the internet without any credits (Aesthete, can you enlighten me?).  
(?)

In my fabricated version of her life, she was married at 17 to a much older man, bore him six children in rapid succession and lost her identity in the process.  It was not a happy marriage. Now widowed a year at the time of this sitting, she is starting to find her way back to the world of the living.  Time has erased any link to the pre-Raphaelite sylph she once was. Intertwined in her arms is a shawl her youngest (and favorite) daughter just sent her from Jaipur. She always longed to travel abroad, but her husband abhorred foreigners, preferring to stay home and tend to his dahlias.  A small smile plays across her lips. Her eyes flicker with the faintest gaze of hope.  Act Two of her life is about to begin.

Or something like that.

17 comments:

hmstrjam said...

hello Lisa, up late blogging! great post, I think I'd choose Boudica or possibly Da Vinci's Lady with ermine...

ALL THE BEST said...

I love the book The Power of Style. I read it all the time. The one thing that strikes me is that many of the women in the book, whom I adore, were propelled into the public eye due to their intrinsic uniqueness - not necessarily their beauty! I'll take interesting and unique any day!

Jessica T. said...

I would choose the lady in John Singer Sargent's Repose. You just know she was up to no good the night before.

As for the third lady on your list, you have a nice start to a novel there!

Rony said...

Hmmm, you think dahlias? I'd say jonquils.

pve design said...

Oh, this post leaves me haunted by great dames that I contemplate having never met yet feeling as though we are next of kin.

Laura said...

What a wonderful idea for a post! I'm quite taken with Miss Sylvia von Harden. She looks like she'd give it to you straight, and that she simply does not suffer fools. My absolute favorite type of woman! But I will say, I have a certain soft spot for the last woman, especially given your narrative.

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

Otto and Max on one post?! Heaven. While I quite like your Lady No. 3 (and your story of her life), I don't think she is in the same league as your other women.

Perhaps "Sonja" by Christian Schad or "Margot" by Rudolf Schlichter. Find them in "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s," an exhibit catalog published by the Met Museum.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Dear Ms. Wis: That book is one of my absolute favorites!! I was obsessed with Christian Schaad for years and bought every foreign edition, limited press book I could find on him. I was soo happy when "Glitter and Doom" came out. I love the cover painting of Schaad and the two women --decadence personified.

Tricia said...

Another novel waiting to happen...the life of the "Woman in a Fur Hat", 1915, by Gretchen Woodman Rogers. She stares down at me each day, yearning to tell her secret. Such a simple face amidst such luxury, projecting such strength and confidence.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Just looked at "Woman in a Fur Hat." Thank you for enlightening me -- she is divine.

Colour Me Happy said...

I like the way you said that "I carry them around in my head", writers. . .you can always pick them out a mile away by these kinds of sentances!

Clementine said...

I love this post! Thanks for entertaining me as I sit at my desk in London. Do you ever read Persephone books? You definitely should if you don't already! x

Michelle Parks McCourt said...

What great images, they remind me of Elizabeth Peyton's work.
Happy Tuesday!

Edi Style said...

Im not sure about loosing identity when you are married to an older man. I am married my professor and there has never been any loosing, infact quite the opposite... beside her wait she looks very content but maybe that is just me who does not like ill thoughts..
I adore your blog!!!

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Buy Viagra said...

Max Beckmann was a German painter, he was excellent, in my job, we have a painting of him.
So I think that the images in the blog are fantastic and very good.
Excellent job.

Betsy said...

I am new to your blog and I am loving it. I was walking out in the fields of an 18th century farm in central KY (belonging to a friend's father) a few weeks back and wishing I had Wellies to put on. That will definitely be a purchase in my future. I am answering your blog about Friends I never met. Mine is Christina from Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. She hangs in my loft and I have wondered what she looks like since Wyeth chose to paint her from the back.

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