Thinking about Benton’s relationship to Hollywood and parallels with my research on Carl Van Vechten revealed an interesting thread via the director King Vidor. Benton went to Hollywood in 1937 on assignment for LIFE magazine. Van Vechten had gone a decade earlier in 1927 to write a series of articles for Vanity Fair. Both of them found Hollywoodland fascinating and at times repulsive.
Van Vechten helped to catalyze the production of all-black cast musicals in the late 1920s. His infamous 1926 novel, Nigger Heaven, was considered for adaptation but this never came to pass. Talks with Vidor eventually led to his making the 1929 film, Hallelujah!, one of the first all-black cast feature films. Vidor admired Benton’s work and later purchased one of his paintings, The Negro and Alligator (1927) in the 1940s.
All three held complex views of African Americans that ranged from egregious stereotype to genuine admiration and empathy. All, of course, were the product of their times where the black vogue and jazz craze coexisted with the second heyday of the Klan, lynchings, and race riots. (Doesn’t sound much different from 2015, does it!?)
“American Epics” is a great exhibition and I had the chance to look at my research from a new angle. Win-win!
One of my favorite museums in Paris, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, is organizing the beautiful exhibition Fashioning Fashion until April 14th. Initiated by the LACMA in Los Angeles, this show presents the evolution of European style from 1715 to 1900 with more than 100 looks. A fascinating travel in the past and a true feast for the eyes!
I was surprised by the magnificence of the embroideries, the number of layers worn to create one look and the sophistication of the clothes in general. Dressing oneself seemed to be a complicated affair, especially for women, and little details could reveal the social status of a person. Embroiderers, hatters and corset-makers were once popular trades.
The exhibition is organized chronologically, bringing us to the magnificent clothes of the 18th century right at the entrance. At the time, there was a huge interest in the Far East…
The Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris is hosting a fabulous show educating the french public about the origins of European Fashion from the early 18th century until the present day. For those lucky enough to be in Paris this April, it is definitely worth a visit.
Every time I come to Des Arts Decoratifs I am impressed with their mannequins and the general staging of their exhibitions. This time I was not left disappointed. The mannequins on display have been adorned with 18th century wigs and poses to match their clothing. We are also treated to male, as well as female fashion.
The most interesting part of the show for me was the display of court dress from the 1760s where dresses were delicately embellished with lace of pure silver and gold thread and sequins. These outfits are even more special in that many of them have not survived…