John Singer Sargent painting: “Zuleika”. The farce — and artifice — of beauty.


Gorgeous, wouldn't you say? It was painted by the 19th Century famous portraitist,  John Singer Sargent. His abstracts were always of friends– usually other artists, such as himself. I wonder if that was because he felt his clients demanded something more meticulous, whereas perhaps these were painted on the fly? His version of toting a camera was to relax with easel, canvas and paints, be it oils or watercolors.

This one is entitled "Zuleika," was completed in 1907, and hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. The name is a genus of moth. It is also Persian in origin, meaning "fair, brilliant, lovely." 

She certainly looks that way, here.

Who was she? The wife of a friend, perhaps? There are a series of poems based on a character by that name. Turns out Sargent was friends with humorist Max Beerbohm, who was working on a contemporary novel by that title, about a woman by that name whose beauty was so great that her merely stepping off a train to visit her grandfather in Oxford caused men to obsess over her — to the point of committing mass suicide.

This Sargent painting and Beerbohm's novel might have been the very first product cross-promotion — multi-platforming in its earliest form. 

More than likely, it was Sargent's way of jibing Beerbohm — payback for the latter's caricutures of the revered painter.

Notice the subject's eyebrows are  just one wave of black paint. Sargent's downward point-of-view is filled with realistic shadowing. The grass is a riot of green, blue and yellow hues which play tricks on the mind: we envision individual blades of grass, and dappled sunlight.

I love that he caught her reading. Is  Proust? Dickens? Baudliere? Possibly The Works of Max Beerbohm.

 Art is fun, and can be funny, too,

— Josie



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Art from the Heart: Kelly Reemtsen’s Breaking and Entering

Breaking and EnteringI consider artist Kelly Reemtsen the queen of illustrative juxtaposition. My God, just look at the sexy back on this woman, the crisp contours of her sun dress, her humongous diamond ring, that tinkling charm bracelet—

And of course, the size of her wire cutters.

She plans on doing some serious damage.

I imagine that's because she's suffered some slight herself. What was it? Did her teenager refuse to get out of his room. Is it time to see what the hubby has
locked up in the tool shed?  Did a neighbor forget to return her silver
tea set?

Whatever the issue, it's payback time.

Even if that means getting her nice white dress smudged.

One way or another, we women always end up doing the dirty work.

In my book, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, one plot thread has to do with break-ins that are occurring all over the supposedly secure gated community where
my heroine lives. But let's face it: no place is totally safe and

Even our hearts can be stolen.

Ms. Reemtsen has a whole series of these desperate housewives. They are total eye candy: bonbons of angst in retro couture. Just my kind of art, because it's
straight from the heart.

In fact, she's exhibiting this week (March 3 – 7, 2010), in New York, at the Armory: Piers 92 and 94, at 12th Avenue and 55th Street, Clinton, to be exact; . Check out the
information here, or below…

Wish I were there,



Art from the Heart: David Hockney’s BEVERLY HILLS HOUSEWIFE

Hockney-Housewife30Although not as much as neighboring Cheviot Hills (which is cozier and off the beaten path, if there is such a thing in L.A.) I enjoy walking through Beverly Hills. Contrary to its name, around the actual town the streets are basically flat, the boulevards wide and to the most part shady, which makes them easy to stroll through. As you'd imagine, the houses are eye candy.

This David Hockney painting, from his "California Dreaming" series, was painted in 1966-67. Though entitled "Beverly Hills Housewife", I pick up a Palm Springs vibe. In the era in which this was painted, the nouveau riche were tearing down many of BH's original stately stucco estates and erecting  post-modern monstrosities in their place, so yes, he aptly captured the mood of the times.

 His model was Los Angeles art patroness Betty Freeman.  I love the zebra-skin Corbusier chaise lounge, the expanse of manicured lawn, and her leisure gown. This housewife is thin and tanned, her hair a platinum halo. She seems to be in her middle years, which would mean she was have been in her youth during the 1930s, when that shade of hair was considered fashionable. Has she allowed herself to age gracefully, or is this a subliminal attempt to holding onto her youth? The wall of glass Hockney has painted around her would suggest the latter.

Impressionistic in style, we can't really see expression on her face, but the angle of her hand forms a hard claw. She has it all, but it's come at an emotional price.

Last year this piece sold on the auction block for $7.9 million

Today many of the older homes have been supersized and glamorized to some degree (just like many of the old stars that still live within their high, thick gated walls).

Another desperate housewife in a gilded cage?


BestSLHW  Josie' s novel,  Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, is soon to be a dramatic TV series on ABC, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

(Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 9781439173176)

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