Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where Did Cole Porter Party?

John Taylor Arms, Venetian Mirror, 1935. Etching. Private collection.

John Taylor Arms, an American printmaker and architect, co-authored and illustrated several travel books with his wife Dorothy Noyes Arms. Applying his architectural knowledge and drafting skills, Arms created images with painstaking details using various needles, dental and etching tools, and a magnifying glass. The sketch, Venetian Mirror, was created in 1930, but the etching was not produced until 1935 and was included in the volume Hill Towns and Cities of Northern Italy. 1  (This book is on display with the exhibition). For those who have been to Venice, there are several recognizable buildings, including Palazzo Stern, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Balbi, and the bell tower of the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa di Frari in the background. But this image is in reverse, a mirror image—following the traditions of James McNeill Whistler’s ideas about creating the image as one sees it. Due to the intaglio process, if the image is right-reading then the print will be in the reverse, or a mirror image.

All of the buildings included in Arms’ print have significant architectural, historical, or ownership history.  Among one of the interesting residents in the Ca’ Rezzonico was Cole Porter. In 1923, Porter came into an inheritance from his grandfather, and the Porters began living in rented palaces in Venice. He once hired the entire Ballet Monte Carlo to entertain his house guests, and for a party at Ca’ Rezzonico (seen above) which he rented for $4,000 a month ($55,000 in current value), he hired 50 gondoliers to act as footmen and had a troupe of tight-rope walkers perform in a blaze of lights. 1

Compare this photograph with the Arms image for a “right reading” study.

1. Denker, Eric. Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940.     
     University of Washington Press, Seattle. 2012

2. Obituary: Cole Porter is Dead; Songwriter was 72. New York Times, October 16, 1964.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation

Mortimer Luddington Menpes, Piazzetta and Ducal Palace, c. 1910. 
Etching and drypoint. Private collection. 
The close ties with each of the artists in the Ernest Roth printmaking is an interesting web of associations of friends, colleagues, students, and teachers. I think one of the curiosities about the exhibition is the long-standing and passionate interest in Venice as a focused subject. Certainly it is an interesting city full of architectural interests on varied scales, processions and parades, trattorias, alleys and bridges, beautiful light and elaborate festivals. It's no wonder artists are attracted to its pleasures and tourists are interested in souvenirs of their visit.

The vedute paintings and prints of the 17th century made a point of capturing many monuments and points of interest within one image, sometimes sacrificing accuracy light, precise locations and other details. The artists in this exhibition, Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, direct their attentions to favorite cafes, back alleys, hidden paths and courtyards--places visitors would have either no interest or access to in their pilgrimage--ideas of displaying Venice in the eyes of the Venetians. The influences of each artist on one another other are evident and, as mentioned in a previous blog, Whistler as the keystone, launches the inspiration for several generations.

The web between them is well-connected, as sort of a "who begat whom."

James McNeill Whistler:                 Joseph Pennell
                                                          Clifford Addams (American)
                                                          Mortimer Menpes
                                                          Frank Duveneck
Frank Duveneck                             (American) and established  the Duveneck "boys"
                                                        Otto Bacher

Roth, familiar with Whistler's work, travels to Venice, and he becomes associated with other artists.

Ernest Roth's friends:                     Jules Andre Smith (British, architect)
                                                          John Taylor Arms (American, architect)
                                                          Louis Rosenberg (American, architect)
                                                          Jan Charles Vondrous (a student with Roth at the National
                                                           Academy of Design
                                                          Fabio Mauroner (Italian by birth, longtime resident of Venice)

Fabio Mauroner                             Emanuel Brugnoli (friend)
                                                         Edward Millington Synge (Mauroner's printmaking instructor)

There are other artists in the exhibition who are not included in Roth's personal associations, and they too are inspired by Whistler's vision and technique.

There are many sources for these artists, but for starters, check out  Menpes "Facebook" page and compare source ideas and images.