Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rex Whistler

 Reginald John 'Rex' Whistler (24 June 1905 – 18 July 1944) was a British artist, designer and illustrator.

 Rex Whistler was born in Eltham, Kent, the son of Henry and Helen Frances Mary Whistler. He was sent to board at Haileybury in May 1919 where he showed a precocious talent for art, providing set designs for play productions and giving away sketches to prefects in lieu of "dates" (a punishment at Haileybury, similar to "lines" whereby offenders are required to write out set lists of historical dates).
After Haileybury the young Whistler was accepted at the Royal Academy but disliked the regime there and was "sacked for incompetence". He then proceeded to study at the Slade School of Art where he met The Honourable Stephen Tennant, soon to become one of his best friends and a model for some of the figures in his works. Through Tennant, he later met the poet Siegfried Sassoon and his wife Hester, to both of whom Whistler became very close.
Upon leaving the Slade he burst into a dazzling career as a professional artist. His work encompassed all areas of art and design. From the West End theatre to book illustration (including works by Evelyn Waugh and Walter de la Mare, and perhaps most notably, for Gulliver's Travels) and mural and trompe l'oeil painting. Paintings at Port Lympne (now known as Port Lympne Wild Animal Park), Plas Newydd and Dorneywood amongst others, show his outstanding talent in this genre. During his time at Plas Newydd he may well have become the lover of the daughter of the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, the owner of the house who had commissioned him to undertake the decorative scheme. Whister and Lady Caroline Paget are known to have become very close friends and he painted numerous portraits of her, including a startling nude. Whether this painting was actually posed for or whether it was how Rex imagined her naked is a matter of debate.
His most noted work during the early part of his career was for the Cafe at the Tate Gallery completed in 1927 when he was only 22. He was commissioned to produced posters and illustrations for Shell Petroleum and the Radio Times. He also made designs for Wedgwood china based on drawings he made of the Devon village of Clovelly. Whistler's elegance and wit ensured his success as a portrait artist among the fashionable and he painted many members of London society, including Edith Sitwell, Cecil Beaton and the other members of the set which he belonged to and which became known as the "Bright Young Things".
His activities also extended to ballet design. He designed the scenery and costumes for Ninette de Valois and Gavin Gordon's Hogarth-inspired 1935 ballet The Rake's Progress.
When war broke out, though he was 35, he was eager to join the army. He was commissioned into the Welsh Guards as Lieutenant 131651. His artistic talent, far from being a stumbling block to his military career, was greatly appreciated and he was able to find time to continue some of his work, including a notable self portrait in uniform now in the National Army Museum. In 1944 he was sent to France following the D-Day Landings.
During the war, he was the burial officer of his regiment, and his soldiers became somewhat suspicious of the 20 crosses he carried on his tank. He decided that just because he was at war, doesn't mean he couldn't paint, and therefore also carried a bucket hanging off the side of his tank to carry his paintbrushes.

 In July he was with the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy as the invasion force was poised to break out of the salient east of Caen. On the hot and stuffy 18 July his tank, after crossing a railway line, drove over some felled telegraph wires beside the railway, which became entangled in its tracks. He and the crew got out to free the tank from the wire when a German machine gunner opened fire on them, preventing them from getting back into their tank. Whistler dashed across an open space of 60 yards to another tank to instruct its commander, a Sergeant Lewis Sherlock, to return the fire. As he climbed down from Sherlock's tank a mortar bomb exploded beside him and killed him instantly, throwing him into the air. He was the first fatality suffered by the Battalion in the Normandy Campaign. The two free tanks of his troop carried out their dead commander's orders before returning to lay out his corpse beside a nearby hedge, after first having removed his personal belongings. Whistler's neck had been broken, but there was not a mark on his body. The troop was then immediately called away to act as infantry support, so when that evening Sherlock obtained permission to locate and bury Rex Whistler, he found that this had already been done by an officer of the Green Jackets, a regiment in which Whistler's younger brother, Laurence (an acclaimed glass engraver and poet) was serving. Among the many works of art produced by Rex Whistler during his time in the forces was a fine pencil portrait of Sergeant Sherlock.
It seems as if Whistler, like many other artists in war, predicted his own death. Just days before he was killed, he remarked to a friend that he wanted to be buried where he fell, not in a military cemetery. On the night before his death, a fellow officer, Francis Portal came up to him and they talked for a bit. Before they parted, Portal remarked "So we'll probably see each other tomorrow evening." Wistfully, Whistler replied "I hope so."
A memorial glass engraving by Laurence Whistler (the Rex prism) is to be found in the Morning Chapel at Salisbury Cathedral. To see a video of the Rex prism click.

Rex Whistler Letters Reveal Tormented Love Story At Plas Newydd
By 24 Hour Museum Staff

A series of love letters written to Lady Caroline Paget, eldest daughter of the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, have recently been added to the collection of items relating to the life and work of artist Rex Whistler at Plas Newydd.
The National Trust property in Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, is the home of the Marquess of Anglesey and holds the largest collection of Whistler’s paintings and drawings, including proof editions of his famous illustrations for 'Gulliver’s Travels' and an 18 metre wide masterpiece covering an entire wall in the dining room.
The latest addition to this permanent exhibition sheds more light on the poignantly romantic tale of the artist’s unrequited love for Lady Caroline.
“Whistler’s fascinating correspondence with Lady Caroline carves out a remarkable love story and reflects the depth of his passion for her and his connections with the Plas," explained David Ellender, House Manager at Plas Newydd.
"Sadly, it would appear from the letters that any ‘romance’ between them was driven harder by Rex than Lady Caroline. Again, this is subtly reflected in much of his work.”

 Rex Whistler first met Lady Caroline at Daye House, the Wiltshire home of his mentor Edith Olivier when she and her sister Elizabeth dropped in one afternoon. They were therefore already acquainted when Rex came to Plas Newydd for the first time to discuss the plans of the 6th Marquess to paint the dining room mural.
Painted between 1936 and 1937, the mural shows Whistler’s characteristic humour but is also full of love – for the family as a whole, but most of all for Lady Caroline.
This love for Caroline – who tragically married someone else – is revealed in the coded references he includes in his Arcadian and Romantic view of a coastal landscape. The romantic allusions also include a depiction of Romeo and Juliet in which the young Whistler (Romeo) languishes beneath the balcony of Lady Caroline (Juliet).
Whilst he was working on the mural at Plas Newydd Caroline decided she was going to spend more time in London and Rex designed a ‘rococo style’ petition on Plas Newydd headed paper and signed by himself and Henry (later the 7th Marquess).

 Rex Whistler: The triumph of fancy
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
14th April - 3rd September 2006.
By Richard D. North

Rex Whistler's life and art seem both very present and very far away. He would be a hundred had he not died as a comparatively elderly but tyro tank commander in the wake of the Normandy landings in 1944. He was 39, and was bravely putting right a slight military cock-up of his own making, when a mortar shell blew him - externally undamaged - to kingdom come. He was a famous artist: a muralist and illustrator. But he was also loved as a man: The Times reported more responses to his obituary than to any other of the war. The National Portrait Gallery has twenty-one portraits of, and six by, him. It's a popularity which belies his seldom being given retrospectives.

Rex Whistler is perhaps best known now for works few people saw when he was alive: the murals for Sir Philip Sassoon at Port Lympne, at Mottisfont for Mrs Gilbert Russell, and at Plas Newydd for the Marquess of Anglesey, let alone smaller things for Diana Cooper, Chips Channon, Edwina Mountbatten, Samuel Courtauld and Edward James, the patron of surrealism. Perhaps images of these were around in newspapers, and anyway awareness of their existence must have created glamour. But there was plenty of other work from the very start, including a 1927 mural for the café at the Tate, ads for the Underground and Shell, and book illustrations and theatre sets, to make him more obviously visible.

His art was derived from the classical and baroque - almost anything which might have appealed to the 18th Century English aristocratic eye. That was his big joke, really: to insist that there had been a crueller, funnier time two centuries ago and one could send it up with irresponsible envy. It has often been remarked that the 1920s and 1930s were febrile because they were years lived knowingly between two horrors. Richard Dorment, in the Daily Telegraph, was right to point us at the idea that there was then also a visual taste for an age when fancy was deliberate and unselfconscious. (We owe a debt to the Telegraph: its website posts a rare gallery of Whistler's work from the Brighton show.)

I am not sure why Whistler should appeal now. It might fit with revived interest in William Orpen and William Nicholson. Perhaps it comes from interest in a day before yesterday, a time which has been imaginatively colonised by modernism, and which we want back for the figurative and decorative.

But there is another possibility, too. Much of the playfulness we see in the Brighton show was to be carried on after the war. John Hadfield's The Saturday Book, promotional commissions by Shell and Guinness, the covers for John Lehmann's Penguin New Writing series all testify to the strength of what Paradise Lost, an important 1987 Barbican show called the "Neo-Romantic Imagination in Britain, 1935-55". Rex's name was amongst - and would presumably have stayed amongst - people like John Nash, John Minton and Rowland Emmett as crowd-pleasing illustrators and cartoonists. So we are revelling in our childhood tastes, or our parents' worlds.

It's not a done deal, though. Andrew Graham-Dixon, in his Sunday Telegraph review of the Brighton show, remarks:

It is hard to imagine Whistler creating art that people after the Second World War might have wanted to look at.
But then Graham-Dixon seems out of sympathy with the entire Whistler enterprise, and it's easy to see that it could bring out the jacobin in a person.
It is often said that Evelyn Waugh based Charles Ryder of Brideshead Revisited on Rex. Certainly, it makes sense if we then see Stephen Tennant, a great friend of Rex's, as Sebastian Flyte. The differences might be that Rex's origins were far humbler than Ryder's are posited to be, and his art less easel-based than one gathers Ryder's is. Rex wasn't nearly rich enough (though successful), nor classy enough (his father was a builder and his grandfather - appropriately - a painter and decorator) to be a serious contender in the marriage stakes he observed around him.

Rex was almost a professional Bright Young Thing. He was bosom friends with Cecil Beaton, who more perfectly fits that bill. Beaton's photograph of Rex and various others as Fragonard shepherds on a classical bridge is fabulously gaudy and gleamy, but camp beyond measure. But even as he hung out with high-born figures, he must have felt the precariousness of his position. He had a relationship with Penelope Dudley-Ward, the daughter of the Prince of Wales' "friend". But he seems to have been seriously scorched by his feelings for Lady Caroline Paget. The National Trust conforms to the common idea that he was in love with this, the beautiful elder daughter of Plas Newydd.

It all seems to have got very complicated, what with Caroline's ambivalence toward him. He was tempted by the upper-middle class actress Jill Furse, who was later to settle with his own younger brother, Laurence, until her death just after giving birth to their child. Laurence's memoir of that brief marriage, Initials In the Heart (1964 and 1975), makes a perfect partner with his biography of Rex, The Laughter and the Urn (1985). For lovers of coincidence: Wikipedia says that after Jill's death, Laurence married her younger sister, the actress Judith Furse.

The bulwark of Rex's emotional life seems to have been Edith Olivier, a much older and highly-regarded woman who was both grand and a little removed from society. She was devoted to him. But everyone else, from Duff and Diana Cooper to the men of every rank in his regiment, fell for him too. It says something that David Cecil - sociable, sharp and very grand - thought Rex one of the best conversationalists he had ever met.

Part of Whistler's fascination is that at a crucial moment he made a big decision. He might easily have had himself co-opted as an official War Artist, and we could have hoped that he would have matched the work of the likes Edward Ardizzone. Instead, he bent all his efforts toward becoming a fighting soldier, and succeeded. As he learned his new trade with the Welsh Guards, his work as a graphic entertainer went down well with his brother officers and men: he produced Colonel Blimp cartoons and murals for various barracks rooms, as well as a telling drawing of the perfect kit lay-out.

But there was serious painting, too, as shown in a big 1994 Army Museum show, Rex Whistler's War (1939-July 1944): Artist into Tank Commander. Some of that material reappears in Brighton, and it tells a moving story. It might have been called "Socialite into Soldier". The theme is presaged by a very strong though perhaps rather casually executed self-portrait from 1940: the fledgling officer is perched in his brand new uniform on a balcony overlooking Regent's Park. His cap and Sam Browne are on a chair behind him, his brushes on the parapet in front. Before him is a drinks tray. Later, in a fully military context, we have a powerful painting, The Master Cook (still in the regiment's possession), but also vivid vignettes of life around the camp, and of the kind of tranquil landscape which plenty of people then saw as emblematic.

It is the soldierliness of the late work which ennobles it, and which makes it a perfect fit with the deliberate triviality which from the beginning to the very end he never eschewed.

There is one piece, the finale of the show at Brighton as it had been in the Army Museum, which shows that Whistler's taste - though whimsical and sophisticated - also appealed to people sharing the biggest possible challenges. It is entitled Allegory: HRH The Prince Regent awakening the Spirit of Brighton and it is a scurrilous image of a corpulent figure, naked except for the ribbon and star of the Order of the Garter poised over a gorgeous nude female. It was a seaside extravagance painted to decorate a drab officers' billet in the town, and luckily after the war the council elected to buy it when the regiment (perhaps reluctantly) said it wouldn't. Forty-three days later, the artist was dead, on his first day in action, and the battalion's first casualty of the campaign. In the succeeding weeks plenty more of his fellow-officers would also be buried in France.

Photographs by Howard Coster

 Rex Whistler by Cecil Beaton

Zita Jungman, William Walton, Cecil Beaton, Stephen Tennant, Georgia
Sitwell, Teresa Jungman, and Rex Whistler. Photographed by Cecil Beaton.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Comte Etienne de Beaumont

Comte Etienne de Beaumont (b Paris, 8 March 1883 – d Paris 1956), a leading figure in Parisian society, was famous for his elaborate and extravagant parties and masquerade balls. He hired many of the leading avant-garde artists to decorate his apartment and garden for these events, and designed many of the masquerade outfits himself. Entrances were orchestrated and music and dances were composed and choreographed specifically for each evening.

Beaumont was a generous patron and passionate about the arts. In 1918, he staged Paris’s first jazz performances using black American soldiers. In 1920, he assisted Jean Cocteau to stage Le Boeuf sur le toit, a theatrical event that incorporated circus elements. Before the First World War Beaumont and his wife Edith financed avant-garde films and ballets and later founded L’Association Franco-Américaine. In 1924, the writer Raymond Radiguet based the main character in his second novel, Le Bal du Comte d’Orgel (The ball of the Count d’Orgel), on Beaumont.

With the assistance of Cocteau and Léonide Massine, Beaumont presented the Soirées de Paris at the Théâtre de la Cigale in Montmartre, Paris. The season, from 17 May to 30 June 1924, combined ballet performances with poetry and theatre. Beaumont designed for one of these ballets, Le Beau Danube. Following this Beaumont went on to produce designs for Colonel de Basil’s ballet productions Scuola di Ballo (1934) and Les Imaginaires (1934), and for the re-staging of Le Beau Danube in 1940.
in National Gallery of Australia

Comtesse Jacqueline de Ribes

 Comtesse Jacqueline de Ribes (born 14 July 1929 in Paris, France) is a French socialite and fashion designer. She is also a member of the International Best Dressed List since 1962.

She was born 1929 in Paris as Jacqueline Bonnin de La Bonninière de Beaumont. Her parents were Jean de Beaumont, comte Bonnin de la Bonninière de Beaumont, and his wife Paule de Rivaud de La Raffinière. She grew up in an atmosphere of French aristocratic wealth and elegance.
In 1948, she married Edouard, vicomte de Ribes (born 1923), a rich and successful banker, who subsequently became comte de Ribes. They have two children, a daughter Elisabeth (born 1949) and a son vicomte Jean de Ribes (born 1952). Her daughter married Frank Van der Kamp, son of Gerald Van der Kamp (1912-2002). Their daughter Alix Van der Kemp married Count Pierre de la Rochefoucauld at Château de Versainville in Normandy in 2004.
By the age of 25, she was appearing on the lists of best-dressed women, having consistently worn haute couture clothing all her life. She was consistently named to the International Best Dressed List. She was one of the guests who attended Carlos de Beistegui famous "Le Bal oriental" in 1951, Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Rédé famous "Bal des Têtes" in 1957 and the "Oriental bal" in 1969, both at the Hôtel Lambert. She was also invited to Truman Capote's "Black and White Ball" in 1966.

She has been the muse of many designers such as Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent and Guy Laroche.
Although she was interested in designing and had always considered Coco Chanel one of her heroes, her upbringing did not encourage women of her class to work. So her longing to have a salon of her own was not fulfilled until she was well into her fifties. Her first collection was shown in Paris and New York in 1983. Her aura of discreet grandeur and innate sense of good taste ensured that the gowns she designed were greatly admired by the ladies of her society.
She retired from designing in 1994 for health reasons. She lives now in Paris.
In April 2010 the French President Nicolas Sarkozy decorated her as a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur at the Elysée Palace.

She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1962.
In 1983 she was voted the "Most Stylish Woman in the World" by the magazine Town and Country.
As a designer she received the Rodeo Drive Award in 1985.
In 1999 Jean-Paul Gaultier, the French designer, dedicated his collection to Jacqueline as the quintessence of Parisian elegance.
She has been mentioned in several books about society and fashion.

List of famous parties
1951 Le Bal du Siècle Carlos de Beistegui Palazzo Labia, Venice
1957 Bal des Têtes Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Rédé Hôtel Lambert, Paris
1965 My Fair Lady Ball  Madame. Hélène Rochas La Grande Cascade, Bois de Boulogne, Paris
1966 Black and White Ball Mr. Truman Capote Plaza Hotel, New York
1968 The Patiño Ball Monseiur. Antenor Patiño and Madame. Beatriz Patiño La Quinta, Estoril, Portugal
1968 La Dolce Vita Ball Monseiur. Pierre Schlumberger and Madame. São Schlumberger Quinta do Vinagre, Colares (Sintra), Portugal
1969 Oriental Bal  Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Rédé Hôtel Lambert, Paris
1971 The Proust Bal Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild and Baron Guy de Rothschild Château de Ferrières

Thursday, 23 February 2012


Photos by Tom Munro for Vanity Fair

 W.E. (stylized as W./E.) is a romantic drama film co-written and directed by Madonna, starring Abbie Cornish, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough.
Filming began on location in London on July 5, 2010, and continued in France and the United States. The screenplay was co-written by Alek Keshishian, who previously worked with Madonna on her 1991 documentary Truth or Dare (aka In Bed with Madonna) and two of her music video clips. The film was produced by Madonna's production company Semtex Films and is distributed in the United States by The Weinstein Company and in the UK by StudioCanal UK. It received negative reviews from film critics.
See Critical Reception in the next "post"...

W.E. tells the story of two fragile but determined women – Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) and Wallis Simpson – separated for more than six decades. In 1998, lonely New Yorker Winthrop is obsessed with what she perceives as the ultimate love story: King Edward VIII's abdication of the British throne for the woman he loved, American divorcee Wallis Simpson. But Winthrop's research, including several visits to the Sotheby's auction of the Windsor Estate, reveals that the couple's life together was not as perfect as she thought. Weaving back and forth in time, the film intertwines Wally's journey of discovery in New York with the story of Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D'Arcy), from the glamorous early days of their romance to the slow unraveling of their lives in the decades that followed.

In October 2009, Daily Mail reported that Madonna will be directing W.E, whose script was written by her with director Alek Keshishian. Her then husband Guy Ritchie helped Madonna with the script and the screenplay, suggesting her to seek meetings with several actors such as Mark Strong and Toby Kebbell, who both had major roles in Ritchie's last film, RocknRolla. Madonna had in mind that W.E could establish her artistic credibility and give her success in the filmmaking field after appearing in several critical and commercial failures in the past. Madonna started writing W.E after she had finished filming her directorial venture, Filth and Wisdom (2008). W.E was actually an idea she had before Filth and Wisdom, but instead she filmed the latter, as she felt that she did not have enough experience to shoot a big-budgeted film like W.E. She described the whole film as a much bigger story:
There are more characters, and three of them basically changed the course of English history. King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to be with an American woman, Wallis Simpson, and that's part of my story, so I've had to do an enormous amount of research and interview people. So I have an enormous responsibility to that, and then I have a responsibility to the actual auction, which really happened. Then there's the new story, the point of view, which is this girl who has this obsession and is going to the auctions and stuff. So it's a much more layered, complicated piece than Filth and Wisdom.
After the writing began, Madonna realized that she needed help as the subject was vast. She enlisted the help of Keshishian, who was well acquainted with Madonna after directing her 1991 documentary Truth or Dare (aka In Bed with Madonna) and two of her music video clips. The writing process was dynamic, with Madonna and Keshishian e-mailing their developed scripts to each other, or through telephone conversations and also by writing on each other's laptop.Madonna also spoke to friends and associates of Simpson, such as socialite and designer Nicholas Haslam, to gather more information on the subject.[6] W.E. was initially reported to be a musical about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Edward and Simpson. However, Madonna confirmed that although they are in the film, the main story was not about them. It was about a woman called Wally Winthrop, a young married New Yorker in 1998 who is obsessed with what she perceived as the ultimate romantic love story—Edward's abdication of the royal throne for his love of Simpson. The character of Simpson acted as a spiritual guide for Winthrop, in the film. The timeline presented in the film ranges from pre-World War II England (1936–37) to New York in 1998, and the storyline swaps between these two eras. Madonna decided to use the Sotheby's auction of Edward and Simpson's estate in 1998, to flash backward from.
Madonna's inspiration to direct the film came from the controversial lives of Edward and Simpson. She recalled from her experience that if she brought up King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson at a dinner party or a social gathering, "it's like throwing a Molotov cocktail into the room. Everyone erupts into an argument about who they were. I mean, they were very controversial – and continue to be. So, of course, I'm very attracted to that." She investigated the history behind the abdication and tried to understand what led Edward to leave his royal throne. The singer spent two years researching the life of Simpson and writing the script. She wallpapered an empty room in her house with pictures from auction catalogues and photographs of the Duke and Duchess throughout their lives. "I was sitting in a room that was completely and utterly inundated with their images so I could soak up their energy. I was trying to understand the nature of their love story and trying to figure out for myself if there is such a thing as perfect love," she said. However, not interested in making a biopic about Simpson, Madonna created the modern-day story about the character Wally Winthrop, so that she could have a point of view in which to tell the narrative. She explained later: "We can all read the same history book and have a different point of view. So it was important for me to not present the story and say, 'This is the one and only story,' but to say, 'This story moved me and inspired me.' That's how the two love stories were created." One of the first characters that Madonna developed for the film was a Russian immigrant living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, called Evgeni. The character was inspired by Eugene Hütz, who played the lead role in Filth and Wisdom. Another motivation behind the project was the celebrity aspect of Edward and Simpson, who became the subject of intense media scrutiny and public vilification and were ostracized by the Royal Family. Madonna, being interested in the cult of celebrity, found that many of the rumors surrounding Simpson's life are untrue and she could not find any empirical evidence supporting them. Hence she wanted to portray Simpson as a human being with flaws, imperfections and a vulnerable side. "The message of the film is to realize that in the end happiness lies in your own head and that we are in fact in charge of our destiny," she said.

Madonna's W.E. - UK Trailer

W.E. Critical reception

Photos by Tom Munro for Vanity Fair

Andrea Riseborough and Madonna at the 69th Golden Globe Awards, where the film received two nominations and won Best Original Song.
In June 2011, Alison Boshoff from Daily Mail reported that a test screening of W.E., which was kept under wraps, was said to have allegedly drawn up negative reception from its audience. Viewers believed the film did not add up and seemed more like an advertisement than what its production values were. After its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, it received mixed reviews. Some news sources reported that "critics were completely divided on their opinions". When nine reviews of the critics who had seen the film in Venice were tabulated, The Huffington Post gave the film the overall critical score of D. Steve Pond of Reuters theorized that W.E probably would not help in "turning Madonna's faltering movie career". Kyle Buchanan of New York wondered whether W.E. would receive any significant film related awards, as predicted by industry prognosticators. He concluded that the film "still may [receive awards], but to judge from some of the vicious pans coming out of Venice today, it might have longer legs as a Razzie front-runner." Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye gave the film a mostly positive review, saying that "A lot of people will loathe it, simply because it’s been made by Madonna. But if people were to watch it with no knowledge of who directed, they would be pleasantly surprised. They might even find much of it enjoyable." David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph gave the film three stars and a mixed review stating that, "Madonna's W.E. is a bold and confident story about an American woman's obsession with the Windsors." Gritten complimented Riseborough and Cornish's acting but felt that the film looked like a commercial of expensive items, thus making it appeal to younger women for its fashion portrayal.
Negative reviews came from Xan Brooks of The Guardian, who gave the film one star, describing it as "a primped and simpering folly, the turkey that dreamed it was a peacock. Brooks predicted that the film "may even surpass 2008's Filth and Wisdom, Madonna's calamitous first outing as a film-maker. Her direction is so all over the shop that it barely qualifies as direction at all." Pointing out a scene, he added that "Wallis bound on stage to dance with a Masai tribesman while Pretty Vacant blares on the soundtrack. But why? What point is she making? That social-climbing Wallis-Simpson was the world's first punk-rocker?"Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film resembled a documentary of a woman out on shopping. McCarthy felt that the storyline was especially dreary during the portrayal of the love affair between Wally and Evgeni. "For the audience, Wally, despite Cornish's gentle and warm presence, offers very little in terms of personal interest or as a key into the world of one of the last century's most discussed couples." However, McCarthy praised cinematographer Hagen Bogdaski's work. Oliver Lyttelton of indieWire also slammed the film stating that "the use of music is horrible" and "We’ve never looked forward to Madonna going back on tour more, if only because it means that we’ll know, for certain, that she won’t be using that time to direct another movie." Emma Pritchard from Grazia added that "Wallis Simpson was the kind of woman who was accused of being more style than substance – and that, alas, is what Madonna has recreated on screen with W.E." Mark Adams of Screen Daily singled out Riseborough's performance as a "highlight", but overall felt that the film was disappointing. Leslie Felperin from Variety was disappointed in the film, saying that it is "burdened with risible dialogue and weak performances". Felperin felt that the reason for the film's downfall was its script, which attended to the costumes and fashion more than the actual story, which she felt had much potential, but was unused.

After its release, W.E. again faced negative reviews. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of just 17%, being certified "rotten" by critics out of fifty-nine reviews. It also has a Metacritic score of 36/100, indicating generally unfavorable reviews
Colin Kennedy from Metro called the film "disastrous", noting the film's "judicious casting and handsome design [were] marred by a callow director’s shaky shot selection." Adam Woodward of Little White Lies panned the film as "an arrogant vanity project rendered laughable by its kitschy sycophancy."Simon Reynolds of Digital Spy described the film as "impeccably turned out with exquisite costume design", but felt it is "barely enough to disguise its wildly inconsistent tone, chop-change visual style and snoozy performances." Dan Carrier of Camden New Journal gave the film one out of five stars, saying that W.E. is "a horrible film to watch" and that Madonna "should never be allowed to go anywhere near a director’s camera again."
Positive review came from Diego Costa of Slant Magazine, who gave the film three out of four stars. He described the film as "a shameless visual pleasure", adding that it is a "perfectly fine piece of oneiric cinema. It puts forth, in fact, a kind of filmic écriture feminine so unabashedly consumed by "the look" and its world of artifices that we'd have to recognize, if we were to be critically fair and put our own hetero-sexist anxieties aside, that W.E. makes a mockery out of 'man's cinema'." Costa complimented Madonna's direction, calling her a "masterful aesthetician". Korzeniowski soundtrack was also commended, with Costa believing that it blended the scenes well. America Magazine argued that the film demonstrated Madonna's ambition for artistic gravitas and called it a more mature Blond Ambition Tour. It also pointed at a Catholic subtext, with the blood present in scenes of domestic violence paralleling the Blood of Christ in the Mary-like female characters. Damon Wise from Empire gave the film three out of five stars and commented on the harsh criticism against Madonna stating "A lot has been said about Madonna and her new film — about how bad and inept it is, as if it's somehow worse than 99 per cent of the other movies released on a weekly basis. That's right: up there with Showgirls. Let's give the director a break here." He complimented Riseborough's acting and that "In the short term, this will see W.E. dismissed as a vanity project but, in the long term, history may well find it to be a fascinating comment on 20th century celebrity from the ultimate insider."

Madonna's jaw-dropping take on the story of Wallis Simpson is a primped and simpering folly, preening and fatally mishandled

Xan Brooks, Thursday 1 September 2011

Whatever the crimes committed by Wallis Simpson – marrying a king, sparking a constitutional crisis, fraternising with Nazis – it's doubtful that she deserves the treatment meted out to her in W.E., Madonna's jaw-dropping take on "the 20th-century's greatest royal love story". The woman is defiled, humiliated, made to look like a joke. The fact that W.E. comes couched in the guise of a fawning, servile snow-job only makes the punishment feel all the more cruel.Or could it be that Madonna is in deadly earnest here? If so, her film is more risible than we had any right to expect; a primped and simpering folly, the turkey that dreamed it was a peacock. Andrea Riseborough stars as Wallis, the perky American social climber who meets Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) in London, where she is drawn like a magnet to his pursed lips and peevish air.

Yet Madonna has also taken the decision to run Wallis's story in tandem with the story of Wally (Abbie Cornish), a trophy wife in 1990s New York, who totters in and out of the drama like a doped pony. Wally, it transpires, was named after Wallis and is obsessed by the woman to a degree that struck me as deeply worrying, but which Madonna presents as evidence of impeccable good taste.

From time to time, the ghost of Wallis even pays Wally a call to dispense beauty tips or comfort her when she's lying injured on the bathroom floor. "I'm here," coos Wallis. "I'll always be here." And seldom has a promise sounded more like a threat.

Madonna wants us to see these two as spiritual twins, in that they are both dazzled by expensive trinkets and searching desperately for love. We know instantly that Wallis's first husband is a wrong 'un because he drags her from the bath and beats her, and we are invited to take a similar view of Wally's spouse when he starts claiming that Wallis and Edward were Nazi-sympathisers, which is patently absurd. "They might have been naive," Wally scolds him. "That doesn't mean that they were Nazis."

What an extraordinarily silly, preening, fatally mishandled film this is. It may even surpass 2008's Filth and Wisdom, Madonna's calamitous first outing as a film-maker. Her direction is so all over the shop that it barely qualifies as direction at all.

W.E. gives us slo-mo and jump cuts and a crawling crane shot up a tree in Balmoral, but they are all just tricks without a purpose. For her big directoral flourish, Madonna has Wallis bound on stage to dance with a Masai tribesman while Pretty Vacant blares on the soundtrack. But why? What point is she making? That social-climbing Wallis-Simpson was the world's first punk-rocker? That – see! – a genuine Nazi-sympathiser would never dream of dancing with an African? Who can say? My guess is that she could have had Wallis dressed as a clown, bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower to the strains of The Birdy Song and it would have served her story just as well. Xan Brooks

Review: W.E.

W.E. Costumes

Photos by Tom Munro for Vanity Fair

After finishing the script and starting work on casting and production, Madonna realised that the budget of film was going to be high. Simpson's character had around 80 costume changes with dresses by designers like Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Madeleine Vionnet and Elsa Schiaparelli. Most of the actual dresses were kept in museum archives, hence unobtainable to Madonna. Instead, many of the couture houses offered to create the dresses for her. While casting for the film, she asked for a Michael O'Connor wedding dress, in display at the National Museum of Costume in Scotland, for a scene where Riseborough would wear it.[ National Museum of Costume general manager Margaret Roberts said they were happy to send the dress to Madonna. "Our Marriage in the Movies exhibition is packed with fabulous gowns that tell a story not only about the history of the period they represent, but also of Hollywood glamour and style," she said. [...] This is a dress that was made for the movies, so when we received the request from Madonna's production company, we were only too happy to oblige." Other fashion designers working for the film included John Galliano and Issa, who provided clothes, Pierre Cartier the jewels, and Stephen Jones the hats.
She also enlisted costume designer Arianne Phillips to create the dresses for the film. The costumes designed were a combination of real vintage pieces, others were remade based on patterns that were obtained out of the museum archives, and the rest had to be freshly made. In an interview with W magazine in November 2011, Philips explained that she "started doing research in 2009, a year before [W.E.] began filming... To me, Wallis Simpson was a style icon, but I didn’t know she was a couture client well before she met Edward. She was also a hungry whore for jewelry. Edward gave Wallis jewelry to make her feel royal. My first task was figuring out how to re-create those famous gifts." Madonna had sent a box of her research to Phillips, so that the designer could get a head start for the project. The singer understood the kind of attention to detail needed to create the costumes, drawing from her own garments which included couture. Phillips then researched the clothes on display at fashion departments of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York, the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She then went to Los Angeles, where retailer Doris Raymond, from The Way We Wore had opened up her personal library of 1930s couture. There Phillips watched old newsreels from the University of California archives. Once filming started, the designer moved in Madonna's guesthouse in London, where they would watch the shot reels together and scrutinize the dresses. Phillips established contacts with designer labels like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to replicate a cross bracelet and ten other pieces. For the gowns, undergarments, and dresses needed for the 60 costume changes in the film, Phillips scoured the archives of Vionnet and Schiaparelli; then with the cooperation of both houses she redesigned Simpson's clothing. The first dress in which Riseborough appeared as Simpson in the film was a re-creation of the dress owned by Simpson herself. Phillips decked the dresses with diamond bow brooch at the neck and paired with organza skirts, and was able to obtain duplicates for some of them from Cos Prop, a costume shop in London.
Some of the pieces that the duchess actually ordered I thought were hideous. Those wouldn’t work for the movie, so we modified and invented. Wallis wasn’t pretty; she was handsome, at best. In England, it was noted over and over how unattractive she was. But Wallis was a lot of fun—very entertaining. She had a freedom to her that was definitely reflected in her clothes; the duchess was all about presentation. And that became her refuge, and her prison.
According to Phillips, Edward's choice of clothes were specific and he rebelled against what his father dictated as the protocol for dresses. He used to wear navy blue tails, rather than black ones, as formalwear. The designer was able to see the original ones he owned at the Costume Institute. To re-create the look, Phillips contacted luxury goods company Alfred Dunhill who had an understanding of bespoke tailoring available in London's Savile Row. They provided Phillips with tailor, wools and fabrics from the mills that had created the original fabrics for Edward himself. Phillips tailored the baggy looks of the 1930s suits, to make them appealing for the contemporary audience. In the end, all the costumes were hand-made, with a total of 60 costumes being created for Simpson and 30 for Edward.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The BBC’s Young Tailor of the Year for 2102

The Young Tailor of the Year
The BBC’s Young Tailor of the Year for 2102 is Savile Row Bespoke Association member Dege & Skinner apprentice Emma Martin.

Announced on BBC3 television on Sunday 5th February, the award forms a part of the BBC’s ‘Britain’s Best’ series, which identifies the cream of young British talent working in such diverse, traditional trades as farming, baking and carpentry.

Emma graduated with a Bespoke Tailoring Diploma from Newham College, which works closely with the SRBA and acts as a springboard to a career on Savile Row, before becoming an apprentice Coat Maker at Dege & Skinner.

With a ‘thirties, jazz theme to the competition, Emma had to display her full range of bespoke tailoring skills and pad a collar; finish a waistcoat; pattern cut a pair of ‘Oxford Bags’ trousers from measurements alone, and then make the trousers to compliment the look of the present jazz band.

She then underwent a fierce grilling about bespoke tailoring techniques, the history of Savile Row and the sources of her inspiration, during which she paid warm tribute to her mentors at Dege & Skinner and reflected on the demands of a Savile Row apprenticeship:

“I trained with Stefano Tormambe, who was an awesome Coat Maker, but since filming has sadly passed away. He was generous with his time and shared his experiences of Dege & Skinner and other tailoring houses. My apprenticeship is extremely demanding. From the moment I enter the work room I’m alert to the precision of every stitch. Were I to make a mistake, even a small one, I would ruin the coat, disappointing the client, my company and, most of all, myself.”

The judges of the competition were the renowned tailors Richard Anderson and Mark Powell who, between them, have made bespoke garments for some of the most fashionable names in the world, including George Clooney, Kate Moss and David Bowie. Richard Anderson commented:

“It was an incredible show to work on and it was rewarding to see young apprentices such as Emma at the start of their careers. The value of apprenticeships is often overlooked, but in today’s climate they are more important than ever.

“Emma has obviously learnt well in her short career and was a worthy winner; through every stage her enthusiasm for the craft of tailoring shone through; her technical skills were excellent and even if she made a mistake, she was quick to recognise it and correct it. She is a credit to her masters at Dege and has an amazing future ahead of her.”

Philip Parker, the Managing Director of Henry Poole & Co and the man who oversees the SRBA’s training and apprenticeship programme, added:

“I am delighted that a young coat maker from Savile Row won the young tailor of the year award. Training is of the upmost importance to all industry in this country and Savile Row has, is now and always will provide training for our future masters to ensure that Savile Row tailoring stays at the pinnacle of world bespoke tailoring.
in Savile Row Bespoke Association :

The Savile Row Bespoke Association was founded in 2004 with the aim of protecting and developing the art of bespoke tailoring on Savile Row. Today, the Row continues to flourish – the home to more than a dozen bespoke tailoring businesses, employing over 100 working craftsmen that form the centre of a unique community of businesses in London’s West End. Savile Row is a community that not only creates a unique English luxury product, but one that also forms the training base for young craftsmen and women who will go on to become tailors or designers themselves

The not-for profit association was founded to fulfil the following roles:

Protecting Intellectual Property

In the general interest of member firms, ensuring that the mark ‘Savile Row Bespoke’ is neither abused nor devalued. Savile Row Bespoke Ltd is the owner of the Trademark. The mark is a collective mark. Further information can be obtained from the Company’s lawyers Olswang.

Developing Training Initiatives

The SRBA runs a pre-apprenticeship scheme and has active links with Newham College in East London.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association has a close association with the London College of Fashion.

The Savile Row apprenticeship scheme is the form of in house training and accreditation for Savile Row Cutters and Tailors recognised by the SRBA.

The SRBA welcomes proposals for training and development in conjunction with other institutes

Promoting the Art of Bespoke Tailoring

Working to promote the art of bespoke tailoring and to represent the interests of retailers and tenants of the Row whose businesses are sympathetic to the aims of the Association.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association has drawn attention to planning issues that are detrimental to the Row and the measure of care needed to maintain a working craft industry in Central London. Favourable press comment has reminded the public that bespoke tailoring is a home-grown and successful luxury industry, bringing vitality and originality to a great city.

Ensuring Quality

To protect and ensure the future of true British bespoke tailoring, the Savile Row Bespoke Association has defined the strict quality criteria and manufacturing standards that are upheld by member firms.

The Association board meets regularly and welcomes applications to join.

Establishing Synergies with Weavers, Suppliers, and Subcontractors

Facilitating discussion to ensure the future of the industry.

The Savile Row Bespoke label

In 2006 the Savile Row Bespoke Association members convened to establish a method of identifying garments specifically made by the Savile Row tailors who met the association’s required specifications. From this the Savile Row Bespoke label was launched, which all the members now include in their work to formally denote a genuine Savile Row bespoke garment.

Made by hand, using skills that the modern world considers archaic or lost, Savile Row suits are simply the best suits in the world.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association protects the art of bespoke tailoring and works to ensure that the well dressed man will always consider Savile Row his spiritual home.

Addressing Collective Problems

The Association is a place for discussion and consultation about collective problems of concern to the members. The Association acts as spokesman for the industry with local and government services and trade unions.

To Protect and Promote London as an International Capital of Men’s Elegance

Working with local government, United Kingdom and International organisations to maintain and develop London’s unique position as one of the world’s great cities and home of male elegance. Savile Row typifies the values of London. It has a heritage of over two hundred years; it has a rich mix of style, craft and individuality and an international reputation. Westminster Council and the Central London Partnership have now declared policies of active support in maintaining Savile Row as the international home of bespoke tailoring in central London.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

John Brown and Queen Victoria...

 Victoria and Albert at Balmoral
Balmoral, c.1890–1900
Even before the completion of the new house, the pattern of the royal couple's life in the Highlands was soon established. Albert spent many days shooting deer and game, while Victoria took long walks of up to four hours daily. In 1849 the diarist Charles Greville described their life at Balmoral as like that of gentry rather than royalty. Victoria began a policy of commissioning artists to record Balmoral, its surroundings and its staff. Over the years, numerous painters were employed at Balmoral, including Edwin and Charles Landseer, Carl Haag, William Wyld, William Henry Fisk, and many others. The couple took great interest in their staff, and set up a lending library. During the 1850s, new plantations were established around the house, and exotic conifers were planted in the grounds. Prince Albert had an active role in these improvements, overseeing the design of parterres, the diversion the main road north of the river via a new bridge, and plans for farm buildings. These included a model dairy which he developed during 1861, the year of his death. It was completed by Victoria, who subsequently built several monuments to her husband on the estate. These included an obelisk, and a large statue of Albert by William Theed, inaugurated in 1867.
After Albert's death, Victoria spent increasing periods at Balmoral, staying up to four months a year during early summer and autumn. Few further changes were made to the grounds, with the exception of the monuments and cottages built during the remainder of the 19th century. It was during this period that Victoria began to depend on her servant John Brown, a local ghillie from Crathie who became one of her closest companions during her long mourning. Balmoral Castle was the birthplace of Victoria Eugenie of Spain, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
In September 1896, Victoria welcomed Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and Empress Alexandra to Balmoral. Four years later Victoria made her last visit, three months before her death on 22 January

 John Brown (December 8, 1826 – March 27, 1883) was a Scottish personal servant and favourite of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom for many years. He was appreciated by many (including the Queen) for his competence and companionship, and resented by others for his influence and informal manner. The exact nature of his relationship with Victoria was the subject of great speculation by contemporaries, and continues to be controversial today.
Brown was born in Crathie, Aberdeenshire, to John Brown and Margaret Leys, and went to work as an outdoor servant (in Scots ghillie or gillie) at Balmoral Castle, which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased in 1853.

After Albert died in 1861, Brown became Victoria's personal servant. She was so grateful for his service (and his manner toward her, which was much less formal than that of her other servants, though extremely protective of her) that she awarded him medals and had portrait paintings and statues made of him.
Victoria's children and ministers resented the high regard she had for Brown, and, inevitably, stories circulated that there was something improper about their relationship. The Queen's daughters joked that Brown was "Mama's Lover," while Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby wrote in his diary that Brown and Victoria slept in adjoining rooms "contrary to etiquette and even decency".
The diaries of Lewis Harcourt contain a report that one of the Queen's chaplains, Rev. Norman Macleod, made a deathbed confession repenting of his action in presiding over Queen Victoria's marriage to John Brown. Debate continues over what credence to give this report. It should be emphasised that Harcourt did not receive the confession directly (he was nine at the time that Macleod died) but that it passed (if it did) from Macleod's sister to the wife of Henry Ponsonby, the Queen's private secretary, and thence to Harcourt's father Sir William Harcourt, the then Home Secretary. Sir William served as Home Secretary in the final three years of Brown's life. While it is true that some widowed monarchs (including Louis XIV of France) have contracted private marriages with their servants, there is little evidence that Victoria married Brown.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of the depth of Victoria and Brown's relationship comes from the pen of the Queen herself. A recently discovered letter written by Victoria shortly after Brown's death, to Viscount Cranbrook, reveals the true extent of the loss:
'Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant ... Strength of character as well as power of frame – the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart ... made him one of the most remarkable men. The Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs ... the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt...'
The phrase 'life for the second time' relates to the death of her husband Prince Albert. The historian who discovered the letter believed that it suggested that Victoria, in her mind, equated Brown's death with Albert's, and that she therefore viewed him as more than a servant. Whether Brown and Victoria were actual lovers, however, is impossible to prove.
Those who believe that the Queen saw Brown as little more than a servant point to the fact that after his death she became similarly attached to an Indian servant, Abdul Karim (the Munshi), one of two who had come to work for her in late June 1887. She called him the Munshi, and he came to be resented even more than John Brown had been: unlike Brown, whose loyalty was without question, there was evidence that the mendacious and manipulative Karim exploited his position for personal gain and prestige.
Tony Rennell's book Last Days of Glory: The Death of Queen Victoria reveals that Victoria had entrusted detailed instructions about her burial to her doctor, Sir James Reid (in lieu of Brown himself, who had died in 1883: the Queen's wish had been for him to attend to her). These included a list of the keepsakes and mementoes, photographs and trinkets she wished to be placed into the coffin with her: along with Albert's dressing gown and a plaster cast of his hand, the Queen was buried with a lock of Brown's hair, his photograph, and a ring worn by Brown's mother and given to her by Brown, along with several of his letters. The photograph, wrapped in white tissue paper, was placed in her left hand, with flowers discreetly arranged so as to hide it from view. The ring she wore on the third finger of her right hand.
The statues and private memorials that Victoria had created for Brown were destroyed and discarded at the order of her son, Edward VII, with whom Brown had often clashed and who bitterly resented Brown for his influence on his mother.

The 1997 film Mrs. Brown is the fictionalised story of John Brown. Billy Connolly stars as Brown and Dame Judi Dench as Victoria, with Anthony Sher appearing as Benjamin Disraeli. His character, with a wink at Victoria's unspeakable grief over Albert's death, is informed that she would like to say goodbye at his deathbed. To which he replies:"Oh Lord, no. She will only want me to take a message to Albert."

Mrs Brown Original Trailer

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Clarence House.

Clarence House is a royal home in London, situated on The Mall, in the City of Westminster. It is attached to St. James's Palace and shares the palace's garden. For nearly 50 years, from 1953 to 2002, it was home to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, but is since then the official residence of The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry. Clarence House also served as the official residence for Prince William from 2003 until his 2011 marriage. It is open to visitors for approximately two months each summer.
The house was built between 1825 and 1827 to a design by John Nash. It was commissioned by Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV in 1830. He lived there in preference to the nearby St. James's Palace, which he found too cramped. It passed to his sister Princess Augusta Sophia and, following her death in 1840, to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. In 1866, it became the home of Queen Victoria's second son and fourth child Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Edinburgh until his death in 1900. His younger brother Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Queen Victoria's third son, used the house from 1900 until his death in 1942, during which time the house suffered damage inflicted by enemy bombing. It was used by the Red Cross and the St. John Ambulance Brigade as their headquarters during the rest of World War II, before being given to Princess Elizabeth and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh. Princess Anne was born there in 1950. After the death of George VI, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret moved there in 1953, though the latter eventually moved to an apartment in Kensington Palace.
The house has four storeys, not including attics or basements, and is faced in pale stucco. It has undergone extensive remodelling and reconstruction over the years, most notably after the Second World War, such that relatively little remains of Nash's original structure. The Prince of Wales moved here in 2003 after the house underwent massive refurbishment following the death of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The house has been completely rewired, most of the major rooms were redecorated by the interior designer Robert Kime, and the building was given an external face-lift.
Since 2003 the term "Clarence House" has often been used as a metonym for the Prince of Wales' private office.