2010年11月29日 星期一

TSCHEN Limited edition

Ando, Art Edition
Hardcover in oakwood box, 30.8 x 39 cm (12.1 x 15.4 in.), 600 pages

Limited to 300 numbered copies, presented in a matt-finish custom oakwood-box designed by the architect.
In addition, each copy of this Art Edition comes with an individual sketch hand-drawn and signed by Tadao Ando.

A mixture of a metal with its sulfides, produced by smelting the sulfide ores of copper, lead, or nickel.

[French, curdled milk, matte, from feminine of obsolete mat, compact, from Old French, dull, from Latin mattus, stupefied. See mat2.]

  • [mǽt]

matte paint
matte silver
a matte shot
1 (特殊加工をした金属・紙・ガラスなどの)光沢のない表面, つや消しの面.
2 つや消し処理を施す道具.
3 《冶金》(かわ).
━━[動](他)…の表面をつや消しにする, 曇らせる, いぶす.

TASCHEN November 29, 2010

Limited edition limited-time offer!

Dear Friends,

Some of our limited Art Editions are almost sold-out, which means that the prices for the few remaining copies will increase.
As our preferred customer, you are the first to to be informed that the prices of the following editions will go up on November 30th, 2010.

This is your last chance to take advantage of the current prices!
These Limited Editions will never be available at these prices again—if they remain available at all.
You can place your order online (with free delivery!) or visit one of our eleven stores worldwide.

PS: Please note that, in some cases, the stock of these editions is extremely low. Therefore, the offer is subject to availability and we apologise in advance if your order can not be fulfilled.

Christopher Wool
Hardcover in a clamshell box, 33 x 44 cm (13 x 17.3 in.), 426 pages

Covering all work phases in large-scale reproductions accompanied by extensive texts as well as production Polaroids and installation photos by Wool himself. Limited to 1,000 copies, each numbered and signed by the artist.

£ 650 (new price from November 30th: £ 900)

BUY NOW and SAVE £ 250!

Albert Oehlen
Hardcover in a clamshell box, 33 x 44 cm (13 x 17.3 in.), 660 pages

This XL retrospective explores Albert Oehlen's entire career chronologically and examines his creative process via in-depth texts and an interview with the artist. Limited to 1,000 numbered copies, each signed by Albert Oehlen.

£ 650
(new price from November 30th: £ 900)

BUY NOW and SAVE £ 250!

Ando, Art Edition
Hardcover in oakwood box, 30.8 x 39 cm (12.1 x 15.4 in.), 600 pages

Limited to 300 numbered copies, presented in a matt-finish custom oakwood-box designed by the architect.
In addition, each copy of this Art Edition comes with an individual sketch hand-drawn and signed by Tadao Ando.

£ 650 (new price from November 30th: £ 900)

BUY NOW and SAVE £ 250!

Shigeru Ban, Complete Works 1985-2010, Art Edition
Suisse binding in clamshell box, 30.8 x 39 cm (12.1 x 15.4 in.), 466 pages

Limited to 200 numbered copies, delivered in a clamshell box and each signed by the architect
, this Art Edition features a special cover custom made by Shigeru Ban, with a hand-crafted mesh of polished African Samba wood (Triplochiton scleroxylon), inspired by the roof design of the new Centre Pompidou-Metz.

£ 650
(new price from November 30th: £ 900)

BUY NOW and SAVE £ 250!

Ellen von Unwerth, Fräulein
Hardcover in a clamshell box, 30.5 x 44 cm (12 x 17.3 in.), 482 pages

Fashion, fantasy, fetishism, sensuality and sly humor—the world's most delectable women—in a Collector's Edition of 1,500 copies, numbered and signed by the photographer.

£ 450
(new price from November 30th: £ 650)

BUY NOW and SAVE £ 200!

Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover
Hardcover in a slipcase, 39.6 x 33 cm (15.6 x 13 in.), 422 pages

Limited to 1,500 numbered copies, each signed by the artist. Also available in an Art Edition (No. 1-100), including a serigraph print.

No. 1-100, Art Edition
£ 650 (new price from November 30th: £ 900)
BUY NOW and SAVE £ 250!

No. 101-1,600, Collector's Edition

£ 300 (new price from November 30th: £ 450)
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Neil Leifer, Guts and Glory: The Golden Age of American Football, 1958-1978
Hardcover in a slipcase, 39.6 x 33 cm (15.6 x 13 in.), 350 pages

Presented in a custom slipcase and limited to a total of 1,500 copies signed by the photographer.
Also available: The Art Edition, limited to 200 copies, numbered and signed by Neil Leifer and accompanied by one of two chromogenic prints, numbered and signed below the image by the photographer.

No. 1-200, Art Edition
£ 800
(new price from November 30th: £ 1,000)
No. 1-100,
Print "Johnny Unitas"
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No. 101-200,
Print "Alan Ameche"
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No. 201-1,700, Collector's Edition
£ 300
(new price from November 30th: £ 450)
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Steve Schapiro, Taxi Driver
Hardcover in a clamshell box, 29 x 44 cm (11.4 x 17.3 in.), 328 pages

This edition is limited to 1,000 copies, numbered and signed by Steve Schapiro. Also available in two Art Editions of 100 copies each, with a signed and numbered original photographic print.

No. 1-200, Art Edition
£ 1,000 (new price from November 30th: £ 1,250)

No. 1-100: Print "Robert De Niro in his cab"
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No. 101-200:
Print "Jodie Foster on the street"
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No. 201-1,200, Collector's Edition
£ 450
(new price from November 30th: £ 650)
BUY NOW and SAVE £ 200!

2010年11月26日 星期五

APOLLO’S ANGELS : A History of Ballet

Taking Flight

It has never been done, what Jennifer Homans has done in “Apollo’s Angels.” She has written the only truly definitive history of the most impossibly fantastic art form, ballet, this most refined, most exquisite art of “aristocratic etiquette,” this “science of behavior toward others,” as a 17th-century ballet master put it, in which lovely young women perch upon their 10 little toe tips (actually, it is ­really just the two big toes that alternately support the entire body’s weight: think about it) and waft about where the air is thinner — but heaven is closer. She has taken this world where wilis, virgins, sylphs, sleeping princesses, the “women in white” embody the eternal — the eternally unattainable — and set it into the fabric of world history, and we see, miraculously, their pale tulle and satin pointes peeking out from the crevices of war, of revolutions, of political machinations, and on the ­stages of the monarchies and empires of the kings and czars who gave birth to this improbable art.
Cristiana Couceiro


A History of Ballet

By Jennifer Homans

Illustrated. 643 pp. Random House. $35

Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet -- Getty Images

Serge Lifar of the Ballets Russes in Balanchine’s “Apollo,” which had its premiere in 1928.

Bernard Gotfryd

George Balanchine in 1969.

Homans’s accomplishment is akin to setting the most delicate and beautiful of all the imperial Fabergé eggs into a fissure high on Mount Rushmore and tracking its unlikely survival. And the question of ballet’s survival lies at the core of Homans’s moving story. “Ballets,” Théophile Gau­tier wrote, “are the dreams of poets taken seriously.”

The tale of the tutu is indeed the story of a bunch of crazy dreamers, dancers, warriors of anatomy who have worked ludicrously hard to formulate, shape and perfect the highest form of the human physique, and the result is a glorious paradox: the manifestation of morality in muscle, truly Whitman’s body electric. What a noble and superb cause! What folly in the face of guaranteed evanescence!

Ballet is the body divined, and it is not by chance that all the work started at the royal court in France in the mid-16th century. Homans begins with what has long been considered the first ballet, “Ballet Comique de la Reine,” which had its premiere in 1581. It was an extravagant six-hour affair, performed among the guests — elevated stages did not yet exist — in a large gallery at the Petit-Bourbon, and told an allegory of “the enchantress Circe vanquished by the powerful gods Minerva and Jupiter,” ending with Circe presenting her magic wand to the king himself before a ballet of naiads, dryads, princesses and a queen. The purpose of the ballet was nothing short of elevating man, “to raise him up a rung on the Great Chain of Being and bring him closer to the angels and God.” So the bar was set for this new art — and it couldn’t have been higher; ballet is about Highness — and the angels of Homans’s title take their first flight. Ballet became so revered in France that by 1636 the Abbé Mersenne, a contemporary of Descartes and Pascal, referred to “the author of the Universe” as “the great Ballet-master.”

Thus ballet was born as the dance of kings. Louis XIII designed costumes, wrote librettos and danced leading roles, being particularly fond of portraying the Sun and Apollo, god of music and poetry. His son, Louis XIV, made his debut in 1651 at 13 and studied with his ballet teacher, Pierre Beauchamps, daily, for more than 20 years. The dancing master in Molière’s “Bourgeois Gentilhomme” declares that “all the misfortunes of mankind, all the disasters of which history is full, the bungling of politicians and the mistakes of great generals, all come through not learning to dance.” Where, I ask you, is Obama’s Beauchamps?

It was Beauchamps who first codified the five positions of the body, providing “the crucial leap from etiquette to art,” and they remain to this day the beautiful base of outwardly rotated feet and legs from which classical ballet rises and expands centrifugally. Homans documents this passionate path with impressive grace — she was herself a professional ballet dancer and is now the dance critic for The New Republic — across Europe from its birth in France, with stopovers in Italy, Denmark, Germany and Austria, landing in Russia in the mid-19th century and then returning to Western Europe in the early years of the 20th century, and finally, here, to America, where it reached its apogee in the last half of the century.

The stops along the way often provide great charm. It was the enchanting French ballerina Marie Sallé in the mid-18th century who introduced the novel idea, with her revealing drapery and sensual movement (she was much admired by Voltaire and Montesquieu), that women, including ones of humble origins, might dance, not just men and kings. The history of ballet is also a story of class; ballet is a language of vertical ascent, physicalized nobility. “Ballerinas,” Homans writes, “acted like aristocrats even when in real life they most emphatically were not.” But mix they did, and more than one young dancer rose — or descended — to positions other than an arabesque in the famous corridors of the Paris Opera, “the nation’s harem,” as one police official termed it, where wealthy men trolled for pretty girls with limber limbs.

It was the magnificent French dancer Auguste Vestris, a favorite of Marie Antoinette’s, who “pried the feet open” to 180 degrees (Louis XIV had maintained a dignified 90), and they have remained there ever since. He also insisted on fully pointed feet, and thus soft, flat ballet shoes with ribbons wrapped around the ankles were born. A teacher of mammoth energy and passion, he gave lessons lasting three hours that would include “48 pliés followed by 128 grand battements, 96 petits battements glissé, 128 ronds de jambes sur terre and 128 en l’air.” Any dancers reading this are now rolling their eyes in empathic agony, but ballet, like prayer, is ritual repetition: the more you do, the closer you get to perfection, to God. (Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hours-to-genius rule is a mere drop in the rosin box for a ballet dancer.) Vestris also forbade any “provincial insecure shuffling of the feet.”

The French ballet master Charles-Louis Didelot, in “Psyché et l’Amour” (1809), kept “provincial” shuffling to a minimum, and his most famous ballet literally took flight not with angels but with 50 live white doves “outfitted in mini­corsets and attached to wires,” carrying the chariot of Venus to the heavens. What delightful imaginings are those of dancers, ever searching to soar — though one does worry about those corseted doves.

Marie Taglioni, the first ballerina still generally recognized, was born in Stockholm in 1804 into a dynasty of Italian dancers, and her rise to immortal fame is fascinating not least because she was one ugly duckling. According to Homans, she was “poorly proportioned, with a bent posture and skinny legs,” though she came to symbolize not only exquisite feminine beauty but the best kind, the kind you can’t have. How this determined young woman overcame these apparently extreme deficiencies and danced her way into history is a mesmerizing tale of body and soul outwitting gravity and that somewhat more horizontal pull: the male gaze.

She made her debut as ballet’s iconic sylph in “La Sylphide” in 1832, a super­natural creature who was “strong but frail, sexually alluring but chaste, in love but fiercely independent.” Inspired by Taglioni, Chateaubriand called the sylphide a “masterpiece” of a woman and was driven, Homans says, into “frenzied states of uncontrolled imagination and desire.” Not bad for a “famously ugly” woman.

Taglioni’s success reached far beyond the stage, and she became “a force of anarchy and dissolution,” Homans writes, “a woman’s dancer” (in Gautier’s words). “Decent” women “had to settle for a subdued and controlled life, but underneath they were desperate to ‘abandon their soft and calm existence’ for ‘storms of passion’ and ‘dangerous emotions.’ Taglioni lived what they could only dream: a . . . fully expressed life.” And you wonder why little girls want to dance? They intuit that inside a corseted tutu lies untold freedom.

August Bournonville, an almost exact contemporary of Taglioni and a friend of Kierkegaard, was born in Denmark, but he traveled throughout Europe, studied with Vestris in Paris and even fought a duel to defend his teacher’s honor. He came home from his sojourn to direct the Royal Danish Ballet for 47 years, creating some 50 ballets, though only a handful remain. In his emphasis on precise, unsentimental footwork, free of passion and angst, he added to the lexicon of ballet as few others have.

“Excelsior,” the most successful Italian ballet in history (that you have probably never heard of), claims its place in Homans’s narrative for less than artistic reasons: it has yet to be surpassed in sheer spectacular display and bad taste. Choreographed by Luigi Manzotti in 1881, it offered a cast of “more than 500, including 12 horses, 2 cows and an elephant.” The lead roles were Light, Darkness and Civilization (the ballerina), and they were joined by Invention, Harmony, Fame, Strength, Glory, Industry and Science. This extravaganza ended with Light banishing Darkness and communing in a “warm embrace” with Civilization.

“Excelsior” had 100 performances in Milan at La Scala, and then in virtually every other city across Italy before it zoomed around the world: South America, the United States, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Vienna and St. Petersburg. By 1931, the ballet had incorporated the “progress” of Fascism.

But as Homans points out so lucidly, while “Excelsior” was, well, ridiculous, it had an amazing side effect: it produced hundreds of performers who traveled abroad staging, dancing and teaching, spreading the seeds of ballet like dandelion florets. Among them were the illustrious Italian teacher Enrico Cecchetti, who staged Manzotti’s ballet in St. Petersburg, and Carlotta Brianza and Pierina Legnani, who became the first Princess Aurora and Odette/Odile, respectively, for the great Russian ballets of Marius Petipa, “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake.”

While Manzotti spawned an international dynastic dancing family, all ballet dancers since the mid-19th century are the progeny of Petipa. Like Sallé, Vestris and Taglioni, Petipa was from a long line of dancers. Born in Marseille, he studied with Vestris in Paris, traveled widely and, like Bournonville, fought a duel, in Madrid with a French marquis, though Petipa’s was not over the honor of his art but over the apparent dishonor of a young lady. Petipa shot off the marquis’s jaw and ­jetéd away unscathed. It is comforting to know that two of the three great choreographers in ballet history — we will get to George Balanchine soon — were winning duelers, willing to risk their bodies for honor, as all dancers do.

Yes, only three men of such genius to add to and permanently change the language itself in all 400 years, so rare is the great dance maker. It would be as if all classical music had only Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, no Wagner, Verdi, Brahms, Schubert or Chopin, or all literature had only Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolstoy, no Dante, Cervantes, Dostoyevsky, Austen, Thomas Mann or Elmore Leonard.

Petipa arrived in St. Petersburg in 1847 and lived there for more than 50 years, dying in 1910 at the age of 92. He had two Russian ballerina wives, nine children, and never learned to speak Russian, though he became an eager and respected member of the czar’s court. Interestingly, he produced his masterworks, the cornerstones of the art, the Latin of all classical ballet — “The Sleeping Beauty,” “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake” (he also rechoreographed “Giselle” in the form we know it today) — in an astonishing late flowering after the age of 70!

This outpouring — some done with the significant help of the ballet master Lev Ivanov — was attributable, in part, to Tchaikovsky, “the first composer of real stature to see ballet as a substantial art,” Homans writes. “Petipa became a great choreographer because of Tchaikovsky, and he knew it.” She evokes the sweetness of their close collaboration: Tchaikovsky would visit Petipa’s house and play his new composition on the piano “while Petipa shifted his papier-mâché figurines around a large round table.”

By 1903 Petipa was forced to retire, and the Imperial Theaters were floundering. But within only six years Serge Diaghilev brought Russian ballet back to Paris, the place of its birth — his company, the Ballets Russes, never danced in Russia — and unleashed a frenzy of modernist creativity the results of which were widespread and groundbreaking. Never before had so many artists of note been pulled together by one man, whose edict was “Astonish me!” His grand experiment lasted only 20 years, but its legacy is vast — perhaps most notable for two artists whom he helped usher out of Russia: Stravinsky and Balanchine. Working together and separately, they would become two of the great artists of Time, their shared subject.

Homans provides good overviews of the major players of the 20th century. British ballet, led by the formidable Ninette de Valois, Frederick Ashton and Margot Fonteyn, had its culmination in the ­Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership in the 1960s, though it produced its best — and certainly most enduring — gift to ballet in Michael Powell’s 1948 cinematic masterpiece, “The Red Shoes.” “During the war we were all told to go out and die for freedom and democracy,” Powell said. “After the war ‘The Red Shoes’ told them to die for art.” And why not?

Homans does justice — and then some — to the propaganda dram-balets under Soviet Communism and their extraordinary dancers: Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya — “a fierce and undying swan” — Vladimir Vasiliev, Natalia Makarova, Nureyev and Baryshnikov. While calling ballet “Britain’s finest cultural hour,” Homans states that “the Bolshoi’s rise signaled a sharp decline for the art of dance.” About its signature ballet, “Spartacus,” she writes, “Even at its most thrilling (Vasiliev), it was quite clearly a degraded form of art.” But ballet was an important national symbol, even if Nikita Khrushchev complained that he had seen so many “Swan Lakes” that his dreams were laden with “white tutus and tanks all mixed up together.”

The British Antony Tudor (William Cook) and the American Jerome Robbins (Jerome Rabinowitz) each get an in-depth assessment; together they form the angst-driven sadists — onstage and off — of 20th-century ballet, and each created a few classic ballets. Tudor, choreographer of “Pillar of Fire,” “Lilac Garden” and “Dark Elegies,” liked his performances to be “executed in cold blood.” “Breaking down a person isn’t hard,” he explained, but then “you’re terribly tempted to lay them flat and walk on them.”

Robbins is the undeniable King of Broadway, with works like “West Side Story,” “On the Town” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” but his ballets, his second language, never quite reached the same apoth­eosis. He was top second-rate (“Dances at a Gathering,” “The Cage,” “Afternoon of a Faun”), and Homans is unafraid to say so. His torture of his dancers and others — he named names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities — was matched only by his well-earned self-hatred. His parents owned a kosher deli on East 97th Street in New York, and he admitted to a strong desire “to become an American and by American I mean WASP American.” He wrote in his diary that he thought his fascination with ballet “has something to do with ‘civilizationing’ of my Jewishness. . . . The language of court and Christianity.”

And it is with “court and Christianity” that Homans arrives in the end. When she finally reaches the story of Georgi Balanchivadze, her book takes flight. She lets go of the professorial traces and dutiful descriptions that have occasionally punctuated previous pages — an editor should have fixed the multiple repetitions of “as we have seen” — and comes into her own with absolute authority. Her writing becomes inspired. Balanchine had that effect on people, and Homans was a student at his School of American Ballet (the “West Point of dance,” as his co-founder, Lincoln Kirstein, called it). Moreover, it actually feels as if she wrote the book in order to get to Balanchine, the one she loves, to put him in his deepest context, and to present him as the pinnacle of the towering pyramid of dance that she has built for him, for us. There he is, the undisputed “Yahweh” of all dance history, the Apollo of her title, accompanied by his beloved muses, his dancers, his angels, leading his chariot, no corseted doves in sight.

“His ballets are the jewel in the crown of 20th-century dance,” Homans writes. “Their depth and scope far surpass those of the dances made by Robbins, Tudor, Ashton or any of the Soviets. . . . Few doubted that Balanchine towered over them all.”

While it took a Frenchman, Petipa, to make ballet Russian, it took a Russian, Balanchine, to make it American — the most unlikely transposition the art form has ever experienced. “Classical ballet was everything America was against,” Homans explains. “It was a lavish, aristocratic court art, a high — and hierarchical — elite art with no pretense to egalitarianism,” designed “to promote and glorify kings and czars.” Whose divine right would it promote in the land of the equal, the free, the duly (and unduly) elected? But as Balan­chine was fond of saying in the face of the impossible, or highly inadvisable, “Nevertheless. . . .” And he proceeded to give American dancers an aristocracy all their own.

The story of Balanchine has been told before and at greater length, but never better. Homans’s account is the best that exists — for both the novice and those in the know. The opening of the School of American Ballet in 1933, the short-lived companies, the work on Broadway, in Hollywood, and then in 1948 the birth of the New York City Ballet, the incubator for him and his dancers, where he produced his greatest work. She gives us terrific appraisals of “Apollo,” “Serenade,” “La Valse,” “Lie­beslieder Walzer,” “Agon” and “Stravinsky Violin Concerto.”

Homans even risks some close truths when she points out the reasons for the “unusual physical luminosity” of his dancers, who had “more dimension, more depth, more range” than other dancers. “Foremost among them was love,” she writes. “Not love for dancing, although that was part of it, but Balanchine’s love.” The fuel his dancers ran on was not the cottage cheese, muffins and Tab they consumed but the sheer adrenaline of love, that immeasurable, magical component that takes a body beyond itself.

Unlike Tudor and Robbins, Balanchine “was not interested in ordinary people or real social situations,” Homans says. “Rather, for him ballet was an art of angels, of idealized and elevated human figures, beautiful, chivalric and above all strictly formal.” Balanchine brought the art full circle back to Louis XIV.

“Ballet is woman,” Balanchine proclaimed, and he elaborated in a letter to Jackie Kennedy in 1961: “Man takes care of the material things and woman takes care of the soul. Woman is the world and man lives in it.” Among his multiple images and portraits of women, one dominated: “a man and a woman who come together but cannot stay together,” Homans writes, “dances that show the man alone, or abandoned by a woman who is too independent, too powerful, too goddess-like to give him the solace he needs.” Balanchine said his biography was in the ballets — and Taglioni’s anarchist sylph reigns on.

“Balanchine’s legacy was immense,” Homans concludes. “He had given the world the greatest oeuvre in the history of dance and made classical ballet a pre-­eminently modernist and 20th-century art.” But “over the past two decades,” she writes, it “has come to resemble a dying language,” and thus she announces the awful truth. Ballet is such an ethereal, such a deeply moral exercise that it would appear to have less and less of a place in our current technology-driven world: there are no bytes for ­ballet.

But ballet always seems to be ending; it has been finished, in fact, many times. The ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre saw it sliding into “empty and meaningless virtuosity” by the late 18th century, and Bournonville despaired for his art when he saw the “disgusting cancan” showing its garters in Paris theaters. And in 1936, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of “the catastrophe of the death of Diaghilev. The sorrow of it that Zelda felt, as did many others, who seemed to feel also that the ballet was ended.”

Now, it would appear ballet is ending yet again. But this time, Homans thinks, it really is the end. “In the years following Balanchine’s death,” she writes, “his angels fell, one by one, from their heights.” Her explanation is, sadly, convincing: “Contemporary choreography veers aimlessly from unimaginative imitation to strident innovation,” while “today’s artists . . . have been curiously unable to rise to the challenge of their legacy. They seem crushed and confused by its iconoclasm and grandeur.” Terpsichore, like Victoria Page, has put on the red shoes and danced her last, no longer willing to “die for art,” so her art dies.

“At N.Y.C.B.,” Homans writes of Balanchine and Robbins’s old home, “the understandable desire to preserve its masters’ legacy has led instead to a stifling orthodoxy,” and she reports with restrained outrage of “a small but telling departure” from its former grace. “The New York State Theater, named for the people it served, was recently rechristened: it is now the David H. Koch Theater, for the millionaire whose ego and resources substitute for the public good.” In a wickedly ironic footnote, bedbugs have also recently taken up residence with Koch in Balanchine’s theater.

The Fabergé egg has fallen. Today’s ballerinas use Twitter, securing the fall of the fourth wall, and even Darren Aronofsky’s new ballet film, “Black Swan,” presents, uncannily, a haunting final image of a white tutu oozing blood. So what is one to do now, having seen, having known, a thing of such beauty that is facing imminent extinction? Jennifer Homans has put her mourning into action and has written its history, an eloquent and lasting elegy to an unlasting art. It is, alas, a eulogy.

Toni Bentley danced with the New York City Ballet for 10 years and is the author of five books . She is writing a book about Balanchine’s ballet “Serenade.”

drawing, human figure series (ny times)

November 25, 2010, 8:00 pm

Strategies to Get You There

This is the eleventh in a series.

In the last column, I demonstrated a way of looking at the figure and seeing the energy that moves from part to part. This makes it possible for us to draw the figure and express its liveliness and psychology, as well as to engage an effective route toward seeing proportion.

Once we tune into these cooperative forces that animate the body, they seem obvious; yet opening up the kind of intuitive intelligence we need in order to see these forces is difficult when we are so used to relying mainly on the simple scanning operations of our eyes. As we draw, we need to record pressures and not just edges, and we need to see relationships between parts rather than just pieces of the body.

The exercises and ideas in this week’s column are designed to move you toward the goal of seeing the energy chain in the body by practicing drawing large forms, and getting used to the idea of moving out in your drawing and not worrying about attaching one thing to another or enclosing the whole shape of the figure. Once you have gotten over your fear of making a mark out in the white space of the paper and a distance away from the last mark you made, it will free your mind to see that significant energy relationships in the body are often not right next to one another. Read more…

November 18, 2010, 9:00 pm

The Chain of Energy

This is the tenth in a series.

In the preceding columns I have introduced you to ways of seeing the particular structural logic of different kinds of subjects — the ellipses within round objects, the strength and/or flexibility built into manufactured objects like shoes or chairs, perspective as a key in seeing space relationships in complex scenes, growing patterns in subjects like flowers and trees, and the cubistic understructure of the human head. Now we are ready to move on to considering how to see and draw the whole human figure. It is the most subtle, challenging and rewarding subject for us as artists.

In order to observe the nuances of movement in musculature, we will study the nude body. It will give you the foundation for better understanding the clothed figure.

(Note: Because the approach I am introducing you to entails a big change of thinking — a reach for the life force rather than just the surface shadows in drawing the figure — I will present the subject in two columns. In this, the first column, I will explain and demonstrate what one could call the goal of drawing the figure, and in the next I will give you strategies for approaching the goal from different directions. This may seem counter-intuitive, since I am giving you the “steps” last, but because the central idea of this approach is so necessary to all practice of it, the leading-up exercises would mean nothing if you didn’t know where you were headed.)

The body, as we know, is a miraculous system of bones, muscles, blood and nerves, and it is possible to study it in purely anatomical terms. We can follow Da Vinci’s example and learn as much about the body as any medical student, and it might serve us well as artists, but most of us don’t have the inclination for this scientific kind of study nor the stomach for dissection.
Read more…

November 11, 2010, 7:00 pm

Drawing Funny

This is the ninth in a series.

The subject of this column is caricature, but I’m not going to explain or demonstrate it myself. When the art god was doling out the syrup of graphic wit, he must have slipped on a banana peel just as he got to my cup and most of it spilled out on the floor. This being the case, I have chosen three artists whose cups of graphic wit truly runneth over and whose work represents caricature at its highest and most droll level of accomplishment.

Two are friends of many years and are literary wits as well as being celebrated artists: Edward Sorel, whose covers for the New Yorker are legendary, and Robert Grossman, whose animated films, comic strips and sculptures are both political and hilarious. The third artist, Tom Bachtell, creates stylish drawings for The New Yorker every week and, memorably, for many months played graphic games with George Bush’s eyebrows.

I asked each of the artists to create a caricature of Pablo Picasso and to give us whatever back story on their process that they choose to share. I think the results show that in order to draw funny, it really helps to be able to free-associate with fish, ex-wives and square eyes.

So here’s Picasso — three ways.

Edward Sorel

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November 4, 2010, 8:30 pm

Plumbing the Head

This is the eighth in a series.

The human head is potentially the most emotional subject an artist can choose. We spend our lives scanning other people’s faces to assess their relationship to us and our feelings towards them. Among the myriad expressions a face can produce we can see friendliness, attractiveness, intelligence, wariness, hostility or aggression, and we tend to credit this expressiveness mostly to the eyes and the mouth. As artists, however, we can draw the head to reveal that its personality comes not just from the features but from the character of all its forms, and from how the eyes, the nose and the mouth are sculpturally embedded in the terrain of the whole head.

To help us get past the idea of the face as a kind of flattish mask sitting in front of a vague bulbous form with ears, we need first to accentuate its spatial ins and outs in a diagrammatic drawing. This gives us a chance to really enjoy how much each of us has a particular nose jutting out at a particular angle, a particular setback from our brow to our eyes, a particular mound of muscles surrounding our mouths, particular rolling fields in our cheeks, a particular thrust to our chin and a particular mass in the shape of the back of our head.

I show here a diagrammatic drawing and a more realistic drawing of a model to demonstrate, in a two-step procedure, the possibility of simplifying the forms in a study to prepare us for doing a more naturalistic portrait. Read more…

October 28, 2010, 9:00 pm

The Three Amigos

This is the seventh in a series.

There is something particularly satisfying about setting up objects for a still life painting. It’s like a little world that you control. First you get to choose the inhabitants — maybe a vase, some flowers, a weird gourd, a plastic Mickey Mouse, your baby shoes — and then you get to move them around like a potentate.

Of course, this opportunity to combine a mélange of objects can lead to a too-complicated visual mess. There are a few fundamental decisions to make before you start a still life: deciding on how many elements to include, how to arrange them so that they overlap in a good way and how to position the objects to create not only a satisfying aggregate shape, but also ensure that the negative space is interesting.

Alice Neel’s “Symbols (Doll and Apple),” c.1933© The Estate of Alice Neel, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York Alice Neel’s “Symbols (Doll and Apple),” c.1933
Paul Cézanne

We have many models in the history of art to help us think about still lifes. Cezanne and his apples immediately leaps to mind. His art, like the painting I include here, demonstrates how to build a complex but harmonious arrangement. Thinking of still lifes that are a bit more quirky, I show an early painting by Alice Neel that is full of strange psychological emanations. Some contemporary artists, like Wayne Thiebaud, arrange their objects in grid-like patterns. This style of echoing modern mass production dispenses with the old idea of compositional charm altogether.
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October 21, 2010, 9:00 pm

The Shadow Knows

This is the sixth in a series.

Probably the first thing we notice when we observe an object is its shape. This is an enormously useful characteristic because it gives us an immediate impression of the spirit of the subject.

Think of the shape of an elephant. Its mass and tree-trunk-like legs suggest the slow, unstoppable movement of the animal. Contrast this with the shape of a grasshopper, whose delicate antennae and jutting-back legs suggest a more nervous, fast kind of energy. Responding to shape is the first step in our logical and intuitive search for the meaning of what we draw.

If responding to shape is a fundamental aspect of seeing an object, it also interacts with all our other perceptual responses in helping us make sense of our subjects. When one is actively observing a subject in order to draw it, the mind is ping-ponging among different visual responses, shape-to-color-to-contour-to-shadow-to-proportion, and from those purely “eyeball” calculations to all the memory and psychological associations we have about our subject.

This ability of the mind to intermingle all our different kinds of reactions enriches our response and strengthens each part of that response. Shape is made more meaningful by seeing color and volume, and particularly by our recognition of our subject’s “thingness” — what makes an elephant an elephant, for instance. Understanding the significance of each part of a shape — seeing that the bump behind an elephant’s head is where the strength of the shoulder reveals itself and is different in nature from the soft curve of the belly — helps us to draw lines that evoke various kinds of energy. This is in contrast to making a contour line that moves around a shape as though each part is equal, like a neutral diagram. What we want from each stage of the drawing is to try to answer more and more of the question, “How is this thing different from every other thing?”
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October 14, 2010, 9:00 pm

Mother Nature Decoded

This is the fifth in a series.

Mother Nature can look very chaotic. When we take a walk around a garden, every flowering bush can seem like a confusing explosion of blossoms and leaves, every tree like an impossibly complicated tangle of branches and foliage. How can we possibly draw these verdantly overflowing subjects without going blind, or crazy?

Well, the truth is that drawing or painting the actual complexity of a bouquet of flowers or a patch of forest with precision is a high-level observational and aesthetic task that, for the moment, we will leave to artists like Henri Fantin-Latour or Gustav Klimt. We can, however, take a single stem from that bouquet and choose single trees from that forest to look at and find a way to draw.

Henri Fantin-Latour, left; Gustav Klimt, right “Roses,” left. “The Birch Wood,” right.

Many people learning to draw have an understandable anxiety about getting the proportions right. The skill of drawing proportionally comes from doing a lot of drawing, but also from combining the search for correct proportion with the all the other ways that we think about our subject as we draw. In the following analysis of a flower I think you will see that responding to fundamental issues in looking at the flower help us to draw the proportions of the plant much more easily than concentrating on each part of the plant as we come to it.

James McMullan

A good place to start is to acknowledge that this lily is a growing plant moving upwards to get nourishment from the sun and rain, and that its central stalk is a strong column that supports the out-springing stems, leaves and flowers.

In the first stage of the drawing I establish the direction of the stems and leaves and the centers of the petals as they bend away from their core. Two things strike me as I make these lines — one, that the curves of the stems and leaves have a rhythmic relationship with one another and two, that the petals form an almost symmetrical “fountain” as they burst from their center.
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October 7, 2010, 9:00 pm

The Beagle Vanishes

This is the fourth in a series.

In the second column we freed the circle from being a flat-on geometric shape so that it could move out into space as the ellipse. We’ve used it to help us draw a pot and to see the roundness of forms, and now we’re going to use that ellipse to fly us into an imaginary scene that introduces us to the principles of perspective.
We follow that flying Frisbee of an ellipse as it settles down as a perfect little pond on a vast Kansas prairie. A man walks out onto that plain with a picnic basket, a blanket and a beagle. He sits down on his blanket to admire the view and the improbably perfect pond.

PerspectiveJames McMullan

The beagle catches the scent of the little rabbit on the other side of the pond and takes off after it. Ignoring the shouts of his master, the dog paddles through the pond, bounds across the vast expanse and disappears over the horizon. (Two nice farmers in the next town find him and call the ASPCA.) Read more…

September 30, 2010, 7:45 pm

Hatching the Pot

This is the third in a series.

In the last column, I discussed ellipses and how drawing them involves the fluid, fairly fast movement of the hand, letting your reflexes carry out the kind of rounded shape you intend to make. Now we’ll move on to shading the pot that we previously described in simple outline, using curving lines that are like segments of the ellipse.

James McMullan

These are what I think of as “cat stroking” lines — curves that start gently, reach a crescendo of pressure and then fade out at the end. They enclose lines sensuously and are enormously useful in describing all kinds of bulging, rolling, bumpy subjects. In using these curved lines to shade the pot, we will not only describe the shadow but, because the lines curve around the pot, we will be accentuating its actual form. In my example of cross-hatching I show that, in order to avoid a “clotted” effect, the lines are made at different angles. I have drawn my examples in pen and ink to make the images clearer, but you might want to draw in a 2B or 4B pencil.

James McMullan

Now that the pot has been illuminated with a strong directional light, we can study how that light falls on the object, the angles that the shadows make and how to use lines to shade the drawing. Either using the outline drawing you did last week or, drawing the pot again, follow along with these steps to delineate the shadows on the pot.

James McMullan

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September 23, 2010, 7:30 pm

The Frisbee of Art

This is the second in a series.

Pope Boniface VIII was looking for a new artist to work on the frescoes in St. Peter’s Basilica, so he sent a courtier out into the country to interview artists and collect samples of their work that he could judge. The courtier approached the painter Giotto and asked for a drawing to demonstrate his skill. Instead of a study of angels and saints, which the courtier expected, Giotto took a brush loaded with red paint and drew a perfect circle. The courtier was furious, thinking he had been made a fool of; nonetheless, he took the drawing back to Boniface. The Pope understood the significance of the red circle, and Giotto got the job.

This is often told as the story of the ultimate test of drawing, and I don’t dispute that it is very hard to draw a perfect circle. However, I would argue that it is much more useful to be able to draw a circle existing in space, a circle seen turned at various angles as we usually encounter it in the world. We need to be able to draw an ellipse.

James McMullan

The ellipse is the Frisbee of art, the circle freed from its flatness that sails out into imagined space tilting this way and that and ending up on the top of the soup bowl and silver cup in Jean-Baptiste Chardin’s still life or, imagine this, on the wheels of the speeding Batmobile. Read more…