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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Great art

Thursday, April 22nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Headache all day, chiefly owing I think to the one and a half glasses of Pommeroy and Greno champagne that Beaverbrook gave me. At first I thought I could think (novel), but I couldn't. I meant to go out for an aimless walk, and then I saw that it was the private view of the Seurat pictures at the Lefebre Galleries, so I went there. The Seurat pictures want a lot of seeing to appreciate. In the big picture "Poseuses", one thing that strikes you is the loving patience of the execution - equalling Memling's, e.g. The pictures were badly framed, but according to Seurat's own ideas. 

Seurat, Les Poseuses
The Lefevre Gallery was established on 26th April 1926 by Mr Alex Reid and Monsieur Earnest Lefevre, two of the most eminent dealers in French Impressionist and Modern art in the United Kingdom at the time. Its first premises were in King Street, St. James’s; eventually moving to Bruton Street, London until its closure in April 2002. Alex Reid had been trained in Paris with Theo van Gogh at Broussod and Valadon and had lodged with Theo’s brother Vincent; there he was first introduced to Impressionist paintings. Between 1889 and 1926, he dealt from his gallery in Glasgow and then moved to London. On joining forces with his main competitor Lefevre, the gallery began life and he sent his son A.J. McNeil Reid to run the show. The gallery continued to exhibit Impressionist and Modern art, with such groundbreaking shows as 'George Seurat' in May 1926, ‘Henri Matisse’ in June 1927, ‘Degas’ June 1928, ‘Modigliani’ in March 1929, ‘Pablo Picasso’ in June 1931, ‘Renoir’ June 1935, ‘Cezanne’, July 1935, ‘Dali’June/July 1936, ‘Francis Bacon’ in 1945, ‘Calder’ in January 1951, ‘Balthus’ in January 1952, ‘Kandinski’ in 1972, 'The Complete Sculptures' of Degas in 1976, Picasso Sketchbooks in 1994 and many others.

Then I walked down Piccadilly criticising new architecture, to the Yacht Club, where Eric Pinker lunched with me, and gave me news about myself and my market. He had hopes of a play or so being sold. 

I am soon to be sixty and yet I still need to work relentlessly to maintain my style of life. Why? Partly it is habit, and I have expensive women to keep, and I have come to feel it is somehow expected of me. The lifestyle has become part of my identity. But of course I do like all the attention and excitement. I doubt that I will ever be able to step-back into a more modest way of living which would allow me more time to myself.

Then I went to the New Gallery to see the new Jannings film, "Vaudeville". It is very fine, despite a simple and rather crude story. All the pictures make 'designed pictures'. I should say the prisoners' exercise was inspired by Van Gogh. Even the empty interiors are like Cezanne. The close-ups are wonderful in design. This is where Charlie Chaplin is utterly beaten by the German film. Jannings is an exceedingly fine actor too and puts Jack Barrymore right under. The film lasted ninety minutes without a break. I should have liked a break.

Varieté / Variety / Vaudeville is a silent German film directed by E.A. Dupont and starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti. Originally premiering in Berlin at the end of November 1925, it was a UFA production noted for innovative camera work and a risque, melodramatic storyline. Two inmates are on their break in the jail courtyard when one of them, Boss (Emil Jannings), is called to the director's office. Boss' wife has appealed his case, asking for a pardon. Sentenced for murder, Boss has been in prison for ten years, but he has never revealed the motives of his crime. Finally, he explains what happened back then. He used to be a famous trapeze artist, but after a horrible accident he can no longer perform. His will broken, he scrapes through life as the owner of a show booth in Hamburg's St. Pauli district. One day, a sailor brings a beautiful young dancer to his booth. Boss falls in love with the sultry Berta-Marie (Lya de Putti) and leaves his wife and child for her. Together, they get jobs with another circus performer and enjoy great success as a trio. But when Boss finds out that Berta-Marie is betraying him with their partner, he kills his rival and reports himself to the police. After ten years, Boss is released. In this picture there is a marvellous wealth of detail; the lighting effects and camera work cause one to reflect that occasionally the screen may be connected with art. While there may be some speculation concerning the appeal of this striking piece of work there is no doubt regarding its merit. Scene after scene unlocks a flood of thoughts, and although the nature of the principal characters is far from pleasing; the glimpses one obtains are so true to life that they are not repellent. Emil Jannings fills the principal rôle and is theatric at times, but his performance is a masterly one.

Additionally for April 22nd., see 'Lunch with the Great Beast'

In response to a telegram I went to lunch with Aleister Crowley and his wife (Kelly's sister) today at Paillard's. he had been made a 'Khan' in the East, and was wearing a heavily jewelled red waistcoat, and the largest ring I ever saw on a human hand. I rather liked him. He said some brain specialist had told him that what made a great brain was not the number of facts or ideas known, but the number of facts or ideas co-ordinated or co-related. I said: "Of course."

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