Monthly Archives: July, 2015

Philippe Halsman: Jump!

The book: Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book, Publisher: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959.

“In a jump, the subject, in a sudden burst of energy, overcomes gravity. He cannot simultaneously control his expressions, his facial and limb muscles. The mask falls. The real self becomes visible.” (Philippe Halsman)


Philippe Halsman (American, born Latvian; Magnum photographer; 1906–1979) was a preeminent photographer, portraitist, of cultural icons — from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley to Robert Oppenheimer. Life Magazine featured his photos of 20th century leaders and luminaries on their cover a record 101 times.

Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, he adopted a habit, a “hobby” as he called it, of asking his stellar subjects at the end of their portrait session to do something silly, irrational really… to jump. And they did! Such was the warmth and persuasive power of Halsman over even the most reserved scientist, politician or monarch. His objective was simple: to capture an unguarded moment of his photographic subject’s carefully crafted and polished public image.

Published in 1959, Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book, shares the memorable and joyful results of his “hobby.”

For Love — of Chagall

“In our life there is a single color, as on an artist palette which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.”

(Marc Chagall)


Perhaps it’s the hot, sultry July nights, or maybe the all-too-lengthy drought…

Whatever the cause, my mind gravitates to the luscious artworks of Chagall. Specifically, his highly charged images of lovers. Often incorporating depictions of his beloved wife Bella and village life, he remains unrivaled in his masterful exploitation of emotive colors, fantastic imagery, unbridled joy — happy and uninhibited expressions of spiritual and sensual passions. With a deft hand, with a loving hand, he created a pageantry of life’s exuberance and exultation that lives and breathes today… that satisfies on a hot July night, that eases the drought…

What’s not to love?

Japanese Ukiyo-e (Pictures of the Floating World) and other Prints, Paintings

Exhibition: “Japanese Paintings and Prints: Celebrating LACMA’s 50th Anniversary”
July 5, 2015 – September 20, 2015
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Pavilion for Japanese Art, East Wing and The Helen and Felix Juda Gallery

The participation of Japan in the 1862 World Fair in London is notable as a benchmark in the fin de siècle explosion of Japanese culture on the world scene. A growing tremendous popularity — and influence — of Japanese culture accompanied the opening of trade with the formerly closed Japanese society in the years leading up to the World Fair. Contemporary European artists reflected this general cultural interest with a strong interest in Japanese art. James Abbott Whistler was among the first to reflect this in his artwork, to be joined by the Impressionists and Post Impressionists. Degas, Mary Cassatt, Vincent van Gogh and Gauguin quickly come to mind. Both Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh included depictions of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints in various of their artworks. This direct and pervasive influence upon European artists will be explored in later blogs.

Particularly popular were the Ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) colored woodblock prints. Ukiyo (floating world) subject matter originally focused upon the Edo (now Tokyo) urban red-light district culture of geisha, samurai, kabuki actors, brothels, sumo wrestlers and the like, with an emphasis upon the pleasure-seeking nature of the activities. An interesting enrichment of meaning, that for those familiar with the Japanese language would be instantly understood, is that the homophone of the word Ukiyo means “sorrowful world.” So, intimately connected to the visual experience of the depictions of life’s pleasures, was perhaps suggested the poignance of the fleeting or illicit nature of those pleasures. The great Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) expanded the floating world subject matter by introducing landscapes and scenes of everyday Japanese life as subject matter. Hokusai’s unrivaled masterpiece, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830, 1831, from the series Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji can be viewed at the current LACMA exhibition: Japanese Paintings and Prints: Celebrating LACMA’s 50th Anniversary. These powerful works inspect life at every level, from the humble to the epic and in doing so remain as compelling today as ever.

Elmer Bischoff

Among the Bay Area figurative painters, the impassioned works of Elmer Bischoff serve as a perfect counterpoint to the cool abstractions of Richard Diebenkorn. Bischoff, a Berkeley native, returned after World War II to the area to paint, to teach and to become one of the most instrumental founding artists of the Bay Area figurative art movement. His work stands apart in exceptional color intensity and raw emotional force. From his early foray into Abstract Expressionism, there remains an amazingly loose and fluid gestural brushwork imparting high drama and lyricism to his works. Otherwise quiet subjects bristle and seethe with life through vigorously worked surfaces. Altogether — an intoxicating body of works, varied and captivating — Bischoff always leaves me wanting more.