Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Paris you have never seen before. The last Impressionist.

Since Camille Pissarro  and his Avenue de l‘Opera and Boulevard Montmartre in various seasons, the early moving towards the impressionism, since Claude Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines full of golden light and impressionist fame, numerous sketches of everyday Montmartre life depicted by Utrillo in early 20th century, there weren’t significant French artists inspired by their great city.
The glory passed to photographers like Atget,  Brassai, Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau who pioneered photojournalism , reportage de la vie, documentary, mainly interested in Parisians and their daily moments. But it was later,  in 40-60s when Paris became a glorious backdrop then.
Between the wars Paris was so to speak seemingly unattended by painters. Here comes BUT….

One of the last impressionists was the prominent Russian artist Konstantin Korovin (1861 (Moscow) -1939 (Paris)). He fell in love with Paris on his first trip in 1885, shocked and utmost happy to discover Impressionism which was recently proclaimed into a recognized movement . This freshness and light was exactly what he was aspiring for.  He was successful and famous in Russia  for his innovative and creative talent, the leading member of several influential artistic groups, the protagonist in the Pleiades  of  the best and greatest of the time.
He had a sunny personality, cherished loyal friendships throughout his life and was adored with fellow students. Full of joie de vivre he was always a center of any friendly gathering.
Korovin was passionate about art ever looking forward, developing new ways of color expression, worked a lot for the theatres changing the perception of stage design and decoration.

In 1900 he designed one of the Russian Empire pavilions for the Paris World Expo for which he was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government.
He later became an Academician of Painting and a professor in Art School.
He traveled a lot and left a precious legacy of Russian landscapes.

But one of his favorite themes was undoubtedly Paris since 1890-s. He created beautiful cityscapes like no one French artist of the time. In 1923 with failing health and a handicapped son in his care he got a lucky opportunity to leave Soviet Russia to Paris with lifetime of works for the personal exhibition he hoped to sell to secure his future. To his gravely dismay the collection vanished on its way to be never retrieved. The ageing artist who was heartbroken to leave his homeland and friends behind came to Paris devastated and totally financially broke.
He painted Paris Boulevards and Cafes well into 30-s to make ends meet along with Russian Winters for displaced and nostalgic compatriots immigrants. He also worked tirelessly on stage designs for many leading opera theatres throughout the world.
via here
Always known as a stylish gentleman, generous and cheerful, bright and ever talented  he slowly succumbed to the bitterness and hardships of the time. His big heart gave up just a few months before his Paris painted in its splendor and glittering lights, with glorious sun and mysterious shadows, colorful fete de la vie and oblivious crowds, its grisaille and tristesse was defeated  and occupied by Nazi.

Konstantin Korovin left a legacy of beautiful paintings of Paris he remembered and loved. 

Happy New Year and the Best Wishes to everyone!

Thank you for visiting and supporting my blog in its first year and see you in 2013 !

*Many thanks to someone who put together this collection along with one of my favorite songs by Francoise Hardy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Highlight of the Holiday Season: Anna Karenina

Classics screen  adaptations inevitably sparkle the controversy. It’s virtually impossible to make everyone happy and to fulfill all expectations.
Having read the ravishing reviews in NY Times  and Globe and Mail I thought I was prepared. It turned out I almost was. The movie is even better. It’s the highlight of our holiday season.
A brilliant translation of remote realities, customs, moral laws into free spirit strive for happiness. If you haven’t yet seen, don’t be afraid of XIXth  century enormously heavy Russian classic novel by Tolstoy. It’s a brilliant contemporary adaptation undoubtedly calling for several Oscar nominations.  At least for the Best Director, camera man, for set design and costumes, for music and choreography. It will be hard to approach and turn any other foreign classics into decent movie any time soon  and not to be under the spell of this splendidly choreographed masterpiece, not to fall into a mocking parody.

The cast is fantastic and the understanding of characters is profound even in such a condensed form. You’ll be utterly impressed by Keira Knightley’s work but you certainly won’t forget Jude Law’s tragic Kerenin easily. The only question mark is Vronsky (Aaron Johnson). In movie’s theatrical and playful stylization it might have been intentional. I don’t believe in director’s mistake. As if Shakespeare’s prankster Puck accomplished his stint and dropped the magic juice in Anna’s eyes and she was cursed to fall in love with the first creature she would see when she wakes up. And it happened to be this pretty Barbie boy, curled and blue eyed, nonchalant,  sexy and shallow. As the movie’s poster claims: You can’t ask Why about love. The decadent and sensual waltz  among people-mannequins is breathtaking! THIS ANNA with such Vronsky – the tragic irony of fate.

I simply can’t tell it better than the authors of highly analytical reviews .
But  the quote from Diana Vreeland (though about Diaghilev)*  would perfectly sum up  the impression: “The flavor, the extravagance, the allure, the excitement, the passion, the smash, the clash, the crash…”

There were two most notable Annas on the screen: iconic Greta Garbo (who was glamorous, cold and static as a moon stone, wordless blurred close-ups worked magic) and beautiful Vivien Leigh passionate and alienated in that pedantically realistic rendition.

The new version is very innovative and courageous approach to classic which isn’t viewed as untouchable, sacred, frozen exotic treasure or a hopeless transplant in place and time which can’t survive without massive injection of action and explicit scenes. 

It’s pulsing, it has a heart beat, it’s breathing. Joe Wright’s adaptation is elegant, exuberant, dynamic and deeply touching and not superficial at all. 
A delicate ballet with passionate splashes and grotesque exaggerations (as in: you can’t be serious about obvious absurd of reality) embroidered with meaningful dialogs and quite serious revelations. The flawless rhythm of virtuoso orchestra led by a fragile and unstoppable soloist.  And it’s not only the most famous adultery story as one critic pointed out. There’s so much more indeed and it doesn’t sound so distant as one might think. Real and surreal are inseparably entwined. The colorful Theatre of Absurd but a very beautiful one.

*D.V.© 1984 Diana Vreeland, ECCO An Imprint of HarpersCollinsPublishers, 2011, p.13.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Rouen is beautiful.  A medieval treasure of Normandy a bit NW of Paris.
August, noon, empty streets as if towners deserted it completely, leaving behind a fantastic decoration after the finished play.  Strange feeling of overwhelming quietness after overflown Paris.
Only between Cathedral and Market Place a few groups of tourists, mostly German, filled narrow street with sound presence.

Otherwise the whole city is asleep, paused in time like  castle inhabitants in Sleeping Beauty. Stopped on the move: store doors open, flowers blooming, sweet aroma from pastry shops whiffing  and almost no people around. The restaurants where closed by 2pm probably until evening, open only for drinks.
The quiche, croque monsieur and mille-feuille gateaux available  at the pastry shop for take out under café umbrella were fantastic.

Maybe it was traditional vacation time and everyone  is blown away with travel rush. Or maybe it was rain on and off all day long, light or heavy at times. It made me juggling with umbrella and camera and still it was wonderful. We had the city to ourselves. The same impression was with Bourges.
Please walk with me, touch the walls of maisons de bois -  half-timber houses. They are real. So many where destroyed during the WWII in heavy fires and bombing, almost a half was gone and the scars left forever. What could be saved is restored lovingly like a magnifiscent landmark Palais de Justice.  Built at the very end of XVth century  with all attributes of flamboyant gothic architecture  it was almost destroyed in the XXth but slowly revived to be sincerely admired.

The city today is beautiful as ever even if it took the tromp l’oeil murals to bring back the Market Place  close to the original look. Today this square is dominated by a huge  ultra modern chapel/museum  of Joan of Arc. Gigantic structure for this space. It makes surrounding buildings look like pigmies theme park maquette.  It’s beautiful but it’s just the scale that is utterly wrong.

Poor courageous girl Jeanne d’Arc. She was what today is defined as a charismatic leader with obviously paranormal abilities. A brave girl with military talents eager to save her beloved France from English occupation and stop an endless war. She wasn’t only cowardly betrayed by a miserable king Charles VII, she was actually sold to English for money by duke of Burgundy. The tragic end of her short life in May 1431 is well known. She became a legend for eternity.

And Rouen, the capital city of Normandy since medieval times, a prosperous trading city on the Seine then, today is capitalizing on this legend heavily.
500 years later the heroic  girl was proclaimed the Saint  Jeanne d’Arc. Her images are everywhere slightly varying between Mila Yovovich and Barbarella, most of the time it’s a sexy Barbie in shining armor with angelic face, or Xena the warrior with the triumphant look of Amazon winner. Usually it’s a funny kitsch, but whatever it takes to help sell the goods. St. Jeanne became a trade mark.
Street signs are antique and touching traditional, some are modern designed logos over the chic windows.
Contemporary urban sculpture interacts so well with medieval square. I like when present doesn’t dismiss but respects the past, they made pretty good friends in here.

Famous for it’s traditional faience and porcelain production Rouen carries on. There’re many shops around town with artists in the windows  mastering their craft, richly ornamenting with delicate flowers plates and cups and saucers right in front of by passers’ eyes. There’re many beautiful fragile pieces to admire. The same style for ages. This tradition is very much alive despite the slow demand I believe. The craftsmanship is amazing.
Hidden narrow passages and tiny courtyards covered in unstoppable vines are very cute and cozy.  Several beautiful churches grace the sky with their spires. I’ve posted about Notre Dame de Rouen Cathedral here. This is the heart of the city along with the Rue du Gros Horloge. The huge golden gilded and ornated clock is tirelessly ticking since 1389. And the rhythm of life obviously hasn’t change much since.

Rouen is relatively a small city today but well loved and cared by Rounnaises.
It’s historical core is a wonderful day walk not far from Paris.

*All images © Natalie Rapoport

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It has been a YEAR!

My dear friends, it has been a YEAR! The First anniversary of this exciting journey.
Jewel Yet to Find is one year old. Can’t believe it.
Thank you to all my readers who found the time to follow  the blog, for encouraging comments and friendly support.
I’m delighted to make a few wonderful friends in blogosphere universe, to virtually travel the world and exchange the thoughts, to share interesting moments and finds.
I appreciate each and every comment. The feedback is soooooo important. The fellow bloggers know this anticipation. I'd love to hear from you.

Reading. Lately there were so many posts about books  vs. electronics, regarding vital necessity of reading in our lives. I still can’t switch to digital readers. I love the feel of real book , love to touch and turn pages, hold in hands, simply look and can’t help it. Electronic book it’s like speaking over the phone, you can hear all right but you can’t look in the eyes , see the face and gesture. It is…well… different in many ways, easier.

I remember how excruciatingly hard it was before our move to Canada back in 1996 to part with my home library. Because I remember how I’ve got each and every book either saving from scholarship, or friends pooled together for a birthday present richly illustrated art album  I coveted so much. The starting point was bits and  pieces of my father’s library. And there came a moment when I had to let it go. I donated to a large Performing Arts library, to friends but like with a pet one forced to leave behind I was looking for the good hands. It was then, long time ago.

Today we all have internet, click and ta-da! All you need to see or to know is at our fingertips. And still…I love books.

This short video is an homage to Joy of Reading, little masterpiece of ad art created in Toronto tells it all in a dynamic and touching story. Not laud and flashy but beautiful and moving. I love it along with  more than 3 million viewers .
 via here
Books come to life when we open them, they have souls and personalities.
There’s always a world behind the cover: simple and insignificant or colorful, soothing, provocative, mind blowing revelations, complicated, profound and unforgettable.

Here’s to the joy of reading.

Thank you and see you soon.