You might not believe me when I say I love to study. I love the actual process; the dead silence of the library, the fresh clean lined page in front of you, the dusky smell of the books, the hours that simply seem to disappear when you are absorbed in what you are thinking/reading/scribbling.
At the moment, I have the sheer delight of stepping back in time to Paris and the Cote d’Azur of the 1920s. It’s a glamorous as it is seedy and the women and the men of the age are addicted to opium and aesthetics in equal measure. On my journey back in time I have discovered two books great books. The first is ‘Paris was Yesterday’ by Janet Flanner. Flanner was an American living in Paris writing for the The New Yorker. Her ‘Letters from Paris’ fed the US interst in, what was at the time deemed, the cutural centre of the world. She documented some of the key liteary and art moments of the 20th centurty. The other book is ‘Cavalcase of the 1920s and 1930s’ which showcases the best articles and pictures from Vanity Fair during those years. These stood out:
1. In 1927 French writer Colette and Paul Poiret, one of the most influential figures in 20th century French fashion come under fire from Janet Flanner when they both take to the stage, acting in La Vagabonde, a play made from one of Colette’s books:
‘However, an efficiency expert could point out that Poiret might have greater talent, for let us say, dress-making and that Colette was wasting her time…its present production calls to mind the taste Marie Antoinette once had for pretending that she was a dairymaid’
2. 1926: ‘
‘The ideal woman – Yessir, Thats My Baby! Wherein Several Experts Define the Perfect Female Form’
I don’t know if I really need to add much. I feel slightly queasy everytime I look at the double page spread. ‘Experts’ [would love to see how they would qualify that] include Charlie Chaplin, whose criteria include:
‘Her diamond bracelets never need cleaning’
‘I am not exactly on love with her but she is entirely in love with me’.
3. The stars of the day. Our 21st century standards have dropped, considerably. You’ll never be able to read another copy of Heat again. Cary Grant (1934) and Greta Garbo (1926) in Vanity Fair
4. Gabriele Chanel makes the 1931 Vanity Fair ‘Hall of Fame Nominations’:
‘Because she was the first to apply the principles of modernism to dressmaking’.
5. 1926: Love sick. Janet Flanner reports that:
‘Fifteen thousands love letters written on the Isle of Jersey by Poor Juliette Drouet to Victor Hugo have just been sold at auction for eighteen thousand francs. Flanner continues, ’15, ooo love letters a day would make a rough average of a love letter a day for 43 years, but Juliette spent with Hugo a little less than 20, which raises her average to maytrdom’
3/4. 1929 Flanner marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet. This month’s Harper’s Bazaar pays tribute to the company’s centenary as the National Ballet and Karl Largerfeld bring the dance and the costumes back to life. I guess it would be fair to call the Ballet Russes timeless. Below is Largerfeld’s design for the English National Ballet’s performance of ‘The Dying Swan’ originally performed by Anna Pavlova and Pavlova in 1920, as featured in Vanity Fair.