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November 19, 2014
I was recently introduced to the work of Stan Douglas this amazing fine art photographer! Needless to say I am beyond impressed and would lvoe to own some of his work! I do hope you enjoy
this post and have a wonderful day!
Through photography, film and installation, the Canadian artist Stan Douglas has, since the late-1980s, examined complex intersections of narrative, fact and fiction whilescrutinizing the constructs of the media
he employs and their influence on our understanding of reality. Douglas’s work is often in the first instance an examination of place – Potsdam, Cuba and Detroit have provided the impetus for, respectively, Der Sandmann (1995),
Inconsolable Memories (2005) and Le Détroit (1999) – but entangled with the detail of specific geographical and political circumstance is a diverse range of source material that has included the writings of Franz Kafka,
Samuel Beckett, Theodor W. Adorno and ETA Hoffmann, and the films of Alfred Hitchcock
and Orson Welles. While we may recognize the literary, filmic or musical references, along with the stories, places or even
characters appropriated in these complex works, expectations are often frustrated. Instead of narrative fulfillment, Douglas offers us complexity, perplexity and doubt. The artist has remarked that ‘life is all middle’ and in
Douglas’s work the viewer often finds himself plunged into events whose beginnings are obscured and whose ends seem to dissolve into mutability.
November 12, 2014
My newest art crush is Paula Scher! I have always been in love with maps. My Grandfather had a superb collection of maps, since the time he was a child in Austria, vienna to be exact. He had kept a record of how the borders were constantly changing depending on who won the war!
These maps are such an amazing interpretation! i hope you enjoy this post! Much love, Jamie!
In the early 1990s, renowned graphic designer Paula Scher began painting small, opinionated maps—colorful depictions of continents and regions, covered from top to bottom by a scrawl of words. Within a few years, the maps grew larger and more elaborate.
“I began painting these things sort of in a silly way,” Scher, a partner at the Pentagram design firm, said in a recent conversation. “And I think at one point I realized they would be amazing big. And I wondered if I could even do it. If I could actually paint these things on such a grand scale, what would happen?”
All of this detail is the result of work that Scher describes as “incredibly laborious and obsessive”—yet the paintings as a whole don’t feel like the product of tortured obsession; rather, they exude a sort of whimsical, brassy ingenuity. And, unlike their predecessors, the maps in the
exhibition eschew opinion in favor of a barrage of facts—or at least the appearance of fact. “They’re all wrong,” Scher says. “I mean, nothing’s in the right spot. I put in what I feel like. It’s my comment on information in general. We receive a lot of information all the time and mostly it’s lies or slight mistruths.”
Even so, the paintings throb with implication. As Scher explains, “The way the maps work is that they’re total abstractions, and yet they have all this meaning attached to them.” The map of Florida in 2000 jumps out with obvious political import; the state is labeled by county, and the surrounding
black Gulf ripples with the corresponding presidential election results. Yet, Scher’s paintings are at their best when meaning remains tantalizingly elusive. Look at her grand, multicolored patchwork of the United States, reminiscent of the U.S. maps that span the inside cover of many elementary school textbooks.
Up close the painting overwhelms the eye with detail, but step back and it’s the same handsome, lumbering, forthright America we all grew up with—laid open to inspection, hiding nothing, and yet fundamentally inscrutable. This ambiguity lies at the heart of Scher’s cluttered, precise, beautiful maps—
and, unlike real maps, you seem to grow more lost the longer you look at them.
November 4, 2014
I came across this artist and absolutely fell in love with his talent! There is a gallery in New York that represents Thortnon ,one of the most important artists
who is a product of the Old South, but whose distinct assemblages of paint and
found objects helped define modern artistic sensibilities. Born and raised in Alabama with no
formal education or artistic training. Thornton Dial was born in 1928 and is very much part of the
Southern Vernacular tradition.
A lot of Dial’s sculptures and assemblages often contain objects that might otherwise
have ended up in a landfill, like paint can lids, chicken wire, twine, old clothing, buttons and mattress coils.
Dial’s work began to attract art-world attention in the 1980s. In 1993, it was the subject of a large exhibition that was presented simultaneously at the New Museum in the Whitney Biennial.
There is a huge exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art called “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial” and I can honestly say I have not yet been to Indianapolis and am excited to go!
October 15, 2014
When I was in Paris, my favorite gallery visit is always GALLERIE PERROTIN. This is where I first came across the work of AYA TAKANO. I have always enjoyed anime and was interested in the thoughts behind it. Sometimes, one could look at it and consider it too much a cartoon,
but for me, I find it inspiring. The images, the colors and the subjects.
I hope you enjoy this post!
Perhaps more than any other Kaikai Kiki artist, Takano’s work is the exemplification of Japan’s post-war cultural affluence, and its overwhelmingly diverse, yet aesthetic unification of information.
With inspirations varying from 14th Century Italian religious painting to alien evidence to MTV, Takano’s worlds are shiny and futuristic, yet soft and full of traditional and sensual imagery. Her drawings and paintings in which lively, female characters float and contort their waiflike bodies, convey a passionate drive toward creation.
In Japan, Takano is prolific as a manga artist, illustrator, and science fiction essayist. She has several serialized publications, and is regularly featured in subculture articles. In the art markets of Europe and America, her paintings and drawings are enthusiastically received.
Takano spent her childhood rummaging through her father’s library which consisted of many books on the natural sciences, but also science fiction. Ever present in her work are exotic animals and landforms combined with an urban city to show the juxtaposition between future and fantasy. Takano cited in a documentary made by
the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin that she was always fascinated by the unusual forms of nature and animal life, and desires to have such shapes represented in her work.
Another early influence for her was manga writer Osamu Tezuka’s science fiction, which had a lasting impact on her dreamy perception of the world. She cites in the book Drop Dead Cute by Joan Vartanian how she really believed everything she read was true till she was nineteen. Takano states even sometimes now she imagines possessing
the ability to fly, uninterested in the constrictions of being grounded.
When it was time for her to start thinking about college Takano told her parents she wouldn’t attend unless she was allowed to enter an art program. She received a B.A. from Tama Art University in Tokyo in 2000. Soon after she became an assistant for leading Japanese Contemporary Artist Takashi Murakami. He would become
Takano’s first mentor and jump start her career.
Murakami was looking to exhibit the work of young artists and wanted to help create an artistic community for like minded artists who did the Superflat style. The Superflat movement, popularized by Murakami himself is about emphasizing the two dimensionality of figures, which is influenced by Japanses manga and anime,
while dually exposing the fetishes of Japanese consumerism. Through the basic ideas of this movement he created the Kaikai Kiki Co., a group where five out of the seven members are women.
In the 1980s the look of pre-pubescent girls became the target of consumer culture in Japanese society. This infantilization and objectification of the female was seen most heavily in Japan’s otaku, or geek culture.
Japanese female artists like Takano seek to reinvent the otaku culture through a feminine perspective. Takano in particular is interested in depicting how the future will impact the role of the female heroine in society. Her figures, often androgynous float through her alternate realities partially clothed or sometimes fully nude. Yet,
Takano denies that she is trying to reveal anything specific about sex. Rather with the slim bodies, bulbous heads, and large eyes she is trying to emphasize that her figures temporary suspension from adulthood. The red paint in the crevices of the figures’ elbows, knees, and shoulders is supposed to convey that they are still engaged in
the growing process mentally and physically. Takano’s playful and ambiguous visions of the future, especially one which revolves around the feminine serves as a way for her to create her own mythology, free from the chains of reality.
October 10, 2014
You know, as of late, I have been writing a lot about women artists. Photographers, painters, I love them all. I am so intrigued by peoples lives and their choices. We all take roads that sometimes we have no idea as to where they are going to lead, but something tells us we should be going down these paths that present themselves.
So I find myself drawn for whatever reason to seeking out these souls. Grace is one of them. When you read her lifestory and see her paintings you will see why I find them so fabulous. Or , I should say, I hope you do!
Enjoy this post,
Grace Hartigan, was a second-generation Abstract Expressionist whose gestural, intensely colored paintings often incorporated images drawn from popular culture, leading some critics to see in them prefigurings of Pop Art.
Ms. Hartigan, a friend and disciple of Jackson Pollack and William de Kooning , subscribed to the Abstract Expressionist notion of the painterly brushstroke as existential act and cri de coeur but, like de Kooning, she never broke entirely with the figurative tradition. Determined to stake out her own artistic ground,
she turned outward from the interior world sanctified by the Abstract Expressionists and embraced the visual swirl of contemporary American life.
In “Grand Street Brides” (1954), one of several early paintings that attracted the immediate attention of critics and curators, she depicted bridal-shop window mannequins in a composition based on Goya’s “Royal Family.” Later paintings incorporated images taken from coloring books, film, traditional paintings, store windows
and advertising, all in the service of art that one critic described as “tensely personal.”
“Her art was marked by a willingness to employ a variety of styles in a modernist idiom, to go back and forth from art-historical references to pop-culture references to autobiographical material.” Grace Hartigan was born in Newark in 1922 and grew up in rural New Jersey, the oldest of four children. Unable to afford college,
she married early and, in a flight of romantic fancy, she and her husband, Bob Jachens, struck out for Alaska to live as pioneers. They made it no farther than California, where, with her husband’s encouragement, she took up painting.
“I didn’t choose painting,” she later told an interviewer. “It chose me. I didn’t have any talent. I just had genius.”
In the mid-1940’s she left her husband, placed their son, Jeffrey, in the care of his parents and moved back to Newark, where she trained in mechanical drafting and took painting lessons with Isaac Lane Muse. After moving to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1945, she became part of the postwar New York artistic scene,
forming alliances with the Abstract Expressionist painters — although de Kooning reduced her to tears by telling her she completely misunderstood modern art —
Ms. Hartigan won fame early. In 1950, the critic Clement Greenberg and the art historian Meyer Schapiro included her in their “New Talent” show at the Kootz Gallery, and a one-woman exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery soon followed. “Persian Jacket,” an early painting, was bought for the Museum of Modern Art by Alfred Barr.
After starting out as a purely abstract painter, Ms. Hartigan gradually introduced images into her work. It was O’Hara’s blending of high art and low art in his poetry that influenced her to cast far and wide for sources.
Ms. Hartigan’s move to Baltimore coincided with a drastic shift in artistic fashion, as Pop Art and Minimalism eclipsed Abstract Expressionism. Out of the spotlight, Ms. Hartigan embarked on what she later recalled as “an isolated creative life.” For decades she painted in a loft in a former department store and taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
As historians and curators reassessed the history of postwar art, she experienced a resurgence of sorts. Her use of commercial imagery led her to be included in “Hand-Painted Pop,” a 1993 exhibition at the Whitney Museum despite her loathing for the movement.
“Pop Art is not painting because painting must have content and emotion,” she said in the 1960’s. On the other hand, she reflected at the time of the Whitney show, “I’d much rather be a pioneer of a movement that I hate than the second generation of a movement that I love.”
On an artistic path marked by twists and turns and restless experimentation, she maintained a fierce commitment to the modernist agenda and a belief in art’s near-magical powers.
“Or perhaps the subject of my art is like the definition of humor — emotional pain remembered in tranquillity.”
October 6, 2014
Many many years ago, my family had a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My parents had gone in search of the sky as they had visited there and then decided they needed a “piece of Heaven”. For those of you that know New Mexico, you will be able to relate to that phrase. Santa Fe is the oldest capital in this country , and I had the privilege of living there for several years. Way before Santa Fe was on the map as a tourist destination. There is a town north of Santa Fe called Abiqiu where Georgia O’keeffe lived. I had the pleasure of seeing the compound and it was quite serene. To know that part of this country is very special. The skies are unreal and the freedom you feel is not really able to be expressed, or rather I am at a loss for words. I have the same feelings with the skies in Arizona. Less I digress!
Enjoy today’s post, and have a wonderful day!
To quote Georgia O’Keeffe, “I have things in my head that are not like what anyone taught me — shapes and ideas so near to me, so natural to my way of being and thinking.”
Among the great American artists of the 20th-century, Georgia O’Keeffe stands as one of the most compelling. For nearly a century, O’Keeffe’s representations of the beauty of the American landscape were a brave
counterpoint to the chaotic images embraced by the art world. Her cityscapes and
still lifes filled the canvas with wild energy that gained her a following among the critics as well as the public. Though she has had many imitators, no one since has been able to paint with such intimacy and stark precision.
Georgia O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887. The second of seven children, O’Keeffe longed to be an artist from an early age. In 1905 she attended the Art Institute of Chicago and a year later went to study at the Art Students League of New York. Though her student work was well received she found it unfulfilling,
and for a short time abandoned the fine arts. She worked briefly as a commercial artist in Chicago before moving to Texas to teach. During the summer of 1915, O’Keeffe took classes at the Teachers College of Columbia University in South Carolina, and there began her re-entry into the world of painting.
Teaching in South Carolina was Arthur Dow, a specialist in Oriental Art. Dow’s interest in non-European art helped O’Keeffe move away from the forms she had found so stifling in her previous studies. She said of him, “It was Arthur Dow who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own.” Soon after O’Keeffe’s return to Texas,
she made a handful of charcoal drawings, which she sent to a friend in New York. The friend, Anna Pollitzer, showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer and gallery owner. He was enthused with the vibrant energy of the work, and asked to show them. So, without her knowledge, Georgia O’Keeffe had her first exhibition in 1916 at Steiglitz’s “291 Gallery.”
Within two years, Steiglitz had convinced O’Keeffe to move to New York and devote all of her time to painting. His regular presentations of her work had begun to cause a buzz, and create for a her a small following. Six years later the two were married, beginning one of the most fruitful and well-known collaborations of the modernist era.
For the next twenty years the two would live and work together, Steiglitz creating an incredible body of portraits of O’Keeffe, while O’Keeffe showed new drawings and paintings nearly every year at the gallery. Living in Lake George, New York, and in New York City, O’Keeffe painted some of her most famous work. During the 1920s,
her large canvasses of lush overpowering flowers filled the still lifes with dynamic energy and erotic tension, while her cityscapes were testaments to subtle beauty within the most industrial circumstances.
In 1929 O’Keeffe took a vacation with her friend Beck Strand to Taos, New Mexico. The trip would forever alter the course of her life. In love with the open skies and sun-drenched landscape, O’Keeffe returned every summer to travel and to paint. When Steiglitz in 1946 died, O’Keeffe took up permanent residence there.
More than almost any of her other works, these early New Mexico landscapes and still lifes have come to represent her unique gifts. The rich texture of the clouds and sky were similar to her earlier, more sensuous representations of flowers. But beneath these clouds one found the bleached bones of animals long gone.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, O’Keeffe’s fame continued to grow. She traveled around the world and had a number of major retrospectives in the U.S. The most important came in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, placing her categorically as one of the most important and influencial American painters.
The next year O’Keeffe’s vision deteriorated dramatically, and she withdrew from artistic life. It was not until 1973, after meeting Juan Hamilton, a young ceramic artist, which she returned to working. With his encouragement and assistance, she resumed painting and sculpting. In 1976 her illustrated autobiography,
GEORGIA O’KEEFFE was a best seller, and the next year she received the Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford.
In 1985 she received the Medal of the Arts from President Ronald Reagan. In March of the next year, at the age of 98, O’Keeffe passed away at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Georgia O’Keeffe’s work remains a prominent part of major national and international museums. For many, her paintings
represent the beginnings of a new American art free from the irony and cynicism of the late 20th century.
October 1, 2014
I have wanted tow rite about JACK TWORKOV for some time, so today is it! I do hope you enjoy this post! Much Love,
Jack Tworkov: “I don’t try to accumulate the picture bit by bit—like pennies in a piggy bank.” And, in a c. 1959 note, out of The Extreme of the Middle edited by Mira Schor .
“ I have practically no need for esthetic experience, for the worship of beauty or the nuances of fine feeling. I envy the real world, the world in which real things are made. I mourn the fact that I am a stranger to real voyages, to factories, to the modern mysteries of machines, science and mathematics, warfare, all the things that make the world, hard, deep, impenetrable, and as a matter of fact, cruel. I am a foreigner to all these enormous energies. “
“ My painting represents me in my chagrin, my alienation, my laziness, my impotence. To have to paint with a brush instead of with horsepower. The world of the ordinary man expands with the speed of light. Every schoolboy travels in space. The painter’s fate deals with square feet. No wonder we are a vanishing race.”
That un-trampled sense of the picayune, the futility of art—how terribly limited its means and effects when opposed to the shrillness of the claims made on its behalf. Tworkov, too, insistent in a belief that richness lies in the overlap, the point of commingling, systems interfering with systems (“walking the hedge-row” in the ornithologist’s lingo, or “torn between the calligraphic and the structural”) and adamantly opposed to the way personality it self, becomes a commodity in the arts (“If one wants to preserve integrity one must hide ones personality behind a bushel”). How refreshing Tworkov’s plain sense of trying to make art un-corrupted and honest. He writes (in a journal begun 21 January 1947 with the astoundingly self-possessed line: “Style is the effect of pressure”):
Tworkov’s quietly refuting of the heroics of art, pointing to Jackson Pollock, and asking: “Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?”): (beginning with the extraordinary question: “Did it ever occur to Sophocles to write a play about himself?”):
Everyone who is an artist does it at the expense of being a hero. When the artist conceives himself a hero, he ceases to be an artist and proceeds to destroy himself. . . .
I like Tworkov’s sense of testing the “original impulse”—painting, opposed to constructing, or accumulating “bit by bit,” lines that follow the opening sentence:
Whenever in the course of the painting the picture arrives at some concept I submit it to random unrelated activity, to chance, to the opposite of itself. I submit the picture to a bettering and if something of the original impulse survives all that, then it stands. Often all I’ve got out of months of painting is what one would salvage from a shipwreck. Not perfection but the nearly inevitable consequence of having preferred a certain kind of action to another. . . .
Why all that? Out of less than satisfaction with one’s self, to spring open the limits of self. . . . To get out. The opposite of integration—to break open and out.
September 26, 2014
I decided since there have been record breaking auction totals that boosted one sale to more than three times its estimate, I decided to bring you what all the fuss is about! This blog post is on one of the blue chip artists, ZENG FANZI. Because the asian art market has been considered anemic at best,
and the downfall of the stock market and the economy, it is a wonder that these prices were fetched. I love these works and find the asian art market so interesting! I had the pleasure of seeing ZENG’S work at an exhibit at Sotheby’s years ago and totally flipped! when you see the images I bet you will recognize some of them!
When Zeng Fanzhi was at school (1987-91), he particularly liked the work of the German Expressionist painters. In the third year of his studies, he put Soviet Realism aside and began to explore expressionistic approaches to painting. His works of this period have further echoes of another of his favorite artists, Beckman, but when it came to creating work for his degree show, the Xiehe series, Zeng Fanzhi had already established his own style and the impact of the work had won him a strong reputation in Chinese art circles.
As the series of works on the theme of hospital interiors, the image of the figures is basically true to life, but within the structure of the composition, Zeng Fanzhi pays particular attention to the psychological mood of the figures and the power of expression derived from
various brush strokes. In describing the relationship between doctor and patient, he makes allusion to the masochism and sado-masochism that exists in pockets of life. The faces of the doctors make a disturbing impression, while the patients lie nervously on their bed, silently staring.
The coolness of the pale pigments, the bloody tone of the flesh and the expressionistic brush strokes suggest a hidden danger and the aura of death. The message arising from this triptych reflects the artist’s pessimistic vision on life. This pessimism is found not only in the implied masochistic
and sado-masochistic relation between doctor and patients, but in the violence of the expressionistic brush strokes and the cold, deathly mood of the colour. This triptych laid the foundation for the bloodied sense of colour in Zeng Fanzhi’s painting, which became increasingly market,
the brush strokes ever more searing. The form of the figures became more and more disturbing, especially the expression concentrated in the eyes. The hands are marked by a size that is distinctly disproportionate to the body, each individual joint emphasized to excess. There is a pervading
sense that these figures are caught up in a fit of hysteria. Aside from all this, the allusion to fresh meat suggests a venting of frustration and anger: the act of venting, of itself, removes – kills off – the frustration
September 22, 2014
I was browsing an auction catalog, a modern auction catalog and came across Wharton Esherick and I had never heard of him and was intrigued by the asking price, which almost doubled! I thought the table was Nakashima and i read it wrong. But no.
So I decided to find out about him and share what I found. OK so, ESHERICK is the founder really, of sorts, of this whole carving and organic movement in furniture around 1913-20′s 30′s. So consider the time period. The world is awakening to post Rococo and all of the ornamentation,
going into world wars, the start of Deco, then Nouveau,and now think of the posts I did on nakashima and Noguchi and their influences. I always thought those two were the start, so to speak of the whole, organic, slab table that Hudson is doing now which is so clever with the
polished metal bases. but alas, you see, just when you think you know something, or rather I do, I realize I know very little and am always so happy to learn more.
Wharton Esherick (July 15, 1887 – May 6, 1970) was a sculptor who worked primarily in wood. He reveled in applying the principles of sculpture to common utilitarian objects. Consequently he is best known for his sculptural furniture and furnishings. Esherick was recognized in his lifetime by
his peers as the “dean of American craftsmen” for his leadership in developing non-traditional designs, and encouraging and inspiring artists/craftspeople by example. Esherick’s influence continues to be seen in the work of current artisans, particularly in the studio furniture movement.
Born in Philadelphia, Esherick studied painting at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts (now the University of the Arts and at the Pennsylvania school of Fine Arts. In 1913 he moved to a farmhouse near Paoli, Pennsylvania to pursue his painting career. He began carving decorative frames for his paintings in 1920,
which led to making woodcut prints and finally to sculpture.
Esherick’s early furniture was derived from the Arts and Crafts style, and decorated with surface carving. In the late 1920s he abandoned carving on his furniture, focusing instead on the pure form of the pieces as sculpture. In the 1930s he was producing sculpture and furniture influenced by the organicism
of Rudolf Steiner, as well as by German Expressionism and Cubism. The angular and prismatic forms of the latter two movements gave way to the free-form curvilinear shapes for which he is best known.
From furniture and furnishings, he progressed to interiors, the most famous being the Curtis Bok House (1935–37). Though the house was demolished, Esherick’s work was saved.
In 1940, George Howe used Esherick’s Spiral Stair (1930) and Esherick furniture to create the “Pennsylvania Hill House” exhibit in the New York World’s Fair “America at Home” Pavilion. Esherick’s work was also featured in a 1958 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and in the 1972 “Woodenworks” exhibition
at the Renwick Gallery. He exhibited hundreds of times during his life and his work is now in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and many other museums. Most of his work remains in private hands.
His greatest creation was his home and studio, outside of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The buildings evolved over forty years as Esherick lived and worked there. He continued working on the studio until his death in 1970. In 1972 the studio was converted into the Wharton Esherick Museum. The property, known as Wharton Esherick Studio
was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
September 17, 2014
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I love fashion, as we all know! So today I bring you a great-an innovator a dreamer and a true visionary-when you think of certain silhouettes, think, Celine, the Row, Jil Sander, you start to think of shapes and simplicity. When you think of drama with one fabric and all the draping, for me, I start to think of the fabulous rooms of Jacques Garcia! Take a look at the silhouettes and see if you don’t see inspiration for great interiors!
A true fashion innovator, Cristobal Balenciaga radically altered the fashionable silhouette of women in the mid-twentieth century. With the methodical skill of an expert tailor, he created garments of fluidity and grace. Unlike many couturiers, Balenciaga was able to drape, cut, and fit his own muslin patterns, known as toiles.
He was respected throughout the fashion world for both his knowledge of technique and construction, and his unflinching perfectionism.
Balenciaga achieved what is considered to be his most important contribution to the world of fashion: a new silhouette for women.
Balenciaga was born in the small fishing village of Guetaria in the Basque region of Spain on January 21, 1895. From his early years, he spent many hours by his mother’s side as she worked as a seamstress. In his teens, the most prominent woman of his town, the Marquesa de Casa Torres, became his patron and client, sending him to Madrid for
formal training in tailoring and proudly wearing the results.
By 1939, Balenciaga was being praised in the French press as a revolutionizing force in fashion, with buyers and customers fighting to gain access to his collection. During World War II, clients risked travel to Europe for Balenciaga’s designs, especially his celebrated square coat—in which the sleeve was cut in one piece with the yoke—and anything shown
in his unique color combination of black and brown or black lace over bright pink. In the postwar years, Balenciaga’s designs became streamlined and linear. The clothing he created was different than the popular, curvy hourglass shape that Christian Dior promoted with his New Look. Balenciaga favored fluid lines that allowed him to alter the way
clothing related to a woman’s body. Waistlines were dropped, then raised, independent of the wearer’s natural waistline. In 1953, he introduced the balloon jacket, an elegant sphere that encased the upper body and provided a pedestal for the wearer’s head. In 1957 came the creation of his high-waisted baby doll dress, the gracefully draped cocoon coat,
and the balloon skirt, shown as a single pouf or doubled, one pouf on top of the other. Neither the sack dress, introduced in 1957, nor the chemise of 1958 had a discernible waist, but both were considered universally flattering and were copied by a large number of ready-to-wear manufacturers at every price range. With these design innovations, Balenciaga
achieved what is considered to be his most important contribution to the world of fashion: a new silhouette for women.
Throughout the 1960s, Balenciaga continued showing collections of unparalleled technique and beauty. His innovative use of fabric—he liked bold materials, heavy cloths, and ornate embroideries—led him to work with the Swiss fabric
house of Abraham. Together they developed silk gazar, a stiffer version of the pliable fabric that Balenciaga used in suits, day dresses, and evening wear. Loyal clients such as the Duchess of Windsor, Pauline de Rothschild, and Gloria Guinness continued to appreciate the discreet but important touches he provided in his clothing: collars that stood away
from the collarbone to give a swanlike appearance and the shortened (seven-eighths-length) bracelet sleeve, so called because it enabled the wearer to better flaunt her jewelry. When the Balenciaga salon closed in 1968, the occasion marked the end of the career of a great artist whose influence is still being felt in the twenty-first century. The modern look
that he created has been sustained by André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, who both apprenticed at his atelier, and by Hubert de Givenchy, among others. Balenciaga died on March 24, 1972, at home in his beloved Spain. A longtime client offered a fitting epitaph: “Women did not have to be perfect or even beautiful to wear his clothes. His clothes made them beautiful.”
The style of Cristobal Balenciaga was a mixture of simplicity, minimalism, and drama in powerful colors and dynamic shapes. He used fabrics that could form and support his structured clothing such as taffeta, silk gazar, faille, upholstery weight wools, and mohair. However, his clothes differed from his contemporary Christian Dior, in that he created
a looser line than Dior did, with his barrel back jackets, kimono-shaped, bracelet-length sleeves, and ballooning shapes. His designs were pared down and rather than molding a predetermined shape for the figure, they instead skimmed the body.
Balenciaga was inspired by non-western clothing and religious-influenced or ecclesiastical garments. His clothes were known for their elegant starkness and austerity. This was most likely a result of his goal to reduce the decoration of garments to only the most essential.
Balenciaga was temperamental, secretive, and very private. Because of this, pictures of his work are very hard to come by. In fact, he would rarely let photographs of his collections be taken, expect for the few exclusive editorials in Vogue magazine by photographer Irving Penn. An example of his difficulty with the press: he chose to show his
collections a month later than the other Paris houses, which caused a conflict for the foreign press who then needed to return because of his importance and reputation in dressmaking.