Portrait of a Photographer as a Young Man

by Kim Steele

 

ANSEL ADAMS FORMATIVE YEARS

 

Self-Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah 1958, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Self-Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah,
1958, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Born at the turn of the century, Adams grew up in the hinterlands of dunes and beaches of the City of San Francisco.  Descending from Maine stock, originally from Northern Ireland, the Adams Family created a niche in the physical and social scene of San Francisco.  Ansel could recall the famous earthquake of 1906 that brought San Francisco to it’s knees but being on the outskirts, he and his home that this father built was mostly saved from destruction. His father was out of town that day.

 

18 April 1906, photograph by Arnold Genthe, published in As I remember, by Arnold Genthe. New York : Reynal & Hitchcock, 1936

18 April 1906, photograph by Arnold Genthe, published in As I Remember, by Arnold Genthe. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1936

 

His grandfather, William James Adams, traveled out west in 1850, during the Gold Rush and established a profitable dry goods business in Sacramento, only to lose it all in a fire. He returned to Maine to find a wife, back then to San Francisco to develop a successful lumber business, Adams and Blinn, including building several ships while expanding up to Washington state for lumber.  He later built a mansion in Atherton, south of San Francisco.  Ansel’s father, James Hitchcock Adams, was one of five children.  His mother’s family, Bray, traveled by wagon from Baltimore to Carson City, Nevada to found a successful freight moving company only to decimate its fortunes in ill-considered mining ventures.  It was from his mother that Ansel gained his artistic interests.

 

Family Home in the Dunes, C. H. Adams, 1903

Family Home in the dunes, Lone Mountain, San Francisco, photograph by J.H. Adams, 1903

 

Ansel’s father built a family home on the dunes in the Lone Mountain section of San Francisco, now a college campus.  From here he could see the Golden Gate of the Pacific Ocean and hear the reassuring roar of the tide.  He explored Baker Beach and played along Lobos Creek, now in the Presidio, daily.  Lucky boy. The jangle of iron wheels on cobblestoned streets called to him in the distance announcing his fathers return from work.  Unfortunately Adams was a sickly child, who was forced to retire to his bedroom frequently but was able to view the Pacific Ocean from his window.

 

Ansel Adams as aspiring concert Pianist

Ansel Adams as aspiring concert pianist

 

Adams explored childhood activities on the dunes, collecting insects and roller skating, even golfing at Lincoln Park.  Soon progress encroached on his playground, with housing developments surrounding his isolated home. Automobiles began to travel up Lake Street.  His efforts at formal schooling were quite dismal.  Home schooling was in order. Ansel was drawn to music at an early age and took up the piano.  But just in the nick of time, The Panama Pacific International Exposition came to town in 1915; his father gave him a year’s pass for diversion.  Ansel spent every possible minute there exploring exhibits for the entire year, sometimes accompanied by his father.

 

Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915

Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915

 

This Expo heralded in several ‘modern’ machines, the adding machine (Dalton) and the typewriter (Underwood). Ansel would have been diagnosed with Hyper… today.  His music education continued.  Ansel progressed through various levels of instruction, and was finally given a German piano, an Ermler — nine feet long.  He aspired to become a concert pianist, even giving lessons. Here Adams artistic spirit was nurtured, realizing that music was more than a series of notes but a physical and spiritual endeavor. One can see orchestration in his photography.

As a member of the Sierra Club, Adams began his outdooring adventures in Yosemite National Park, in 1923.

 

Ansel Adams and Cedric Wright packing for Yosemite trip

Ansel Adams and Cedric Wright packing for Yosemite trip

 

Adams was introduced to photography by a friend, Cedric Wright, who was a free spirit in the medium. Visiting him at his Bernard Maybeck home in Berkeley, Ansel became enamored with architecture as well. The arduous trip to Berkeley involved a streetcar, train and ferries, but well worth it!  An idealist, Wright was a mercurial spirit which affected Adams’ artistic development — faith in beauty. His love of the wilderness inspired Adams.

 

Cedrick Wright Home, 2515 Etna Street, Berkeley, designed by Maybeck in 1921

Cedrick Wright Home, 2515 Etna Street, Berkeley, designed by Maybeck in 1921

 

The Sierra Club posthumously published Cedric Wright: Word of the Earth, in 1960.  Edited by the luminous Nancy Newhall,wife of the photographic historian, Beaumont Newhall, with whom this author had the privilege to study at the University of New Mexico — he wrote:

Out of the vast process of evolution and through need,

Out of the cycle of passing forms,

Arises eternal, elemental beauty.

Intense beauty is liberation.

 

Wright was an ardent supporter of Adams and his artistic expression, strengthening Adams’ resolve to confidence. Wright was also a foil for their respective dalliances with woman — real and imaginary.   In a letter dated 1937 to Cedric, Adams noted:

Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps [than romantic love], but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean reality of granite.

The Adams family was prosperous for many years, his grandfather owning a mansion south of San Francisco in Atherton,CA, which burned to the ground.  Misfortune fell upon the family in various manners with enterprises in lumbering and chemical manufacturing, and the Great Depression was the final straw.  His father’s efforts to regain his fortune were dashed by a backstabbing uncle for whom Ansel was named, and they struggled thereafter.

 

Kodak Bullseye Camera, Model 2, No. D

Kodak Bullseye Camera, Model 2, No. D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout Adams childhood, his father took photographs with a Kodak Bullseye camera.  He taught Ansel the fundamentals of image making including a camera obscura!  At the same time, Ansel fell in love with the romance of the wilderness, especially Yosemite National Park.  On a family vacation there at age fourteen, he was first inspired by the splendor of the natural beauty of  the Park, from Half-Dome to Bridle Falls which he would photography many times throughout his life. Here his father bestowed upon him his first camera, a Kodak Box Brownie.  Adams was able to get the film processed at Yosemite by Pillsbury Pictures.  Ansel continued to be plagued with various illnesses and was often bedridden where he watched the images form on his walls and ceiling.

 

Holding My Box Brownie Camera, Yosemite National Park, California, c. 1918 by Ansel Adams, Corbis

Holding My Box Brownie Camera, Yosemite National Park, California, ca 1918 by Ansel Adams, Corbis

 

Ansel returned alone to Yosemite in 1917 to more seriously pursue photography. He felt the images were very weak but continued to photograph on various hikes and trails. Here Adams was taken under the wing by MIT graduate (1887) engineer, Francis Holman, who taught him about fishing, hiking and climbing. Ansel fondly called him Uncle Frank, he knew the Yosemite Sierras well.  Ansel’s expertise grew to the point where he was appointed the custodian of the Sierra Club’s office there, named LeConte Memorial Lodge, also designed by Maybeck.  He pursued technical climbing with Uncle Frank but always detested the modern drilling bolt holes in the mountains, asserting it desecration!

Adams led hiking parties throughout the Park, laden with photographic equipment.

 

Nevada Fall, Rainbow, Yosemite Valley, 1946, ca. 1947, ca. 1950, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Nevada Fall, Rainbow, Yosemite Valley,
ca 1946, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

At this time, his pictures were “snapshots” (his own term) to create a “visual diary.”  Adams studied them throughout the year. His ardor encouraged him to make his own prints. He began working for a neighbor, Frank Dittman, who did photo processing in his basement, delivering them to various drug stores in San Francisco.  Ansel still pursued his music career but was mastering the craft of photography as a ‘diversion.’

Adams was honing his aesthetics and applied his understanding of design, form and tonality to his image making.  He wrote to his father:

…I am more than ever convinced that the only possible way to interpret the scenes is through an impressionistic vision.  A cold material representation gives one no conception whatever of the great size and distances of these mountains…one must rely on tone and line.

…I had the idea all framed several days before undertaking the picture…it is the representation of material things in the  abstract or purely imaginative way.

 

Diamond Cascade, Yosemite National Park, California, 1920, photograph by Ansel Adams, Corbis

Diamond Cascade, Yosemite National Park, California, 1920, photograph by Ansel Adams, Corbis

 

Ansel enclosed a print of his “most satisfactory composition yet done” with his note to his father, Diamond Cascade, 1920.  By the mid 1920’s he graduated to a larger view camera, a Korona loaded with panchromatic (B&W) 6” x 8” glass plates.  Ansel Adams was now on his way to becoming one of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century.

 

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1927, 1927-04-17, ca. 1926, 1928, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 17 April 1927, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

All quotations from: Ansel Adams, An Autobiography, New York Graphic Society, 1985.

More about Ansel Adams here and here.

Comic CONsciousness

by Tyler and Christo Wilson

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“The great thing about the comics industry is that it’s driven by passion

…it isn’t driven by money.”

Royden Lepp, graphic novelist, The New York Times, 7/28/14

The New York Times:

Armed Animals Don’t Invent Themselves

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Character Creators Fight for Cash and Credit

“Like millions of moviegoers over the weekend, Bill Mantlo watched “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the Marvel Studios space adventure that sold more than $172 million in tickets worldwide in its first four days of release.”

“The film’s success is particularly meaningful to Mr. Mantlo, 62, [who watched the film from his nursing home room] a comic-book writer who helped create one of the movie’s main characters: the foul-tempered, gun-wielding anthropomorphic Rocket Raccoon.”

 

Groot holding Rocket Raccoon, who was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photograph from, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Groot holding Rocket Raccoon, who was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photograph from, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Our very own Boulevardier Brothers have something to say,

and it’s all about comics, Comic-Con, and yes! it’s Comic-Con season again…

TYLER: I’ve been investing in comic books since I was 3 years old. Before I could even read I would join Ma and my older brother Christo on the weekly trips to the comic shop, and buy them just for the trip home which was a visual universe of amazing action packed illustrations. There was always a monthly budget for books and comics in our house, our Ma encouraged all varieties of reading, and she is proud today of her, “voracious reader sons.” I favored mostly Marvel titles, like Spider-Man and Iron Man, as I got older I was drawn toward the darker imprints, particularly Vertigo and the Hellblazer books.

 

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Illustration by Tyler Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by artists like Tim Bradstreet (Hellblazer) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy), many of my pieces explore the blending of humanity, the occult, and technology. Del Toro on Mignola, “Mike’s body of work is firmly anchored in comic-book and literary traditions of Machen, Lovecraft, Toth, and Kirby. Yet what has been emerging from them is a species all on its own.”

 

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The REAL Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.

 

Comic books are actually versatile tools, they can be used to articulate views on political and societal shifts, as well as being colorful escapist fantasies. It is the rare author who can successfully combine both of these into a comic that doesn’t become overbearingly self serious or run off the rails (how many times can a character come back from the dead — really?).

There are of course some seminal works: Watchmen by Alan Moore, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, The Dark Knight Rises by Frank Miller, (soon to be newly released film Sin City: A Dame to Kill For — August 22, 2014 continues his genre) that manage to not only define entirely new worlds and characters, but to a certain extent hold up a gritty and super powered mirror to some of the real world’s problems. Comics have matured over the years, from their Golden Age beginnings like the jingoistic propaganda of early Captain America and Superman, to cynical and dark dystopian tales like Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan or the religiously polarizing and irreverent Preacher by Garth Ennis.

 

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From the Comic-Con website:

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Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans — including the late Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Comic-Con started as a one-day “minicon,” called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, on March 21, 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The purpose of this single day, which included two special guests, Forrest J Ackerman and Mike Royer, and drew about 100 attendees was to raise funds and generate interest for a larger convention. The success of the minicon led to the first full-fledged, three-day San Diego Comic-Con (called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con), held August 1–3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, with guests Ray Bradbury, Jack Kirby, and   A. E. van Vogt. Over 300 attendees packed into the hotel’s basement for that groundbreaking event, which featured a dealers’ room, programs and panels, film screenings, and more…essentially, the model for every comic book convention to follow.

From the beginning, the founders of the show set out to include not only the comic books they loved, but also other aspects of the popular arts that they enjoyed and felt deserved wider recognition,  including films and science fiction/fantasy literature. After one more name change (San Diego’s West Coast Comic Convention, in 1972), the show officially became the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in 1973 with the fourth annual event. In 1995, the non-profit event changed its name to Comic-Con International: San Diego (CCI).

 

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CHRISTO: I’ve always been a comics fan, my Dad inspired me with his 60′s comics collection, and I passed this along to my younger brother Tyler. With 20 years and counting of collecting, I think perhaps the most astounding thing about modern comic books, and the comic industry, is how successful the material has become across the media landscape. To put this is perspective, consider that in 1996, Marvel Comics was bankrupt, and yet today the Disney/Marvel juggernaut is redefining what is possible across movies and television with projects and crossovers of immense scope. But Marvel is hardly the only success story: Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is a cult phenomenon spanning comics, television, and a critically acclaimed episodic video game series. Similarly, Bill Willingham’s modern classic Fables is also now an award winning video game (The Wolf Among Us), as well as (arguably) the inspiration for television hit Once Upon A Time.

 

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A few Comic-Con facts from mental_floss:

The first Masquerade Ball, a fan-made costume and makeup contest, took place in 1974.

In 1979, $12,000 in receipts was stolen from the Comic-Con International Treasurer’s home. As a result, the organization behind Comic-Con had to ask fans for donations to pay off the debt.

Since 2000, San Diego Comic-Con has hosted an annual film festival called the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which highlights the best in genre movie-making.

Director Kevin Smith has made guest appearances at San Diego Comic-Con since 1997. In 2007, Comic-Con organizers asked the geek icon to close out Comic-Con Saturday Nights in Hall H with an hour-and-a-half long “Geek State of the Union Address.”

San Diego Comic-Con was featured on various TV shows throughout the last decade, including The O.C., Weeds, and Entourage. The comic book convention was also featured on the reality shows Beauty and the Geek and MTV’s Punk’d and The Real World: San Diego.

 

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CHRISTO: The sheer size, scope, and cross-genre popularity of Comic-Con 2014 is perhaps the strongest evidence that comic books have truly arrived as mainstream culture. You’re equally likely to encounter Joss Whedon surrounded by the Avengers, Firefly browncoats, of Buffy-esque vampires. Guillermo del Toro might be found piloting a 50-story tall Jaeger from Pacific Rim, forestalling the vampire apocalypse in The Strain (itself a trilogy of books, comics, and now a television show), or investigating the paranormal with Hellboy. In short, comic culture is now just culture, and Comic-Con is the epicenter of the new entertainment landscape.
Note: We encourage all readers to take time and explore the visual feast of unbelievable comic art by each illustrator great in this post…hence all the links, do visit their sites and Wikipedia for an eyeball full!

 

 

 

Good Days and Bad Hair Days

by Sally Wilson

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I never knew that April 30th is National Hairstyle Appreciation Day … but that’s another day and a different story. I’ve been thinking about hair, and styles, and reminiscing. The options are numerous, and hysterical, and just plain ridiculous. Some are so bad, they’ve morphed to good, great or even legendary (in their own mind, at least).

 

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“Hair and shoes say it all. Everything in between is forgivable as long as you keep it simple. Trying to talk with your clothes is passive-aggressive.”   Rick Owens

 

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BAD HAIR DAY, From: The Phrase Finder

MEANING: A day on which one’s hair seems unmanageable. Also extended to mean a day when everything seems to go wrong.

ORIGIN: This first came into prominence in the language following its use in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy (Kristy Swanson) to the one-armed vampire Amilyn (Paul Reubens): “I’m fine but you’re obviously having a bad hair day.”.

The phrase was already known by that date but not very widely used. In July 1988 the Press Democrat, a Santa Rosa, California newspaper printed: “Even those who emerge from the sea to casually braid their shiny wet vines into a thick coil with a hibiscus on the end also have bad-hair days.”.

Whether that’s where the term was coined isn’t certain, although it is a strong contender. There are many hearsay reports that it is much earlier, but no hard evidence has emerged to support them.

 

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Speaking of hairstyles, Boulevardier Publisher Kim Steele has a favorite Donald Trump anecdote. “I was assigned by Time magazine to photograph Donald Trump at his newly erected Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. I arrived with my assistant at our prescribed time for the portrait.  Sitting outside his office with cases of equipment, he delayed the session for hours. Finally bursting out of his office informed me that I had 10 minutes to complete the portrait. Sweating, I ran into his office to set up the lights, his then wife Ivana walked through the office informing The Don that ‘No wonder you never like your portraits, its because you’re always so rude to the photographers!’ The photo ran full-page in Time.”

 

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 Trump's hair from ipad 300dpiFINISH

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Trump: “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” Or not. The Donald does take the cake, Marie Antoinette and her unusual hairdo pun intended…however the battle has not yet been won, memorable examples abound.

"The Good Girl" - Los Angeles Industry Screening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And my all-time favorite…

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Enough bad hair days? OK then, head to toe…if the shoe fits…how about bad shoes??

I was looking at a slideshow of the “50 Ugliest Shoes” ever designed. OK, I agree on number 1, everybody agrees on number 1…number 2 wins the most dangerous but most multi-taskable award…however number 3, to each her own, seriously, anything pink with roses is fab in my book!

“The stiletto is a feminine weapon that men just don’t have.”  Christian Louboutin

 

Crocs Footwear Open Flagship Store

 

 

 

 

Crocs…brought to us by Mario Batalli and now infamous for being the ugliest shoes in history.

 

 

“They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.”  Imelda Marcos

 

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“These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.”                        Charles Barkley

 

 

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, painting by  Alessandro Longhi

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, painting by
Alessandro Longhi

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova: Synonymous with lovemaking charm and persuasion, even since Casanova’s death in 1798, his name evokes and defines the same person to this day. In today’s vernacular, “Womanizing.” Despite his impoverished condition and position at his death in Bohemia, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova’s memoir fetched a stunning figure in 2010 by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France of $9.6million! He was the first to assert that the revelation of his sexual exploits were in the scholar Tom Vitelli’s words, an American Casanovist, “He only presented his love life because it gave a window onto human nature.”

Casanova was a very learned and dimensional figure who acquainted with the likes of Ben Franklin, Voltaire and Catherine the Great. He translated The Iliad into his native Venetian dialect, supported himself as a gambler and bon vivant.

 

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Casanova as a young boy, and later in his life

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was born in Venice in 1725 to actress Zanetta Farussi, wife of actor and dancer Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova. Giacomo was the first of six children, followed by Francesco Giuseppe (1727–1803), Giovanni Battista (1730–1795), Faustina Maddalena (1731–1736), Maria Maddalena Antonia Stella (1732–1800), and Gaetano Alvise (1734–1783). Casanova’s father died while he was a child and his mother sent him to boarding school in Padua.  Casanova met a young woman there, the daughter of his instructor, Bettina she was “pretty, lighthearted, and a great reader of romances. The girl pleased me at once, though I had no idea why. It was she who little by little kindled in my heart with the first sparks of a feeling which later became my ruling passion.”  Here he was ignited with the stuff that drove him.  Casanova graduated from the University of Padua in law at seventeen.  Amassing significant gambling debts there, he scurried back to Venice.

 

Palazzo Malpiero

 

He began his lifelong pattern of finding a patron,  76-year-old Venetian senator Alvise Gasparo Malipiero, the owner of Palazzo Malipiero.  Malipiero was grooming Casanova as a ‘dandy’.  Casanova was tall (disputed heights between 5’9” to 6’), dark and  handsome with long, powdered and elaborately curled hair. Malipiero instructed him on manners, food and wine.

 

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Casanova and the sisters, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

At this time, Casanova experienced his famous first sexual encounter with two sisters, Nanetta and Maria Savorgnan, then fourteen and sixteen. He claimed they instilled his lifelong passion for sex.  Scandals ensued, landing him in prison for the first time for a gambling debt.  In his memoir, blandly titled: Histoire de ma vie, (Story of My Life) he proclaimed that “I have always loved it [sex] and done all that I could to make myself loved by it.”

Failing in his law profession and his attempt to work for the Church as a scribe with the powerful Cardinal Acquaviva in Rome, he elected to buy a post in the military of the Republic of Venice.  In Casanova’s, Story of My Life, he described his effort so:

 

Casanova in Uniform, by

Casanova in Uniform, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I decided to dress as a soldier … I inquire for a good tailor … he brings me everything I need to impersonate a follower of Mars … My uniform was white, with a blue vest, a shoulder knot of silver and gold … I bought a long sword, and with my handsome cane in hand, a trim hat with a black cockade, with my hair cut in side whiskers and a long false pigtail, I set forth to impress the whole city.”

Casanova soon bored with this occupation, and at age twenty-one, he set out to become a professional gambler. Venice still sports some of his haunting grounds, Cantina do Spade, still one of the most atmospheric bars in Venice, is one. Stories here abound with his fervor.  Soon another patron surfaced, Don Matteo Bragadin, who showered him with funds and clothing. His swarthy complexion and prominent nose set off his regalia. He reflects in his memoir, “My currency was unbridled self-esteem.”  Few women could resist it.

 

Scandalous Casanova, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Scandalous Casanova, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scandals continued to ensue, including an accusation of rape that was dismissed. One of his most famous liaisons took place at this time with MM., a ravishing, noble born nun, whom he spirited away from her convent on Murano Island by gondola to a sumptuous retreat.  Casanova recorded in his memoir that she “was astonished to find herself so receptive to so much pleasure.”  He continued this relationship with MM. (thought to be Marina Morsoni) for many years, including a ménage a trois with her older lover, the French ambassador; then a quatre with another young nun.

 

Casanova's seduction alcove, at Palazzo Merati

Casanova’s seduzione alcova, at Palazzo Malpiero

 

Strangely enough, Pierre Cardin purchased the palazzo in which Casanova lived during his prime.  He even created an annual literary prize titled the Casanova Award, to celebrate literary genius. Parenthetically, Cardin also purchased the chateau of Marquis de Sade’s home in Provence.

 

Casanova's Henriette? Adélaide de Gueidan, painting by Nicolas de Largillière

Casanova’s Henriette? Adélaide de Gueidan, painting by Nicolas de Largillière

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, Casanova fled his scandals in Venice to Parma.  Here he engaged in his most ardent affair, a  Frenchwoman, Henriette.  “No woman so captivated Casanova as Henriette; few women obtained so deep an understanding of him. She penetrated his outward shell early in their relationship, resisting the temptation to unite her destiny with his.”  (Childs, J. Rives, Casanova: A New Perspective. New York: Paragon House, 1988)  He returned to Venice after the smoke had cleared, had a winning gambling streak, and decided it was time for “The Grand Tour”…which was the mainstay for the upper class in 1750.

Casanova’s first stop was Paris. He joined the Freemasons and adhered to a secret cult, Rosicrucianism.  This is a philosophical secret society said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz. It holds a doctrine or theology ”built on esoteric truths of the ancient past,” which, “concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe and the spiritual realm.” Rosicrucianism is symbolized by the Rosy Cross. After two years, Casanova moved on in 1752 to Dresden and encountered his mother. He wrote a well-received play, La Moluccheide, now lost. He then visited Prague and Vienna, where the tighter moral atmosphere of the latter city was not to his liking. Casanova finally returned to Venice in 1753. In Venice, he resumed his wicked escapades, picking up many enemies and gaining the greater attention of the Venetian inquisitors. His police record became a lengthening list of reported blasphemies, seductions, fights, and public controversy. Casanova finally hit the wall of convention.

 

The Invisible College of the Rose Cross Fraternity, from Theophilus Schweighardt, 1618

The Invisible College of the Rose Cross Fraternity, from Theophilus Schweighardt, 1618

 

At age thirty, Casanova was arrested again.

 

Casanova Placed Under Arrest

Casanova Placed Under Arrest

 

According to John Masters (who was a regular soldier in the Indian Army of Britain), (Casanova. MASTERS, John. London: Michael Joseph/Arcadia Press, 1970): “The Tribunal, having taken cognizance of the grave faults committed by G. Casanova primarily in public outrages against the holy religion, their Excellencies have caused him to be arrested and imprisoned under the Leads.” “The Leads” (Piombi in Italian) was a prison of seven cells on the top floor of the east wing of the Doge’s palace, reserved for prisoners of higher status and political crimes and named for the lead plates covering the palace roof. Without a trial, Casanova was sentenced to five years in the “inescapable” prison.  The building is the center of Venice today.   Casanova was soon moved to a more convivial cell according to Masters, spending fifteen months there.

 

"The Leads"

“The Leads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I sat in my armchair like a man in a stupor; motionless as a statue, I saw that I had wasted all the efforts I had made, and I could not repent of them. I felt that I had nothing to hope for, and the only relief left to me was not to think of the future.”

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“The Leads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casanova made a daring escape with the help of his neighboring cellmate, Rev. Barbi. Employing a knife he fashioned from a piece of marble; he dug out through the roof.  Leaving behind a note that quoted the 117th Psalm (Vulgate): “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

After the convoluted escape through roof, windows and sheet ropes dropping into a 25 foot ceiling room, they convinced a guard they were locked into the prison by mistake after a party in the Palace, they escaped.  That day they made their way to Paris. Much controversy surround  this escape, but there was some physical evidence to corroborate it.  Thirty years later in 1787, Casanova wrote Story of My Flight, which became popular and was reprinted in many languages, describing the escapade.

In Paris, Casanova became a salesman for the lottery, very successfully selling many tickets. His words, “deceiving a fool is an exploit worthy of an intelligent man.” ( Casanova, Story of My Life. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2006).  Casanova climbed the social and political ladders in Paris, even sold state bonds in Amsterdam at a discount during the Seven Years War,  which made him a rich man.  Only to squander the funds and continue his disaffecting liaisons with his ‘harem’ employees, he again fell into destitution. And yet again, Casanova was imprisoned.

 

casanova-signature

An original signature

 

On the lam again, he traveled to Cologne, Stuttgart, and Marseille where he met Voltaire, then to Genoa, Florence, Rome, Naples, Modena and Turin traversing one sexual romp to another. Casanova started styling himself as the Chevalier de Seingalt, a name he would increasingly use for the rest of his life. He endeared himself with Pope Clement XIII, who funded many of Bernini’s masterpieces, and awarded Casanova a regal ribboned-cross for his chest, Papal Oder of Eperon d’or, to add to his pomp.

 

Casanova and a moonlit assignation, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Casanova and a moonlit assignation, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to England, he gained an audience with King George III to sell the lottery scheme. While there, he bedded a great beauty, Mistress Pauline. Due to his dalliances, he contracted venereal diseases and left England broke and ill.

In recovery, he traveled exhaustively on rough roads, in coaches for four thousand miles as far as St. Petersburg. He managed to meet with Catherine the Great in Russia and Fredrick the Great in Prussia, to sell his lottery scheme, which failed. He was expelled from Warsaw after a duel that wounded his hand over a lady. Off across Europe again, hitting the gambling salons, only to expelled from France by none other that Louis XV himself. His reputation now preceded him.   He appealed to Charles III but to no avail and then wandered around Spain where his debauchery was not well known. In Barcelona, he escaped assassination and landed in jail again for six weeks.

 

Casanova kissing the hand of Catherine the Great, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Casanova kissing the hand of Catherine the Great, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

Casanova finally managed to return to Venice where even his adversaries wanted explanation for his daring escape from the Doge Palace.   Now a spy again for Venice, paid by piecework, he reported on religion, morals, and commerce, most of it based on gossip and rumor he picked up from social contacts.  After many miles and jails spells, his good looks were fading at age 49, where his nose and smallpox scar now became prominent. The females were now few and  far between.  He then published the translation of The Illiad to little financial reward.  In fact, Casanova got into a published dispute with Voltaire over religion. When he asked, “Suppose that you succeed in destroying superstition. With what will you replace it?” Voltaire shot back, “I like that. When I deliver humanity from a ferocious beast which devours it, can I be asked what I shall put in its place.”

Later that year, the Inquisitors put him on the payroll, after pardoning him, and sent him to investigate commerce between the Papal states and Venice. Back on the road again, he traveled to Paris and met Ben Franklin to understand his balloon flight design.  His welcome in Paris exhausted, he looked for another position. In 1785, his Foscarini died (his current lover and housekeeper who loved him dearly).  A few months later, he became the librarian to Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein, a chamberlain of the emperor, at Duchcov Chateau, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic).

Bored by his surroundings and duties, though well paid, he contemplated suicide but decided to dedicate himself to his memoirs. He managed some travel to Dresden, Vienna and frequently Prague, the center of Bohemia, where he met Mozart and viewed Don Giovani for the first time in 1787.  Word then arrived that the Republic of Venice had ceased to exist and that Napoleon Bonaparte had seized Casanova’s home city. There was no returning home, Casanova died on June 4, 1798, at age 73 at Duchov Chateau (The Castle Dux) where he was buried…his grave is unknown, now marked elsewhere in town by a fading wooden cross.

 

Casanova-Giacomo-old

His memoirs continued a life of their own.  Willed to his nephew, who sold it promptly to a German publisher, Brockhaus which then retained it for 140 years. During a WWII bombing that directly hit their offices housing the manuscript, a family member bicycled it across Leipzig to a bank vault. When the Allied forces captured the city, even Churchill inquired about  the memoirs. The memoirs were saved and returned to the German owners, to be first published in 1960 in French, and 1966 in English. Story of My Life (original title: Histoire de ma vie jusqu’à l’an 1797, (History of my Life until the year 1797)) is regarded by some to be one of the great autobiographies, some fourteen hundred pages long detailing over one hundred twenty liaisons. A man with no home, never married, no children, sometimes violin player, spy and astrologer and no apparent source of income until Duchov Chateau, he was a Boulevardier…a European gambler and a louse.

 

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Giacomo Girolamo Casanova summarizes his life in the memoir in French:

“What pleasure in remembering one’s pleasures! It amuses me because I am inventing nothing.”

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

 

NOTE: With special inspirational THANKS to my great friend, artist Alek Kardas…

 

More about Casanova at Fondazione Giacomo Casanova: HERE

 

Fair Cecily, and other fair-weather friends

June 29, 2014

Rex Whistler; Cecil Beaton; Georgia Sitwell; Sir William Turner Walton; Stephen Tennant; Zita Jungman; Teresa Jungman, photograph by Cecil Beaton

  All I want is the best of everything and there’s very little of that left. Never in the history of fashion has so little material been raised so high to reveal so much that needs to be covered so badly. What is elegance? Soap and water! …quotes by Cecil Beaton   I have an […]

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An Ephemeral Awareness — Death and the Coming of War

June 21, 2014

BA ephemeral

When we arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, in January, 1966, one of the most unusual thing that we saw were tanks in the streets and soldiers behind sand bags around government buildings.  In the following days we learned that some government officials, senior military leaders and the Sultan of Sokoto had been killed during a coup […]

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Machu Picchu — “The First Tourist”

June 9, 2014

Machu Picchu, prior to excavation

      “The Explorer” by Rudyard Kipling, “Something lost behind the Ranges.  Lost and waiting for you. Go!” The Boulevardiers have been to the mountain, and climbed it. Machu Picchu, the Old Peak…and Huayna Picchu, the New Peak, to be exact. Sources noted below have reviewed its “discovery”. There is no clear and definitive […]

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Black Mountain College ~ America’s Most Creative Art School

May 10, 2014

blind_accordion_player (1)

The New York Times has titled Black Mountain College as one of “six nodes of progressive culture in America.”  Founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice,  there were innumerable renowned artists that pasted through these hallowed halls for such a  limited period of existence, including Robert Rauschenberg, Ben Shahn, and Joseph Albers — who brought the […]

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Whitney Biennial ~ a meaningful surfeit

April 14, 2014

There was a time when the Whitney Biennial was the much-anticipated barometer of the state of American art…   Whether praised or reviled, everyone could be counted on to have an opinion. This year, as has been the case for some time, the Biennial is just another blur in the bombardment of art as excess […]

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Ironing One’s Shoelaces

April 1, 2014

Coco Chanel gown, 1938

  Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends…. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.  ~Henry David Thoreau Vintage has always been at the top of my list, the visual, touch, feel, quality. I would rather spend hours, weeks, months, years amidst the old wood cases of museum costume […]

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