February 27, 2013

Picasso, the Muse, and the Successful Hat

Most of us know that Picasso was exceptionally prolific throughout his long lifetime. The total number of artworks he produced has been estimated at 50,000, including 1,885 paintings.1 But where would he be without his muse? Without lots of musi, the old lecher! I'd like to pay tribute to five of the vibrant ladies of whom most of us have never heard. Now may they live forever in our memories. We begin with the first muse, from 1904–1912, and the quote that inspired this post:

“A hat should provoke some witticism from a man on the street or it is not a success.” 2
-Fernande Olivier, the first of Picasso’s eight major musi

Ah, hats. A woman's plumage. I love this quote, although I searched far and wide to find one portrait of Ms. Olivier with a successful hat, and did not. This dismal-looking portrait, Fernande Olivier in Head Scarves, painted in 1906, was as close as I could get. Not much good for getting noticed by a man on the street – rather washed out and house-wifey looking – but Picasso seemed to like it. If anyone can find a painting of Ms. Olivier wearing a great hat, do share it with us.

I did find several portraits of some of Picasso’s other muses in successful hats. Although she’s technically not wearing a hat, Picasso’s 1937 portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter has become my favorite. She was the artist’s main muse from 1927-1940. The piercing cool blue of her startling eyes, juxtaposed against the clear, pure, white of her complexion, and the soft, pink blush on her cheeks represents an innocence, accented by the simplicity of her garland. This portrait is titled “Marie-Thérèse with a Garland.”
The next hat certainly looks successful, with vivid colors and a fancy flower, but the woman wearing it looks none too happy.  Dora Maar, a successful photographer who met Picasso when she documented the painting of Guernica, was his main inspiration from 1936-1944.  Picasso painted her this way in 1937 and called it Weeping Woman, and although I think the hat is very successful, no one, even a muse, is pretty when they cry. Picasso said, “Dora, for me, was always a weeping woman...and it's important, because women are suffering machines.3 (Emphasis, mine.) Yep, Picasso, you old fart, that pretty much sums us up. 

The hat at the left is my favorite hat, elegant in its simplicity, stunning in its design. I think it would be successful on just about anyone. Picasso painted this portrait, also of Dora, in 1939. He titled it Woman with a Green Hat, and it looks like she feels a lot better. I have often wondered how such creative geniuses have so little imagination when it comes to titling their masterpieces.

But please don’t confuse Dora's chic chapeau with Woman in a Green Hat (right), which Picasso painted in 1947 during his 10-year liaison with François Gilot. I like this one, too – the green is a gorgeous shade – but I have trouble seeing how any of us could pull it off. Especially the eye sitting precariously up on the brim there. (BTW, did you know that Cap’n Crunch’s eyebrows are on his hat?? Did Quaker Oats steal the idea from Picasso? Compare. Discuss.)
Copyright 1963 Quaker Oats

Picasso met his final muse, Jacqueline Roque, in 1953, and they were married in 1961. For 20 years, until his death in 1973, Picasso created more works of art based on her than on any other muse. This one is called Jacqueline Roque en Costume Turc, and was painted in 1955. A hat to end all hats - at least in this blog. Jacqueline literally had the last word. When Picasso died, she prevented his children, Claude and Paloma, from attending his funeral. 

It is important to remember that many of his muses, some successful artists in their own right, died penniless and alone, often by their own hand. The life of a muse is not all it’s cracked up to be (see “Muse: A Job Description”). Most of their end-of-life stories are not pretty, so I will not go into them here.

I do, however, invite you to visit two sites: The Saper Galleries' “The Women of Pablo Picasso”, and BJWS.blogspot.com, a phenomenal site I came across which gave me a fresh perspective on the old man’s talent and follows the evolution of his women in portraiture.

Until the next time, ladies, don’t underestimate the power of a successful hat!!

May your muse be just around the corner
and put a smile upon your face.
- Mona L. :)

1Wikipedia on Pablo Picasso
2The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein
3Malraux, André: Picasso's Mask, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976

February 22, 2013

The Gift of the Musi: Muse - Not a Muse?

I have neither seen nor heard from my muse in several days. It got me thinking about alternatives. Where to look for my next inspiration? I need a muse!

Seven of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne are responsible for strictly artistic inspirations (the "Gift of the Musi" if you will). Can you identify at least 5 of them?

Melpomene (Tragedy)
Thalia (Comedy)
Terpsichore (Dance)
Calliope (Epic Poetry)
Erato (Love Poetry)
Polyhymnia (Songs to the Gods), and
Euterpe (Lyric Poetry)

That leaves Clio (History – and one could argue vigorously that the history books are full of fictional plotlines and heroes); and Urania (Astronomy – and they've been feeding us a lie about Pluto all along. What do they really know, anyway?). So, with that in mind, I’d like to present some contenders and ask you to consider the question:  Muse – Not a Muse?*

Please use the comment section and rate these characters on a scale of 1-5, 1 being least muse-worthy, and 5 being most muse-worthy. Remember, this is completely subjective; there are no right or wrong answers. 

Lily Munster
Austin Powers

Lauren Bacall
Will Smith
Some guy I took a picture of at the Armadillo Races in 1980

May your muse be just around the corner
and put a smile upon your face.

Mona :)

* With apologies to Saturday Night Live


February 15, 2013

The Dating Game: Ladies, Hit Me Up!

Juuuusst in case you didn’t find your Romeo – or Juliet – in time for Valentine’s Day, you might want to check a couple of dating sites to see what’s available out there. I’ve done some of the legwork for you, to help you jump right back into the game.

I've had the pleasure of writing a couple of profiles for people who felt that they couldn't get the true essence of themselves down on paper, and needed the un-biased eye of an outsider to flesh out their one-in-a-million personality to help them attract the perfect mate. In doing my research, I realized that there was gold in them thar hills - of the humorous kind - and without naming names, I’d like to share a few with you.

I offer, for your consideration, the carefully crafted “Best Come-On Lines” of some hopeful men searching for their fair muse. (Don’t feel offended, guys, the ladies are under the microscope next.) These are real lines from real men – even the post title came from several entries. No way could I make these up.

Bachelor #1 is a true romantic; no rushing into gratuitous sex and games for him, oh, no. He's just a simple man who really wants to get to know a woman as a person:

I'm a guy who thinks with his heart and mind and not his . . . (well you know).

Ahh . . . it’s about time. So refreshing, ladies! This guy does NOT think with his . . . well, you know. Never, ever! Ever!

Now, lest you think Bachelor #1 is just too good to be true, consider Bachelor #2, who, at least, may be somewhat more honest. Maybe too honest:

. . . I think my Father hated me . . . beautiful women scare me . . .

Wait. What??

At least we pretty much know where we stand with this guy; although, I wonder what his definition of beautiful is . . . and just how scary you have to be to, um, scare him.

Last, but not least, Bachelor #3:

I have all of my teeth and floss regularly.

OK, now we’re talking. Nothing turns me on more than a full set of chompers. Glad we got that out of the way.

So, who will it be? Bachelor #1, Bachelor #2, or Bachelor #3? Take your time, ladies. And in case you don’t see one you like this round, come back next week for another edition of

Ladies – or Guys – Hit Me Up!

Brought to you by the fine folks from AmusetheMuseBlog.com!

May your muse be just around the corner
and put a smile upon your face.

- Mona L.

February 12, 2013

Love Songs

Valentine’s Day is almost here! Is there anything more romantic than a love song? They’ve been around, at least as far as we know, since 4,000 B.C., according to Robin Frederick, author of A Brief History of Love Songs.
Though they are thousands of years old, the earliest love songs sound so contemporary, so honest, so urgent, they might have been written yesterday. 
They are proof that human emotions have not changed. When we fall in love today, we feel what men and women felt in centuries past: desire, joy, disappointment, yearning, fulfillment.
Some of the lyrics survive.

If I meet you suddenly,
I can’t speak – my tongue is broken;
A thin flame runs under my skin.
Seeing nothing,
Hearing only my own ears drumming,
I drip with sweat.
Trembling shakes my body
and I turn paler than dry grass.
At such times death is not far from me.
-   Sappho, from “He is More Than a Hero,” c. 630 B.C., ibid.

As a clueless preteen, locked away, alone in my room with the purple shag carpeting and mod, light-green-and-vivid-orange-flowered wallpaper, I day-dreamed of being a muse. Specifically, in my feverish, Monkee-induced hallucinations, Davy would write the most passionate love 
songs for, and about, me. I would be Davy's muse, and We would scale the peaks of fame and fortune (and passion) together. Romance, ecstasy, and symbiosis would define Us forever; the world would gaze upon Us in amazement and envy; and joy would fill the airwaves.

(SFX: needle on vinyl screeching scratchinly to a halt)

Or so I imagined.

I was no different from any other naïve young girl of any generation, suffering from newly-invasive hormones and fairy tale propaganda. However, reality is a harsh mistress:

February 7, 2013

Muse: A Job Description

First, let us examine the female muse's job description of yore:  Must be willing to pose all day, in the nude, in drafty attics; read unreadable manuscripts in low-lit, squalid bed-sits; wash and hang malodorous breeches out filthy, fly-spotted window to dry; tend to scabrous scabies, beastly bunions, niggling nosehairs and choleric coughing; always be ready for sex (your orgasms are not my concern); and other duties as assigned.  

Perhaps I give my muse too much credit. My laundry still sits, piled upon the floor of my closet.

Male Muses are as scarce as a 50% discount on Estee Lauder at Macy’s. Prolific writer and muse, Anne Roiphe, addressed the mystery in Doting husbands and sugar daddies," a 2003 article written for the Guardian: 


"Crazy, drunken, male writers, no matter how ugly, old and ill-tempered, will always
find a willing girl to mop up the morning after, but females given to bouts of depression, nightmares and long manuscripts that take precedence over dinner will not so often find
a willing muse to hold the pot roast."*

Colette's first husband, Willy Gauthier Villars, Ms. Roiphe writes, stole her work and attached his name.  Her second husband, Henri de Jouvenal, did not. George Elliott found inspiration in George Lewes and John Cross, the latter being 20 years younger (always stimulating). Virginia Wolfe's Leonard, was a devoted husband, and spurred her to greatness. In a final letter to her sister, she praised her muse:  “All I want to say is that Leonard has been so astonishingly good, every day, always; I can’t imagine that anyone could have done more for me than he has.”**

In these electronic times, men specify the perfect muse in their dating site profiles:  The ideal woman "must be mentally and physically healthy. Those with Baggage or Drama (or dare we say it, a Life?) need not apply.”

Ladies, he's all yours.

May your muse be just around the corner
and put a smile upon your face.

- Mona L.

*Source:  The Journey Not the Arrival Matters: An Autobiography of the Years 1939 to 1969;
Leonard Woolf

February 3, 2013

The Muse and I

I have found my muse. 

Strange, to be a woman with a male muse - a "manly muse." At least throughout recorded history, muses (musi?) have always been female -- beautiful, mysterious, alluring, downright sexy -- or any combination of the above. Artists, musicians, composers, writers, poets, and dreamers have extolled the virtues of their musi and been inspired to create masterpieces. 

Yet, I am a woman with a man for a muse. You might imagine that this makes for much fascinating and amusing musing. You would be correct.

My muse arrived on New Year's Day, two years ago, in the form of an admirer from a dating site. Who would have expected to find someone of such high caliber (see below) in a fishbowl of bland opportunities? He felt the same.

I had just starting seeing someone I met on the dating site; a lawyer, of all people, a subset of males I had sworn never to date since my days as a legal secretary. A nice enough man, but never married; one who valued his own space and freedom much more than a relationship. This brief union later proved to be a veritable font of amusing anecdotes that had my muse in stitches. (They will richly enhance this blog at a later time.) Our relationship started as a count-counterpoint as pen-pals, each egging on the other to more and greater musings and revelations. I hadn't written in so long, that I found myself shocked as it all came back to me in a rush of creativity.

My muse is everything you might want in a muse: intelligent, handsome, debonair, thoughtful, sophisticated, Southern, and charming. It doesn't stop there: hilarious, thought-provoking, supportive, loyal, generous, and well-dressed, and the list goes on and on. If he's often difficult to get hold of and travels too much, well, that's a small price to pay for his unparalleled muse-worthiness.

This blog has been created to amuse him. If, in the process, I garner a following of readers, I will consider myself fortunate to have added a few smiles to their faces. 

May your muse be just around the corner
and put a smile upon your face.

- Mona L.