Some Vintage Alphonse Mucha Photographic Studies

In 1887 while studying, Czech painter and decorative artist, Alphonse  Mucha (1860 – 1939) moved to Paris. There he, in addition to studying, worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention. Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha. His style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said:

“I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts.”

Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for “new art”). Mucha’s works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.

Mucha’s work has continued to experience periodic revivals of interest for illustrators and artists. Interest in hiss distinctive style experienced a strong revival during the 1960s, with a general interest in all things Art Nouveau.

 

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Alphonse  Mucha, Study for a Decorative Panel (1908) via

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Alphonse Marie Mucha. Model posing in Mucha’s studio rue du Val de Grâce  © Mucha Foundation via

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Alphonse  Mucha. Model posing in Mucha’s studio rue du Val de Grâce  © Mucha Trust
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Alphonse Marie Mucha. Model posing in Mucha’s studio rue du Val de Grâce via

1900 The Precious Stones 4b photographic study in Mucha's stdio Rue du Val de Gra_ce, Paris _ Mucha Trust

 The Precious Stones photographic study in Mucha’s stdio Rue du Val de Grâce (1900), Paris © Mucha Trust via

03 c1900 Portrait of a Lady photographic study in Mucha’s studio, Rue du Val de Grâce, Paris © Mucha Trust

Portrait of a Lady photographic study in Mucha’s studio, Rue du Val de Grâce (ca. 1900), Paris © Mucha Trust via

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Photographic study © Alphonse Mucha Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris via

16 Photgraphic study for 'Truth'

Photographic study for ‘Truth’ © Alphonse Mucha Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris  via

Vintage Photos of French Salon Queen Comtesse Greffulhe (1860-1952)

Aristocrat, Élisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe (1860 – 1952) was a renowned beauty and queen of the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris. She was the daughter of Joseph de Riquet de Caraman and his wife Marie de Montesquiou-Fezensac. In 1881 she married the unfaithful, quick-tempered Henri, Count Greffulhe (1848-1932), of the Belgian family of bankers. The comtesse has been described in these words:

“The Comtesse Greffulhe is always beautiful and always elsewhere. But it would be a mistake to think that her life was merely the pursuit of pleasure (…) not only is she beautiful, but she is a lady. Preferring the privacy of her own house in the rue d’Astorg and at Bois-Boudran in the country, the Comtesse Greffulhe never dined out except at the British Embassy. When Edward VII came to Paris, he dined informally at her house. After a restricted youth (…) she set herself to attracting musicians, scholars, physicists, chemists, doctors.”

She regularly entertained the cream of Parisian society at her salon in the rue d’Astorg. The comtesse helped establish the art of James Whistler, and she actively promoted such artists as Auguste Rodin, Antonio de La Gandara and Gustave Moreau.

She was the inspiration for the Duchess of Guermantes in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, she regularly ordered – notably from Worth – sumptuous outfits that highlighted her splendid waist. She was a patron of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets russes, and launched a fashion for greyhound racing.

Fascinated by science, she helped Marie Curie to finance the creation of the Institute of Radium, and Edouard Branly to pursue his researches on radiotransmission and telemechanical systems.

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Comtesse Greffulhe photographed by Otto Wegener (around 1886)

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Comtesse Greffulhe  wearing a ball gown photographed by Otto Wegener (ca. 1887) via

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Comtesse Greffulhe looking sideways photographed by Félix Nadar (1900) via

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Comtesse Greffulhe shows off her bare shoulder and, fashionably semi-concealed, her striking figure in a turn-of-the-century dress via

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In this puzzling image, Comtesse Greffulhe  is seen embracing her own double. The Comtesse wears an elaborate dress with decorated blouson bodice and swirling fabric and a simple dress that could be worn today (1899) via

 

 

Vintage Celebrity Portraits by Benjamin J. Falk

When photographer Napoleon Sarony died in 1896, Benjamin J. Falk ascended to the first place in the world of performing arts photography.

Born on October 14th, 1853, Benjamin J. Falk grew up in New York City. He graduated from the College of the City of New York with a B.S. in 1872, while concurrently serving as a technician under photographer George Rockwood. His first ambition was to be a graphic artist, so he attended classes at the NY Academy of Design while maintaining a studio with Jacob Schloss:

“Being naturally of an investigating turn of mind he interested himself in scientific studies. After making crayons for five years, he enlarged his studio into a photographic gallery. In 1881 he moved to Broadway, where the business grew rapidly, developing largely in the line of portraits of celebrities” (source).

He often experimented with his images, using curious juxtapositions, unusual poses, and lighting highlights to convey distinctiveness of personality. He did many portraits against blank walls or bleached out backcloths. He began the fashion for faces and figures suspended in a milky white ground that became ubiquitous shortly after 1900.

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Lillian Russell, bust portrait, facing front by Benjamin J. Falk (1889)

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Lillian Russell, 1861-1922, full length, standing, facing left; in elegant gown by Benjamin J. Falk (1904)

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Dancer and pioneer Loïe Fuller by Benjamin J. Falk (1896)

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Dancer and pioneer Loïe Fuller by Benjamin J. Falk (1896)

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British actress Lillie Langtry by Benjamin J. Falk (1881)

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British actress Lillie Langtry by Benjamin J. Falk (1881)

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Some Victorian “Carte de Visites”

The carte de visite was a type of small photograph which was patented in Paris by photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri in 1854.  It was a small, cheap portrait format which made photography available to the masses.

It was usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card.

The Carte de Visite was slow to gain widespread use until 1859, when Disdéri published Emperor Napoleon III’s photos in this format. This made the format an overnight success.

The new invention was so popular it was known as “cardomania”and it spread throughout Europe and then quickly to America and the rest of the world.

The immense popularity of these card photographs led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons.

Each photograph was the size of a visiting card, and such photograph cards were traded among friends and visitors.

Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in Victorian parlors.

By the early 1870s, cartes de visite were supplanted by “cabinet cards,” which were also usually albumen prints, but larger, mounted on cardboard backs.

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Contemporary carte de visite, 1860s

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Victorian carte de visite circa 1880s

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One of the first cartes de visite of Queen Victoria taken by photographer John Jabez Edwin Mayall

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Napoléon III and his wife Eugenie, cartes de visite by Disderi, circa 1865

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Carte de visite photograph of Ella Wesner, circa 1872, the most celebrated male impersonator of the Gilded Age Vaudeville circuit.

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 1860s original/vintage albumen carte de visite of a lovely young California bride in her flowing white wedding dress taken by the pioneer daguerreotypist from San Francisco,William Shew.

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Vintage Photos of 19th Century “Golden Girl” Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924)

Born in New York City to British immigrants, Lotta Crabtree (1847 – 1924) would go on to become one of the wealthiest and most beloved American entertainers of the late 19th century. She was an actress, comedian and also a significant philanthropist.

Crabtree achieved the height of her success in the 1870s and 1880s. She had danced her way to fame as an adult actress on the stages of England. In the 1880s she was the highest paid actress in America, earning sums of up to $5,000 per week.

Lotta never married, although she was escorted by a number of men. She was still playing children’s parts until the end of her career, and marrying might have cut into her act as the ingénue.

Her life story was filmed as Golden Girl in 1951.

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Lotta Crabtree

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Lotta Crabtree, 1870s

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Lotta Crabtree

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Lotta Crabtree

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Actress Lotta Crabtree  c. 1868.

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Lotta Crabtree at the height of her career

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Lotta Crabtree, c. 1870

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Lotta Crabtree

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Actress and Socialite Lillie Langtry (1853 – 1929) – Photos

Lillie Langtry (1853 – 1929), usually spelled Lily Langtry in the United States, born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, was initially celebrated as a young woman for her beauty and charm, and later established a reputation as an actress and producer. In May 1877, Lady Sebright invited her to “an evening at home”, attended by some of the famous artists of the day. Her looks—together with her ability to enchant those in her company—attracted interest, comments, and invitations from artists and society hostesses.

By 1881, she had become an actress and starred in many plays, including She Stoops to Conquer, The Lady of Lyons, and As You Like It, eventually running her own stage production company. In later life she performed “dramatic sketches” in vaudeville. She was also known for her relationships with noblemen, including the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and Prince Louis of Battenberg. She was the subject of widespread public and media interest.

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Lillie Langtry photographed by William Downey August 1885

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Lillie Langtree

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Lillie Langtry, famous English actress, 1884

 Lillie Langtry, 1884

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Lillie Langtry, 1882, in matching turban and dress.

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Lillie Langtry, 1881

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Sarah Bernhardt – The Divine Sarah

Parisian actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) has been reffered to as “the most famous actress the world has ever known”. Her 1874 debut in the tragedy Iphigénie cemented her importance as a stage actress and launched what would become a career lasting six decades. But the “The Divine Sarah” was not only known as the greatest French actress, she was also painted a true eccentric, something which  contributed to her fame as much as her acting talent did. And it is true that her off-stage life was often just as harrowing as that of the characters she portrayed, with frequent bouts of physical ailments, financial difficulties, and numerous love affairs.

Her debut in Racine’s tragedy Iphigénie cemented her importance as a stage actress and launched what would become a 60-year career and a pan-European reputation as “the Divine Sarah.” – See more at: http://www.nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/sarah-bernhardt#sthash.yVR9bgii.dpuf
Sarah Bernhardt established her name in France as one of the most famous actresses of the 19th-century stage. Less well known is her skill as a sculptor – See more at: http://www.nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/sarah-bernhardt#sthash.yVR9bgii.dpuf
Her debut in Racine’s tragedy Iphigénie cemented her importance as a stage actress and launched what would become a 60-year career and a pan-European reputation as “the Divine Sarah.” – See more at: http://www.nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/sarah-bernhardt#sthash.cqtpFW4m.dpuf
Her debut in Racine’s tragedy Iphigénie cemented her importance as a stage actress and launched what would become a 60-year career and a pan-European reputation as “the Divine Sarah.” – See more at: http://www.nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/sarah-bernhardt#sthash.cqtpFW4m.dpuf

Although, much has been written about her life and work,  there is still much uncertainty because of her tendency to exaggerate and distort.

She was born Henriette-Rosine Bernard and was the illegitimate daughter of Julie Bernard, a Dutch courtesan who had established herself in Paris (the identity of her father is uncertain). Her mother had little time or inclination to raise a young child in the social whirl of the Paris salon set. After a tumultuous childhood, Bernhardt was ready to commit herself to a religious life when a place was secured for her to study acting in the Paris Conservatoire (1859 to 1862).

Bernhardt’s stage career started in 1862 while she was a student. One of her mother’s lovers, a half brother of Napoleon III, arranged for Bernhardt to gain entry into the French national theater company.

However, she was expelled and resumed the life of courtesan to which her mother had introduced her at a young age, and made considerable money during that period (1862-65). During this time she acquired her famous coffin, in which she often slept in lieu of a bed – claiming that doing so helped her understand her many tragic roles. A widely circulated photo showed a peaceful Bernhardt lying in the coffin, with her eyes closed and draped with flowers. This no doubt  fuelled the publics´ curiosity.

In Belgium she became the mistress of Henri, Prince de Ligne, and gave birth to their son, Maurice, in 1864. After Maurice’s birth, the Prince proposed marriage, but his family forbade it and persuaded Bernhardt to refuse and end their relationship.

Later in life she married Greek-born actor Aristides Damala in London in 1882, but the marriage, which legally endured until Damala’s death in 1889 at age of 34, quickly collapsed, largely due to Damala’s dependence on morphine. During the later years of this marriage, Bernhardt was said to have been involved in an affair with the future King King Edward VII while he was still the Prince of Wales.

Her lifestyle was always flamboyant. Bernhardt not only sometimes slept in a coffin, but even liked to accessorise with a dead, stuffed bat. Whether she was at home or traveling Bernhardt always kept a large coterie of friends and admirers about her, as well as servants and a menagerie of exotic animals including a cheetah, a wolf, and a boa-constrictor. An alligator named Ali-Gaga died sadly after being fed too much milk and champagne.

At her death in 1923 almost a half-million people lined the streets of Paris to bid their good-bye. Newspaper reports stated she died “peacefully, without suffering, in the arms of her son.” She is believed to have been 78 years old. Through her lifetime Bernhardt had played some seventy roles in one hundred and twenty five productions in Europe, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and the Middle East. She had also managed several theaters in Paris.

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Sarah Bernhardt 1860 via Blogspot

Sarah Bernhardt a legend

Sarah Bernhardt via Viola.bz

Sarah Bernhardt 1870s via Flickr

Postcard from the turn of the century via Flickr

Sarah Bernhardt, Lady Macbeth dans “Macbeth”, 1884 by Félix Nadar

Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth 1884 via Tumblr

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt via Viola.bz

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Sarah Bernhardt via Fine Art America

Sarah Bernhard “La nuit de mai”   1909 via Flickr

At the Théâtre de la Renaissance: Sarah Bernhardt in Phèdre

At the Théâtre de la Renaissance: Sarah Bernhardt in Phèdre

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1883 via metmuseum.org

Sarah Bernhardt – Excerpts from ‘La Samaritaine’ (1903)

Bernhardt developed her own emotional romantic acting style

based on her lyrical voice (known as the “golden voice”),

calculated nervous action and the subversion of her viewers’ expectations

concerning her characters, disclosing strength in weakness and weakness in strength