Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Louise Brooks art #2

This is the second installment of an irregular series of posts highlighting "Louise Brooks art" - paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, cartoons, sculpture, etc . . . . all featuring the silent film star Louise Brooks, or at least in some way inspired by the actress.

I used to work as a syndicated art critic, and in my day I have looked through a lot of art books - both old and new. My favorite period is the early 20th century. Thus, I thought this entry in the series would focus on a couple of kindred historic examples.

The first is a 1929 photomontage by Herbert Bayer titled "Profil en face." Brooks' likeness is a dominant element in the work. This obscure piece has been reproduced in at least a couple of books including  the way beyond 'art' - the work of herbert bayer (Wittenborn, Schultz), from 1949.

Bayer (1900 – 1985), was an Austrian-born graphic designer, painter, photographer, sculptor, interior designer and architect who at the end of his life was  widely recognized as the last living member of the Bauhaus. His best known work may be "Lonely Metropolitan" (which depicts a pair of hands, eyes in their palms, floating before the facade of a building).

The second example of Louise Brooks in a early 20th century piece of art is by Edward Burra. The piece is titled "Composition Collage," and dates from 1929 / 1930. This equally obscure piece also includes the face of the actress (far right), as well as that of Lon Chaney. I am also sure the female face to the far left belongs to someone I have seen before, but just can't recall at this time. Do you know?

Edward Burra (1905 – 1976) was an English painter, draughtsman and print maker, best known for his depictions of the urban underworld. To my eyes, his work, or at least this piece, has a decidedly German Expressionist feel.

Do you know of other early 20th century art which includes a likeness of Louise Brooks? Perhaps some collage or montage by a Czech surrealist? If so, I would love to hear from you. Send an email or post a comment. Maybe, if there were enough of it, we could create a secret museum devoted to the actress.


  1. Whoa! Really interesting pieces this time around. I'm especially fond of the first one, but the second one is fun, too. Very detailed and busy (in a good way). Great choices, Thomas!

  2. Thank you. I think they are especially interesting, given their historic nature.

  3. The Bayer book you mentioned (which is Number 3 in the "Problems of Contemporary Art" series) puts the artist in Berlin from 1928. Was Brooks's notoriety for landing the rôle of Lulu why Bayer chose her for Profil en face? Or even the impetus for the piece? One notices the letter R casts a shadow that resembles a B....

    There's a wealth of information about the work at: http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?sale_number=L05810&live_lot_id=102
    Missing, though, is the identity of the face in Profil. Could have made a few quids' difference at auction, eh?

    (The next up was Lot 103: Herbert Bayer, 'In Search of Times Past' (1959)....)

    * * *

    Tomorrow, the final round of the 13th annual Lotte Lenya Competition (sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation she established) takes place at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music (ESM). Yes, an initial field of 230 singers from Germany, Canada, and the United States has been slashed to 16 hopefuls, each of whom will perform an aria, a Broadway number, and two songs by Weill in a 4½-hour matinee recital at Kilbourn Hall, then a fifth ditty in an evening concert at the Eastman Theatre. Both events are open to the public and FREE (not unusual for the ESM). ... Both Herbert Bayer and Kurt Weill came to Berlin from Dessau (Weill's hometown, in east-central Germany).

  4. ADDENDA Re the identity of the face in Profil, neither Dorner nor Cohen (authors cited by Sotheby's) tumbled to Brooksie. ... I've beheld "the way beyond 'art'" ©1947.

    Re the initial field of 230 singers in the Competition, there were entrants from 12 countries (not three) who either auditioned in New York or submitted a DVD to the Kurt Weill Foundation.

    Only 15 of the 16 finalists made it to Kilbourn Hall. It was announced from the stage that The Metropolitan Opera wouldn't release Ginger Costa-Jackson from rehearsing her upcoming turn in.....Lulu. (Many groaned. And the green-eyed Sicilian would have opened her set with "Habañera" from Carmen!) ... Teresa Stratas, the first soprano to sing the title rôle in the completed version of Lulu (Paris Opera, May 28, 1979), has come to Rochester to judge the competition nine times.

    N.B. It's "a theater singing competition that emphasizes wide-ranging repertoire and the acting of songs within a dramatic context". Video: http://timemanagementtutorials.com/mahagonny/list.php?q=lotte+lenya+competition&filter=on . (The walnut paneling isn't set decoration. It extends throughout the chamber music hall where Pabst's "Der Schatz" played in '26.)


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