Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thinking of Monet

Monet's last years fall into the Belle Epoque....and his art reflected those carefree years before WWI changed the world for good. I have been absent from this blog for more than a year. My husband was diagnosed with a serious illness shortly after the previous blog. I nursed him, and lost him in May. As it goes, it took  a long time to pick up my art again...and I am glad to find that my blogs and my patient followers are still here.

In my new painting, I created a carefree landscape. It is inspired by spring and by matric dance photos I have seen. I am also posting some Monet images:

"Lilac Brollies" by artist Marie Theron
405mm x 305mm oil on canvas board

I quite liked an earlier painting that I did in 2011, called "Busy Lizzies". On seeing a photo of figures in movement that I would love to paint, I immediately reverted back to that cool fresh style of painting. The new one is simply called "Lilac Brollies" to rhyme with the earlier name. To crown it all, the owner of the first painting, wants to buy the new painting as well.

"Busy Lizzies" (2011) by artist Marie Theron
405mm x 305 mm oil on board

The freshness of the Great Masters of Impressionist painting, will always be appealing, and I decided to add some "wiki" images of Monet's umbrella ladies to this post for everyone to enjoy again and again!




Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Birthday Poem

I found this sweet poem on It was written by Victorian poetess Christina Rossetti and goes well with my painting of a girl on a summer picnic.

A Birthday

by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird   
  Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;   
My heart is like an apple-tree   
  Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;   
My heart is like a rainbow shell 
  That paddles in a halcyon sea;   
My heart is gladder than all these,   
  Because my love is come to me.   
Raise me a daïs of silk and down;   
  Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,   
  And peacocks with a hundred eyes;   
Work it in gold and silver grapes,   
  In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;   
Because the birthday of my life
  Is come, my love is come to me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Black Ascot

The famous “Black Ascot” followed the death of racing loving Edward VII in 1910. Instead of not having a meeting at Ascot, citizens arrived in shades of black and white. Black was also fashionable because of the very popular Merry Widow opera. The lower necklines show the influence of soft materials suitable for draping.
This was a fast sketch made in black and white acrylic paint as preparation for one of my French Belles paintings. I liked it like this and did not complete it in colour.
And yes, I forgot to mention: Cecil Beaton was inspired by this history when he designed the fashions for the Ascot Scene in "My Fair Lady"

Monday, April 23, 2012

Summer Song Nostalgia

Summer breeze
summer long
I'll sing to you
my summer song.....

Don't you just love songs and poetry about summer? (I already used Shakespeare's words on summer in an earlier post) As we are experiencing the last days of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the days are mild and lovely! You have to know Cape Town well to really imagine this absolutely serene time.

I was searching for lyrics to write into this piece. "Summertime" by Gerswin is one of those hauntingly beautiful songs. My absolute favourite, though, is "There's a Summerplace", a song my parents loved. It always led to an impropto dance and they were suddenly oblivious of us kids! I would love this as a ringtone for my cell phone, the instrumental version of Percy Faith! And  at the same era of this song,in the early sixties, my college days, we could not live without: " Let's twist again like we did last summer!"

And now to my this warm country in the fifties and sixties, girls wore sunhats, it was part of our carefully planned outfits! Even my school wear included a pristine white girly type of panama. This turquoise hat I painted would do for any time, any age. I invented an Art Nouveau type of background to suggest a pergola-with-blossoms feel.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


How popular was Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, since the days that Shakespeare created the character, based on one of his favourite people in real life, Queen Elizabeth the First! The play A Midsummer' Night's Dream was still performed in garden parties in those golden summer days of the Edwardian era. How the more fortunate country children enjoyed to dress in costume, the most beautiful older girl always playing Titania. She was able to walk softly over leaves and grass, always with her Train of many small children in costume!

Titania: "Come now, a roundel and a fairy song;
Then for the third part of a minute, hence;
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds;
Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats;
And some keep back the clamorous owl, that nightly hoots and wonders
At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;.
Then to your offices, and let me rest.

This is of course followed by high voiced Edwardian/Victorian style singing until Titania sends them off and orders one to stand sentinel. What fun that play must have been, and how little the Edwardian children in those lovely lazy days expected World War I that was to follow within a couple of years to shatter their dream!

This painting shows my own interpretation of Titania!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Edwardian Era: A Winter Hat

Large Edwardian hats were easily worn over large hairstyles. The tornure and other frames and pads were used to support hairstyles in such a way that it looked feminine and not stiff. Onto these hairstyles a hat of any size could be securely pinned. It could be the forward leaning saucer hats of my previous posts, or it could be heavy, wide and cozy hats, perfect for winter, like in this painting.

I love the website where so much research have gone into the many articles. I recommend that you visit the sections on hair and hats from 1900 to 1918 for some fascinating facts. I learnt, for instance, that there were workshops called "plummasiers" where feathers were dyed and made into ornaments. Hats could be very expensive and Edwardians were quite extravagant. When whole birds were made into hat ornaments it was decided after a while that the press should not report about them, to put a stop to the fashion.

I am still using mostly clip art images as my inspiration for paintings on this blog. This image was found in Dover books. The hat is made in warm velvet layers lined with black and is worn with a suit, a fashion that started about 1908.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Edwardian Era: Parma Violets

Among the very affluent classes in Edwardian times, fresh cut flowers was brought indoors to decorate each room of the house. "Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management" (1906) declared that they added a touch of refinement on the dinner table. Pretty potted parma violets, the chosen flower of the period, could even be used to decorate the breakfast table. After reading my blog (and commenting if you please), look at the delightful Lady with a Bowl of Violets (1910) by Lilla Cabot Perry.

On ladies' clothing former "artificials" would now compete with real roses and carnations. Parma violets, with their lovely scent, appeared as hat, hip, pulse or neck decorations. The shade of these pretty flowers entered fashion in amazing ways! I read about the outfit for an Edwardian bride: "corsets, perhaps in a delicate parma violet shade, could be enticingly pretty"! So here is my oil painting showing a long frock-type walking dress with a swivel hemline in that colour, with matching hat.

I should point out that a ladies' maid had much to do with the completed look of the lady of leisure. She had to be very skilled with hair and with tying in and corsetting the waist. It would take her at least an hour to sew the brush braid (cleaned and laundered) into the hemline of her lady 's dress to catch the mud and dirt (Nowwww, we know!!!)

In 3 previous posts I have summarized the characteristics of Edwardian fashion. So here are more points to take note of:

  • The skirts of dresses were narrow and flat-fronted and ended in floor-dragging swivel hemlines that had to protected by the two- and- a-half yard brush braid, sewn on before venturing out.
  • Many Edwardian hats were tilted forward to show all that lovely piled hair in the back.
  • Hat decorations were elaborate and could feature artificial of fresh flowers and dyed ostrich feathers.
  • A very lacy jabot with scarf-like frills was a single piece that could be worn with different outfits. Flower and ribbon posies, jabots and boned collars were called "novelties" in the shops.
  • I mentioned before that the S-shaped stance was not very comfortable. Ladies would lean on umbrellas and in my painting she has a long delicate walking stick.
And of course, the aim of today's painting: another trait to take note of! A new colour was born in Edwardian times: parma violet. The photo of the real flower is published with kind permission of the photographer, the rest of the collage shows images of violets from various Victorian cards. I am running away from the main topic here, but it is interesting to read the research done by The American Violet Society about violets in art.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Edwardian Era: The Walking Dress

The fashions of Edwardian Era is defined by the moneyed classes. Ladies could get into many outfits during the day! Shopping was a typical morning activity during which the lady would buy linens for the house or see her dressmaker or milliner. For the activity a "town dress" was worn. For just staying home she got dressed in her "morning dress"! During the afternoon social calls took place for which the "tea gown" was ideal. Another day activity which took place before dinners, balls and opera, was the strolling through parks or gardens, hence the "walking dress"!

Here are some more of the typical traits in Edwardian fashion. I bet you never suspected that I would take you through so many lectures, just on one particular era!

  • No more would the crinolenes and hoops, the bustles and the multi-layered petticoats be seen. From now on the skirts of dresses became narrower, going down straight down in front, a little fullness over the behind, inwards towards the knees and again outwards at the hem. This hem could extend to suggest a train. After I painted my lady I just loved the dainty line of her skirt over narrow hips. This is so different from the old full-skirted styles of previous centuries.
  • My cherry red outfit also has a frilled jacket which like a bolero makes the top appear very full and the waist petite.
  • A white beaded and embroidered shirt with high boned collar gives a lovely accent to the outfit! Blouses began to become more important after 1910 as a garment which did not always need a jacket.
  • Edwardian hats came in many styles, but this they had in common: they had to take the hair into account. This hat has a tiny pillbox with wide rim so designed that the upswept hairstyle is visible.
  • The ostrich feather ornament must have "cost a pretty penny" as only the white ones could be dyed to match an outfit. During the ostrich feather boom in Europe some ostrich farmers in South Africa became exceptionally wealthy and the "ostrich palaces" they built for themselves can still be seen around Outshoorn. Sad to say, World War I put and end to this trade.
  • The matching parasol for each outfit was not exceptional, but rather the rule in Edwardian times. The parasol was always long and elegant and the lady could rest on hers like on a walking stick when she got tired trying to maintain her tilted figure. Queen Alexandra often carried a long closed umbrella.
  • Ladies were never without gloves, and this white pair matches the blouse and hat!
In my next post I paint another walking dress and pay tribute to the most favoured flower of Edwardian times....want to guess in the meantime what it was? (Today I suppose that means guess or Google)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Edwardian Era: The Wasp Waist

The Victorian era had a somewhat austere atmosphere under their queen who was for ever in heavy mourning gear, under shawls, pleats and petticoats. Edward VII brought with him a licence to lightness, and the fresh spirit of La Belle Epoque blew in from the continent. The Edwardian woman was dressed up, out and about and sure to be seen with her sinuous S-curved silhoette!

The mainstay of the Edwardian fashion form was the tailor made corset, also seen as a "health corset"! The waist was clinched in to the smallest possible size and the tummy totally flattened. All available flesh was pushed backward to form an ample posterior and upwards to show a heavy breast line. Read more about The Edwardian Silhoette here!

I made up this painting to continue my list of typical Edwardian fashion traits:

  • Edwardian ladies, although going around with low necklines at night, was dressed from their chins to their feet in the daytime, even wearing long gloves and never venturing out without hats and parasols.
  • The "wasp waist" ruled supreme! The process could start with ribbons tied tightly, then the corset would be pulled over and tightened with some help from a ladies' maid!
  • Heavy trimmings and lots of detail in the bodice helped to enlarge the top and minimize the waist even more. Even padding could be placed against the skin under the arms. In this dress the mock bolero has scallops, contrasting trim (often in velvet as was seen in my previous painting), a blouse effect and plenty of buttons ( a great craze of the times).
  • A flat tummy and neat pleats kept the flattened effect in place in the front of the skirt.
  • This was the time of Art Nouveau, with its flowing organic lines. I painted a type of screen to show the relation between Art Nouveau design and the Edwardian sillhoette. Both styles followed a design of balance and counter-balance and exaggerated curves.
  • Edwardian collars were high and stiffened with stays and bones, making the neck appear very slim and were playing the role that the pearl "dog collars" played at night.
  • The Arts and Crafts Revival put the emphasis on beautiful handmade furniture and objects. Likewise an enormous amount of labour was spent in the making of one ladies outfit with its matching jacket, parasol and hat, belts and shoes, with all the trimmings and insets, boning, ribbons and lace. Working girls with careers could never keep up the pace!
The S-shaped stance, so very pretty, was not very comfortable and one often sees photos of Edwardian ladies leaning onto thin parasol handles, walking sticks or any nearby pedestal! There is a lot more to learn about this fashion era! My collage shows the dress pattern which inspired my painting, ( From "Costume and Fashion") and some waist-thinning corsets from the same book and from Dover clip art. Read more about the wasp waist and waist-thinning corsets here

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Edwardian Era

This blog started off as a fun blog with pretty fashion ladies and other French symbols! But since beginning it, I have ordered books from all over the world and collected lots of clip art. I often spend time in second-hand book stores too, concentrating on period and historical literature .

I am therefore creating some order here and will start with the first great fashion era of the century: The Edwardian Era, fondly known as la belle epoque and also called the Long Edwardian Summer! King Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria set the scene with a lavish and opulent lifestyle. He loved France and all things French and Queen Alexandra was the first to wear many of the new trends.
This simple painting shows many Edwardian fashion trends:
  • The hair, supplemented by false hair pieces, was piled high and loosely on top of the head with a fringe effect over the forehead. Pads and frames were used to keep the hair gently in place. There were "tornure" frames and heart-shaped frames. With a frame in place the hair could support large hats too.
  • The neck for evening wear was wide open to the bust line which appeared as one single rise of flesh.
  • The stance of the Edwardian lady was very upright, just think of "Eliza Doolittle" in the ball scene in "My Fair Lady"! Undergarments played a role in this stance and I will have a post about them.
  • All soft pastel shades were worn: pink, blue , mauve and soft shades called "eau de Nile" and "ashes of roses"! The soft shades matched the lightness of the fabrics. Here we see a lemon yellow ball dress by Gustav Beer, maybe the first German designer to open shop in Paris.
  • Inserts, like the purple velvet insets seen here was popular, and lace was quite the rage! This dress have shoulder straps, rosettes and trimmings of lace and ribbon contrasts.
  • The lace- trimmed open-ended sleeves were called pagoda sleeves. Don't they just look like pagodas?
  • Another great Edwardian fashion trend shown in my painting, is the "dog collar" made of many rows of pearls and fastened with a diamond clasp, one of the fashions first seen on Queen Alexandra. Read more about Queen Alexandra's Pearls.
  • Already in this painting, there is a hint of the small (wasp) waist, of which I will tell more in the next post!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hats for Smart Wear

Towards 1927 smart suits were worn by women and "misses" alike. The world started a lasting love affair with crisp white shirts, also called overblouses in the Twenties as they were not always tucked into the skirts but had a band around the hips to round off the design. The blouses could be made from chiffon, a material called radium silk, and popular English broadcloth! Now why does that last material sound so strong and practical?

Feathers and porcupine quils were found on hats throughout the Twenties and I decided to use a Berti Borelli type of design for my belle with the unexposed hair, the black parts being part of the hat design and not hair! And, yes, you can buy vintage style hats on E-Bay today! And one last thought, one can still spot the Victorian bonnet in the style!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's Day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And Summer's lease hath all too short a date.....

(From Shakespeare Sonnet # 18)

6x6 (200 x 200mm) Oil on Canvas

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hello, Young Lovers

Hello young lovers wherever you are,

I hope your troubles are few,

All my good wishes go with you tonight,

I've been in love like you.

(Words from The King & I, Rodgers& Hammerstein)

Oil on canvas 6"x 6" ( 200 x 200mm)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Irresistible Lavender

Lavender plants are noted for the flowers from which aromatic oils are produced. I cannot pass a lavender bush without rubbing some of the buds through my fingers. How wonderful also that these tiny flowers in mass can make such an amazing display! A special thank you to the French with their wonderful displays of many square miles of lavender bushes. Those scenes are just too much to bear, one can only call it 'overfill of the senses'!

My painting is extremely plain as I am thinking of the delicate display of a single lavender bush under a lace-filled window. This is my second lavender painting for this blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Will Remember Your Kiss

I took the title for this post directly from one of the songs in the vintage songbook. There is no publishing date on it, but the fashions look like it could be from the 20-30's. On top of the cover is this warning: This book must not be exported for sale in America, Canada or Australasia. Now why on earth not???, I wonder!

The sketch on the cover is lovely! Those artists knew how to capture the spirit of their time. I used it for inspiration for my latest French Belle, and tried to make it more romantic by showing the man as a silhouette.

The ostrich feather in the girl's hand was the type of fan used in the early thirties, with most of the feathers imported from South Africa, where in our country several "ostrich barons" were smiling broadly at the demands of fashion! Now here is The Duchess of Windsor wearing a feather headdress (very queenly) and holding a feather fan. This was her introduction to the Royal court in 1931. (I took the photo from her book: "The Heart has it's Reasons")

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Little Straw Boater

Now is this true or not: we had our fill of a couple of ridiculous hats this week, on viewing and reviewing the Royal Wedding? What was true of the previous centuries, is true today, and that is that most feathers look better on the original bird than on a lady's hat!

In the Twenties there were actual publicity and movements to stop the use of 'bits of animal or bird', like those bound bundles of feathers or porcupine quills which were perched on the side of hats. Worse were the ostrich feathers which could be seen bobbing way above the heads of most of the males in a room!

So here is something innocent and refreshing, the straw boater! These hats became popular once again when women gained their freedom of dress in the Twenties. What could be more ideal to wear for summer picnic lunches, drives in open Model T Fords, playing golf or tennis, hiking or cycling?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sweet Spring Rain

A little bit of rain, nothing serious! My sweet blonde belle's umbrella is more for the show of it! To sing her praises, I chose this extract from a17th century poem. It shows that femininity is very enduring!

"With solace and gladness,
Much mirth and no madness,
All good and no badness,
So joyously,
So maidenly,
So womanly,
Her demeaning
In every thing;
Far, far passing
That I can endite
Or suffice to write......." from To Mistress Margaret Hussey by J.Skelton

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

As French as....Eating Al Fresco

We all know where we first saw a pebbled courtyard with outdoor furniture and umbrellas attached to a good restaurant. It was in France! Now, all over the world we are fortunate as everyone has their favourite outdoor eatery. I have painted Cafe Felix at Riebeek Kasteel, a tiny artists town not far from home.

Of course, dining "out" at home can be such fun! We have an ocean breeze to cool us as we enjoy our light fare. This is the way I prepare the salad: cut up ripe room temperature tomatoes into a flat wide dish, salt them with freshly grated course salt, pour on olive oil and leave the dish for a while. This is the time to pick rocket, basil, fennel, broad-leaved parsley and lots of spring onions in the kitchen garden. Wash lightly, pat dry and break the leaves on top of the happily marinating tomatoes. Just before dishing up, toss thoroughly. Do not add avocado, nuts, fruit or anything else! I am a purist when it comes to this salad!

Is there an aroma of barbecued angel fish coming from the braai area? Super! Bring out an olive bread on a wooden board. Pour the wine! Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wearing a scarf with Flair

There is one thing about a Frenchwoman: she definitely knows how to wear a scarf! In my bedroom there are some hooks brim-full with the most beautiful scarves which friends and family brought me.

Every Frenchwoman throws a scarf over her clothes, they say, and you should do it too! Do these lovely gifts suit me? No! If I do try one on, no matter where I wear it, it will seem as if I have headache, neck-ache or toothache! It does not help that many of my forebears were French!

This French Belle was one of the first I painted. She was adopted by a small company that sells imported French fruit drinks. Unlike me, my Belle knows what style of scarf will go with her white sun dress and beads!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reading on the Patio

Being French is all about being feminine, even when you sit alone under the wisteria, reading and relaxing. My belle is looking ageless with tied hair with a live flower in it.