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Real women stay at home

Anne Hollander, 12 July 1990

Laura Ashley: A Life by Design 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £15, May 1990, 0 297 81044 8
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... reaping the profits of a business. To accomplish this double manoeuvre, as we learn from Anne Sebba’s book, she had to find a man who would not only be a clever business partner but a dominating sort of husband, for whom she could play The Angel while managing refractory children household and business accounts, creative projects and inner ...

How he got out of them

Anne Hollander, 24 September 1992

Kafka’s Clothes: Ornament and Aestheticism in the Habsburg ‘Fin-de-Siècle’ 
by Mark Anderson.
Oxford, 231 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 815162 4
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... The jacket photo​ for Kafka’s Clothes shows him without any, sitting tailor-fashion on a beach, smiling above naked shoulders and a thin chest, the prominent ears rhyming with prominent bony knees. His swimming trunks are obscured in shadow. It’s not at all the stiff-collared, well-buttoned Kafka we’re used to, and the one introduced in the interior of this study is also unfamiliar ...

God in the Body

Anne Hollander, 25 January 1996

Cahiers: Le Sentiment 
by Nijinsky, translated into French by Christian Dumais-Lvorski and Galina Pogojeva.
Actes Sud, 300 pp., frs 140, January 1995, 2 7427 0314 4
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... This book is a cry of pure pain, immensely difficult to read without groaning and sometimes weeping and getting up to pace the floor. Its flavour is aptly illustrated by the shocking jacket photograph of Nijinsky undergoing a catatonic seizure at the age of 37, about eight years after he wrote this text. With his necktie neatly knotted, his face shaven and his hair combed, hands curled up, the greatest dancer of his epoch – some say of any epoch – stares into the lens with a horrifying sacrificial patience ...


Anne Hollander, 10 March 1994

Life into Art: Isadora Duncan and Her World 
edited by Dorée Duncan, Carol Pratl and Cynthia Splatt.
Norton, 198 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 393 03507 7
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... Isadora Duncan refused to be filmed while she danced. The most eager prophet of modern bodily movement avoided the great new vessel of the truth a motion – unwilling, it would seem, to do without the audience rapport that was indispensable to her success. Her reluctance went with her noticeably religious attitude toward her own dancing, and toward art in general ...

How not to be disgusting

Anne Hollander, 6 December 1990

Coco Chanel: A Biography 
by Axel Madsen.
Bloomsbury, 388 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 7475 0762 7
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... Gabrielle Chanel is famous for the Little Black Dress, the Chanel Suit and Chanel No 5. The three can effectively sum up the Modern Woman, suggesting female elegance without pretension and feminine allure without musk and whalebone. The Chanel style precludes the traditional forms of guile by which women have been supposed to arouse a man’s desire in order to lay hands on his money, rather than match his lust with their own ...

Without Looking

Anne Hollander, 3 August 1995

The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy 
by Gilles Lipovetsky, translated by Catherine Porter.
Princeton, 276 pp., £19.95, December 1994, 0 691 03373 0
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... The first striking thing about Gilles Lipovetsky’s book is the complete absence of illustrations, even diagrams and graphs. This may be the first book about fashion without pictures – even Roland Barthes used diagrams. Of course, Balzac’s ‘Physiologie de la toilette’ didn’t have any, but that originally appeared in a magazine, and journal publication can preclude pictures even now ...

Just How It was

Anne Hollander: The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, 7 May 1998

Tête à Tête: Portraits by Henri Cartier-Bresson 
edited by E.H. Gombrich.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £32, February 1998, 9780500542187
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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans 
edited by Jean Clair.
Thames and Hudson, 231 pp., £29.95, January 1998, 0 500 28052 5
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... Like Titian’s, Cartier-Bresson’s work began as the mirror of one epoch and is ending as that of another, simply because he invented the best mirror and kept polishing it Cartier-Bresson’s influence has been immense since his beginnings, not just on photography but on cinema and photojournalism, so that he has been largely responsible for 20th-century notions of what a superior realistic camera image should look like ...

His Own Private Armenia

Anne Hollander: Arshile Gorky, 1 April 2004

Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work 
by Hayden Herrera.
Bloomsbury, 767 pp., £35, October 2003, 9780747566472
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Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings 
edited by Janie Lee and Melvin Lader.
Abrams, 272 pp., £30, December 2003, 0 87427 135 5
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... Arshile Gorky is better known for his role in 20th-century American art than he is for his actual work. The collective memory, besides noting that his art reputedly links 1930s Surrealism to 1950s Abstract Expressionism, is rather vague about his pictures: were they realistic? Abstract? Easier to remember that he committed suicide, that he was a romantic character, that he was a liar ...

As Good as Nude

Anne Hollander: Women in White, 6 April 2006

Dressed in Fiction 
by Clair Hughes.
Berg, 214 pp., £17.99, December 2005, 1 84520 172 8
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... and ‘ghostly’. Laura, rich and timid, is praised for her unassuming and fragile white attire; Anne, poor and mad, wears white garments made of coarse fabrics. The true heroine, however, is dark, ‘ugly’ Marian, whom only the villain openly admires, though the narrator notes her lithe figure. Marian is swarthy, moustached and wears no stays, facts that ...

Wear and Tear

Anne Hollander, 6 February 1997

Yves St Laurent: A Biography 
by Alice Rawsthorn.
HarperCollins, 405 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 00 255543 3
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... Alice Rawsthorn begins her book about Yves St Laurent with a dramatic prologue evoking a period late in the designer’s career, specifically the end of January and the beginning of February 1990. This opening functions as a sort of morality play, suggesting how we might view the story that follows. Yves St Laurent is introduced receiving a 13-minute ovation for his 1990 spring couture collection, a show comprising many dazzling examples of his homage to the clients, artists and predecessors who have inspired him for thirty years ...

Diamonds on your collarbone

Anne Hollander, 10 September 1992

Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham 
by Agnes DeMille.
Hutchinson, 509 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 09 175219 1
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Blood Memory: An Autobiography 
by Martha Graham.
Macmillan, 279 pp., £20, March 1992, 0 333 57441 9
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... The death of Martha Graham on 1 April 1991, a little more than a month before her 97th birthday, finally permitted Agnes DeMille to publish her biography of the dancer, after nearly twenty-five years of work and four years of waiting. It is a measure of DeMille’s reverence for Graham that she should have withheld until after Graham’s death what is by any standards an affectionate and appreciative account of her life and art, rather than risk of fending Graham’s own sense of herself in the slightest degree ...

Leg-and-Skirt Management

Anne Hollander: Fascist Fashions, 21 April 2005

Nazi Chic? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich 
by Irene Guenther.
Berg, 499 pp., £17.99, April 2004, 9781859737170
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Fashion under Fascism: Beyond the Black Shirt 
by Eugenia Paulicelli.
Berg, 227 pp., £15.99, February 2004, 1 85973 778 1
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... Fashion was always famous for its power, but only quite recently have people believed it has meaning. From time to time during the last two hundred years, writers have uneasily asserted that everything important about individuals, even about whole civilisations, could be learned from what people wore; but by the end of the 20th century, the meaning of clothing had become a respectable subject in its own right ...

Bought a gun, found the man

Anne Hollander: Eadweard Muybridge, 24 July 2003

Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge 
by Rebecca Solnit.
Bloomsbury, 305 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 7475 6220 2
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... The frontispiece to this biographical study is an unknown photographer’s portrait of the bearded Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) taken in about 1872. He sits awkwardly hunched on a crate with his back against a sequoia, grimly frowning into the distance, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a rumpled three-piece suit. His ragged trouser hems are prominent in the foreground, along with his muddy wrinkled boots ...

Slicing and Mauling

Anne Hollander: The Art of War, 6 November 2003

From Criminal to Courtier: The Soldier in Netherlandish Art 1550-1672 
by David Kunzle.
Brill, 645 pp., £64, November 2002, 90 04 12369 5
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... David Kunzle’s monumental book, fusing deep historical scholarship with polemical zeal and pictorial acumen, has appeared at an apt historical moment. Several weeks ago I looked up from studying some of its illustrations, and my eye fell on the front-page photograph in that day’s International Herald Tribune. The picture seemed to have slid straight out of Kunzle’s book, from somewhere between Soldiers Threatening a Peasant by Pieter Codde (1599-1678) and Soldiers and Hostages by Willem Duyster (1599-1635 ...


Anne Hollander: Wild Lee Miller, 20 July 2006

Lee Miller 
by Carolyn Burke.
Bloomsbury, 426 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 7475 8793 0
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... Lee Miller invented her first name as if to veil her femaleness when she was a society beauty and fashion model in the 1920s. It went along with a new shift in the style of sexual excitement, a new pleasure in androgyny: what Carolyn Burke discreetly calls ‘a redistribution of sexual energies’.Later, her neutral first name helped to advance her short New York career as a professional portrait photographer, before women were wholly welcome in the field; and much later, long after she had distinguished herself as a French Surrealist icon and a British war correspondent, her name could sometimes be confused with Lee Friedlander’s, even though he was a very different artist with a long-term, stable fame ...

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