“We Are the World” released, 1985

On this day in 1985, the single “We Are the World” was released by the group USA for Africa as a rallying song for famine relief in Africa. The song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. “We Are the World” was largely inspired by the success of Band-Aid’s 1984 charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the United Kingdom. Thus, on January 21, after the American Music Awards, 48 musically and racially diverse artists gathered to belt out the anthem “We Are the World.”

Here is the video which features artists such as Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, and Ray Charles. It’s 7 minutes long (how else are they going to squeeze that much star power in one video?)  but definitely worth watching. Although some criticized the song for being self-applauding or for not exploring the reasons for the famine, the song was ultimately well-received by the public and became the first certified multi-platinum single. “We Are the World” has raised over $63 million since its release and continues to have an impact in the musical industry.

With the 1985 single “We Are the World” came a resurgence in political and humanitarian themes in music. In fact, in 2010 after disastrous earthquakes occurred in Haiti, “We Are the World” was rerecorded by new artists to appeal to a younger generation. I like the message but I’m not sure how I feel about the combined musical stylings of Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber.

Have a good weekend!

Berthe Morisot, 1841

On this day in 1841, Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges, France. Her father was a high-ranking government official and her grandfather was a Rococo painter.

Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets, Edoaurd Manet, 1872, via

At the time, upper-class women were under rigid social rules. They were encouraged to study the fine arts, such as painting, which could be practiced with other women, but were not encouraged to become famous painters or sell their art in shows. Despite their traditional upbringing, Morisot and her sister Edma moved to Paris to study and copy paintings at the Louvre in the late 1950s under Joseph Guichard. They also studied with Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, a landscape painter for several years. Corisot encouraged Morisot to paint en plein air, or “outdoors.”

At one point, Corot wrote in a letter to the Morisot sisters’ mother, “With characters like your daughters, my teaching will make them painters, not minor amateur talents. Do you really understand what that means? In the world of the grande bourgeoisie in which you move, it would be a revolution. I would even say a catastrophe.”

Sure enough, Morisot exhibited her work for the first time in the prestigious show, the Salon, in 1864. The Salon was the official show of the state-run organization the Academie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts) in Paris.

Vue du petit port de Lorient (The Harbor at Lorient), 1869, via

Over the years, Morisot’s paintings became more Impressionistic. Impressionism is a painting style that originated in France in the 19th century. It focuses on natural light, features bold colors, and utilizes short, visible brush strokes. This style of painting was revolutionary at the time because it rejected the conventional painting style, which was very detailed and realistic. Impressionism, on the other hand, gave more of an “impression” of a scene than a painstakingly detailed depiction. Furthermore, Impressionist painters often depicted “snapshots” of daily life such as dreamy landscapes or scenes from domestic life. Because Impressionism was unconventional, many Impressionist painters were rejected from showing in the Salon.

In 1868, Morisot met Impressionist artist Edouard Manet, with whom she had a lasting friendship. Morisot became even more involved in the Impressionist community, marrying Manet’s brother, Eugene, in 1874 and becoming friends with other influential Impressionist painters such as Edgar Degas and Frederic Bazille.

Le Berceau (The Cradle), 1872, was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition, via

Morisot had a regular spot in the Salon, but in 1874, she chose to exhibit her work at the first independent Impressionist show instead. She continued to show her work in every show except for 1877 when she was pregnant with her daughter Julie. After Julie’s birth, she soon became Morisot’s favorite subject.

Julie Rêveuse (Julie Daydreaming), 1894, via

Although Morisot’s style was modern for the time, she enjoyed the support of many critics during her lifetime. Here is Charles Ephrussi’s beautiful description of Morisot’s work from the Gazette des Beaux-Arts:

Berthe Morisot is very French in her distinction, elegance, gaiety and nonchalance. She loves painting that is joyous and lively; she grinds flower petals onto her palette, in order to spread them later on her canvas with airy, witty touches, thrown down a little haphazardly. These harmonise, blend, and finish by producing something vital, fine, and charming.

Eugene Manet died in 1892, and Morisot continued to paint. While never attaining commercial success during her lifetime, she outsold many of her contemporaries including Monet and Renoir, had a solo exhibition in 1892, and had one of her paintings purchased by the government in 1894.

Morisot died from pneumonia on March 2, 1895 at the age of 54.

Psyché, 1876, via 

I’m fascinated by Morisot, because she not only broke the rules of conventional French painting, she also broke expectations for her gender by pursuing a career in painting.

I love learning about French art movements. In fact, one of my first posts was about Rene Magritte, my favorite surrealist painter.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Washington Monument Opens,1888

On this day in 1888, America’s favorite obelisk, the Washington Monument, opened to the public.

Construction began on July 4, 1848 for a 600-foot monument to honor America’s first president, George Washington. However, construction ceased in 1854 when the tower was only 152 feet tall due to lack of funds and more pressing problems in America (*cough* Civil War *cough*). Work on the monument began again in 1876, but with a slightly different color of marble. This is why the first 152 feet of the Washington Monument are a different hue.

The fact that the monument is monochromatic just makes the continuity error so much more blatant. They had one job!

 

In addition, it was determined after the Civil War that the foundation could not support a 600-foot monument, as originally planned. It stands today at 555 feet, and, by law, no other building in Washington, D.C. is allowed to be taller.

In the end, I  really like the imperfections of the Washington Monument. They are a physical reminder of the resilience of a nation that was once divided but came together in the end.

The Metropolitan Opera House Opens, 1966

On this day in 1966, the Metropolitan Opera House opened on Broadway at Lincoln Square in New York City. The new Met replaced an older Metropolitan Opera House on 39th Street that was established in 1883, but demolished in 1967 after it was deemed to small to house the growing Metropolitan Opera Company.

Former Metropolitan Opera House

The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, designed by Wallace K Harrison, has 3,800 seats and 195 places to stand to watch a performance.

The current Metropolitan Opera House, in all its glory.

Beautiful chandeliers hang in the auditorium before performances and are raised into the ceiling during the performance.

Here is a trailer for the upcoming season at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Okay, flashback time to my one and only opera experience:

I saw Romeo and Juliet at the Winspear Opera  House in Dallas with my French class in ninth grade, because the opera was in French for some reason (Italian setting + English playwright = French opera?). Everyone got dressed up and we rode there together on our yellow school bus.

We got there with plenty of time to spare, so we waded in the reflecting pool in front of the stunning opera house and visited the gift shop. I also decided to purchase some ridiculously overpriced Toblerone. It’s all part of the experience, I guess. Afterwards, we did some people watching, which was fun because there were some pretty highfalutin people there.

Eventually, we made our ways up and up and up to our humble nosebleed seats. The people around us were thrilled, I’m sure, to see a group of 20 ninth graders sit near them.

But I digress.

Like the Met, there was a stunning chandelier in the auditorium before the performance. Suddenly, the chandelier ascended into the ceiling, the lights dimmed, and the music began. I was so excited! And even though I knew the general story of Romeo and Juliet and I was a French student, I was relieved to see that English subtitles were projected onto the curtain above the stage. This is going to be great! I thought.

And it was… at first. Act 1 was glorious, but then it kept going and going and going. My excitement for opera waned as the night went on. This thing was LONG! By the end, I just couldn’t wait for the characters to die. When Juliet stabbed herself in the diaphragm, I thought, Yes! She can’t possibly sing now! It must be over! But no, she continues to sing even with the dagger lodged in her rib cage. How does that work? HOW? But finally, she collapsed for good, sang her last note, and the velvet curtains closed.

I wanted to love the opera, but it was just too long, and the music- beautiful at first- really started to irritate me by the end. But still, whenever I see a trailer for the opera, I think that I should give the opera another chance, if for no other reason than the Toblerone.

Do you like the opera? Do you like the idea of the opera?

Édouard Boubat, 1923

There are certain pictures I can never take. We turn on the TV and are smothered with cruelty and suffering and I don’t need to add to it. So I just photograph peaceful things. A vase of flowers, a beautiful girl. Sometimes, through a peaceful face, I can bring something important into the world.
-Edouard Boubat

French photographer Edouard Boubat was born on this day in 1923 in Montmartre, Paris. He became a photojournalist after World War II with the goal of celebrating life. He studied at L’Ecole Estienne and won the Kodak Prize in 1947. Boubat also won the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in 1984.

Neige a Central Park (Snow in Central Park), New York, 1964

La Partition, Paris, 1982

Paris Pont Des Arts, 1990

Cafe De Flore, Saint Germain des Pres, Paris, 1953

Happy Friday!

Gene Kelly, 1912

Gene Kelly in the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain.

You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.

-Gene Kelly

On this day in 1912, actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, and all-around talented guy Gene Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

If you haven’t seen Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” number, then WATCH IT RIGHT NOW! Seriously, though. It is a classic. It gives me the urge to use pretentious film critic phrases such as “the pinnacle of film musicals,” “a quintessential dance number,” and “the zenith of Kelly’s career.”

Here’s the bad news about Gene Kelly: he was a bit of a tyrant on set. He even made Debbie Reynolds cry.  Why Gene Kelly? Why?

I think the root of his tyranny was an innate perfectionism. He was just as hard on himself as others. Kelly shot the “Singin’ in the Rain” number with a 101 degree fever! Kelly was intensely dedicated to work, and it shows.

Gene Kelly

Further reading:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045152/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv

http://www.biography.com/people/gene-kelly-9362176

When you learn something bad about an actor, does that spoil their work for you?

The Mona Lisa is stolen, 1911

Today, the Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous and recognizable painting in the world. However, this was not always the case.

The Mona Lisa achieved international fame after it was stolen from the Louvre on this day in 1911. Shockingly enough, no one realized it was gone until the next day. The person who discovered it was missing thought that it was simply out being photographed, but eventually realized it was, in fact, stolen. Quelle horreur! 

No one was safe from suspicion. Those accused included Pablo Picasso and JP Morgan. About 60 detectives set out to find the culprit(s). However, this scandalous theft eventually became a cold case. The perpetrator was not found for two whole years after the crime. It turned out that the culprit was Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian carpenter who actually helped construct the glass case protecting the painting. Peruggia was an Italian patriot who claimed he wanted the Mona Lisa in its home country of Italy.

The culprit, Vincenzo Peruggia.

Further reading:

http://history1900s.about.com/od/famouscrimesscandals/a/monalisa_3.htm

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/30/138800110/the-theft-that-made-the-mona-lisa-a-masterpiece

Did you know the Mona Lisa was stolen? Would it be as famous if it weren’t? Do you believe there is more to the story than just an Italian patriot wanting to return the Mona Lisa to Italy?