“Amrita Sher-Gil (Punjabi: ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਾ ਸ਼ੇਰਗਿੱਲ; 30 January 1913 – 5 December 1941) was an eminent Indian painter. She has been called “one of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century” and a “pioneer” in modern Indian art. Drawn to painting at a young age, Sher-Gil started getting formal lessons in the art, at the age of eight. Sher-Gil first gained recognition at the age of 19, for her oil painting entitled Young Girls (1932).
Sher-Gil traveled throughout her life, to countries including Europe, Turkey, France and India, deriving heavily from their art styles and cultures. Sher-Gil is considered an important woman painter of 20th-century India, whose legacy stands on a par with that of the pioneers of Bengal Renaissance.She was also an avid reader and a pianist.” (x)
Now I have always been a very big fan of unconventional art movements. Not only do I appreciate how those art movements have influenced what we see today, but the history that prompted them is rather revolutionary. Today, I want to appreciate the women who aren’t as well-known as the great Frida Kahlo. This post is more focused in the late 1910’s, to the 1930’s period. It is to honour some of the out-of-the-box women that I admire so much, from all sorts of movements. Here we go!
Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999)
Not just a formally taught and talented artist, but Lundeberg was actually one of the founders of what would be known as the Post-Surrealism art movement, later leaning to abstraction in the 1950’s. She was not only talented, but extremely intelligent, earning a place at Stanford University for “brilliant children.” Now while I said I would focus on the lesser-known artists, Lundeberg is a rather more famous one. However she is a tough one to leave out. She was especially famous during the 1930’s. She was in charge to create multiple murals, and her exhibitions (including her early solo exhibits) were very successful. It’s interesting to see her works evolve during her life, yet remain distinctly recognizable as hers.
Above: Portrait of Inez, 1933, by Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999).
Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943)
Certainly a woman ahead of her time, Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s artwork as a painter, sculptor, textile designer, furniture, interior designer, architect and dancer all scream “modern woman.” She studied different art forms, primarily textile art, formally in some areas. She was quite heavy in the Dada scene, yet her Constructivist works are probably her most recognizable. Her use of colours of her geometric forms are what draw the eye. Taeuber-Arp’s talent and hard work earned her a position teaching weaving and other textile arts at the Zürich Kunstgewerbeschule (Zürich University of the Arts). She was a woman that appreciated art in all its forms, and many appreciated the way she presented them. In fact, her flexibility and talent is appreciated today, as she is, in fact, the only woman on the current series of Swiss banknotes in Switzerland.
Above: Oval Composition with Abstract Motifs, 1922, by Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943).
Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968)
Another intelligent artistic lady on the list, Marguerite Zorach became interested in art at a very young age. She, luckily, was blessed with very supportive parents that encouraged her to study everything related with liberal arts. People generally don’t get as unconventional as Zorach really was. Influenced by friends such as Picasso and Matisse, she is naturally recognized for her Fauvist work. Even her husband commented “I just couldn’t understand why such a nice girl would paint such wild pictures.” It may sound like he didn’t approve, but her husband (William Zorach) loved the way she stood out from a crowd. While she settled her “wild” painting side and became more focused on her family, she was titled president to the New York Society of Women Artists. Throughout her life Zorach experimented in all kinds of art media - even making clothes. You can certainly tell the different influences and evolution of her works. Because of this she received mixed criticism throughout her artistic years, yet her works are remembered today.
Above: Death of a Miner, 1930, by Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968).
Pan Yuliang (1899-1977)
Truly a woman to differ from the mainstream (and possibly my favourite on this list). Pan Yuliang is considered China’s “first woman in the country to paint in the Western style.” Unlike many of the woman included in this list, Yuliang did not come from a family of prominence. Just at the age of 14, she was sold by her uncle to a brothel and forced into prostitution. In an amazing turn of events, however, she was noticed by a kind wealthy man who brought her freedom. Becoming his second wife and adopting his last name, he sponsored her education and allowed her artistic abilities to flourish. Because of her talent, fast learning, and hard work, she was accepted in not only the Shanghai Art School, but also numerous schools in Europe. This even included Italy’s Roman Royal Art Academy. Pan Yuliang wasn’t particularly loved by all in China, however. Her works caused some outrage in her home country, and she eventually settled in France, where her paintings were more appreciated.
Above: Detail of Self-portrait, 1936, by Pan Yuliang (1899-1977).
Aleksandra Ekster (1882-1949)
Another abstract woman to appreciate, Russian painter Aleksandra Ekster uniquely used her skills for design purposes. Because of her extraordinary designs, she was required to work in numerous fabulous cities, from places in her home country of Russia, to the romantic Paris, France. Thanks to her prominent and wealthy family, Ekster was free to study art formally, later graduating from Kiev Art School. Her life was the ultimate art fantasy, as she organised meetings at her studio for Russia’s “intellectual elite.” This included artists, writers, and poets. While she never stuck with just one movement, but varied in many revolutionary avant-garde art movements of her time, her style is completely unique and consistent. She is known distinctly for her fashion designs, which were not only completely wearable, but also very memorable.
Above: Costume design for Romeo and Juliette, 1921, by Aleksandra Ekster (1882-1949).
“For this time, however, The pure, magical states (before any “making” even begins,) the artist, given the gift of Medium, partaking
in transformation processes captures eternal wonder. I cannot help but
to express the overwhelming sensation that almost resembles a returning,
an abandon, a salvation from the struggle of being human, to only the
purest of pure”
Paths, MFA Thesis, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, May,1978. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive
Lana Del Rey Interviewed By Paris Match, May 17, 2017.
Lana Del Rey lounges on the divan.
She hasn’t left her false eyelashes, but she has gotten rid of her sadness. After two years of absence, the diva of “sad pop” comes back with “Lust for Life” her fifth album which comes out July 21st and “Love” her single, which has already passed 50 million views on YouTube. Same hypnotic voice, same poetic universe for a woman who now has a certain taste for happiness. Since her debut in 2012, on the internet, with Born to Die which made her one of the biggest stars in music, Lana tells us in mind-blowing songs and beautiful music videos of her fragile life as a young girl haunted by death and failure. Today, she says that she has overcome these demons and her toxic relationships. Single, maybe, but a little more light-hearted.
For her, it’s already history. At 17 years old, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant wrote her own songs and made her own music videos: “I took a lot of photos. Then I started to record myself, to use my image.” After seven hellish years of singing in Brooklyn bars, her music video “Video Games,” posted in 2011 and has since been viewed 155 million times, which thrusted the young American into an unforeseen notoriety. She evolved into Lana Del Rey, Lolita 2.0, fan of the sixties who over the course of her songs tells a sometimes indecent and provocative story but always sensual. “I am connected to the future and the past at the same time… That’s why I have few friends…” Today, she sings “I’m young and in love”. But confides that she has found happiness… since she is no longer dating. “I’ve never been lucky in choosing boyfriends”.
She always loved putting on a show: “As a child, I loved making my life a work of art.” “My passion for beautiful films might explain my aesthetic,” says the woman who would have loved living in the Flower Power of the hippy years. “Kids. Friends, all that’s a bonus. My dream is simply to be happy.”
From our colleague in Los Angeles Karelle Fitoussi.
Paris Match: We knew you as somber and melancholic, singing your stories about tormented love. You’ve come back with two songs that exude a lack of worry. What happened?
Lana Del Rey: I haven’t been dating for a year and a half. Apparently, that has done me a lot of good. [She laughs] I learned how to say no and to listen to the little voice in my head that tells me to do one thing or another.
Paris Match: You have “Trust no one” tattooed on your hand… Have you often been betrayed?
Lana Del Rey: Yes. I’ve never been good at choosing friends. But now it’s better, I know how to go about it. I’ve learned one thing, and that’s that people show you really quickly who they really are. You have to listen to them, and pay attention to the signs. In the past, I’ve had lovers who’ve told me strange things, things I should have found unacceptable, but I closed my eyes. That doesn’t happen to me anymore. At the smallest indication of something strange, I get out. A love story that doesn’t do you any good is toxic. I finally understand that.
Paris Match: Are you not afraid that your newfound happiness will ruin your inspiration?
Lana Del Rey: No. When I was writing Born to Die, I was living in London, and I met a lot of new people, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was full of hope. I saw myself evolving into this type of avant-garde artist and this excitement made creating simple and easy. When the critics starting being really harsh, when things started becoming more violent, that’s when that magic left me. So happiness is obviously a good thing. I’m not afraid.
Paris Match: The New York Times said that you were a “nightmarish reflection of cynicism and of American fakeness.”
Lana Del Rey: An interesting start to someone’s career, isn’t it? [She laughs] It was horrible, completely horrible. I really must have loved music to have continued after that. But I should’ve stopped. Thankfully, things have changed. I won’t ever change myself to make myself more popular or to make someone else happy.
Paris Match: People have really shamed you for your heavily constructed public image. Some people even said that you’re a puppet.
Lana Del Rey: For a long time, I didn’t understand these reactions. Of course, I paid attention to my look. I had long styled hair, but I was too preoccupied with the music to understand why they talked about me like that. I was waiting for people to figure out for themselves that I was smart… I really had to question myself, to ask why people reacted to me like that. A question of energy, maybe. With a bit of space, even if I find [what they’re saying] ridiculous, I can understand.
Paris Match: If, with a wave of a magic wand, you could start all over, what would you change?
Lana Del Rey: Everything! I don’t even know where to start!
Paris Match: You wouldn’t be a singer?
Lana Del Rey: I love music, there were times where it saved me from my own demons, but it’s a double-edged sword. If I had the opportunity to take a simpler path, I would do it, without hesitation.
Paris Match: When you were younger, you dreamed of being a writer…
Lana Del Rey: Yes, but after having tried from a young age, I knew that I didn’t have the writer’s soul. I tried to write short stories, but they were terrible. So, I tried to do poetry… but it still wasn’t for me! That’s how I decided to write music. [She laughs]. The next step would have been Haikus!
Paris Match: Between two records and two tours, what do you do?
Lana Del Rey: I go to the beach. I swim once per week, I work out with my sister who shares my house with me. I take advantage of the sun and the wonderful Californian nature: with my girlfriends, we go to Big Sur or to Carmel… I never get over seeing the bright light from 7:30 in the morning. For a New Yorker like me, every time it’s still enchanting. Yes, I am that girl you can constantly talk about the time and the weather! But above all what I love the most in Los Angeles, is that there are so many musicians. Every band from London to New York have moved here! Artic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets, Father John Misty… They’re all here in L.A.!
Paris Match: Have you finally found the community of artists you’ve always dreamed of being a part of?
Lana Del Rey: Yes. And when I go on tour, after four months on the road, they’re like me. They want to pick up where we left off. My friends who don’t do music, they’re lives have moved on.
Paris Match: How do you deal with living in the constant view of the paparazzi?
Lana Del Rey: I wrote a song called 13 beaches, which talks about how I do it, last summer, I had to go to 13 different beaches before I could find one without paparazzi, where I laid down with a book. But we can get used to anything. And then maybe it’s worth it. What I can’t get used to, is systematically finding my songs on the internet before they’re supposed to come out. It takes so much time to make a record… a year and a half! When leaving the studio, I always have to hope that they’re secure.
Paris Match: Why do you impose this cycle of every two years for an album?
Lana Del Rey: It’s the time needed for reflection and contemplation. My records are like love letters to myself.
Paris Match: And will you have kids?
Lana Del Rey: When I have kids… I’ll take them on the road with me. Muse’s or Chris Martin’s boys do it well! I have the feeling it’ll work out, whatever I decide to do. It’ll be a nice surprise. Yeah, I would love to have a family.
Is it on your agenda?
Lana Del Rey:
[She laughs]. It’ll happen one day. Without a doubt within the next five years. Kids. Friends, all that’s a bonus. My dream is simply to be happy. Which I am right now.