Grok My Enthusiasm (4)

By: Adrienne Crew
February 3, 2016

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.

*

brooks baronne

Romaine Brooks’s La Baronne Emile d’Erlanger (c. 1924) is glamorous in both senses of the term: It’s beautiful and spellbinding. Brooks — an American heiress who worked in Paris in the 1910s–20s — was a sexually fluid bohemian famous today for her paintings of strong women, often in androgynous or masculine dress. Commissioned to paint the wife of Baron Emile d’Erlanger, Brooks ditched her usual subdued palette dominated by grays; the red-headed Baroness’s nickname was “Flame,” so Brooks painted her in vibrant red, gold and brown hues.

Catherine d’Erlanger was a social and cultural dynamo. She underwrote Cecil Beaton and Sergei Diaghilev; and she once bedded Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Black Shirts. Later, during WWII, she would open a gay-friendly nightclub in Los Angeles. How to capture this independent, unpredictable spirit?

Brooks often used animals to symbolize her subjects’ personalities, and in La Baronne Emile d’Erlanger she included an exotic feline: perhaps an ocelot or serval. Note that Catherine’s costume echoes the cat’s patterned fur; both subjects seem wary, predatory. We are presented with a puzzle: Is the woman opening the cage to set her pet free or join it? In the late 19th century, misogynist Symbolists portrayed red-headed women as evil temptresses; but Catherine — like Cat in The Taming of the Shrew — instead seems quixotic and passionate, not evil. She is a wild woman; she can’t be tamed.

***

GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

Share this Post
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Tumblr