Showing posts with label the dutch painter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the dutch painter. Show all posts

Friday, April 09, 2021

12 Masterworks


Remember these twelve paintings, all by French masters, all from a certain period. Most were hanging in the Louvre in 1890. Remember what happened to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in 1911?



 

--The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter



Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Moriarty's Ghost

 "I am not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear Moriarty’s voice screaming at me out of the abyss." 


In all the annals of Sherlock Holmes, there is only one recorded instance of him personally taking another life...Moriarty, mano a mano, at the Reichenbach Falls. This is well l known.

What isn't known is how Holmes felt about causing that death?  (I know, the unfeeling Mr. Holmes. Hogwash.) Certainly it was self-defense. But certainly it was premeditated. And he watched the man plunge to his death. Never to face justice. How did that make him feel?

I think it shocked him to his core. I think he felt insupportable guilt and shame. So much that he could not face his beloved London for three whole years. What else could explain his decision to abandon his beloved London to the predations of the criminal underworld? Fear for his life? Please. Does that sound like Sherlock Holmes, who had always faced danger head on? And with the trials of Moriarty's confederates ongoing? Would he not be needed as a material witness?

No; Holmes was undergoing a crisis of the soul. Where did he go? The first name he mentions is Florence; no doubt he continued on to Rome. Then he treks to Lhasa, to meet with the Dalai Lama. From there he goes on to Mecca, no easy task for a city forbidden to unbelievers. If he followed in the path of Sir Richard Burton. he must have spoken at least passable Arabic. Then he pays "a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum." This would have been Abdullahi ibn Muhammad, the Sudanese ruler who had taken up the mantle of Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, upon the death of the original Mahdi, Muhammad Ahnad.

Can there be any doubt that Holmes was seeking solace in a variety of what were (to him) a series of exotic religions? 

As for his "several months "studying coal-tar derivatives" in Montpellier, I think Holmes was withholding the truth, that he in fact had unfinished business in Montpellier with a French cousin. (For more about this cousin and the reason he mentions coal-tar derivatives, you'll have to wait for my next novel, The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter.)

But none of these ploys offer the peace he seeks, and he finally decides, as he counsels Watson, that "work is the best antidote for sorrow." and turns his face toward home. Yet he has not given up on his spiritual quest entirely. What book does he drop in front of Watson? The Origins of Tree Worship-- seeking answers in his native British Druidism? This, for a man who'd espoused his admiration for the writings of William Winwoode Reade, an avowed atheist, was quite a journey.

But would he have been able to reveal himself to Watson, if not for his accidental meeting with his associate that morning at Park Lane? Perhaps not--not because his affection for Watson had lessened, but because of Watson's role as his public chronicler. He no longer wants the public's eye upon him. He forbids Watson from publishing any new reports, and lays this injunction upon him for a full ten years before he relents.

Did Holmes ever come to terms with the death of Moriarty? In The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, I introduce a pet raven to Holmes's retirement--a raven named Moriarty.


But you'll have to wait for my third book (in the works now) The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart, to see whether Holmes at last comes to terms with the blood of Moriarty on his hands. 

Until then.


Monday, March 29, 2021

Do You Know This Man?

 Of course you do. You've seen this picture of him in every tasteful little coffee-shop or bistro you've ever frequented. It's so ubiquitous that it's almost invisible. And there's his name right on the poster, Aristide Bruant. French guy, right?

aristide bruant

You might even know that the poster is the work of Toulouse Lautrec, the little guy, the godfather of posters. 

But do you know Aristide Bruant, who was anything but tasteful? As a matter of fact, he was the Andrew Dice Clay/ Ozzie Osborne of his time. He was an outlandish cabaret owner whose main attraction was himself, entertaining his customers by parading on the bar top, singing and insulting everyone who came to see him, and everyone was the bourgeois, slumming it up in dangerous Montmartre (or La Butte, as the hilly region of Paris was called). And the bar he packed them in at was The Mirliton.

The what?

The Mirliton, which basically means "the kazoo" in French. It's also a favorite vegetable in Cajun cooking, which caused me no end of trouble along about the third draft of The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter.

le chat noir
                      But maybe we'd better back up, to the bar where Bruant made his name: 

Le Chat Noir in Montmartre, the ur-nightclub, which I know you've heard of, because once again, you've seen the poster--probably in that same cool little bistro, just across from the poster of Bruant. Bruant became so well known there that when the club closed, he opened his own--at the very same site. The walls were decorated with Lautrec's masterworks, which the bourgeois crowd mainly ignored. Lautrec held court there most nights--until some place The Moulin Rouge opened up down the street.



Here's how I imagined the place:


This then was the Cabaret Le Mirliton, just one of several down-at-the-heels establishments pocking the Boulevard Rochechouart that promised song and dance and bonhomie, or alternately enough noxious drink to make the first three superfluous. 

Le Mirliton was of the first kind. As soon as we were inside the door, we were greeted by smoke and noise and the booming voice of the proprietor himself. 
“My God, look at these two! Have the sewers backed up all the way to Montmartre?”

There was Bruant, striding up and down the top of the bar in the same costume we’d seen in the posters, a gamekeeper’s outfit with a scarlet shirt and scarf, an opera cape and wide-brimmed black hat. He pointed a rattan cane at us and said, “See how they gawk? Like sheep about to be sheared! Mutton-heads!”

Interior of Le Mirliton by Louis Anquetin
le mirliton by anquetin
            St. Lazare, a song by Bruant                              

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Blue Jean Blues

 Did you know that those Levis you're wearing were responsible for a deadly revolt in India? Well, partly, anyway. You see, back in 1777, the British started planting indigo in India,

Born in the USA
especially Bengal. As a matter of fact, that what indigo means--India. Indigo? That's the dye that makes your blue jeans blue. And the British didn't really grow indigo --they tricked the Indian farmers into growing indigo. Even gave them loans.

But when they came to sell their crops, the farmers didn't make enough to pay back the loans and the exorbitant interest, because the buyers set the price. But it was okay, the buyers just loaned them more money. So the debt mounted. And the growers became, in effect, slaves. Growers were still trying to pay off the debt of their fathers and grandfathers. Men committed suicide rather than endure the torture.

It wasn't a unique situation. Former black slaves in America were effectively still in bondage due to the system of share-cropping. And coal miners were in a similar jam. Remember that that line from Sixteen Tons?

"Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cuz I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."

 Same strategy. And demand for blue indigo dye just kept growing, especially in America, where a young man named Levi Strauss was selling copper-riveted indigo-dyed denim pants--blue jeans--as the inexpensive uniform of the working man. So when Indian farmers protested their situation, they were put down--violently.

"The Peasants Are Revolting"

In 1859, the peasants did indeed revolt. And so was bred the Indigo Rebellion, which involved the whole of Bengal. Indigo depots were burned to the ground. Some plantation owners were captured, tried, and hung, The rest fled for their lives.British response was swift and merciless.  The peasants were slaughtered or hung. And then, in true British fashion, they appointed a commission to investigate the matter, and the truth of the British planters' oppression was laid bare. And then, in true British fashion, they recommended no action be taken.

Germans to the Rescue

There's a line you won't see every day. You see, the Germans were completely boxed out of India and the extremely lucrative indigo trade. So German chemists sought the Holy Grail--synthetic indigo. Time and again, it eluded them. Then, in 1890,  Karl Heumann and Eugene Sapper hit on a method that was both practical and economical. By 1897, they brought it to market. And in a very few years, the bottom dropped out of the natural indigo market.

There is still indigo grown in India, but in a very small way. And the farmers got their land back--once the British left. And in 1955 James Dean put on a pair of jeans, and they became cool forever.


Sixteen Tons



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Where Van Gogh Died


auberge ravoux












Vincent
spent the last 70 days of his life in the little town of Auvers-sur-Oise as a lodger at Auberge Ravoux. During his stay there, he created more than 80 paintings and 64 sketches before dying of a gunshot wound on 29 July 1890. 

In this picture, Ravoux and his daughter Adeline are on the left. Madame Ravoux and daughter Germaine stand in the doorway.


                             --The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter

Saturday, March 20, 2021

"The Crudest Ideas"

 "Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of detaching his mind at will. For two hours the strange business in which we had been involved appeared to be forgotten, and he was entirely absorbed in the pictures of the modern Belgian masters. He would talk of nothing but art, of which he had the crudest ideas, from our leaving the gallery until we found ourselves at the Northumberland Hotel."

                                            -- The Hound of the Baskervilles


Jan Verhas

Jan Verhas  (9 January 1834 – 31 October 1896) was a Belgian painter of the Realist school. He wasknown for his portraits and genre paintings often depicting children of the Belgian bourgeoisie.

Monday, March 15, 2021

M. Vernet/Mr. Holmes

 

“My ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led much the same life as is natural to their class. But, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.”
                         
--Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter



Sunday, January 17, 2021

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE DUTCH PAINTER News

 And BY THE WAY, Seventh Street will also be publishing my second strange case of Sherlock Holmes, THE STRANGE CASE OF THE DUTCH PAINTER. Look for news of it here.