Sunday, August 18, 2013

The 'true blood' Camellia

 Earlier this year The University of Adelaide offered The Art of Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) as a free 'ebook' available for digital download. It was interesting to become reacquainted with this decorative artist who saw things as a pattern of black and white, influenced by, among other things, the Japanese woodblock print and who used the 'Japanese rose' or camellia as a motif in his work, for decorating voluminous kimono style clothes or as background wallpaper.
 'The Dancer's' Reward' from Salome
In feudal Japanese culture, the camellia was associated with beheading by a samurai. It was given this association because the flower drops to the ground intact,with the ground below a big camellia bush often littered with still perfect flowers as if after a battle. The short vase life of the flower still has some modern superstition attached to it, in that it is not given to a hospital patient or used in a flower arrangement unless accompanied by a longevity symbol plant such as a pine.

 La Dame aux Camelias 
Volume 3 of 'The Yellow Book'
Beardsley had another reason to have the camellia as his favourite flower. He had met Alexandre Dumas, the author of La Dame aux Camelias at Puy in France and was smitten with the subject matter of the book; about a young courtesan who dies young. Beardsley already knew his days were numbered and he died of Tuberculous at the age of 26. A copy of La Dame aux Camelias was placed in his coffin.

 'The Black Cape' from Salome
 In the 1960's there was a revival of interest in Beardsley as much of his subject matter had appeared too shocking for previous generations. Life Magazine in 1967 included some fashion shots with his work as background.
Mrs Harilaos Theodoracopulous wears an Adolfo camellia hat with a Bill Blass cocktail dress.....

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