National Geographic : 1989 Jul
PARIS: LA BELLE EPOQUE 171 Spoofing critics, writerRoland Dorgeles-whohated abstractart tied brushes to a donkey's tail to create "And the Sun Set Over the Adriatic." It sold for 400 francs at an avant-gardeshow. Artist writerJean Cocteau (left, at left) wrote the librettofor Antigone, a 1927 opera by ArthurHonegger, at right.The 1928 reunion of the 1911 Ballet Russe cast (bottom) that had premieredIgor Stravin sky's Petrushka had tragicundertones. Vaslav Nijinsky, second from right, the originalPetrushka,suffered from schizophreniaand had retired.ImpresarioSergey Diaghilev,his arm aroundNijinsky, arrangedthe photographfor history and Nijinsky, hoping the familiarfaces would spark recovery. They did not. leading Fauvist, Roland Dorge lbs, himself a writer, induced the pet donkey of a local innkeeper to paint a picture of his own. Gorged with carrots, spinach, and ciga rettes at one end, his lively tail leaving trails of multicolored paint at the other end, Lolo swished his way over a canvas that Dorgeles and his friends entitled "And the Sun Set Over the Adriatic." The pictorial exploit, wit nessed by a notary public, was signed Boronali (from Aliboron, the foolish donkey immortalized by La Fontaine) and exhibited at the Salon des Independants. Boronali's "excessivist" style drew criticism for the excessive personality it reflected, but the canvas sold for 400 francs. None of which prevented the Fauvists' explosion of color from being as similated, as Impressionism had been. In 1908 Matisse, regarded as leader of the School of Paris, opened an academy of his own, attracting many foreign students. The essence of modern art no longer lay in one particular style. but in change itself, the quest for the unexpected novelty that star tles and astounds. In 1905 Vla minck picked up three traditional African carvings in a bistro. The images profoundly influenced him and Derain. Two years later Picasso was painting his contro versial "Les Demoiselles d'Avi gnon." He wanted to show that art is "our concept of what nature is not." Under his leadership cubism proceeded to reorder form and motion on a flat surface, even as Stravinsky's music at that time reordered tone and re defined melody. Prophets of surrealism emerged, foes of popular and commercial vulgarization for whom the purpose of art was to shake up society and the purpose of artists was first to shock and then to self-destruct. Among the most obviously self-destructive of such figures was Alfred Jarry, fascinated by guns, boxing, cycling, pranks, and scatological language. Jarry's famous play, Ubu Roi, perpetrated in 1896, shown once and never forgotten, turned him into a myth of the avant-garde. Provocatively grubby and ill dressed, determined to live down to his reputation, Jarry painted his hands and face green and once turned up to see a play with a bow tie painted on his shirt. Before he died of tuberculosis and alco holism in 1907, his sympathy for hallucinations and for fantasy had clearly marked him as one of the patron saints of surrealists.