Dante Gabriel Rossetti

imageDante Gabriel Rossetti sadly passed away 9 April 1882. Born 12 May 1828 he was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translatorThe young Rossetti is described as “self-possessed, articulate, passionate and charismatic” but also “ardent, poetic and feckless”.Like all his siblings, he aspired to be a poet and attended King’s College School, in its original location near the Strand. He also wished to be a painter, having shown a great interest in Medieval Italian art. He studied at Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy from 1841 to 1845 when he enrolled at the Antique School of the Royal Academy, leaving in 1848. After leaving the Royal Academy, Rossetti studied under Ford Madox Brown, with whom he retained a close relationship throughout his life. Following the exhibition of William Holman Hunt’s painting The Eve of St. Agnes, Rossetti sought out Hunt’s friendship. The painting illustrated a poem by the little-known John Keats. Rossetti’s own poem, “The Blessed Damozel”, was an imitation of Keats, and he believed Hunt might share his artistic and literary ideals. Together they developed the philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which they founded along with John Everett Millais. The group’s intention was to reform English art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo and the formal training regime introduced by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Their approach was to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art. For the first issue of the brotherhood’s magazine, The Germ, published early in 1850, Rossetti contributed a poem, “The Blessed Damozel”, and a story about a fictional early Italian artist inspired by a vision of a woman who bids him combine the human and the divine in his art.Rossetti was always more interested in the medieval than in the modern side of the movement, working on translations of Dante and other medieval Italian poets, and adopting the stylistic characteristics of the early Italians.

He started out painting in oils with water-colour brushes, as thinly as in water-colour, on canvas which he had primed with white till the surface was a smooth as cardboard, and every tint remained transparent. I saw at once that he was not an orthodox boy, but acting purely from the aesthetic motive. The mixture of genius and dilettantism of both men shut me up for the moment, and whetted my curiosity.Stung by criticism of his second major painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini, exhibited in 1850, and the “increasingly hysterical critical reaction that greeted Pre-Raphaelitism” that year, Rossetti turned to watercolours. Although his work subsequently won support from John Ruskin. For many years, Rossetti worked on English translations of Italian poetry including Dante Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova . These and Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur inspired his art of the 1850s. He created a method of painting in watercolours, using thick pigments mixed with gum to give rich effects similar to medieval illuminations. He also developed a novel drawing technique in pen-and-ink. His first published illustration was “The Maids of Elfen-Mere” (1855), for a poem by his friend William Allingham. Rossetti also painted the upper wall of the Oxford Union debating-hall with scenes from Le Morte d’Arthur and to decorate the roof between the open timbers. Seven artists were recruited,and the work was hastily begun and they are now barely visible. Rossetti also contributed two illustrations to the 1857 edition of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Poems and illustrations for works by his sister Christina Rossetti.His visions of Arthurian romance and medieval design also inspired William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones who were much influenced by his works, and met him by recruiting him as a contributor to their Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which Promoted his ideas about art and poetry.

Around 1860, Rossetti returned to oil painting, abandoning the dense medieval of the 1850s in favour of powerful close-up images of women in flat pictorial spaces characterised by dense colour. These paintings became a major influence on the development of the European Symbolist movement. Rossetti’s depiction of women became almost obsessively stylised. He portrayed his new lover Fanny Cornforth as the epitome of physical eroticism, whilst Jane Burden, the wife of his business partner William Morris, was glamorised as an ethereal goddess. “As in Rossetti’s previous reforms, the new kind of subject appeared, These new works were based on the Italian High Renaissance artists of Venice, Titian and Veronese.In 1861, Rossetti became a founding partner in the decorative arts firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Morris, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner and Peter Paul Marshall.Rossetti contributed designs for stained glass and other decorative objects. Sadly Rossetti’s wife Elizabeth Siddal died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862, shortly after giving birth to a stillborn child. Rossetti became increasingly depressed, and on the death of his beloved Lizzie, buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her at Highgate Cemetery, though he later had them dug up. He idealised her image as Dante’s Beatrice in a number of paintings, such as Beata Beatrix. Rossetti lived in Chelsea for 20 years surrounded by extravagant furnishings and a parade of exotic birds and animals and was fascinated with wombats, frequently visiting the “Wombat’s Lair” at the London Zoo in Regent’s Park. In September 1869 he acquired the first of two pet wombats, which he named “Top”. Rossetti’s fascination with exotic animals continued throughout his life, culminating in the purchase of a llama and a toucan.

Rossetti also maintained Fanny Cornforth (described delicately by William Allington as Rossetti’s “housekeeper” inher own establishment nearby in Chelsea, and painted many voluptuous images of her.In 1865 he discovered auburn-haired Alexa Wilding, a dressmaker and would-be actress who was engaged to model for him on a full-time basis and sat for The Blessed Damozel and other paintings. Rossetti also used Jane Morris,as a model for the Oxford Union murals he painted with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in 1857, and she also sat for him during these years, she “consumed and obsessed him in paint, poetry, and life”. Rossetti was prevailed upon by Charles Augustus Howell, to exhume his poems from his wife’s grave which he did, collating and publishing them in 1870 in the volume Poems by D. G. Rossetti. This included the poems Nuptial Sleep, the House of Life and The Ballad of Dead Ladies which all created offence and controversy With their eroticism and sensuality but became Rossetti’s most substantial literary achievement. In 1881, Rossetti published a second volume of poems, Ballads and Sonnets, which included the remaining sonnets from The House of Life sequence. Unfortunately The savage reaction of critics to Rossetti’s first collection of poetry contributed to a mental breakdown in June 1872. After he recovered he began creating a soulful series of dream-like portraits featuring Alexa Wilding and Jane Morris

Toward the end of his life, he sank into a morbid state, darkened by his drug addiction to chloral hydrate and increasing mental instability. He spent his last years as a recluse at Cheyne Walk. On Easter Sunday, 1882, he died at the country house of a friend, where he had gone in a vain attempt to recover his health, which had been destroyed by chloral as his wife’s had been destroyed by laudanum. He died of Brights Disease, a disease of the kidneys from which he had been suffering for some time. He is buried at Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England. His legacy lives on and His work influenced many including the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement. Rossetti’s art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats. Among his most famous paintings are he Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877). He also created art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by his sister, the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti.

Bunny Wailer (Bob Marley and the Wailers)

imageReggae legend Singer, songwriter and drummer Bunny Wailer (Neville Livingstone) was born 10 April 1947 .Starting out in 1963 with the group the Wailers, he forged a distinctive songwriting and vocal style that would later resonate with audiences worldwide. The Wailers would go on to release some of the earliest reggae records with producer Lee Scratch Perry. Neville Livingston (later known as Bunny Wailer) had been childhood friends with Bob Marley in Nine Mile. They had started to play music together while at Stepney Primary and Junior High School.Marley left Nine Mile with his mother when he was 12 and moved to Trenchtown, Kingston. Cedella Booker and Thadeus Livingston (Bunny Wailer’s father) had a daughter together whom they named Pearl, who was a younger sister to both Bob and Bunny. Now that Marley and Livingston were living together in the same house in Trenchtown, their musical explorations deepened to include the latest R&B from American radio stations whose broadcasts reached Jamaica, and the new Ska music.The move to Trenchtown was proving to be fortuitous. Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley joined a band with Peter Tosh, Beverley Kelso and Junior Braithwaite. Joe Higgs, who was part of the successful vocal act Higgs & Wilson, resided on 3rd St., and his singing partner Roy Wilson had been raised by the grandmother of Junior Braithwaite. Higgs and Wilson would rehearse at the back of the houses between 2nd and 3rd Streets, and it wasn’t long before Marley (now residing on 2nd St), Junior Braithwaite and the others were congregating around this successful duo. Marley and the others didn’t play any instruments at this time, and were more interested in being a vocal harmony group. Higgs was glad to help them develop their vocal harmonies, and had started to teach Marley how to play guitar — thereby creating the bedrock that would later allow Marley to construct some of the biggest-selling reggae songs in the history of the genre.

In February 1962, Bob Marley recorded four songs, “Judge Not”, “One Cup of Coffee”, “Do You Still Love Me?” and “Terror”, at Federal Studio for local music producer Leslie Kong. Three of the songs were released on Beverley’s with “One Cup of Coffee” being released under the pseudonym Bobby Martell. In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith were called The Teenagers. They later changed the name to The Wailing Rudeboys, then to The Wailing Wailers, at which point they were discovered by record producer Coxsone Dodd, and finally to The Wailers. Their single “Simmer Down” and found themselves working with established Jamaican musicians such as Ernest Ranglin (arranger “It Hurts To Be Alone”),the keyboardist Jackie Mittoo and saxophonist Roland Alphonso. By 1966, Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had left The Wailers, leaving the core trio of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh. After a financial disagreement with Dodd, Marley and his band teamed up with Lee “Scratch” Perry and his studio band, The Upsetters. Although the alliance lasted less than a year, they recorded what many consider The Wailers’ finest work. Marley and Perry split after a dispute regarding the assignment of recording rights, but they would remain friends and work together again.

Between 1968 and 1972, Bob and Rita Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer re-cut some old tracks in an attempt to commercialise The Wailers’ sound. Bunny later asserted that these songs “should never be released on an album … they were just demos for record companies to listen to”. In 1968, Bob and Rita visited songwriter Jimmy Norman at.A three-day jam session with Norman and others, including Norman’s co-writer Al Pyfrom, resulted in a 24-minute tape of Marley performing several of his own and Norman-Pyfrom’s compositions.Including n “Stay With Me” and “the slow love song style of 1960′s artists” on “Splish for My Splash”. In1972, Bob Marley embarked on a UK tour with American soul singer Johnny Nash.While in London the Wailers were introduced to Chris Blackwell this resulted in the offer to record an album. In Marley, Blackwell recognized the elements needed to snare the rock audience: “I was dealing with rock music, which was really rebel music. I felt that would really be the way to break Jamaican music. But you needed someone who could be that image. When Bob walked in he really was that image.” the Wailers returned to Jamaica to record at Harry J’s in Kingston which resulted in the album Catch a Fire in which.Blackwell desired to create “more of a drifting, hypnotic-type feel than a reggae rhythm”,and restructured Marley’s mixes and arrangements. Catch a Fire, was released worldwide in April 1973, packaged like a rock record with a uniqueZippo lighter lift-top. It was followed later that year by the album Burnin’ which included the song “I Shot the Sheriff”. Eric Clapton was given the album by his guitarist George Terry in the hope that he would enjoy it.Clapton was suitably impressed and chose to record a cover version of “I Shot the Sheriff” which became his first US hit since “Layla”The Wailers were scheduled to open seventeen shows in the US for Sly and the Family Stone. After four shows, the band was fired because they were more popular than the acts they were opening for. the Wailers broke up in 1974 with each of the three main members pursuing solo careers. The reason for the breakup is shrouded in conjecture; some believe that there were disagreements amongst Bunny, Peter, and Bob concerning performances, while others claim that Bunny and Peter simply preferred solo work.

After the break-up, Marley continued recording as “Bob Marley & The Wailers”. His new backing band included brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass respectively, Junior Marvin and Al Andersonon lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson on percussion. The “I Threes”, consisting of Judy Mowatt,Marcia Griffiths, and Marley’s wife, Rita, provided backing vocals. In 1975, Marley had his international breakthrough with his first hit outside Jamaica, “No Woman, No Cry”, from the Natty Dread album. this was followed by his breakthrough album in the United States, Rastaman Vibration (1976), which reached the Top 50 of the Billboard Soul Charts. On 3 December 1976, two days before “Smile Jamaica”, a free concert organised by the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in an attempt to ease tension between two warring political groups, Marley, his wife, and manager Don Taylor were wounded in an assault by unknown gunmen inside Marley’s home. Taylor and Marley’s wife sustained serious injuries, but later made full recoveries. Bob Marley received minor wounds in the chest and arm.The attempt on his life was thought to have been politically motivated, as many felt the concert was really a support rally for Manley. Nonetheless, the concert proceeded, and an injured Marley performed as scheduled, two days after the attempt. When asked why, Marley responded, “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” The members of the group Zap Pow played as Bob Marley’s backup band before a festival crowd of 80,000 while members of The Wailers were still missing or in hiding.Marley left Jamaica at the end of 1976, and after a month-long “recovery and writing” sojourn at the site of Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, arrived in England, where he spent two years in self-imposed exile.

Whilst in England, he recorded the albums Exodus and Kaya. Exodus stayed on the British album charts for fifty-six consecutive weeks. It included four UK hit singles: “Exodus”, “Waiting in Vain”, “Jamming”, and “One Love” (a rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s hit, “People Get Ready”). During his time in London, he was arrested and received a conviction forpossession of a small quantity of cannabis.In 1978, Marley returned to Jamaica and performed at another political concert, the One Love Peace Concert, again in an effort to calm warring parties. Near the end of the performance, by Marley’s request, Michael Manley (leader of then-ruling People’s National Party) and his political rival Edward Seaga(leader of the opposing Jamaica Labour Party), joined each other on stage and shook hands.Under the name Bob Marley and the Wailers eleven albums were released, four live albums and seven studio albums. The releases included Babylon by Bus, a double live album with thirteen tracks, were released in 1978 and received critical acclaim. This album, and specifically the final track “Jamming” with the audience in a frenzy, captured the intensity of Marley’s live performances.Survival, a defiant and politically charged album, was released in 1979. Tracks such as “Zimbabwe”, “Africa Unite”, “Wake Up and Live”, and “Survival” reflected Marley’s support for the struggles of Africans. His appearance at the Amandla Festival in Boston in July 1979 showed his strong opposition to South African apartheid, which he already had shown in his song “War” in 1976. In early 1980, he was invited to perform at the 17 April celebration ofZimbabwe’s Independence Day. Uprising (1980) was Bob Marley’s final studio album, and is one of his most religious productions; it includes “Redemption Song” and “Forever Loving Jah”.Confrontation, released posthumously in 1983, contained unreleased material recorded during Marley’s lifetime, including the hit “Buffalo Soldier” and new mixes of singles previously only available in Jamaica.

The Great Gatsby

images-2The novel The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald was published April 10 1925. Great Gatsby follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American DReam which was inspired some of the parties Fitzgerald, had attended while visiting Long Island’s north shore. He began planning the novel in 1923 desiring to produce, in his words, “something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”Progress was slow with Fitzgerald completing his first draft following a move to the French Riviera in 1924. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, felt the book was too vague and convinced the author to revise over the next winter. Fitzgerald was ambivalent about the book’s title, at various times wishing to re-title the novel Trimalchio in West Egg.ream.

The main events of the novel take place in the summer of 1922. Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and World War I veteran from the Midwest – who serves as the novel’s narrator – takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties but does not participate in them. Nick drives around the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, a college acquaintance of Nick’s. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, an attractive, cynical young golfer with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. She reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the “valley of ashes”: an industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City. Not long after this revelation, Nick travels to New York City with Tom and Myrtle to an apartment they keep for their affair. At the apartment, a vulgar and bizarre party takes place. It ends with Tom breaking Myrtle’s nose after she annoys him by saying Daisy’s name several times.

As the summer progresses, Nick eventually receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Nick encounters Jordan Baker at the party, and they meet Gatsby himself, an aloof and surprisingly young man who recognizes Nick from their same division in the war. Through Jordan, Nick later learns that Gatsby knew Daisy from a romantic encounter in 1917 and is deeply in love with her. He spends many nights staring at the green light at the end of her dock, across the bay from his mansion, hoping to one day rekindle their lost romance. Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle and wild parties are an attempt to impress Daisy in the hopes that she will one day appear again at Gatsby’s doorstep. Gatsby now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between himself and Daisy. Nick invites Daisy to have tea at his house, without telling her that Gatsby will also be there. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy reestablish their connection. They begin an affair and, after a short time, Tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife’s relationship with Gatsby. At a luncheon at the Buchanans’ house, Daisy speaks to Gatsby with such undisguised intimacy that Tom realizes she is in love with Gatsby.

Though Tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is outraged by his wife’s infidelity. He forces the group to drive into New York City and confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, asserting that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand. In addition to that, he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal whose fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. Daisy realizes that her allegiance is to Tom, and Tom contemptuously sends her back to East Egg with Gatsby, attempting to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt him. When Nick, Jordan, and Tom drive through the valley of ashes on their way home, they discover that Gatsby’s car has struck and killed Tom’s mistress, Myrtle. Nick later learns from Gatsby that Daisy, not Gatsby himself, was driving the car at the time of the accident but Gatsby intends to take the blame anyway. Myrtle’s husband, George, falsely concludes that the driver of the yellow car is the secret lover he recently began suspecting she has, and sets out on foot to locate its owner. After finding out the yellow car is Gatsby’s, he arrives at Gatsby’s mansion to confront him, which ends in tragedy….

Amazingly The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book sold only 20,000 copies. Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten. However, the novel experienced a revival during World War II, and became a part of American high school curricula and numerous stage and film adaptations in the following decades. Today, The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title “Great American Novel”. The book is consistently ranked among the greatest works of American literature. In 1998 the Modern Library editorial board voted it the best American novel. It has also been adapted for screen numerous times, most recently starring Leonardo diCaprio as Gatsby.