Perfumers & Artists: 69 posts

Articles about perfumers, artists and other interesting personalities. Also, please see Interviews.

Hope and Angels of Natalia Satsyk

“One face haunted me for a long time, and I knew that I had to paint it,” says Natalia Satsyk, a Ukrainian artist whose exhibition is currently on display at the St.-Adelbert Abbey in the Dutch town of Egmond-Binnen. The face gazes from her canvases. Sometimes it resembles Congolese masks, elongated and sharply defined. Sometimes it is rendered with bold strokes and dramatic colors. The gender may be obscured, as is the body to which it is attached, and what strikes me the most is the depth of sorrow and the pain I see in its eyes. And also the radiance of hope.
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One of the unexpected outcomes of the independence achieved by Ukraine in 1993 is the vibrant art scene. Despite political and economic problems and meager state support, artists gave cities like Lviv, Kyiv and Kharkhiv a vitality they hadn’t experienced since the avant-garde of the 1910s and 1920s, a period that produced works by Kazemir Malevich, David Burliuk, Aleksandra Ekster, and other leading futurists. Satsyk is based in Lviv, a town in the western part of Ukraine, and she’s a part of the new, dynamic movement of young artists who are not afraid to take risks and question conventions.

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Petrykivka : Ukraine’s Vibrant Treasure

i A petrykivka artist’s most important tools are her hands and her cat. To paint the intricate, colorful motifs of this traditional form of Ukrainian folk art, it’s essential to combine bold strokes with delicate ones. The tip of one’s finger might be used to create a cluster of round berries, a mass of dahlia petals or a tangle of oak leaves. But for the fine tendrils and feathers adorning roosters and cuckoo birds, classical symbols with complex meaning, a painter turns to a brush made of cat hair. “The cat first has to agree to give you some fur,” says Natalia Rybak, the artist at the Petrykivka Center for Folk Art, as she shows me the local art collection. “Not all do.”

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Petrykivsky painting or “petrykivka” is one of many forms of ancient Ukrainian decorative arts. Its name is derived from the place of its origin, the village of Petrykivka in Dnipropetrovsk region, and it is closely tied to the Cossack tradition. Cossacks were members of the democratic communities that since the 15th century started forming into a loose federation in southern-central Ukraine. Independent from the neighboring states, the Cossack federation offered social freedoms and protection, thus drawing an ever increasing number of people from other regions to its villages. South-east of Kyiv, Petrykivka was established in the 17th century as the wintering ground for the Cossack divisions that spent the rest of the year in the areas around the lower Dnieper River. Even after the Cossackdom was destroyed by the Russian tsars in the 18th century, many former strongholds, such as Petrykivka, retained enough autonomy to develop their traditional crafts.

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Perfume Muse Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn has been a muse for film directors, couture designers, and makeup artists. She also inspired perfumers, and while Givenchy L’Interdit was created especially for her in 1957, many a fragrance creator mentions the actress and fashion icon with reverence. I can understand it, because there is something about Audrey that I find touching and poignant. It’s not just her elegance or sense of style; it’s also her grace, warmth and a certain fragility. Audrey charms as much as she intrigues me.

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This year, the National Portrait Gallery in London is celebrating Audrey’s legacy with an exhibition showcasing Audrey’s life and career through photos. It spans her childhood in Holland and early years as a dancer in London. It then tracks her rise to fame in Hollywood and concludes with her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Audrey worked with some of the best photographers, including Cecil Barton, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon, and many of her images can be counted as part of pop culture–think the famous Holly Golightly half turn with a cigarette holder. What’s fascinating about the exhibit is the inclusion of rare images and personal photographs donated by Audrey’s sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

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Madame Carven and Ma Griffe

She dressed Edith Piaf and Leslie Caron. She created uniforms for more than a dozen airlines and dressed French traffic police. When she launched a fragrance, she provocatively named it Ma Griffe, which can mean either “my signature” or “my claw” in French. She was a force and a character. She was Carmen de Tommaso, or as she was better known in the world of haute couture, Madame Carven. Yesterday Madame Carven passed away at the age of 105, leaving behind an incredible legacy, both in the world of fashion and fragrance.

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De Tommaso was introduced to couture by her aunt Josy Boyriven–the last three letters of whose name, “ven”, got joined with “car” of Carmen to form “Carven”–and she started designing both out of fascination and frustration. She was dismayed by the limited choices for petite women and the lack of attention from the fashion masters.

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The Mixed Legacy of Francois Coty

The Chinese heritage mansion in Georgetown, the capital of Penang island in Malaysia, may not have been the most obvious place to reflect on François Coty had it not been for the perfume flacons on display. The vanity tables in the ladies’ quarters featured L’Aimant scented talcs, cream powders, soaps and colognes. Some boxes were barely touched, with the bottles still set into the artfully rumpled peach satin. That these bottles traveled from France to this Southeast Asian town in the interwar era is a testament to Coty’s marketing genius.

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The man who gave the multi-million dollar fragrance empire his name was a renegade. Decades before Estée Lauder purportedly made it acceptable for women to treat themselves to a bottle of perfume, he revolutionized the industry by breaking some of its rules. Coty cleverly matched the packaging to scents and created eye-catching designs and logos. He offered budget alternatives and scented products, from oils to creams and powders. He didn’t shy away from using new materials, and to this day, the accords he favored qualify as classics. Most of his fragrances charted new avenues in perfumery and set lasting trends.

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