Wake up, class! It’s Art History Time!!! Wait! Come back! It’ll be fun, I promise!
December 2012 Elle Magazine has a great article about the art version of synaesthesia in perfume (I’m making up the synaesthesia part but it’s as close as I can get to describing this – for me- Elle’s subhead says “April Long reinterprets fragrance through the prism of art history” – and that works just fine for me, too!) – but let’s not split semantic hairs here – the docent’s here, let’s take a walk through the galleries:
In the article, Ms Long (and others) describe certain perfumes in relation to particular art movements. In my opinion she’s spot-on with some and just…weird with others (and, remember: art, like perfume, is subject to taste – and never more so than when you are attributing a style/color/era to a scent. So ymmv, okay? And I definitely want to know YOUR thoughts on this). I’ll let you read the article and come to your own conclusions but here are a couple that really stood out (or stuck out) for me:
Fauvist period: Fracas and YSL Opium. WILD BEASTS!!! Remember: Fauvism was terrifying in its day. The first Modernist painters, using bold colors, often directly from the tube, they were shocking to those accustomed to paintings in the Classical styles. Fracas scares the peanuts off a lot of folks, even to this day. And I, who fear little, fear Opium. One drop, on my fingertip, chased me 4 blocks down Michigan Avenue! My contemporary addition to that list of “Wild Beasts”? I would add Ava Luxe’s Madame X. and Parfumerie Generale Drama Nuui, which is the epitome of bright green and gold, straight out of the tube.
Expressionism (Figurative. Long covers Abstract in the article) – I’m a huge fan of this period, loving the ‘brute force’ of Emile Nolde, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix…James Ensor, who was a great influence on Expressionism (imagine coming upon this in the early 1900s!)
Mitsouko fits into my hysteric vision of Expressionism. Takes no prisoners, flouts convention. Terrifyingly gorgeous.
Ms Long loaded up the Impressionists with The Usual Suspect: the gorgeously melancholy Apres l’Ondee, to which I would add Frederic Malle’s En Passant, on the Malle website called an ‘impressionistic’ fragrance. Another? Amouage Memoir. Just elusive enough to make you want to look (or smell) closer.
She put Angel, Balenciaga Florabotanica and CHANEL No 5 in Cubism. Uh…….oh! okay. Like with the Fauvist/Fracas, she likens the ARRIVAL of Chanel No 5 to the arrival of Cubism. Okay. I can’t argue with that one. Nor can I argue with Angel in that same category, even though I hate it like a mongoose hates a snake. It did herald a completely new trend in perfumery and I while I really wish it hadn’t caught on quite so well I applaud the daring approach. See, I don’t have to love Angel to respect it! It belongs in this category. However, Balenciaga must’ve paid a boatload of ad money to be included therein, though. That Florabotanica is such a ‘meh’ scent, totally unworthy of that fabulous packaging. I would’ve put Xerjoff’s Irisss therein (or Serge’s De Profundis, which gave me a whole new way to look at chrysanthemum, prior to which I’d never thought of as having a place in perfumery).
School of London. David Hockney, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, RB Kitaj (and others) – a self-described school of Expressionist-influenced figurative painters. My babies. Messy, bloody, weirdly divine. I would’ve put Mitsouko herein as well, but She can’t be everywhere! This is Lucian Freud’s vaunted ‘Self Portrait 1985″, painted at the height of his talent and power. Scent it. (I put that painting in Jubilation 25 – woman – what say you?)
what about this one? I dares ya! (I keep thinking it’s Clinique Aromatics Elixir, which Ms Long puts in the Baroque period. Nah. It’s Scary New World. New Life, lots of pain, but a lot of hope and a bit of joy, looking towards the future)
Okay! That’s MY version of things. What perfumes conjure what art for you? Or vice versa? (I put Pieter Breugel’s The Wedding Dance in Noir Epices. I also rehung it – for realz (it was askew to the point of falling off the wall) . Why am I not in prison? God looks after lunatics)