Chanel, Warhol and Bardot: The Greater Evils

26 May

Andy Warhol's Mickey Mouse: Whose creator 'Disney' was a Nazi

I’ve come to the realisation that amongst the things I most admire in the world of art, I also have a deep loathing for the creators.

Aside from Edie Sedgwick, another icon I adore is Brigitte Bardot. The timeless southern French style, the bed hair so loved by Sienna et all, and the curves that attracted the cult-like following.

Andy Warhol sits comfortably at the top of my artist hierarchy; the man is a genius. Since I was very young I have collected Andy Warhol prints, from the shoe cards I picked up in Chicago, to the images of the man himself larking around that I found in an Austrian museum.

Chanel epitomises elegance with the basic yet luxurious silhouettes, and the iconic interlocking C’s which so many lust after.

I loved Bardot’s birthday message to Sophia Loren:

“I wish a happy birthday to Sophia Loren, my splendid twin, and I ask her to stop wearing fur – that is the best gift she could offer me.”

Yet alongside Bardot’s work for animal rights, she also happens to be a raging racist. In 2004 she was fined for inciting racial hatred in a book where she aired her disgusting views on acial mixing, immigration, the role of women in politics and Islam. She is also reportedly homophobic. Sarah Palin… here’s your match.

Andy Warhol refused to help his friend Edie from her own self destruction, resulting in her break down and tragic fate. He even refused to acknowledge their friendship years after her death, saying “it was just so long ago. I hardly knew her at all.” As an Edie fan, I found Guy Pearce’s portray of the artist in Factory Girl disturbingly cold, yet sadly accurate.

Coco Chanel was a Nazi sympathiser, who had a relationship with Nazi officer Hans Gunther von Dincklage. As much as I loved reading about the Cannes Chanel show, it’s hard to shun the fact that the lady behind the name spent the second world war in the snug bosom of the far right. After all, it was those in the Nazi-infested Ritz who bought her perfume. After the war, Coco and her perfumes went into exile in Switzerland; she most certainly wasn’t wanted at home.

Yet with this knowledge I’m reluctant to say that I still adore Coco Mademoiselle; the perfume that reminds me of going on holiday, spraying it liberally all over my coat in duty free at the age of 12 with the early established connection of luxury.

When I last got my haircut I asked for a ‘Bardot’, and when I visited the Tate a couple of months ago my heart skipped as I came across some Warhol goodies in the shop.

How far can we allow the actions of our idols influence how we view their art?

Should we always condemn their evil, or is it wrong to break the wounds?


7 Responses to “Chanel, Warhol and Bardot: The Greater Evils”

  1. graysn55 May 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    Catherine Llewellyn’s posts are always intrigiung , informative and beautifully crafted ; I enjoy the use of language and the interlocking ideas.

    Should it be that our heroes do no wrong in our eyes ? I guess it depends on the degree of passion we feel for them which may override our objectivity.

    • Catherine Llewellyn May 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

      Thank you for such kind words Graham!

      Who are your heroes? I agree with you, Chanel and Bardot are figures I admire on a superficial level. My real heroes are Bob Dylan and William Blake… and I know Dylan comes with a fair few flaws for sure, with his drug misuse etc. Yet Dylan and Blake hold the values I truly admire; Blake being the first recognised poet to write a poem on how black and white people should be seen as equal.

      • Graham Snuggs May 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

        You’re very welcome Catherine …..I enjoy what you do ( even if I managed to work a typo into intriguing ! ).

        You clearly have a poetic soul and , for various reasons , my poetic influences have been Milton , Donne and Kipling – now there’s an eclectic mix 🙂

        Since all human beings are flawed , which might be a reasonable definition of the human state , I absolutely get Dylan but am more on board with William Blake.

        Heroes , though ….. hmmmm. If you asked me to plump for one it would probably be Oliver Cromwell ,strangely enough. Not much poetry there but a passionate belief in the necessity to challenge the status quo , a preparedness to engage others to do it/give them the chance to do so and a reluctance to take the ultimate sanction ….. but a terrible resolution to see it through once the decision had been made.

        Although , as you can see , I’m more of a republican than a monarchist ( fundamentally because I disagree that people should be in positions of power and wealth by virtue of their ancestors being more effective and efficient at killing their comeptitors and sequestering their assets ) I do , as we touched on the other day on Twitter , harbour a sneaking regard for Richard III ( still think you should organise a DNA test for that lady ! ) whose administrative skills have been submerged in the populism of Shakespeare’s play which , as do most historical records , panders to the ‘winners’.

        None of the above , or maybe some of it , really fully explains why I like your work so much ….but when I read your posts , it feels like a satisfying meal ; flavour , fullness and a sense of well-being !

        So , thank you !

      • Catherine Llewellyn May 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

        It’s great to see you are a fellow poetry fan! Are you a Kipling fan pre or after Jack’s death? I feel that his work changed so much after he died. I am also a huge Kipling fan.

        I also favour Richard III… If your ever in the North you should definitely visit his museum. It’s hidden in the castle walls, and there’s a brilliant court scene where you can watch him stand trial. It’s a shame that Shakespeare were to write during the Tudor times, or we may have a complete different idea of what Richard was really like!

        I’m so glad you read them, I write whatever comes into my head because I enjoy writing, and it’s lovely to know they’re also being read! Do you write at all?

  2. Graham Snuggs May 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi C

    I don’t think I have a preference either side of Jack’s death ( possibly a slight one for the Victorian era poems ) but how could it not change him ?

    In any event it’s impossible to comprehend the experience that the War Poets describe so poignantly.

    I haven’t been to the Richard III museum ( an oversight I must correct and , as I work in Knutsford a couple of days a week , I’m nearer there than I am home ! ) so thanks for the steer.

    You have a facility with language and image that , sadly , eludes me so , no , I don’t write. I do appreciate though. Will continue to follow your blogs and will try not to add to many asinine comments :-)))

    Have a safe trip back to the North East tomorrow …. home very definitely is where the heart is. Smiled at your veg casserole story ; my first wife (looks even worse in print than it sounds ) did a very similar thing and blurted out , in front of her new in-laws “Shit , the potatoes aren’t cooked” Cue embarrassed silence !

    Fortunately I love cooking and am half-way decent at it. I have , however , been described as a ‘technician’ (i.e. I follow a recipe and turn out reasonable fare )rather than a ‘creator’ of dishes. Fair criticism.


    • Catherine Llewellyn May 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Did you watch My Boy Jack? It was completely heartbreaking! Are you a fan of war poetry? I’m a huge Sassoon fan, and also really enjoyed Pat Barker’s Regeneration series, where she describes the scene of Sassoon and Wilfred Owen’s first meeting. There was a brilliant short play on at Leeds Royal Armouries museum of the same scene, but unfortunately there were only a handful of us in the audience.

      The story about the cooking is hilarious! The embarrassed silence is one I know only too well! What do you like cooking most?

      • Graham Snuggs May 27, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

        I didn’t but I will catch up with it and , yes , I do favour Sassoon , Owne and Henry Reed’s work …. I blame it on my grammar school education.

        I’m actually featured in the Leeds RA ….. for about 0.3s ….I used to ride as a cavalry trooper for the English Civil War Society and we shot 10 hours of action at Strensham …which got reduced to about 3 seconds of film of which I’m in 0.3s !!!

        My signature dish is Chicken and Tarragon pie but I cook Indian from scratch and grind all the herbs etc.

        Do stay in touch …. I’m on for ease of contact.

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