November 12, 2012 2:22 pm
Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor behind “The Thinker” and “The Kiss,” celebrates his would-be 172nd birthday today with a Google Doodle tribute. The Los Angeles Times describes the artist’s work:
Rodin’s sculptures emphasize musculature and movement, with subjects often assuming contorted and anguished poses. His work is often viewed as paving the way for modern sculpture of the 20th century.
His sculptures dabbled in mythology and allegory, and his unique ability to entice turbulent, deeply textured figures out of his raw materials ran counter to the predominant sculpture traditions of the time, earning him much criticism by contemporaries. Eventually, however, he outgrew those jealous judgements, rising to become France’s preeminent sculptor and gaining world-wide recognition by 1900.
Besides his enduring mark on modern art, Rodin is probably best known for his tumultuous love affair with fellow artist, Camille Claudel. The two met in 1883, when Claudel was just 18 years old. They embarked upon a passionate but stormy relationship, with Claudel often serving as Rodin’s model, while producing her own artistic works and assisting Rodin with commissions.
Meanwhile, Rodin kept up ties with Rose Beuret, his first love and mother to his child. “I think of how much you must have loved me to put up with my caprices…I remain, in all tenderness, your Rodin,” he wrote to her once, while still carrying on with mistress Claudel. In 1898, following an unwanted abortion, Claudel severed ties with Rodin for good. Soon after, she suffered a nervous breakdown and her family committed her (needlessly, many argue) to an asylum, where she spent the next 30 years, until her death in 1943. Her relatives never came to claim Claudel’s body, so she was buried in a communal grave without ceremony.
Rodin finally married Beuret, but only in the last year of both of their lives.
Rodin and Claudel’s tempestuous relationship has inspired plays, ballets and movies. A new rendition, staring Juliette Binoche as an asylum-bound, bitter Claudel, is scheduled to hit theaters next year.
More from Smithsonian.com:
November 8, 2012 11:03 am
The Google team must be literati or vampire fans—or both: Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the birth of Bram Stoker, arguably the father of the modern vampire. If he were alive today, he’d be 165, still something of a baby-vamp, by “True Blood” standards.
Dublin-born Stoker (christened Abraham)entered this world in 1847. He was a soccer and track start at Trinity College, and after graduating spent a few years working as a clerk. By the time he reached 50, however, he’d found his true calling: he released his most notable book—perhaps the most famous horror novel ever written—Dracula.
To create Dracula, Stoker spent a few years submerging himself in Eastern European folklore and its popular countryside mythology of the vampire. Unfortunately, Stoker died just 15 years after Dracula’s publication, and it wasn’t until after the author departed this Earth that the book really gained traction in popular culture, sparking adaptations in films, literature and television, and igniting an entire industry of vampire-related entertainment, Digital Spy writes.
Though the original 541-page typed Dracula manuscript disappeared for decades, until in the 1980s it reemerged inside a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania. The work, titled “The Un-Dead,” was purchased by billionaire Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen.
Most vampire buffs associate Bella Lugosi’s original 1931 portrayal with the essence of Dracula, but fervent fans would argue that Gary Oldman’s sultry, tortured portrayal of the “son of the dragon” in the 1992 “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” really hit the coffin nail on the head:
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October 18, 2012 9:07 am
Today marks the 161st anniversary of Moby Dick, the epic seafaring tale by Herman Melville, and Google is celebrating with its own Doodle.
If you could never get into Moby Dick, you’re not alone. Like many masterpieces, when Moby Dick came out it wasn’t exactly popular. People weren’t really sure what to make of it. London Britannia wrote:
The Whale is a most extraordinary work. There is so much eccentricity in its style and in its construction, in the original conception and in the gradual development of its strange and improbable story, that we are at a loss to determine in what category of works of amusement to place it….
Here’s London Morning Advisor:
To convey an adequate idea of a book of such various merits as that which the author of Typee and Omoo has here placed before the reading public, is impossible in the scope of a review. High philosophy, liberal feeling, abstruse metaphysics popularly phrased, soaring speculation, a style as many-coloured as the theme, yet always good, and often admirable; fertile fancy, ingenious construction, playful learning, and an unusual power of enchaining the interest, and rising to the verge of the sublime, without overpassing that narrow boundary which plunges the ambitious penman into the ridiculous; all these are possessed by Herman Melville, and exemplified in these volumes.
And London Anthenaeum:
This is an ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed….
… The result is, at all events, a most provoking book, — neither so utterly extravagant as to be entirely comfortable, nor so instructively complete as to take place among documents on the subject of the Great Fish, his capabilities, his home and his capture.
Of course, some loved it immediately. New York Albion wrote:
This mere announcement of the book’s and the author’s name will prepare you in a measure for what follows; for you know just as well as we do that Herman Melville is a practical and practised sea-novelist, and that what comes from his pen will be worth the reading. And so indeed is Moby-Dick, and not lacking much of being a great work….
And if you want to hear everyone from Tilda Swinton to a real live ship captain reading Moby Dick chapter by chapter, head over to the Big Read. They’re tackling all 135 chapters, one a day.
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October 16, 2012 8:16 am
First, go play all the way through this Google Doodle. Then come back. Okay, now that you’ve got your childhood adventure time in, let’s talk.
Yesterday’s Google Doodle celebrated the 107th anniversary of Little Nemo in Slumberland, a comic strip by Winsor McCay that hit the presses for nine years. McCay’s work might look familiar, even if you’ve never seen it, because it inspired people like Maurice Sendak and Alan Moore. McCay’s drawings are whimsical, colorful and, well, just go look at them.
The Los Angeles Times say that McCay’s drawings were inspired by the inner workings of his mind:
McCay, born in Canada in 1867, is best known for “Little Nemo,” the fantastical and magical Sunday comic strip that began in October 1905. Nemo was created during an eight-year period when, propelled by “inner demons,” McCay “was compelled … to draw and draw and draw.”
After Little Nemo, McCay went on to create “The Story of a Mosquito,” in which a mosquito encounters a drunk man, and to experiment with the beginnings of animation.
Here’s the full Doodle, although you have to click through it to see the animations.
August 15, 2012 8:30 am
This morning’s Google Doodle pays homage to one of America’s favorite chefs of all time, Julia Child. It’s a big honor, but the woman deserves it, it is her 100th birthday after all.
Child is probably best known for her television show The French Chef, one of the first cooking shows on television. But as she cooked her way through fame and fortune, Child had a soft spot for science as well. Here she is burning some food to make carbon in her delightful, Julia Child way.
Child helped out with another science experiment too – making primordial soup:
Julia Child, famous chef, entertains you in her kitchen by preparing a primordial soup. Her recipe demonstrates how simple inorganic chemicals on the ancient Earth may have been transformed into complex organic compounds, the building blocks of life. In this presentation our chef mixes a batch of raw primordial soup in special laboratory apparatus made to simulate conditions of ancient Earth.
Julia Child spent most of her time in the kitchen acting a lot like a good scientist – trying things to see if they work. Things like blow torches. Here she is using one on a crepe.
But what would Child have thought of today’s combination of food and science? There is something quite different between the specialized, equipment intensive molecular gastronomy of today’s chefs, or the laboratory produced meats and flavors, and Child’s playful, homey experimentation with food. Chances are, she would have hated today’s processed foods, but appreciate molecular gastronomy, says the Chicago Sun Times:
Child once commented on Cuisine Nouveau, molecular gastronomy’s 1990s precursor, “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate —- you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” So we can guess what she might think of meat glue and spherified vegetable juice.
And while she was a lover of tools like the blow-torch, and the microwave, she was also a no-fuss kind of chef. Here’s the Chicago Sun Times again:
In The Way to Cook, Child wrote, “I wouldn’t be without my microwave oven, but I rarely use it for real cooking. I like having complete control over my food — I want to turn it, smell it, poke it, stir it about and hover over its every state. …” Child used her microwave for defrosting and melting chocolate and butter and even baking potatoes (she loved baked potatoes with lots of butter).
For all she embraced labor-saving devices, she was a stickler for process. She deplored “elimination of steps, combination of processes, or skimping on ingredients such as butter, cream — and time.”
The clean, sterile laboratory atmosphere of molecular gastronomy doesn’t have lots of room for intentionally burned foods and fingers mucking about in everything. So for today, in honor of Julia, let’s torch some crepes together.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Julia Child’s Thoroughly Modern Marriage