Saturday, 21 June 2014

Pirate Women by Norman Lindsay (1879-1969)

Captured (1938)

Anyone who has seen the enjoyable 1993 film Sirens will be familiar with the work of Australian painter Norman Lindsay (as depicted by Sam Neill in the film) but perhaps less so with his pirate paintings.   Given I  have just signed up for the North Star On the Seven Seas pirate pre-order I thought that presenting some of  Lindsay's pirate paintings would be appropriate.

Macpherson (right) in Sirens

Lindsay scattered voluptuous naked women across his canvasses like so many ripe fruit on a Caribbean market stall.  Who can forget the sumptuous Elle Macpherson (who, as we have mentioned previously, was largely responsible for me paying out £1700 to join Cannons gym in the City back in the nineties) in Sirens having put on 20 pounds in weight to look more like one of Lindsay's curvaceous models?

Pirates Reward

Pirates were one of Lindsay's favourite subjects but, of course, he couldn't resist filling his canvases with gorgeously curvy women as well.  So, in his paintings Lindsay's pirates seem more interested in collecting women than loot.

Pirates Return (1940)

Lindsay said of his pirate pictures:  "The pirate is a colourful ruffian and I have frequently got good subjects out of his sacking of cities for plunder in gold and women. He also gives me shipboard scenes to paint which call for a good deal of technical knowledge of ship construction. Also, there is this peculiar appeal in the pirate as the scoundrel adventurer, risking his neck if the law catches up with him... I have never painted a piratical subject that has not been snatched up by buyers when exhibited. I am constantly asked to paint pirates. As I never take commissions, I only paint pirates when a composition suggests itself."

Norman Lindsay and his mistress Rose Soady. Kensington 1909

Lindsay took the maritime technical aspects seriously and spent many hours making and rigging model ships, which he sometimes used as source material for his paintings.  This was something he became interested in after sketching ship models in museums in Kensington, during a trip to London, in 1909.

Lindsay's home in Faulconbridge New South Wales

As Sirens showed, he had plenty of source material for his women at his home in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, about fifty miles from Sydney, which is now a museum and gallery of his work and was actually used as the location for the film.

Rose Lindsay (1885-1978)

One of his principal models was his second wife Rose, who had modelled for him from 1902 before becoming his mistress and then later his wife, when he divorced his first wife in 1918.

 Ladies for Ransom (1938)

These two paintings were done in 1938 and 1940, coincidentally (or perhaps not) at the same time some of the biggest Hollywood pirate films were released.  The pirates here have coralled a positive cornucopia of female loot, from haughty Spanish Donnas to feisty dusky-skinned locals.  Lots of biting and scratching is predicted from this lot.

The Pirates Return (1940)

In contrast, this picture sees the pirates' women welcoming back their men after an expedition on the high seas.  If these ladies were captives then we seem to have seen a Caribbean equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome (Santo Domingo Syndrome?) here.  You can bet that the blonde in the centre just has to be the English Governor's daughter (they're always the worst) although her Spanish equivalent on the right is obviously keen to supplant her in the pirate captain's affections.

The Legatus is very jealous of Lindsay's life; spending your days drawing lovely women in your beautiful home in the countryside, making model ships and living to the age of ninety.  A pirates life for me!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Estelle Skornik

You only have to exclaim "Papa" to people of a certain generation in Britain for them to immediately answer "Nicole!"   These were characters in a successful series of TV commercials (as only people in the TV industry call them) for the Renault Clio, which ran from 1991 until 1998. 

Skornik in 2003

They were prototypically (not to say caricature) French characters, engaging in "typically" French romantic behaviour.  The commercials were later voted the most popular car adverts on British TV ever.

Loosely inspired by the characters played by Audrey Hepburn and Hugh Griffith in the 1966 film How to Steal a Million, "Nicole" was played by delicious French actress Estelle Skornik.


The beautifully put together Miss Skornik ("small but perfectly formed" as the advert narration said of the car, while the camera lingered on Miss Skornik) started the series in a sundress that played to her perky assets beautifully.  

In fact, the nineteen year old Skornik hadn't passed her driving test when the first advert was filmed so a professional driving double had to be used.

The sunny, Provence setting and guitarist Martin Taylor's engaging Django Reinhardt-style take on Robert Palmer's Frankie and Mary made the eight adverts a huge hit.  In 1996 a survey showed that Nicole was recognised by more British people than then prime minister John Major.

Skornik was at the beginning of her acting career when she started the Renault adverts but went on to have a number of film and TV roles in France.   Her last film role was in 2011. 

In 1999, after the Renault adverts had finished, Skornik appeared in the Hornblower TV series, featuring in The Frogs and the Lobsters episode.  Sadly, it was her only non-French TV appearance.

What a lucky Welshman

Skornik with Ioan Gruffudd in The Frogs and the Lobsters

Skornik plays the part of Mariette, a schoolteacher, who becomes the romantic interest for Hornblower, although the character was invented for the TV show and is not in the original book by CS Forester.

Skornik today

Skornik is still only 43 now and still absolutely gorgeous but hasn't done any English language work since the 2001 film From Hell.   A lady who we should, by rights, have seen much more of on British screens.