SISSYDUDE LOVES: THE STYLE & WORK of OSSIE CLARK & CELIA BIRTWELL
Sometimes I get obsessed/ inspired about someone (or a group of people) and I can’t stop searching for info on them. Recently I’ve had my Hockney LOVE (re-reading 1976’s Hockney by Hockney) resurface and with it, Hockney’s friends- muse Celia Birtwell and “maybe Hockney’s lover” and Celia’s husband and creative partner Ossie Clark. Birtwell popped up recently in 2015 when she collaborated with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino’s beautiful pre-fall 2015 collection. So here you go. Come join my new obsession! I’ve got Julia Watt’s 2003 book ‘Ossie Clark 1965-1974’, The Ossie Clark Diaries & Birtwell’s 2011 picture book coming in the mail, so I’ll be busy reading and observing images through now and into 2017. Probably share more images as well. Don’t worry… hairy assholes will be coming soon!
Wikipedia: Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy is a painting by the British artist David Hockney. Painted between 1970 and 1971, it depicts the fashion designer Ossie Clark and the textile designer Celia Birtwell shortly after their wedding at which Hockney was Clark’s best man. Hockney and Clark had been friends since the early 1960s. One of their cats sits on Ossie’s knee (the cat in the painting was not in fact Percy — this was the name of one of their other cats — but Hockney thought Percy made a better title than Blanche, the cat he painted). The work is in acrylic on canvas, and measures 2170 x 3084mm in its frame. The painting featured in the final 10 of the Greatest Painting in Britain Vote in 2005, the only work by a living artist to do so. The painting is in the collection of the Tate Gallery.
INDEPENDENT UK: In the painting, Birtwell wears a dress co-designed by her and her husband. Theirs was one of fashion’s most volatile but successful marriages. Success is an odd word to use, given that the couple divorced in 1974, and Clark and his business were declared bankrupt in the early 1980s. But their professional and personal partnership defined the 1960s and 70s, forming a blueprint for contemporary British fashion. That blueprint comprises spectacular shows, painstakingly constructed clothes, a global influence on other designers and, paradoxically, creative abundance shackled by financial reality. Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell represented its first cresting wave – one that inevitably came crashing down. Read the rest HERE.
Hockney drew on both The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck and A Rake’s Progress by William Hogarth in the symbolism and composition of the painting. A copy of Hockney’s own interpretation of A Rake’s Progress is seen on the wall. The positions of the two figures are reversed from the Arnolfini Portrait with the conclusion that Birtwell is the assertive partner. The lilies next to Birtwell, a symbol of female purity are also associated with depictions of the Annunciation (at the time of the portrait Birtwell was pregnant). The cat on Clark’s lap is a symbol of infidelity and envy. In this case, Clark continued to have affairs which contributed to the breakdown of the marriage in 1974.
Author Judith Watt comments: “Celia collaborated with Ossie. This was a joint effort. People say that she was his muse, which indeed she was, but their work absolutely went hand in hand. It was her designs that he used to create his. I think it’s unfair that she not be given that voice”
Ossie was noted, from this period on, for buying six new record albums a week, all from the newest and most popular recording artists. His love of music and art were legendary amongst Ossie’s friends. Also at this time Ossie began to take hard drugs more recreationally with friend and business partner Alice Pollock. “This is when his character began to change” says longtime friend Lady Henrietta Rous.
Wikipedia: On August 6, 1996, 54 year old Ossie Clark was stabbed to death in his council flat, in Kensington and Chelsea, London, by his former lover, 28-year-old Italian Diego Cogolato.In March 1997, Cogolato was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and jailed for six years.