William Kentridge

Felix in Exile, 1994

Kentridge makes short animation films from large-scale drawings in charcoal and pastel on paper. Each drawing, which contains a single scene, is successively altered through erasing and redrawing and photographed in 16 or 35mm film at each stage of its evolution. Remnants of successive stages remain on the paper, and provide a metaphor for the layering of memory which is one of Kentridge’s principal themes. The films in this series, titled Drawings for Projection (see Tate T07482-5 and T07480-81), are set in the devastated landscape south of Johannesburg where derelict mines and factories, mine dumps and slime dams have created a terrain of nostalgia and loss. Kentridge’s repeated erasure and redrawing, which leave marks without completely transforming the image, together with the jerky movement of the animation, operate in parallel with his depiction of human processes, both physical and political, enacted on the landscape.

Felix in Exile is Kentridge’s fifth film. It was made from forty drawings and is accompanied by music by Phillip Miller and Motsumi Makhene. It introduces a new character to the series: Nandi, an African woman, who appears at the beginning of the film making drawings of the landscape. She observes the land with surveyor’s instruments, watching African bodies, with bleeding wounds, which melt into the landscape. She is recording the evidence of violence and massacre that is part of South Africa’s recent history. Felix Teitelbaum, who features in Kentridge’s first and fourth films as the humane and loving alter-ego to the ruthless capitalist white South African psyche, appears here semi-naked and alone in a foreign hotel room, brooding over Nandi’s drawings of the damaged African landscape, which cover his suitcase and walls. Felix looks at himself in the mirror while shaving and Nandi appears to him. They are connected to one another, through the mirror, by a double-ended telescope and embrace, but Nandi is later shot and absorbed back into the ground like the bodies she was observing earlier. A flood of blue water in the hotel room, brought about by the process of painful remembering, symbolises tears of grief and loss and the Biblical flood which promises new life. Kentridge has commented: ‘Felix in Exile was made at the time just before the first general election in South Africa, and questioned the way in which the people who had died on the journey to this new dispensation would be remembered’ (William Kentridge 1998, p.90). In this film Nandi’s drawing could be read as an attempt to construct a new national identity through the preservation, rather than erasure, of brutal and racist colonial memory.

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kentridge-felix-in-exile-t07479

Episode #100: With his video “History of the Main Complaint” (1996) serving as a backdrop, William Kentridge discusses how artists draw upon tragedy as subject matter for their work and how drawing itself can be a compassionate act.

Having witnessed first-hand one of the twentieth centurys most contentious struggles—the dissolution of apartheid—William Kentridge brings the ambiguity and subtlety of personal experience to public subjects most often framed in narrowly defined terms. Using film, drawing, sculpture, animation, and performance, he transmutes sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories. Aware of myriad ways in which we construct the world by looking, Kentridge often uses optical illusions to extend his drawings-in-time into three dimensions.

Learn more about William Kentridge at: http://www.art21.org/artists/william-kentridge

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Ray Day. Editor: Paulo Padilha. Artwork Courtesy: William Kentridge.


Episode #094: Shot in his Johannesburg studio in South Africa, William Kentridge reveals the process and unusual presentation of the video work “Return” — a component of the larger project “(REPEAT) from the beginning / Da Capo” (2008) — which had its debut on the fire screen of Teatro La Fenice opera house in Venice, Italy.

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Chris Marker: Le Jetée

La jetée (English: The Jetty and The Pier) (1962) is a 28-minute black and white science fiction film by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel.

In the movie, the survivors of a destroyed Paris in the aftermath of World War III live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. They research time travel, hoping to send someone back before the devastating war to recover food, medicine, or energy for the present, “to summon the past and future to the aid of the present.” The traveler is a male prisoner; his vague but obsessive childhood memory of witnessing a woman (Hélène Chatelain) during a violent incident on the boarding platform (“The Jetty”) at Orly Airport is used as the key to his journey back in time. He is thrown back to the past again and again. He repeatedly meets and speaks to the woman who was present at the terminal. After his successful passages to the past, the experimenters attempt to send him into the deep future. In a brief meeting with the technologically advanced people of the future, he is given a power unit sufficient to regenerate his own destroyed society.

On his return, he is cast aside by his jailers to die. Before he can be executed, he is contacted by the people of the future, who offer to help him escape to their time, but he asks to be returned to the time of his childhood. He is returned, only to find the violent incident he partially witnessed as a child was his own death as an adult.

La jetée has no dialogue aside from small sections of muttering in German; the story is told by a voice-over narrator. It is constructed almost entirely from optically printed photographs playing out as a photomontage of varying pace. It contains only one brief shot originating on a motion-picture camera. The stills were taken with a Pentax 24×36 and the motion-picture segment was shot with a 35mm Arriflex. The film score was composed by Trevor Duncan. (wikipedia)

(originally posted on 1/10/07):

Today we watched Chris Marker’s Le Jette – ON FILM – this was a surprise to know that the school has a copy. You probably are wondering what’s the difference? Well we were able to watch the film the way that it was created and not transfer to vhs or dvd – the noise of the projector is all part of the experience. So this was our major transition from the still to the moving image. The film 12 Monkeys gives credit to Le Jetee as inspiration. Any thoughts?

Norman McLaren


Norman McLaren, Neighbours/Voisins, 8:02 mins, 1952

Norman McLaren here employs the principles normally used to put drawings or puppets into motion to animate live actors. The story is a parable about two people who come to blows over the possession of a flower. Film without words. McLaren won an Oscar for Neighbours/Voisins

Norman McLaren was born in Scotland in 1914. His interest in filmmaking began early in life after he became acquainted with works by the great Russian filmmakers Eisenstein and Poudovkine and the German animator Oskar Fischinger. While a student at the Glasgow School of Fine Arts, McLaren’s fascination with dance led him to make such stylized documentaries as Seven Till Five (1933). He subsequently joined the General Post Office Film Unit (GPOFU) in London, where he worked under John Grierson. It was there that he created Love on the Wing (1937), using the technique of drawing directly on the filmstrip. In 1939, McLaren immigrated to the United States, where he made several abstract films, including Stars and Stripes (1940) and Dots (1940). In 1941, he came to Canada and met up once again with John Grierson, who, at the request of the Canadian government, had founded the NFB. Grierson asked McLaren to put together the NFB’s first animation team.

view film here

Additional Films

Futurist Movement


Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)
The City Rises, 1910
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 6′ 6 1/2″ x 9′ 10 1/2″ (199.3 x 301 cm)

The most important Italian avant-garde art movement of the 20th century, Futurism celebrated advanced technology and urban modernity. Committed to the new, its members wished to destroy older forms of culture and to demonstrate the beauty of modern life – the beauty of the machine, speed, violence and change. Although the movement did foster some architecture, most of its adherents were artists who worked in traditional media such as painting and sculpture, and in an eclectic range of styles inspired by Post-Impressionism. Nevertheless, they were interested in embracing popular media and new technologies to communicate their ideas. Their enthusiasm for modernity and the machine ultimately led them to celebrate the arrival of the First World War. By its end the group was largely spent as an important avant-garde, though it continued through the 1920s, and, during that time several of its members went on to embrace Fascism, making Futurism the only twentieth century avant-garde to have embraced far right politics.

Key Ideas

• The Futurists were fascinated by the problems of representing modern experience, and strived to have their paintings evoke all kinds of sensations – and not merely those visible to the eye. At its best, Futurist art brings to mind the noise, heat and even the smell of the metropolis.
• Unlike many other modern art movements, such as Impressionism and Pointillism, Futurism was not immediately identified with a distinctive style. Instead its adherents worked in an eclectic manner, borrowing from various aspects of Post-Impressionism, including Symbolism and Divisionism. It was not until 1911 that a distinctive Futurist style emerged, and then it was a product of Cubist influence.

• The Futurists were fascinated by new visual technology, in particular chrono-photography, a predecessor of animation and cinema that allowed the movement of an object to be shown across a sequence of frames. This technology was an important influence on their approach to showing movement in painting, encouraging an abstract art with rhythmic, pulsating qualities.


Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871-1958)
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 1912
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 37.6 in × 45.5 in (95.6 cm × 115.6 cm)

Beginnings

Futurism began its transformation of Italian culture on February 20th, 1909, with the publication of the Futurist Manifesto, authored by writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.

It appeared on the front page of Le Figaro, which was then the largest circulation newspaper in France, and the stunt signaled the movement’s desire to employ modern, popular means of communication to spread its ideas. The group would issue more manifestos as the years passed, but this summed up their spirit, celebrating the “machine age”, the triumph of technology over nature, and opposing earlier artistic traditions. Marinetti’s ideas drew the support of artists Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, and Carlo Carrà, who believed that they could be translated into a modern, figurative art which explored properties of space and movement. The movement initially centered in Milan, but it spread quickly to Turin and Naples, and over subsequent years Marinetti vigorously promoted it abroad.

natalia-goncharova-the-cyclist
Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962)
The Cyclist,1913
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 31″ x 42″ (78 x 105 cm)

Concepts and Styles

The Italian group was slow to develop a distinct style. In the years prior to the emergence of the movement, its members had worked in an eclectic range of styles inspired by Post-Impressionism, and they continued to do so. Severini was typical in his interest in Divisionism, which involved breaking down light and color into a series of stippled dots and stripes, and fracturing the picture plane into segments to achieve an ambiguous sense of depth. Divisionism was rooted in the color theory of the 19th century, and the Pointillist works of painters such as Georges Seurat.


Gino Severini (Italian, 1883-1966)
Sea = Dancer (Mare = Ballerina), 1914
Medium: Oil On Canvas With Artist’s Painted Frame
Dimensions: 39 3/8 x 31 11/16 in. (100 x 80.5 cm)

In 1911, Futurist paintings were exhibited in Milan at the Mostra d’arte libera, and invitations were extended to “all those who want to assert something new, that is to say far from imitations, derivations and falsifications.” The paintings featured threadlike brushstrokes and highly keyed color that depicted space as fragmented and fractured. Subjects and themes focused on technology, speed, and violence, rather than portraits or simple landscapes. Among the paintings was Boccioni’s The City Rises (1910), a picture which can claim to be the first Futurist painting by virtue of its advanced, Cubist-influenced style. Public reaction was mixed. French critics from literary and artistic circles expressed hostility, while many praised the innovative content.

Boccioni’s encounter with Cubist painting in Paris had an important influence on him, and he carried this back to his peers in Italy. Nevertheless, the Futurists claimed to reject the style, since they believed it was too preoccupied by static objects, and not enough by the movement of the modern world. It was their fascination with movement that led to their interest in chrono-photography. Balla was particularly enthusiastic about the technology, and his pictures sometimes evoke fast-paced animation, with objects blurred by movement. As stated by the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting, “On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular.” Rather than perceiving an action as a performance of a single limb, Futurists viewed action as the convergence in time and space of multiple extremities.

Later Developments

In 1913, Boccioni used sculpture to further articulate Futurist dynamism. Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) exemplifies vigorous action as well as the relationship between object and environment. The piece was a breakthrough for the Futurist movement, but after 1913 the movement began to break apart as its members developed their own personal positions. In 1915, Italy entered World War I; by its end, Boccioni and the Futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia perished. Following the war, the movement’s center shifted from Milan to Rome; Severini continued to paint in the distinctive Futurist style, and the movement remained active in the 1920s, but the energy had passed from it.

231.1948
Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. 1913 (cast 1931)
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: 44” H x 35” x 16” W (111 x 89 x 40 cm)


Carlo Carrà (Italian, 1881-1966)
Interventionist Manifesto, 1953-54
Medium: Tempera, pen, mica powder, paper glued on cardboard
Dimensions: 15 x 11 in. (38.5 x 30 cm)

Nevertheless, Futurism sparked important developments outside Italy. A synthesis of Parisian Cubism and Italian Futurism was particularly influential in Russia from around 1912 until 1920, inspiring artists including Kazimir Malevich, Liubov Popova, Natalia Goncharova and David Burliuk. The developments in Russia made the movement very distinct from the Italian strain, and different aspects of it are often described as Rayonist, or Cubo-Futurist. Cubo-Futurism was also an influence on English art, where it gave rise to the Vorticist movement, which embraced philosopher T.E. Hulme, poet Ezra Pound, and artists Christopher Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg and Jacob Epstein. Although the impact of Italian Futurism was concentrated in the visual arts, it did inspire artists in other media: Vladimir Mayakovsky was important in developing a Futurist literature in Russia; the Italian architect Antonio Sant’Elia developed a Futurist architecture, and is said to have penned a manifesto on the subject (his designs may have influenced the sets of Ridley Scott’s film Bladerunner (1982)); and Luigi Russolo shifted from painting to creating musical instruments, and later wrote the manifesto “The Art of Noises” (1913), which has been a significant reference point for avant-garde music ever since. Although much of the energy had left the movement by the 1920s, the Futurist aesthetic also became part of the mix of modernist styles that inspired Art Deco.

http://www.theartstory.org/movement-futurism.htm

Cubist Movement


Georges Braque (French, Argenteuil 1882–1963 Paris), 1911
Medium: Oil and charcoal with sand on canvas
Dimensions: 25 3/4 x 21 5/8 in. (65.4 x 54.9 cm)

Cubism was one of the most influential visual art styles of the early twentieth century. It was created by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963) in Paris between 1907 and 1914. The French art critic Louis Vauxcelles coined the term Cubism after seeing the landscapes Braque had painted in 1908 at L’Estaque in emulation of Cézanne. Vauxcelles called the geometric forms in the highly abstracted works “cubes.” Other influences on early Cubism have been linked to Primitivism and non-Western sources. The stylization and distortion of Picasso’s ground-breaking Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York), painted in 1907, came from African art. Picasso had first seen African art when, in May or June 1907, he visited the ethnographic museum in the Palais du Trocadéro in Paris.


Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France), 1911
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 24 1/8 x 19 7/8 in. (61.3 x 50.5 cm)

The Cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature, or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective, modeling, and foreshortening. They wanted instead to emphasize the two-dimensionality of the canvas. So they reduced and fractured objects into geometric forms, and then realigned these within a shallow, relieflike space. They also used multiple or contrasting vantage points.


Roger de la Fresnaye (French, Le Mans 1885–1925 Grasse), 1911
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 51 1/4 x 62 3/4 in. (130.2 x 159.4 cm)

In Cubist work up to 1910, the subject of a picture was usually discernible. Although figures and objects were dissected or “analyzed” into a multitude of small facets, these were then reassembled, after a fashion, to evoke those same figures or objects. During “high” Analytic Cubism (1910–12), also called “hermetic,” Picasso and Braque so abstracted their works that they were reduced to just a series of overlapping planes and facets mostly in near-monochromatic browns, grays, or blacks. In their work from this period, Picasso and Braque frequently combined representational motifs with letters (1999.363.63; 1999.363.11). Their favorite motifs were still lifes with musical instruments, bottles, pitchers, glasses, newspapers, playing cards (1997.149.12), and the human face and figure. Landscapes were rare.


Sonia Delaunay (Ukrainian-born French Painter 1885 – 1979)
Blaise Cendrars (Swiss-born novelist and poet 1887 – 1961)
La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, 1913
4 sheets folio (500 x 359 mm), assembled into 22 parts accordion folded in a narrow binding in-4 (370 x 115 mm).

During the winter of 1912–13, Picasso executed a great number of papiers collés (1999.363.64). With this new technique of pasting colored or printed pieces of paper in their compositions, Picasso and Braque swept away the last vestiges of three-dimensional space (illusionism) that still remained in their “high” Analytic work. Whereas, in Analytic Cubism, the small facets of a dissected or “analyzed” object are reassembled to evoke that same object, in the shallow space of Synthetic Cubism—initiated by the papiers collés–large pieces of neutral or colored paper themselves allude to a particular object, either because they are often cut out in the desired shape or else sometimes bear a graphic element that clarifies the association.


Violin and Playing Cards on a Table
Juan Gris (Spanish, Madrid 1887–1927 Boulogne-sur-Seine), 1913
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 39 1/2 × 25 3/4 in. (100.3 × 65.4 cm)

While Picasso and Braque are credited with creating this new visual language, it was adopted and further developed by many painters, including Fernand Léger (1999.363.35), Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Juan Gris (1996.403.14), Roger de la Fresnaye (1991.397), Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger (59.86), and even Diego Rivera (49.70.51). Though primarily associated with painting, Cubism also exerted a profound influence on twentieth-century sculpture and architecture. The major Cubist sculptors were Alexander Archipenko, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Jacques Lipchitz.

The liberating formal concepts initiated by Cubism also had far-reaching consequences for Dada and Surrealism, as well as for all artists pursuing abstraction in Germany, Holland, Italy, England, America, and Russia.

Sabine Rewald
Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2004

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cube/hd_cube.htm

See also:

http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/c/cubism
http://www.theartstory.org/movement-cubism.htm

Marcel Duchamp

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Marcel Duchamp, American (born France), 1887-1968
Nude Descending a Staircase, no 1, 1911
Media: Oil on cardboard on panel
37 3/4 x 23 3/4 inches (95.9 x 60.3 cm)

duchamp-nude-descending-staircase-1912_from_virginia_with_frame

Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2 – Marcel Duchamp. Artist: Marcel Duchamp. Completion Date: 1912. Place of Creation: France. Style: Cubism, Futurism

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
August 15, 2009 – November 29, 2009

Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic assemblage Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas) has been described by the artist Jasper Johns as “the strangest work of art in any museum.” Permanently installed at the Museum since 1969, this three-dimensional environmental tableau offers an unforgettable and untranslatable experience to those who peer through the two small holes in the solid wooden door.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of its public unveiling, Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés situates the extraordinary assemblage within the context of almost 100 related works of art, including all of its known studies and related materials, including books, photographs, and works on paper. Duchamp also made a number of “erotic objects,” small-scale sculptures that directly relate to the casting process of the female nude in Étant donnés. This exhibition brings these known works together with more than twenty previously unknown sculptures and studies. These unpublished works include erotic objects, body casts, prints, and notes, as well as over seventy Polaroid photographs taken by Duchamp of Étant donnés in his New York studio that provide the missing link in our understanding of the origins and evolution of Duchamp’s final masterwork. These Polaroids are shown alongside a series of photographs of the artist’s final studio at 80 East 11th Street, taken by a friend, Denise Brown Hare, following Duchamp’s death in 1968, which document Étant donnés before it was disassembled and moved to Philadelphia. The exhibition is drawn largely from the collections and archives of the Museum, and supplemented by loans from public and private collections in the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, and Israel. The accompanying 448-page catalogue explores the history and reception of Duchamp’s final masterpiece, as well as its legacy for contemporary artists such as Ray Johnson, Hannah Wilke, Robert Gober, and Marcel Dzama.

View objects in the exhibition >>

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of the late Anne d’Harnoncourt, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and C.E.O., who passed away on June 1, 2008. D’Harnoncourt was a respected Duchamp scholar who, as a 25-year old curatorial assistant, oversaw the painstaking installation of Étant donnés… at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along with the artist’s widow Alexina “Teeny” Duchamp and his step-son Paul Matisse. In 1973 she co-organized, with Kynaston McShine, the Marcel Duchamp Retrospective exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which later traveled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Throughout her career, d’Harnoncourt sought to shed new light on Duchamp’s enigmatic final masterwork and offered early enthusiasm and steadfast support for this exhibition project and its related catalogue, both of which she was looking forward to seeing and reading with eager anticipation.

Sponsors
This exhibition and publication are generously supported by The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with additional funding from Mr. and Mrs. Aaron M. Levine and The John and Lisa Pritzker Family Fund. The catalogue was also made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications.

Curator
Michael R. Taylor • The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art

http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/324.html

Georges Méliès (1861 – 1938)


Un homme de têtes (The Four Troublesome Heads) – 1898


“The Man with the Rubber Head”-1901


“A Trip to the Moon” – 1902

Maries Georges Jean Méliès was born in Paris in 1861 and from a very early age he showed a particular interest in the arts which led, as a boy, to a place at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where Méliès showed particular interest in stage design and puppetry.

In 1884, Méliès continued his studies abroad, in London at the request of his parents – they insisted he learn English after which they intended him to work at his father’s footwear business. While in London, he developed a keen interest in stage conjury after witnessing the work of Maskelyne and Cooke.

On his return to Paris he worked at his father’s factory and took over as manager when his father retired. His position meant that he was able to raise enough money to buy the famous Theatre Robert Houdin when it was put up for sale in 1888.

From that point on Méliès worked full time as a theatrical showman whose performances revolved around magic and illusionist techniques which he studied while in London as well as working on his own tricks.

When the Lumière brothers unveiled their Cinématographe to the public on December 28 1895 Méliès was a member of the audience. What he witnessed clearly had a profound effect upon him. After the show he approached the Lumière Brothers with a view to buying their machine – they turned him down.

Determined to investigate moving pictures, Méliès sought out Robert Paul in London and viewed his camera – projector building his own, soon afterwards. He was able to present his first film screening on April 4th 1896.

Méliès began by screening other peoples films – mainly those made for the Kinetoscope but within months he was making and showing his own work, his first films being one reel, one shot views lasting about a minute.


George Melies: The Father of Special Effects

Méliès’ principle contribution to cinema was the combination of traditional theatrical elements to motion pictures – he sought to present spectacles of a kind not possible in live theatre.

In the Autumn of 1896, an event occurred which has since passed into film folklore and changed the way Méliès looked at filmmaking. Whilst filming a simple street scene, Méliès camera jammed and it took him a few seconds to rectify the problem. Thinking no more about the incident, Méliès processed the film and was struck by the effect such a incident had on the scene – objects suddenly appeared, disappeared or were transformed into other objects.

Méliès discovered from this incident that cinema had the capacity for manipulating and distorting time and space. He expanded upon his initial ideas and devised some complex special effects.

He pioneered the first double exposure (La caverne Maudite, 1898), the first split screen with performers acting opposite themselves (Un Homme de tete, 1898), and the first dissolve (Cendrillon, 1899).

Méliès tackled a wide range of subjects as well as the fantasy films usually associated with him, including advertising films and serious dramas. He was also one of the first filmmakers to present nudity on screen with “Apres le Bal”.

Faced with a shrinking market once the novelty of his films began to wear off, Méliès abandoned film production in 1912. In 1915 he was forced to turn his innovative studio into a Variety Theatre and resumed his pre-film career as a Showman.

In 1923 he was declared bankrupt and his beloved Theatre Robert Houdin was demolished. Méliès almost disappeared into obscurity until the late 1920’s when his substantial contribution to cinema was recognised by the French and he was presented with the Legion of Honour and given a rent free apartment where he spent the remaining years of his life.

Georges Méliès died in 1938 after making over five hundred films in total – financing, directing, photographing and starring in nearly every one.

http://www.earlycinema.com/pioneers/melies_bio.html