Event: Gustave Moreau’s The Eternal Feminine Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

If you haven’t seen “The Eternal Feminine” exhibition by Gustave Moreau at NGV yet, hop to it, because it closes this weekend.

The exhibition only displays a fraction of Moreau’s work, focusing on his interpretation of the female: “strong and often dangerous” femme fatales. I was particularly intrigued by the powerful, yet controversial women he chose to paint, like Salome, the daughter of the Greek/Jewish Herodias, his response to the Unicorn tapestries, and women of the Bible.

Here are some choice excerpts from the exhibition:

On Femme Fatales.

“The term ‘femme fatale’… emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, when patriarchal attitudes to women began to shift as a direct outcome of the growth of the middle class. Greater prosperity, brought about by the opening up of trade and the adoption of new technologies, also saw women beginning to advocate for access to high education, married women’s property rights, equal status in sexual mores and, ultimately, the vote. In France, where the Code Napoleon had defined the status of women as being the property of man, the ‘new woman’ challenged the traditional image of woman as mother and homemaker, virtuous, sexually repressed and above all else subordinate to her husband.

“The femme fatale, as an extreme contrast, was characterized as worldly, alluring and independent, with a predatory nature that was ultimately destructive to any man who fell victim to her seductive powers. Unlike the passive, Romantic heroine who existed in an aesthetic realm of erotic lassitude, she propelled a negative energy of malevolence and sadomasochism.”

On The Lady & the Unicorn.

“The cryptic, religious symbolism of the unicorn exemplifies in equal measure the essence of the medieval period and the occult spiritualism of late nineteenth century French culture. In medieval times the unicorn was associated with notions of chastity, pure love and the taming of animal passions. The legendary unicorn was reputed to be so wild that it could only be tamed by the purest of virgins, to whom it would come voluntarily for protection and comfort. He [Moreau] described his painting, ‘somewhat cryptically, as an “enchanted isle with a gathering of women, providing the most precious pretext for all the plastic motifs”’.”

On The Bible.

“Inevitably, Moreau’s choice of Biblical women as subjects was directed not toward the ideal and virtuous… But to women whose virtue had been compromised as a result of their possession of a physical beauty that attracted the attention of men, with dire consequences. Though not as dangerous as their alter egos, the femmes fatales—with whom engagement or congress was invariably fatal for the male—these women also shared a compelling attractiveness to the opposite sex.”

I also loved Moreau’s “Ulysses & the Sirens” works, and the room dedicated solely to Salome was worth the $15 cover charge alone.

Books: The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

Again, I don’t do New Years resolutions, but hopefully in listing the books I didn’t get around to reading in 2010 in a public forum where reviews are commonplace (um, this blog, for those of you not keeping track), I’ll be forced to devour in 2011.

1. Countdown to Lockdown by Mick Foley. I’ve been very vocal about my love for Mick Foley in recent months, and I was lucky enough to receive his latest memoir (number four, but who’s counting?) for my birthday, two months ago. I’ve been eagerly anticipating having enough time to dive into it headfirst, and I’m hoping it’ll be the first I check off my list this coming year.

2. Fragments by Marilyn Monroe, Bernard Comment & Stanley Buchthal. I love Marilyn Monroe, both as an icon (though I wouldn’t go as far as to have her image tattooed on me, à la Megan Fox), and as a fascinating person who had many layers, some of which are peeled away with the release of this book. This is a high priority read.

3. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Lady & the Unicorn, so something tells me I’m going to love Remarkable Creatures, about two female fossil hunters in 19th century England. The subject matter is a bit left-of-centre for historical fiction, but it appeals to me nonetheless. I know I couple of friends who own copies of this book, so maybe I can bum a lend…?

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have a tendency to build classics up in my mind before I’ve read them, and I’m then sorely disappointed. I have a feeling a similar effect will occur with The Great Gatsby, which I became interested in reading when I heard that it will be subjected to a movie remake at the hands of Baz Lurhmann. So bogan-esque, I know!

5. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Crosley’s books have done the review rounds in some of my favourite and trusted mags, like Yen and Cleo, with nothing but good vibrations about her collection of essays.

6. How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley. Yes, this is Crosley’s second appearance on the list, but all the buzz surrounding her books and her clever, witty and sometimes snarky tone means I can’t wait to gobble them up!

7. The Genius & the Goddess: Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe by Jeffrey Meyer. I read a review of this tome earlier in the year, and it has stayed with me since. Most intriguingly, the book “houses an appendix detailing the illnesses and operations” Monroe had throughout her life.

8. The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper by Dominick Dunne. I can’t get me enough of Dominick Dunne, so it’s a surpriseeven to methat I haven’t read all of his books yet. This one is somewhat of an official memoir, as a lot of his fictional works blur the line between reality and fiction, Another City, Not My Own especially.

9. The Life & Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan. In case you were wondering, I plan to do a lot of Monroe-related reading in 2011. This is one of the more imaginative books about her life.

10. The Prince, The Showgirl & Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clarke. Both are the basis for the new Michelle Williams effort, My Week with Marilyn. Just while we’re on that, I’d like to sneak in another Monroe-inspired fiction: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, which another biopic starring Naomi Watts as Monroe is based on. Perhaps if I had picked up the copy I always see at my favourite second-hand bookstore, Bendigo Book Mark, it would have given me more incentive to read it. No, wait, that doesn’t work for the numerous other books I’ve got sitting there, just begging to be read…

Related: In Appreciation of Mick Foley.

The Witching Hour: Halloween/My Birthday at Witches in Britches Cabaret.

All Eyes on Marilyn.

Things Bogans Like.

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

Elsewhere: [Bookslut] Genius, Goddess: Reading Theatre.

[Bendigo Book Mark] Homepage.