Rare Film Footage of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet

We’ve all seen their works in fixed form, enshrined in museums and printed in books. But there’s something special about watching a great artist at work.  This is the only known film footage of the French Impressionist Claude Monet, made when he was 74 years old, painting alongside a lily pond in his garden at Giverny.

The footage was shot in the summer of 1915 by the French actor and dramatist Sacha Guitry for his patriotic World War I-era film Ceux de Chez Nous, or “Those of Our Land.” It was shot in the summer of 1915, when Monet was 74 years old. It was not the best time in Monet’s life. His second wife and eldest son had both died in the previous few years, and his eyesight was getting progressively worse due to cataracts. But despite the emotional and physical setbacks, Monet would soon rebound, making the last decade of his life (he died in 1926 at the age of 86) an extremely productive period in which he painted many of his most famous studies of water lilies.

At the beginning of the film clip we see Guitry and Monet talking with each other. Then Monet paints on a large canvas beside a lily pond. It’s a shame the camera doesn’t show the painting Monet is working on, but it’s fascinating to see the great artist all clad in white, a cigarette dangling from his lips, painting in his lovely garden.

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Story Merchant Books Launches Deadly Impressions!

Story Merchant Books launches Art Johnson's second detective thriller Deadly Impressions after his premier critically acclaimed The Devil's Violin.  The musician/writer who worked with Lena Horne, Tim Buckley and Pavarotti to name a few resides in Monaco.

His new novel begins with the kidnapping of Pasadena billionaire Ezekiel Fick's granddaughter.   Enter ex-LA PD Lieutenant Arnold "Arney" Blackburn who has become a private eye since his dismissal from the force.  The abduction is not following the rule book and an LA drug lord, a Chicago gangster, and a host of Hollywood's " A " list are all potentially involved. 

Eighty year old Ezekiel Fick hides a life changing secret in his past. His uncle Roderich a preferred architect of Adolf Hitler left him a fortune in impressionist paintings by none other than Claude Monet, works that were thought to be destroyed nearly a century ago.

Tensions mount as Arney joins forces with FBI agents Chris Clarke and Carlos "Chubbs" Gonzales, (The Devils Violin) to weed through the overgrowth of the Hollywood Hills in search of the missing girl. But who are her real abductors?  Even PI Arney Blackburn is completely baffled by the time the final curtain falls. He never saw this one coming. 

Deadly Impressions pits ghosts from the past against those phantoms in control of the present to weave a haunting story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.


One of the most renowned British female poets of the twentieth-century, and an accomplished scholar of Blake, Yeats and Hopkins, Kathleen Raine’s contribution to British poetry is without question. 

As a young poet, she longed to be published by TS Eliot at Faber, but in vain. Decades later, the daughter of her beloved Yeats told her that "Tom" had first told "WBY" (as Anne Yeats called her father) to read Kathleen Raine's poems. When she no longer bothered about such things, "I received Eliot's posthumous acceptance, with Yeats's also." It was the Sri Lankan, Tambimutto, who published her first book of poems, Stone And Flower, in 1943, with illustrations by Barbara Hepworth; he never ceased to see greatness in her work.

Kathleen's life had its pleasures, but much pain. She was beautiful and intelligent, and knew the passions of the heart and body as well as the immortal longings of the soul. At Cambridge, a group of young men hung around simply to catch sight of her. There were love affairs, marriages, partings.

The love of her life was the homosexual Gavin Maxwell, naturalist and author of Ring Of Bright Water - their relationship proved disastrous, she renounced personal emotions, and judged her own part in these dramas with ruthless severity. Threads of sorrow, regret and loneliness run through her four volumes of autobiography, as well as through her poetry.

They had met first as teenagers on the Galloway coast and again in the rarefied literary cliques of Oxford and Cambridge. Their relationship had never been calm; as intellectual equals they shared much, especially their love of literature and a passion for nature and the West Highlands of Scotland. She had been a regular visitor at Sandaig; he had also unwisely taken a flat in the basement of her London house. Their rows were frequent and verbally violent. Maxwell deeply resented her possessive jealousy, particularly when his attention strayed to other women, notably Clementine Glock, an artist of rare beauty. He also had a brief dalliance with Princess Margaret.

After one such row, Maxwell banished Raine from the house. She ran to the rowan tree at the burn, grasped it in both hands and, weeping uncontrollably, cried out, ‘Let Gavin suffer in this place as I am suffering now!’ In Celtic mythology rowan trees possess magical properties, traditionally planted to ward off evil spirits. Maxwell took it to be a curse and called her a witch. He was later to blame her and the curse for the bizarre sequence of misfortunes that then befell him, but Raine always insisted that it was not so much a curse as ‘a desperate heart’s cry for truth’. In reality, of course, it was the anguished outpouring of a spurned love.

Maxwell writing at Sandaig at home in the West Highlands

The agony that Kathleen Raine underwent thereafter, expressed in her poetry and prose, seems never wholly to have expiated her guilt for a curse that so rebounded on herself. As a woman, she reviled herself as loveless and destructive of other lives; as a poet, she castigated herself for not writing more, or better - for neglecting her daimon, as she called her gift and source. "Sin of omission: as women/ Withhold love, so I poetry," as one poem begins.

Yet she kept faith with her vocation, producing more than a dozen books of poetry in six decades. She visited India for the first time in her 70s, and felt she had come home. She grew closer to her children, whose lives she thought she had ruined, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All but one grandchild survive her.

In 1980, her life took a new turning. With a group of like-minded artists and writers, she launched Temenos - "a review devoted to the arts of the imagination" - with its first issue offering contributions from fellow poets David Gascoyne, Peter Redgrove and Vernon Watkins, and the visionary artist Cecil Collins, as well as herself. The editors of Temenos (the word means the sacred area around a temple) declared that "the intimate link between the arts and the sacred" had fired imaginative creation in almost all human societies, except our own. Temenos aimed to challenge this "deviation" in the arts of its time.

It did so at an unpropitious moment, the start of the 1980s, a decade that epitomised all that Temenos opposed - secularism, materialism, a popularised culture and press, and Margaret Thatcher's denial of the very existence of "society". Yet in the 1990s a tide turned. At the Temenos Academy, Kathleen presided over discussions and lectures by scientists, ecologists and economists, as well as scholars, writers and artists from both east and west.

When asked how she wished people to remember her, Kathleen Raine said she would rather they didn't. Or that Blake's words be said of her: "That in time of trouble, I kept the divine vision". Better to be a sprat in that "true ocean", she believed, than a big fish in a literary rock pool. 

Read more at The Guardian, The Telegraph

The women in my novels

artist Alberto Seveso

I was about three quarters of the way with the first draft of “Deadly Impressions” when the thought struck me that the women in both of my novels are the catalyst for the actions, tension and release of the stories. 

“The Devil’s Violin” presents two strong personalities on opposite sides of the fence.  Maria Sanoni the Italian beauty who partners up with Gus Happy to steal Paganini’s violin from the museum in Genoa, is the exact opposite of FBI agent Aerial George and yet it is this opposing force, like the positive and negative poles of a magnet that pull the story together.  Both women are strong and skilled and each excerpts a unique influence from the time they are introduced into the picture.

In “Deadly Impressions” I present, for lack of a better description at the moment, a ’grittier ’book with women more intense.  Three women of singular strengths.  Conchita Morales, a twenty-six year old L.A. prostitute is much more than a hooker.  She is perceptive with an unusually natural intellect and a honed skill to manipulate people beyond the use of her sexual facilities. 

Although FBI Agents Chris Clarke and Chubbs Gonzales return in this semi-sequel to my first novel, the LA private detective, Arney Blackburn, the main character in the story falls in love with Conchita even though he knows better.  On reflection,   “…the truth of the matter was he really liked her despite her background and who she was.  A hooker is a hooker is a hooker, and yet Arney knew, or thought he knew, her tender side and it was captivating.  She had heart.  She had been through an unimaginable hell most of her adult life, but was still in one piece and somehow had maintained her dignity.  That’s what attracted him to her.  She had managed to live a life doling out sex for a living and was still a human being.”

Stephanie Fick is our kidnap victim.  She is the twenty-six year old granddaughter of Ezekiel Fick, the Pasadena multi-billionaire who had spent his youth in Switzerland during WWII.  His uncle was Roderich Fick a favorite architect of Adolf Hitler. 

Stephanie’s impact on the story is tantamount to the success of the tale although we don’t hear much from her, she proves to be all important.

Finally, Madeline Steinman, who started her career in Paris at the age of twenty-six in 1946.  Today she is in her ninety’s and presides over the art world as the queen of the art restoration.  Her relationships with both uncle and nephew Fick are at the foundation of the book.

While living in Los Angeles for twenty years I spent time in the nineteen-eighties as an assistant to Manly Palmer Hall the Canadian born twentieth century philosopher and student of ancient religious and philosophical beliefs.  Through a rather odd set of circumstances I lectured at his Philosophical Research Society from 1984 – 1988.  My series contained five or more lectures, one presented each week and to my surprise, were well attended. 

I was engrossed in study at the time, desperately trying to educate myself while writing and publishing poetry.  I found myself very influenced by women throughout the past two centuries who were scholars, intellectuals, artists and above all great personalities. One of my series I named, “The Goddess on the Threshold” and over the weeks I helped people to discover Lou Andres Salome/Kathleen Raine/Frances Yates/ Florence Farr/ H.P. Blavatsky/Mary Cassette/ Emily Dickenson and so many others.

Women in the arts and sciences have contributed equal shares alongside their male counterparts of pertinent and timeless concepts made physical by the magic of the intellect and the imagination.  I invite you to take some time to investigate women in the arts.

These types of exceptional females shall always find a way into my efforts as a novelist.  I need them to be there.