The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twenty Four

Marguerite Kirmse started her creative life as a harpist, studying at the Royal Academy of Music. But pencil and paper slowly and surely took over as her preferred artistic medium, and by the time she left London for the States, it seemed a foregone conclusion that it would dominate. She spent much of those early years in America sitting in Bronx Zoo sketching, even being allowed into cages for closeups of the animals. Eventually, she began to specialise in cats and dogs, and in etching - she started with a Victrola needle, “before I knew much about diamond points, burnishers, and other etcher's tools". 

Kirmse settled in the States, running a kennel as well as continuing to solidify her reputation as a canine artist. Her media were etchings, painting and sculpture. She produced a book, “Dogs In The Field”, a collection of action “shots” of sporting dogs. There is much action in this etching of “...”. The terrier is in a frenzy as the startled cat hisses at him, although she is wise enough to remain a whisker out of reach of the straining leash.


Louise Talma also started her studies in a different field to where she eventually ended up, studying chemistry at Columbia University and music at The Institute of Musical Art. Music gradually won out; Nadia Boulanger was one of the greatest influences in this decision, encouraging the young composer to devote herself to music. Boulanger would remain a mentor and teacher for years; Talma spoke of returning to Fontainebleau as if to a musical home. 

Talma’s style was on the blade edge between twelve-tone techniques and tonality. Her colour palette was immense. This was particularly effective in her vocal works, where her ability to marry harmonic and verbal languages was extraordinary. She was one of the few women in the mid-twentieth century to have an opera performed in Europe. Talma also wrote an extensive oeuvre of instrumental works, ranging from solo to orchestral. The Alleluia in Form of Toccata is a prime example of Talma’s clarity of language and her use of an instrument’s timbral capabilities. The joyous arc of this piece seems a wonderful summary of Christmas Eve itself.