Lisa Eldridge’s much anticipated first book was published this week. Here’s the inside scoop from the launch, and why we predict it to be a budding beauty bible for makeup lovers everywhere...
When you look back through the literature, it’s hardly surprising that the majority of writings about makeup, and those that wear it, are penned by men. Often, again not a shocker, said discourse is critical, satirical and didactic, paralleling makeup with morals and offering up a hefty dose of judgement. Suitable then, that a future classic has a woman as its author, and not just any woman, but the legendary makeup artist and online phenomenon that is Lisa Eldridge . If you’re a fan of her eloquent videos, she’ll have you at ‘hello’ (or at least the bold cover image), and if you’re yet to discover her genius, you’re in for a treat. Here’s the Maniac manifesto as to why Facepaint: The Story of Makeup is more than deserving of a space on your coffee table. If you don’t own a coffee table, it’s worth buying one simply to house Facepaint. Or you could just use Facepaint as a coffee table. Either way, get your hands on it…
It’s history, but not as you know it…
Facepaint does explore the history of makeup, but not in a chronological fashion. Think themes, not timelines, which works beautifully seeing as themes and ideals recur throughout history. What was prolific in ancient Egypt pops up again in the 20s, and ‘no makeup makeup’ was a thing in the Victorian times too. In this way history isn’t linear, so you can dip in and out of Facepaint as you please, without risk of spoilers, tedium or losing your place. Much like modern day makeup, you can pick and choose according to your whims and the time available.
It sheds a lot of light on women’s rights
Lisa identifies, as above, that very little is written about cosmetics by the women who actually wore them (or didn’t as the case may be). In ancient Egypt, women and men wore makeup freely, and women enjoyed relative parity in terms of legal and economic rights. They were great chemists, and kohl was the height of cool. Cut to ancient Greece, however, and women were excluded from political life and under the ownership of men, who deemed the wearing of rouge ‘deceiving’. Lisa notes, however, that there were exceptions to the rules”
“Interestingly, courtesans, professional mistresses, and prostitutes being afforded more freedom and power than other women (in addition to wearing more makeup) is a pattern that has repeated throughout history.”
From makeup as patriotism during WW1 to the condescending tone of the very first beauty adverts, Facepaint delves into the many paradoxes in every woman’s makeup bag, and whether our choices even now are feminist statements or conforming to a standard.
Its pictures are worth a thousand words
Or at least, the struggle to get the rights to them as reported by Lisa certainly was. When you leaf through Facepaint though, the imagery is a rich feast; from seminal photography by Avedon and Irving Penn to royal portraits, famous illustrations and sculptures from almost every era. All reflect the trends and transitions of beauty throughout the ages, and the front cover itself as executed by Lisa fuses influences from bygone eras and modern innovations. As befitting to a fast paced beauty industry, the cover image was shot quickly and somewhat at the last minute, with Lisa creating a ‘modern and striking’ aesthetic while also representing ‘thousands of years of painterly history, capturing the textures, the powders, the paints.’ As she explains on her website:
“For the makeup I mixed up something similar to the makeup base worn by the women of ancient Greece and China (without the poisonous element of course!) and then layered a mixture of ancient (natural) and modern (synthetic), brightly coloured pigments on top.”
Basically, it’s quite literally face paint depicting the story of makeup on one face. Bravo. The fact that she selected flowers and furniture to reflect the colourways at the book launch was quintessential Eldridge attention to detail.
It proves that how-tos aren’t new
Many people expected Lisa’s first book itself to be a ‘how-to’ , seeing as her makeup tutorials are world renowned, her ‘passion project’ does indeed present ‘how-tos’, just through the lens of time. ‘How-tos’ aren’t just popular on Youtube it seems, as they really got going when stage actresses grew in fame and public esteem at the end of the nineteenth century. Soon women wanted to model themselves after the stars of stage, and before long, screen, and the dawn of colour printing, gave rise to the ‘beauty scoop’. Women wanted to capture the glamour and beauty of their icons, or muses if you will…
It portrays makeup muses throughout the ages
According to Lisa that is, but that’s more than good enough for us. From Nefertiti to Marilyn Monroe , the women profiled are game changers, groundbreakers and unique beauties, whose influence often prevails today. They’re scattered throughout the book, and fascinating to read; you’ll likely discover a new muse of your own.
Audrey Hepburn Photoshoot
Just ogle at Lisa’s vintage makeup collection...
A selection from her extensive collection is waiting for you on the inside cover of the book, and she also brought some along to her book launch at Liberty. Lisa’s been collecting makeup for over 20 years, having begun picking it up on Portobello Road and later, further afield. She lends it our for exhibitions and shoots from time to time, and we’re hoping she has an auction sometime soon. If you want to see how far we’ve come in beauty, just flick to the back cover…
It gives us the background on our favourite products and brands
Why is Maybelline known for its mascara? Who identified skin types and sold skincare to suit? Did anyone actually like the guy behind Revlon? Rivalry, revelations and rule breakers (the London set btw); they’re all in here. Especially great if you have no one to actually gossip with at your coffee table. It gets pretty juicy.
It makes the case for monobrows
HUGE in ancient Greece:
“Women used burnt cork and soot to fill in their eyebrows, which were considered most beautiful when they connected across the bridge of the nose.”
It makes us grateful that makeup no longer puts us in mortal danger
Skin brightening arsenic anyone?
It highlights that celebrity collaborations aren’t new
Twiggy was doing matte black and white eye palettes with Yardley back in the 60s my friends.
It gives us a glimpse into the future
As Global Makeup Creative Director for Lancôme, and formerly Shiseido, Chanel and Boots, Lisa has had her ears to the ground and eyes on the beauty horizon for many years, but her observations about the acceleration of technology and textures gives you an idea of where things are going, and just how your new foundation is adapting to your face so seamlessly (hey silicone). It’s tech, but possibly not as you know it.
Facepaint: The Story of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge , £18.99, Published by Abrams Image
Book cover image shot by Cuneyt Akeroglu, Lisa portrait photo shot by Robin Derrick
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