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  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/10/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , Grandville, , illustration, Piranesi, ,   

    “What is admirable about the fantastic is that there is no longer anything fantastic: there is only the real.”*… 

     

    surreal

    “Let’s Put Out the Light and Rekindle the Fire!,” from La Silhouette, June 24, 1830

     

    The poet Charles Baudelaire greatly admired the graphic arts, writing several essays about the major caricaturists and illustrators of his day. He found something positive to say about each of them with one exception, the artist Jean-Ignace-Isidore Gérard, known simply as Grandville (1803–1847). And yet, despite Baudelaire’s antipathy, Grandville is arguably the most imaginative graphic artist of the nineteenth century, as well as the most influential on subsequent generations. Baudelaire was well aware of Grandville’s gifts, but his aversion was that of a true classicist:

    There are superficial people whom Grandville amuses, but as for me, he frightens me. When I enter into Grandville’s work, I feel a certain discomfort, like in an apartment where disorder is systematically organized, where bizarre cornices rest on the floor, where paintings seem distorted by an optic lens, where objects are deformed by being shoved together at odd angles, where furniture has its feet in the air, and where drawers push in instead of pulling out.

    Baudelaire’s comments were perceptive: these are the very characteristics that, while making him uncomfortable, appealed to the next century’s surrealist artists and writers who saw in Grandville a kindred spirit who shared their interest in the uncanny, in the dream state, and in the world of imagination…

    With its dreamlike inversions and kaleidoscopic cast of anthropomorphic objects, animals, and plants, the world of French artist J. J. Grandville is at once both delightful and disquieting. Patricia Mainardi explores the unique work of this 19th-century illustrator now recognized as a major precursor and inspiration to the Surrealist movement: “Grandville, Visions, and Dreams.”

    * André Breton

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    As we revel in the revolutionary, we might send finely-drawn birthday greetings to Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi; he was born on this date in 1720.  An Italian artist, he is best known for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons” (Le Carceri d’Invenzione).  The latter, with their Kafkaesque, Escher-like distortions, influenced Romanticism and perhaps especially Surrealism.

    Carceri Plate VII – “The Drawbridge”

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    Self-portrait

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2018/09/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , Ben Shahn, , , , illustration, Jo Mora, ,   

    “I have long, indeed for years, played with the idea of setting out the sphere of life—bios—graphically on a map”*… 

     

    Carmel

    A Jo Mora carte of Carmel-By-The-Sea, made in 1942. Larger image at David Rumsey Map Collection

     

    Joseph Jacinto Mora knew all the dogs in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. He knew Bess, a friendly brown mutt who hung out at the livery stables. He knew Bobby Durham, a pointy-eared rascal who, as Mora put it, “had a charge [account] and did his own shopping at the butcher’s.” He knew Captain Grizzly, an Irish terrier who went to town with his muzzle on and invariably came back carrying it, having charmed a kind stranger into taking it off.

    If you spend time with Mora’s map of the town—which was first printed in 1942—you’ll know the town dogs of that era, too. They’re all stacked in a column on the right side, lovingly described and illustrated, and looking as natural as those items you’d be more inclined to expect on a map: streets, land masses, the compass rose. On this particular map, those elements aren’t so typical either: the streets are strewn with tiny houses, and both the land and sea are peppered with busy people. The compass rose is rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, and—as befits an artist’s town—is helmed by a painter, a performer, a writer, and a musician.

    Such is the way of a Jo Mora map. Over the course of his life, the “Renaissance Man of the West,” as some have called him, packed history, geography, and personal details into a series of maps of different parts of California. Although well-known in his time—“Mora has produced works of art which have told their story to more persons, probably, than have the works of any other Californian,” columnist Lee Shippey wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1942—he has largely fallen out of the public consciousness. But a few minutes with one of his maps plunges you back into his era, and his own worldview…

    Jo Mora poured the state’s whole history—and his own life—into his incredibly detailed, whimsical maps.  More of his own extraordinary story at “The Cowboy Cartographer Who Loved California.”  Browse a wonderful selection of his works at the glorious David Rumsey Map Collection.

    * Walter Benjamin

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    As we find our place, we might send delightfully drawn birthday greetings to Ben Shahn; he was born on this date in 1898.  A photographer and artist, known for his social realism, he earned acclaim in a variety of fields:  Edward Steichen selected Shahn’s work, including his October 1935 photograph The family of a Resettlement Administration client in the doorway of their home, Boone County, Arkansas, for MoMA’s world-touring The Family of Man which was seen by 9 million visitors; he was selected as a painter to join Willem de Kooning in representing the United States at the 1954 Venice Biennale; and his commercial illustration (like his well-known 1965 portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cover of Time) earned him membership in the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame.  His published writings, including The Biography of Painting and The Shape of Content, have ben enormously influential in the art world.

    220px-Ben_Shahn_artist source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2018/03/17 Permalink
    Tags: book shops, book towns, , books stores, , , illustration, , ,   

    “A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking”*… 

     

    A market doubles as a bookstore in Obidos, Portugal

    What makes a book town?

    It can’t be too big—not a city, but a genuine town, usually in a rural setting. It has to have bookshops—not one or two, but a real concentration, where a bibliophile might spend hours, even days, browsing. Usually a book town begins with a couple of secondhand bookstores and later grows to offer new books, too.

    But mostly, they have a lot of books for sale…

    Tour some of the world’s best at “Book Towns Are Made for Book Lovers.”

    * Jerry Seinfeld

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    As we browse in bliss, we might send a combo birthday and St Patrick’s Day greeting to Catherine “Kate” Greenaway; she was born on this date in 1846.  Creator of books for children such as Mother Goose (1881), Little Ann (1883), & The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1889), she was one of the most the most accomplished illustrators of her time– and the inspiration for The Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the U.K. to an illustrator of children’s books.

    Greenaway’s illustration of the Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin; for Robert Browning’s version of the tale.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:30 on 2018/01/06 Permalink
    Tags: , Count de Waldeck, , , , , , illustration, Mayan Culture,   

    “All fantasy should have a solid base in reality”*… 

     

    One of the most notorious examples of Waldeck’s penchant for fantasy: an elephant head in this rendition of an Ancient Mayan temple

    Not a lot concerning the artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma Count de Waldeck can be taken at face value, and this certainly includes his fanciful representations of ancient Mesoamerican culture which — despite being brilliantly executed on-site at Mayan monuments like Palenque — run wild with anatopistic lions, elephants, and suspicious architecture.  Rhys Griffiths looks at the life and work of one of the 19th century’s most mysterious and eccentric figures: “Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck.”

    * Sir Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson

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    As we ponder a predecessor of Photoshop, we might send delightfully-drawn birthday greetings to Paul Gustave Doré; he was born on this date in 1832.  An engraver, sculptor, and illustrator– indeed, the defining illustrator of works by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, Cervantes, and many others– Doré is probably best-remembered as the man who showed us Heaven and Hell: the canonical illustrator of Dante.

    Don Quixote, his horse Rocinante, and his squire Sancho Panza after an unsuccessful attack on a windmill.

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    The Tempest of Hell in THE DIVINE COMEDY

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:22 on 2017/07/24 Permalink
    Tags: Arthur Yorinks, , , Colleen Doran, , , graphic novels, illustration, Maurice Sendak, Presto and Zesto in Limboland,   

    “Childhood is a very, very tricky business”*… 

     

    Picture from Presto and Zesto in Limboland, ©2017 by the Maurice Sendak Foundation.

    Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was going through the late artist’s files last year “to see what could be discarded,” she said. “I was asking myself, do we really need all these?” when she found a typewritten manuscript titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, co-authored by Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. Caponera, who managed Sendak’s household for decades, didn’t remember the two friends working on a text with that title, so she scanned the manuscript and e-mailed it to Michael di Capua, Sendak’s longtime editor and publisher.

    “I read it in disbelief,” said di Capua. “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

    Not only is the manuscript complete, so, too, are the illustrations. Sendak created them in 1990 to accompany a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Leoš Janáček’s Rikadla, a 1927 composition that set a series of nonsense Czech nursery rhymes to music.

    Voila! So it is that Sendak, considered by many to be the most influential picture book creator of the 20th century, will have another publication in the 21st, five years after his death…

    Happy endings at: “New Maurice Sendak Picture Book Discovered.”

    * Maurice Sendak

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    As we go Where the Wild Things Are, we might send powerfully-drawn birthday greetings to Colleen Doran; she was born on this date in 1964.  A write, artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, she has illustrated hundreds of comics, graphic novels, books and magazines. She has illustrated the works of Neil Gaiman (her drawings and adaptation of his “Troll Bridge” was a New York Times bestseller), Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Joe R. Lansdale, Anne Rice, J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David, and Tori Amos; her credits include: The Sandman, Wonder WomanLegion of SuperheroesTeen TitansThe Vampire Diaries comics, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and her space opera series, A Distant Soil… for which she has received Eisner, Harvey, and International Horror Guild Awards.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:16 on 2017/07/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , court room, , , illustration, , trials,   

    “Good reporting should have the same standard as in a courtroom – beyond a reasonable doubt”*… 

     

    John Hinckley, failed assassin of Ronald Reagan, shown by artist Freda Reiter in front of a television broadcasting his obsession, Jodie Foster.

    Courtroom sketches in the United States date back to the 17th Century Salem Witch Trials, and were a necessary staple of reporting on court cases up until recent years when the courtroom was off-limits to photographers and television cameras. It wasn’t until 2014 that all 50 states allowed cameras in the courtroom, though by the late ‘80s most states already had.

    As portraits that exist solely out of the necessity for historically documenting legal proceedings, such sketches have never been considered high art, but a current exhibition of sketches housed at the Library of Congress shines a spotlight on some of the talents behind these documents.

    The Library of Congress’ exhibition, “Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustrations,” features a selection of the Library’s collection of more than 10,000 courtroom drawings, many of which were donated to the library by the estates of the artists themselves…

    More background and examples from the show at Dangerous Minds; details on the exhibition, which runs through October 28, at the Library of Congress.

    * Barbara Demick

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    As we remark that “photography always acknowledged there were cameras before photography,” we might send fiendishly-ingenious birthday greetings to Reuben Garrett Lucius “Rube” Goldberg; he was born on this date in 1883.  A cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, he is best remembered as a satirist of the American obsession with technology for his series of “Invention” cartoons which used a string of outlandish tools, people, plants, and steps to accomplish simple, everyday tasks in the most complicated possible way. (His work has inspired a number of “Rube Goldberg competitions,” the best-known of which, readers may recall, has been profiled here.)

    Goldberg was a founder and the first president of the National Cartoonists Society, and he is the namesake of the Reuben Award, which the organization awards to the Cartoonist of the Year.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:48 on 2017/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: Armory Show, , , George Sand, , Honoré de Balzac, illustration, J. J. Grandville, Joesph Stella, , Public and Private Life of Animals,   

    “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though.”*… 

     

    The frontispiece of Public and Private Life of Animals, by P. J. Stahl, illustrated by J. J. Grandville, and translated rom the French by J. Thompson; 1877; London, S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington.

    This collection of acerbic animal fables, originally published in 1842 as Scènes de la vie privée et publique des animaux, boasts among its contributors some of the finest literary minds of mid 19th-century France, including Honoré de Balzac, George Sand, and the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel (under the pseudonym of P. J. Stahl). The book is also home to some of the finest work (some featured below) by the caricaturist J. J. Grandville, drawings in which we can see the satirical genius and inventiveness that would be unleashed in full glory just two years later with the publication of his wonderful Un autre monde.

    See more at Public Domain Review; and visit the original at the Internet Archive.

    * A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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    As we anthropomorphize, we might send carefully-limned birthday greetings to Joesph Stella; he was born on this date in 1877.  An accomplished illustrator, he is better known as a Futurist painter, perhaps especially for his depictions of industrial America and  his images of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    He was one of the many artists to break out as a result of the 1913 Armory Show (he was considered by critics as important and influential as Duchamp and Picabia).  He was later associated with the American Precisionist movement of the 1910s–1940s.

    A photo by Man Ray of Stella (foreground) and Marcel Duchamp (background, sitting under a portrait of Man Ray)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:46 on 2016/06/15 Permalink
    Tags: , avant-garde, , Herb Lubalin, , illustration, , , Ralph Ginzburg, Saul Steinberg,   

    “This is the last avant-garde. Bold new forms. The power to shock.”*… 

     

    Avant Garde was a seminal, but somewhat obscure, magazine, launched in 1968, that broke taboos, rattled some nerves, and made more than a few enemies. The brainchild of Ralph Ginzburg, am adventurous publisher, it was the third major collaboration between Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin, the magazine’s widely-admired art director.

    Avant Garde is the magazine that gave birth to a much maligned and equally lauded typeface of the same name. A typeface that reveled in the mutability of letterforms, exhibited brilliantly by its extensive set of ligatured characters. The magazine’s logo, which inspired the typeface, is a perfect encapsulation of what the magazine represented in 1968, the year the magazine launched: exciting, vibrant, edgy, with just the right amount of playfulness to move it out of the corporateness its geometric sans serif forms might otherwise imply. The magazine ran for 3 years, spanning 14 square-sized issues, and only folded due to Ralph Ginzburg losing his long-running legal battle with the US government over obscenity charges (partly stemming from Ralph’s and Herb’s first collaboration, Eros magazine)…

    Now Alexander Tochilovsky and The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at the Cooper Union have digitized the entire run of Avant Garde and made it available on the web.

    * Don DeLillo, White Noise

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    As we speculate on The Shock of the New, we might send masterfully-observed birthday greetings to Saul Erik Steinberg; he was born on this date in 1914.  A cartoonist and illustrator (best known for his work for The New Yorker, most notably View of the World from 9th Avenue), he described himself as “a writer who draws.”

    People who see a drawing in the New Yorker will think automatically that it’s funny because it is a cartoon. If they see it in a museum, they think it is artistic; and if they find it in a fortune cookie they think it is a prediction.

    –  Saul Steinberg

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:03 on 2016/04/06 Permalink
    Tags: Adam Rowe, , Asimov, , illustration, , , ,   

    “You didn’t ask for reality. You asked for more teeth”*… 

     

    From the dawn of science fiction…

    An illustration from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

    … to the somewhat more modern:

    A Scent Of New-Mown Hay by John Blackburn

    Maddd Science has ’em all.  Readers might also enjoy its creator’s (that’s to say Adam Rowe‘s) other Tumblrs: 70s Sci-Fi Art and Embellished History.

    * “Dr. Wu,” Jurassic World

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    As we agree with Yogi that “the future ain’t what it used to be,” we might spare a thought for Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, AKA Isaac Asimov; he died on this date in 1992.  A biochemistry professor, he is better remembered as an author– more specifically, as one one of the greatest science fiction authors of his time (imaginer of “The Foundation,” coiner of the term “robotics,” and author of “The Three Laws of Robotics“).  But Asimov was extraordinarily prolific; he published over 500 books– including (in addition to sci-fi) mysteries, a great deal of popular science, even a worthy volume on Shakespeare– and wrote an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards.

    Asimov in 1965

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2016/03/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , illustration, , Kingdom of Italy, , Risorgimento,   

    “The illustrations in children’s books are the first paintings most children see”*… 

     

    American student Barbara Donahue (then Barbara Finlay) lived in Italy between August 1937 and March 1938, when she was 7 and 8 years old. She attended a Catholic school, the Istituto Vittoria Colonna, in Milan. There, she was issued these small soft-covered government-produced student notebooks, decorated with colorful, dramatic illustrations…

    Barbara Finlay’s Italian education came at the tail end of a complicated 20-year project meant to teach loyalty to the Fascist regime in the country’s schools. Bill Donahue asked his mother to remember the curriculum she encountered. “It was all indoctrination published by the government,” Barbara told him. (He recorded her memories and sent them to me in an email.)

    The textbooks said that Italy should have Ethiopia and that Mussolini was bringing prosperity back to Italy, developing farmland, building roads, and getting the trains to run on time. In one of the notebooks, there were two kids side by side. One is doing something patriotic [she can’t remember what], the other isn’t. You’re supposed to figure out which one is better. It isn’t too hard…

    More illustrations from the notebooks, and more of the backstory, at “Illustrated Propaganda for Elementary-School Students in Mussolini’s Italy.”

    * Anthony Browne

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    As we note that the current presidential campaign is the first political experience that many children are having, we might recall that, while across the U.S. many are wearing green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, it is also “Italian Unification Day”– the anniversary of the proclamation, in 1861, of the Kingdom of Italy. The “Risorgimento” had begun in 1815, and continued until 1871 (when Rome, which was named Italy’s capital in 1861, though it wasn’t then yet part of the Kingdom, finally entered); but in late 1860, Cavour and Garibaldi made a deal to join North and South, and to name Victor Emmanuel II as king– which was enough for the (new) Parliament to make its proclamation.

    Induno’s “Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy and the first Italian Parliament,” 1861

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