Take one part gorgeous ornamental typography and one part diabolical imagery. Combine slowly over a low heat with incidental visual curiosities. Add caprice to taste. Serve haphazardly over a bed of 19th century lithographic stones. For best effect, consume before retiring.
I'm not certain that Leiden graphic artist, Alexander Ver Huell (1822-1897), would agree that this recipe or the meal served above is a fair representation of his life's illustrative output. And he would be right. I've arbitrarily selected works that edge towards the macabre and fanciful rather than the majority of his sketches, which are far more benign, contemporary and humorous. They're definitely not bad at all; just less interesting. That's my caprice.
Ver Huell had been a law student at Leiden University which became the focus for a lot of his drawing, even after he completed his degree and subsequent doctorate. Humorous designs for University publications were the foundation of his career and led to book and magazine illustrating assignments. By 1850 he was a well known and respected artist.
As he grew older, however, Ver Huell experienced a change in his personality in which he became more paranoid and socially alienated and his sketches veered away from the whimsical to concentrate on depicting evil and devils. He believed that "an artist has a social function: to fight against Evil" and that "[t]rue artists were misunderstood and persecuted".
Despite his evolving psychiatric problems, Ver Huell maintained close associations with the artistic community both in Holland (where he also tutored art students) and in France, which he visited often. He could count the famous French book illustrator, Gustave Doré, among his long term friends and correspondents.
Ver Huell craved wider recognition for his talents - such strong desire was probably associated with his illness - but even when plans had been made to honour his art late in his life, he rejected the offer because it didn't involve any Royal award or distinction. Ver Huell's mental condition was always on the decline and he died alone after severing ties with friends and publishing contacts. It sounds like the poor bloke had a fairly tortured life.
The Leiden Archives (via the Memory of The Netherlands) have a portfolio of thirty albums/books containing lithographs designed by Alexander Ver Huell on display. Some of them are only microfilm scans with photocopy quality but these are in the minority. There must be several hundred illustrations - sometimes repeated - through the available publications. To download large versions of the images I had to manipulate the URLs - I'm guessing this is a firefox problem because there are download buttons around. A zoom interface is also available.
All of the above images have been spot/stain cleaned to one extent or another.
Some biographical material (short pages) from the Memory of the Netherlands:
¤¤1822-1845 early recognized talent
¤¤The nineteenth-century student
¤¤1846-1879 public success for the tormented artist
¤¤Ver Huell in his time
¤¤Ver Huell in Leiden
Monday, July 28, 2008
Posted by peacay at 4:52 p.m.