Monday, May 10, 2010


untitled etching by Lucien Coutaud (Pomona via luna)

This untitled surreal print by Lucien Coutaud (d. 1977) brings to mind - for me - the works of Braccelli*, Callot and Max Ernst. The etching was probably made in the 1940s or thereabouts.

I'm indebted to Neil Philip for identifying the artist, because the source site carries incorrect details. Neil has more of Coutaud's works available at Idbury Prints together with an artist biography (Neil is also an author and he curates the excellent Adventures in the Print Trade).

La Danse Macabre, 1927 Yan-Bernard Dyl (Ill.) , Pierre Mac Orlan

This pochoir* stencil print by Yan-Bernard Dyl appears in the limited edition illustrated book by Pierre Mac Orlan from 1927 called 'La Danse Macabre'. [source: Christie's] Some background and a couple more of the striking abstract-surreal images: here.
{img above spliced together from screencaps}

Soaring To Success! The Daily Herald - the Early Bird by E McKnight Kauffer, 1918

" Described as the 'finest invention of his career' this poster, which was inspired by the Vortisist movement, confirmed E McKnight Kauffer's place as the most original graphic designer working in Britain during the early 20th Century.

The design was bought by the Daily Herald in 1919, and used to convey the aspirations of this new radical Labour newspaper. Sir Francis Meynell, who organised the brilliant campaign, described the poster as 'a flight of birds that might almost be a flight of aeroplanes; a symbol, in those days of hope, of the unity of useful invention and natural things' "
Auction estimate 13 May 2010: £20,000 - £30,000 [source]
{img above spliced together from screencaps}

The Vintage Poster auction at Christie's next week includes a couple of original Fritz Kahn {he of the famous machine-as-man} posters and is previewed on Morbid Anatomy.

steam train - Great Western Railway (William Strickland Sketchbook, 1838) TEVA
Steam locomotive belonging to the Great Western Railway that ran between London and Bristol

St Peter's Basilica (William Strickland Sketchbook, 1838) TEVA
St Peter's Basilica, Rome
"While traveling in Europe in 1838, William Strickland [architect, d. 1854] produced a series of elegantly rendered watercolor sketches. In their detail, the sketches chronicle the deep appreciation Strickland had for the classical forms of architecture."

The William Strickland Sketchbook consists of thirty two drawings and is available from TeVA - the Tennessee Virtual Archive (click on 'View Collection Images')

Planisphaerium Copernicanum Sive Systema Universi Totius Creati Ex Hypothesi Copernicana In Plano Exhibitum 1660 (MDZ)

This engraved starmap or solar system map - 'Planisphaerium Copernicanum' - from 1660, depicting the configuration of planets according to Copernicus, was produced by the Amsterdam printer/cartographer Johannes Janssonius (d. 1664) [source]

'Lists' by Liza Kirwin, 2010 (papress) - Stanton MacDonald-Wright

Stanton MacDonald-Wright: 'Plate 1, Inherent Saturation' (undated)

Papress has recently published 'Lists' by Liza Kirwin (the manuscript curator at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art).

In a novel approach to surveying the personalities and motivations of artists, Kirwin has compiled a selection of both mundane and elaborate lists from the archives she oversees. The list topics include suggested artists for an exhibition, the complexities of a graphic idea, regular to-do and expenses lists, art purchases, earliest recollections, and a partner's positive traits, for example. As you can imagine, some of the lists are mere scrawls (thankfully transcriptions are included along with scans of the originals) and others have been assiduously illustrated. Artists represented include Pablo Picasso, Joseph Cornell and NC Wyeth.

For some book excerpts, see: Sight Unseen [via ars longa]

UPDATE: Author interview at the Morning News (and image gallery).

Triumph of Maximilian I (16th c)

Triumph of Maximilian I (16th c) a

Woodblock panel images from an extensive celebratory series known as the Triumph of Maximilian I, designed by Hans Burgkmair and featuring Albrecht Dürer among the many artists involved. The unfinished suite of 137 woodblocks - belonging to the festival book genre - was conceived as a glorifying tribute to Emperor Maximilian, who died in 1519 before the final eighty or so illustrations had been produced. The hand-colouring was added to the suite of prints in 1765.

Jan Sadeler - Hills mss library
Progenie clarus, virtute Antonius ardens, Pauperibus largus, sobrietatis amans, Casta pijs miscet precibus ieiunia, & atri Dæmonis insultus reprimit atq[ue] dolos

I presume this is one of the great recurring subjects in art history: the Temptation of St Anthony; here featuring a couple of beasties reminiscent of Pieter Bruegel's work. The scene was designed by the Flemish artist, Marten de Vos, and belongs to a series depicting early Christian hermits living in the desert. The engraving was executed by the brothers Johannes and Raphael Sadeler and was first published in Antwerp by Phillip Galle in the 1580s.

'Solitudo sive Vitae Patrum Eremicolarum..'
is available from both the Polish Digital Library and Vivarium (Minnesota Benedictine portal) {there are differences in illustration number and stylistic appearance between the sites). Some background commentary about a later edition.

Spanish Antiphoner
The Spanish Antiphoner is a 16th century vellum choir book containing a Gregorian chant, replete with historiated intials*, some text decoration and an elegant handwritten script. The manuscript has just been uploaded by the University of Cincinatti Libraries and is available in a variety of formats. {Thanks Franklin!}

Notes on the natural history and habits of the ornithorhynchus paradoxus, 1832 by George Bennett

Ornithorhynchus paradoxus
[now classified as: Ornithorhynchus anatinus*]

"When the first duck-billed platypus specimens were sent from Australia to Europe at the end of the 18th century, the bizarre combination of mammal, bird and reptile features led many zoologists to consider them a hoax." [source]

One of the earliest publications featuring an illustration of the platypus was George Edwards' 1835 book: 'Notes on the Natural History and Habits of the Ornithorhynchus paradoxus' [image source].

Despite the less than auspicious entrance into the the annals of science, the platypus nevertheless remains - yes, in my opinion - the cutest animal in the world. I've only come across them once in the wild, in North Queensland, when a friend and I found a colony swimming in a pool at the bottom of a waterfall. We stayed watching for about four hours, entranced.

Peewit - A History of the Birds of Europe, CR Bree, 1863

Hand-coloured wood engraving from: 'A History of the Birds of Europe, Not Observed in the British Isles', 1863 by Charles Robert Bree [sold for €1,750 in 2008]

Avis aux Perturbateurs du Bon-Ordre..., 1789 (BNF)
The text on this rather obscure 1789 print from Gallica translates as *Advice to the disrupters of order by the late Bordier, dead in the Rouen air*.

Bordier was a comedic actor - political satirist who lampooned the establishment - and I'm guessing his hanging was the result of a counter-revolutionary movement by or on behalf of the aristocracy. Bordier is in blackface and dressed in a Harlequin costume: the tone might be to convey to viewers that a character like Bordier is a dangerous and disturbed clown about to be silenced permanently [link link]

Externarum et internarum principalium humani corporis 1573 by Volcher Coiter
Monkey skeleton illustration (spliced together from screencaps) from the 1573 publication, 'Externarum Humani Corporis Partium Tabulae' by the Dutch anatomist, Volcher Coiter. He had an impeccable scientific pedigree, studying with the great botanist, Leonhard Fuchs and receiving instruction in anatomy from the likes of Ulisse Aldrovandi, Bartolomeo Eustachi and Giulio Cesare Aranzio. Coiter was an admirer of Vesalius and is said to have improved some of the great master's anatomical drawings. The present work comes up for auction in Paris in about ten days. [bio]

An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables; and from the Former to the Latter 1795

An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables; and from the Former to the Latter 1795a

'An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables; and from the Former to the Latter' 1795, by Charles White.

White's contribution to the body of racist pseudo-scientific literature divided humans into four separately created species. In ascending order, these were Africans, Americans, Asians and his beloved Europeans. The book was as much a melodramatic expression of his high regard for Europeans as it was another fumbled attempt to chart the purported associations between man and monkey.
"Ascending the line of gradation, we come at last to the white European; who being most removed from the brute creation, may, on that account, be considered as the most beautiful of the human race. No one will doubt his superiority of intellectual powers; and I believe it will be found that his capacity is naturally superior also to that of every other man.

Where shall we find, unless in the European, that nobly arched head, containing such a quality of brain, and supported by a hollow conical pillar, entering its center? Where the perpendicular face, the prominent nose, and round projecting chin? Where that variety of features, and fulness of expression; those long, flowing, graceful ringlets; that majestic beard, those rosy cheeks and coral lips? Where that erect posture of the body and noble gait?

In what other quarter of the globe shall we find the blush that overspreads the soft features of beautiful women of Europe, that emblem of modesty, of delicate feelings, and of sense? Where that nice expression of the amiable and softer passions in the countenance; and that general elegance of features and complexion? Where, except on the bosom of the European woman; two such plump and snowy white hemispheres, tipt with vermillion?"

Ironically enough, White was against slavery. [The extraordinary images above were sourced from the Lowcountry Digital Library of South Carolina]


Oscar Devonian said...

That Yan-Bernard Dyl print might very well be one of the most sinister-looking things I've ever seen. What a feat of design do do that with so (comparatively)sparse aesthetics.

vanderleun said...

"White's contribution to the body of racist pseudo-scientific literature divided humans into four separately created species..... Ironically enough, White was against slavery."

Ironically enough it never ceases to amaze me how smug our attitudes are 220 years later. Nothing quite gives the self the same frisson as judging two centuries past from the enlightened standpoint of today, does it?

plaisanter said...

Well, I was hoping to see more of William Strickland's drawings through the link you provide but access to the TeVA site requires a password. Rats! Regardless, thank you for this lovely post.

peacay said...

plaisanter, you should try again. The access is not restricted.

Gerard, you might stop to consider that adopting that tone was editorially intentional: I know it's a much more complicated scenario. I'm happier for you to think I'm smug rather than risk, at 3am, a miscue on trying to outline the contemporary context and giving the appearance of being a supporter in any way of racial theories, let's say. I actually read around a lot online before deciding to opt for what I hoped would be a fairly uncontroversial position: I'm also in Oz, not USA, so I was a bit unsure how displaying these pics -- and this is unapologetically a low-controversy illustration-centric site -- might be perceived. But then, I also thought that quoting more from the author than I wrote myself would sort of dilute the smugness. Ah well, such is life..

DianeZ said...

Did Volcher Coiter label his drawing as an "ape" skeleton? Curious if he really thought this. Today scientists distinguish between apes and monkeys by lots of characteristics, but the key distinguishing trait is that apes do not have tails.

peacay said...

Good point. No, it's me rushing and not thinking: I'll change it, taa.

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