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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Odilon Redon’s Temptations

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Saint-Antoine: Au secours, mon Dieu! (Saint Anthony: Help me, O my God!)

St. Anthony and his temptations provide another connection between the Surrealists and the Symbolists via Gustave Flaubert and his phantasmagoric drama. Flaubert’s The Temptation of St Anthony (1874) doesn’t quite stand in relation to the art of the time as does Oscar Wilde’s Salomé but, with its predominant themes of sex, death and spiritual transcendence, it both suited and pre-empted the concerns of the Decadence. Odilon Redon was particularly taken with the book, and from 1888 to 1896 produced three sets of lithograph illustrations. The examples here are from the final set of 24 images. A few of these are the ones you see most often in Symbolist studies, often in poor reproductions, but the other sets have some memorable moments. What’s most notable about all the drawings is how little the saint appears in them, Redon choosing to depict either the visions or the subjects of Flaubert’s philosophical discussions. See the complete set here.

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Et partout ce sont des Colonnes de basalte, … la lumière tombe des voûtes (And on every side are columns of basalt, … the light falls from the vaulted roof)

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Mes baisers ont le gout d’un fruit qui se fondrait dans ton cœur! … Tu me dédaignes! Adieu! (My kisses have the taste of fruit which would melt in your heart! … You distain me! Farewell!)

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Des fleurs tombent, et la tête d’un python paraît (Flowers fall and the head of a python appears)

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Temptations

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Exhibition catalogue.

In one of the many recent features about Leonora Carrington I noticed a mention of her Temptation of St Anthony painting from 1945 (see below). This was one of eleven works on the theme submitted by different artists for a competition staged to promote Albert Lewin’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), a film adaptation of the Guy de Maupassant novel. Carrington is often mentioned when this competition is discussed, along with the other big names, Max Ernst (the winner) and Salvador Dalí. But you seldom see mention of any of the other competitors, hence this post, an attempt to find all of the competition entries.

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Leonora Carrington. St. Anthony is often shown with a pig companion but only Carrington depicted the animal for this competition. When asked why the saint had three heads, she replied “Why not?”

Albert Lewin didn’t make many films but he had a predilection for arty subjects, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami being preceded by adaptations of The Moon and Sixpence (1942) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). All three films star George Sanders, and all feature special colour sequences when a painting is revealed. 1945 was the peak of America’s brief infatuation with Surrealism (Hitchcock had Dalí working on Spellbound at this time) so Lewin asked a number of Surrealists to take up the challenge. I was surprised to find that Stanley Spencer was one of the entrants, a name you almost never see in this company; less surprising was Ivan Albright whose painting of the decayed Dorian Gray is one of the highlights of Lewin’s earlier film. Leonor Fini was also asked to take part but she didn’t produce anything. The judges were Marcel Duchamp, Alfred J. Barr, Jr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and art dealer Sidney Janis. Ernst won a cash prize variously reported as $2500–3000, while the other entrants received smaller sums. The paintings toured the USA and Britain during 1946–7.

As to the film, I can’t say what this is like because it’s one I’ve yet to see but Self-Styled Siren’s witty review goes into some detail. Hollywood apparently had problems with the adult subject matter (Sanders’ character is described as a sexually predatory social climber), and Lewin was forced to tone things down.

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Ivan Albright.

Albright’s contribution is so frenzied and detailed it approaches psychedelia. Best seen in this large view at Flickr.

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Weekend links 255

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The Owls by Carlo Farneti for a 1935 edition of Les Fleurs du Mal. Via Beautiful Century although the scans probably came originally from 50 Watts.

• “…a project that seemed under a curse comprising greed, peculiar French copyright laws, jealousies and grudges, bad judgment, complicated ownership disagreements, a messy estate, and a list of individuals who believed they had some legal, financial, moral, or artistic right to the film itself.” Josh Karp on the tangled history of The Other Side of the Wind, always the most interesting of Orson Welles’ unfinished feature films.

• Producer Conny Plank is remembered for his work with a host of German artists but he also recorded a session with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra in 1970. Grönland Records is releasing the session in July, and they’ve posted Afrique (take 3 vocal) as a taster.

• “And that’s what a lot of social media by authors is starting to look like, to feel like: being smacked in the face, repeatedly, by hundreds of fish.” Delilah S. Dawson wants authors to leave off the incessant self-promotion.

“In everybody, there is an inner bestiary,” she claimed, and her pictures are overrun with animals and animal-headed creatures; sometimes sinister, sometimes acting as guides to the unconscious, as in The Pomps of the Subsoil (1947). As her interests grew more hermetic her paintings abandoned all trace of the world beyond. If the figures occupy any sort of space it’s rarely more than the planes of a room in muted browns or greys, and in many the surface is overlaid with geometric patterns that seem to imply some mystical framework.

Alice Spawls on the art and life of Leonora Carrington

• “How a pro-domme, a Russian diplomat, US intelligence and Mary Tyler Moore’s landscaper conspired to create a dance classic.” Dave Tompkins on The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.

• “Battersea, in fact, is a fairly simple climb, made ready by the builders who are destroying it.” Katherine Rundell on climbing Battersea Power Station at night.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 148 by Mlada Fronta, and The Ivy-Strangled Path, Volume V, by David Colohan.

Erté illustrates a gay romance in Lytton Strachey’s Ermyntrude and Esmeralda (1913 but not published until 1969).

• Dangerous Minds looks back at “The most unusual magazine ever published”, Man, Myth & Magic.

David Chase on the writing, directing and editing of the final scene of The Sopranos.

Magic Man (1969) by Caravan | The Myth (1982) by Giorgio Moroder | Magick Power (1987) by Opal

 


White Hole, a film by Toshio Matsumoto

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Another short film by Matsumoto. This one was made in 1979, and seems to employ video effects, but the results are cosmic and psychedelic enough to have appeared ten years earlier. The electronic score is by Joji Yuasa. An entrancing 6-minute trip. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Atman, a film by Toshio Matsumoto
Metastasis, a film by Toshio Matsumoto

 


Aubrey Beardsley’s Keynotes

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Promotional poster.

Keynotes was a series of 34 novels and short story collections published by John Lane from 1893. Aubrey Beardsley produced cover designs and embellishments for 22 of the titles in 1895 while he was working on The Yellow Book which John Lane was also publishing. Beardsley’s designs comprised a title frame with illustration or decoration which was blocked in gold on the cover and also used as a title page. For 15 of the titles he also created a series of key-shaped monograms for the authors, designs which were used on the spines and the backs of the books. Collections of Beardsley’s art often show one or two of these pieces but you seldom see them all, and even when the title frames are reproduced the type is often omitted.

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Keynotes Series of Novels and Short Stories was a small book published in 1896 intended to gather all the Beardsley designs in one place and also promote the series in general. Two of the most celebrated works to receive the Beardsley treatment are those by Arthur Machen: The Great God Pan and The Inmost Light, and The Three Imposters. The decoration for the latter gives no indication of the horrors lurking inside that volume, while the faun on The Great God Pan is a world away from the amorphous nightmare in a story that caused considerable outrage at the time. According to Stanley Weintraub’s biography, the Keynotes series was very popular despite (or because of) the stir it caused, and helped keep Beardsley’s work visible when many of his other illustrations were out of circulation.

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Coulthart Books

    The Haunter of the Dark
    Reverbstorm

 


 

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