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


 

Robert Fludd’s Temples of Music

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For the past week I’ve been downloading more of the books at the Internet Archive illustrated by Matthäus Merian. Among the hoard there’s a two-volume set of Robert Fludd’s Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica, atque technica Historia (1617–1626), a remarkable work which attempts to cover all the metaphysical, scientific and artistic knowledge of the time, opening modestly with a detailed description of the creation of the universe. The illustrations for these volumes by Merian and Johann de Bry are so good they’ve been plundered endlessly, not only in later books but in the general culture; I’ve swiped details myself on more than one occasion so—once again—it’s good to see an original printing with all the accompanying text, and also all the less familiar treatises and pictures.

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One area of Fludd’s study concerns music, a subject which Merian and De Bry illustrate using a variety of graphic devices, the most fanciful of which are the “Temples of Music” displaying the notes and divisions of the Pythagorean scale. The largest of the drawings was printed onto a fold-out sheet which explains the unfortunate tear in this copy. I love all the details on this one, some of which are rather unusual: who are the people underneath the temple in the room with the furnace? What are they doing, and why are they naked?

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Two covers

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More new work of mine has been unveiled in the past few days so I can show these here. The Buried Life and Cities and Thrones are a pair of fantasy novels by new author Carrie Patel being published by Angry Robot. I was asked to provide something in an engraved style set against a black background, with imagery that reflected themes of vast, underground architecture and armed conflict.

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Vast architecture of any description is something I’ve always enjoyed, the main challenge with each book came in trying to imply the architecture and events without the pictorial content becoming incoherent. Marc at Angry Robot asked for something Piranesian where the architecture was concerned. Looking over Piranesi’s non-Carceri designs didn’t turn up anything with a suitably dramatic perspective, however, so most of what you see in the first cover comes from Giuseppe Galli Bibiena’s Architetture e Prospettive (1740). The Bibienas were a family of architects and theatrical engineers who specialised in dizzying perspective views for their stage designs; Bibiena’s book was produced to preserve some of his more celebrated designs, the originals of which are now lost. I’ve had a book of these drawings for years but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to make use of them in any kind of collage.

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This style of Baroque architecture doesn’t suit steampunk imagery which tends towards 19th-century urban/industrial; the plates are also rather staid scenes without the graphic flare that Piranesi gave to everything he rendered, real or imagined. But I do like those plunging perspectives, and pieces from two of the plates turned out to share both the same perspective and the same lighting direction. It’s easy to collage things into a flat view but creating a realistic sense of depth from bits and pieces can be tricky.

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The frame for the second cover has more of a Piranesian quality being chipped and eroded. The typography for the titles went through several changes, the versions here show a late suggestion of mine with lettering that’s probably too thin to read well at a distance (or a small size on a web page). SF Signal has a post showing the Angry Robot versions which will probably be the final ones, together with a preview of the first book.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons

 


The art of Fritz Hegenbart, 1864–1943

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Fritz Hegenbart was an Austrian artist some of whose work has appeared here before in posts about Jugend magazine. Hegenbart provided many illustrations and embellishments for Jugend and other journals circa 1900, the examples here being mostly from a feature in the collected Kunst und Handwerk for 1902/03, a magazine I was rifling through last week. Once you’ve been through Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration and others you find the same contents repeating themselves with slight variations; that’s no surprise when there was only a certain amount of news that any arts magazine could report for a given year.

Hegenbart’s work stands out for conjuring the slightly grotesque allegories I often like to see: The woman aiming an arrow from inside a serpent’s jaws represents Malice, while the woman being dragged under the water by a tentacled monstrosity is Art falling prey to Mammon. An updated version of that picture would have to show Mammon as a bloated and triumphant abomination. Hegenbart seemed to enjoy attaching wings to whatever women he was drawing; further down the page you’ll find a wingless woman being menaced by a particularly dopey-looking dragon.

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There’s also the curious ink piece below showing the location of the artist’s home in Dachau, Bavaria, and what to our eyes is a supremely inappropriate skull-shaped container for his brushes. The shadow of two world wars always hangs heavily over these magazines (especially in the nationalistic Jugend) but the imagery is seldom as prescient as this.

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Tom of Finland postage stamps

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Finland’s most famous writer and woman artist was a lesbian so it’s perhaps fitting that Tom of Finland is now firmly established as its most famous male artist. At one time you could have argued that Akseli Gallen-Kallela had more of an international profile but the rising visibility of gay art, and the pioneering erotica of Touko Laaksonen aka Tom of Finland, has changed all that. Tove Jansson’s Moomin characters have already appeared on a commemorative coin but later this year Tom of Finland’s beefy clones expose themselves to a wider public when they appear on postage stamps for the first time. The stamps have been designed by Timo Berry and Susanna Luoto. Even with all the recent changes in the UK I can’t imagine anyone getting away with a stamp design featuring such a prominent pair of buttocks, however lovingly rendered. It’s also a sign of changing attitudes that many people today would be less likely to object to sight of a bare bum than they would to a picture of somebody smoking. There’s more about the stamp designs, including links to larger images, here.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

 


The Dreamlands: A Lovecraftian film

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A crowd-funding goal has been announced for The Dreamlands, a feature film set in the worlds of HP Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle which, if it goes ahead, will be director Huan Vu’s second Lovecraftian feature. His first, Die Farbe (2010), is an excellent adaptation of The Colour Out of Space which impressed me with its atmosphere and its serious attitude towards the material, qualities that you can’t always rely on where horror cinema is concerned.

The Dreamlands will of necessity be more fantastical and so warrants a larger budget, hence the funding bid. I was asked to contribute to the production side of this late last year but prior commitments intervened, not least all the work I was doing on Lovecraft’s Monsters. I did find time to design the star symbol that’s being used to promote the film, however, and there’s talk at the moment of my working on some of the gifts for the funders in the higher brackets. More about that later. Watch the teasers, they’re very good.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Die Farbe and The Colour Out of Space

 


 


 

Books

    The Haunter of the Dark
    Reverbstorm

 


 

Previously on { feuilleton }

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{ feuilleton } recommends


The Outer Church

 

I Am The Center--Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990

 

Cosmic Machine--A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980)

 

School Daze by Patrick Cowley

 

Somnium by Steve Moore

 

Strange Attractor Journal Four

 

Clive Hicks-Jenkins

 

A Humument by Tom Phillips

 

Schalcken the Painter

 

Berberian Sound Studio

 

Quatermass and the Pit

 

The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale

 

Beasts by Nigel Kneale

 

A Field In England

 

Blood on Satan's Claw

 

Enter the Void

 

David Lynch Collection

 

Children of the Stones--The Complete Series

 

BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas (Box Set)

 

The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome

 

L'Ange by Patrick Bokanowski

 

Piotr Kamler--A La Recherche du Temps

 


 




 

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The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire