Wild Salomés


So there’s a poster for Al Pacino’s forthcoming drama-documentary about the Oscar Wilde play but I’ve yet to see any release details. The tagline connects Salomé with The Ballad of Reading Gaol: “We kill the thing we love.”


Searching around for posters turned up this item for an Italian-French co-production of the Wilde play directed by Claude d’Anna. I’ve not seen this but it can’t be any worse than Ken Russell’s version so it may be worth seeking out.


Far better poster-wise is this splendid creation by Anselmo Ballester for the Italian release of the 1953 Hollywood film (which isn’t based on the play). Rita Hayworth was too old for the role, and the film is simultaneously lavish and dull in the way that so many sword-and-sandal epics manage to be, but the poster is a gem. This site has many more examples of Ballester’s poster art.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive
The Salomé archive

The Rock Drill


The Rock Drill (original version, 1913–1914).

Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill (1913-15) was reconstructed in polyester resin by Ken Cook and Ann Christopher in 1973–74. It is the exemplary Vorticist art work. It shows a man on a tripod who is one with his machine. His drill is also his rigid proboscis, his hard, angled phallus. The tripod has weights (embossed Colman Bros Ltd Camborne England) on each leg, just above midpoint—which look like enlarged joints, or a bee’s pollen knee-pads (only available in black).

The rib cage of the figure is exactly like the twin cylinders on a motorbike. He is recognisably human, true, but the human body, with its curves and trim little bum, has been made-over to the angular machine: it is an armoured exoskeleton. The arms are like greaves. I thought of Seamus Heaney’s description of a motorbike lying in flowers and grass like an unseated knight. And I thought too of “Not My Best Side”, UA Fanthorpe’s marvellous poem about Uccello’s St George and the Dragon in the National Gallery. In it, Fanthorpe imagines the young girl being rather taken by the dragon’s equipment, when suddenly, irritatingly, “this boy [St George] turned up, wearing machinery”.

Thus Craig Raine on Jacob Epstein’s unforgettable sculpture. It’s astonishing to think that this piece in its various forms (lost, reworked, reconstructed) is now nearly a century old. Raine was writing about the forthcoming The Vorticists: Manifesto for the Modern World, an exhibition which will be opening at Tate Britain next month. Epstein’s truncated Torso in Metal from The Rock Drill (the full-figure version was destroyed) was one of the handful of sculptures which stood out for me when I first visited the Tate Gallery (as Tate Britain used to be) and it’s since become a piece I always enjoy seeing again. Epstein’s art was frequently controversial, his Oscar Wilde Memorial of 1911 was famously declared indecent, and The Rock Drill would have seem shockingly angular and aggressive to a British art world where aged academicians were still painting medieval fantasies or trying to sculpt like Praxiteles. To us today it looks unavoidably cybernetic even though the word “robot” didn’t arrive until 1920. Flickr has some views here of the reconstructed version which I’d hope is going to be on show at the Tate. In the meantime, there’s Anthony Gormley discussing the work on BBC Radio 3 (via iPlayer) which he regards as the first Modernist British sculpture, and a favourite work of art.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Wildeana #2
Against Nature: The hybrid forms of modern sculpture
Angels 2: The angels of Paris

Weekend links 60


Jean Genet (1950) by Leonor Fini.

• Bibliothèque Gay looks at a series of erotic engravings made by Leonor Fini for La Galère (1947) by Jean Genet. The author reciprocated with Mademoiselle: A Letter to Leonor Fini. At the hetero end of the erotic spectrum, Tate Liverpool will be showing a series of drawings by René Magritte produced for a proposed edition of Madame Eduarda by Georges Bataille. René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle opens next month.

George Clinton will be appearing with Nona Hendryx at the British Library on 18th June, to talk about “all things galactic”. In addition there’s a screening of John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History, a documentary about Afrofuturism and black science fiction. See an introduction to that here. Related: the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired the Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership for its collection.

• RIP Gil Scott-Heron. “Why does this colossus remain relatively unknown? Is he too political? Too uncompromising? Too angry? Too satirical? Too painful? Too playful? Too alive? Too black? Too human?” Jamie Byng in Gil Scott-Heron: poet, campaigner and America’s rough healer.


Le Fils du Maçon (1950) by Leonor Fini.

China Miéville examines alternative histories in Brian Aldiss’s The Malacia Tapestry, David Britton’s Lord Horror and Richard Curtis’s chilling dystopia, Notting Hill.

• What happened to Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Gille Lettmann when the Kosmische Musik dream collapsed? Find out here.

• Mlle Ghoul interviews Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction about horror paperbacks, good and bad.

• Another Surrealist woman: Claude Cahun at Strange Flowers.

The Key of Hell: an eighteenth-century sorcery manual.

Partitura 001: realtime sound visualisation.

Scientific Illustration: a Tumblr.

Cosmic Slop (1973) by Funkadelic | Cosmic Slop (1991) by Material.

Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #25


A design by Emanuel Margold.

This post concludes the delve into back numbers of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, the German periodical of art and decoration. Volume 25 covers the period from October 1909 to March 1909, and while the Internet Archive has further editions available they make a big jump after this number to 1923. The later editions are still interesting, of course, but in presentation and content they’re very different to what went before. Despite the text of these magazines being entirely German it’s been an education going through them not only for the detailed attention given to artists often passed over in books, but also for the articles reporting notable events in European art history as they happened. We have the Robarts Library of the University of Toronto to thank for having made these publications available.


An illustration from a series by Carl Otto Czeschka for Die Nibelungen by Franz Keim.


Continue reading “Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #25”

Leonora Carrington, 1917–2011


Self-portrait (1937–38) by Leonora Carrington.

Imagination and fantasy were two of the tools women artists used in the early decades of the 20th century to force their way into a male-dominated art world. The proliferation of illustrated books provided a creative platform in the Edwardian era for women shut out of art movements whose aesthetics might be avant garde but whose attitudes to sexual politics were either ignorant or reactionary. It was only with the advent of Surrealism that a notable body of women artists emerged in the field of painting and sculpture, not only Leonora Carrington but her almost namesake Leonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, Meret Oppenheim, Kay Sage, Valentine Hugo and others. Part of this was the tenor of the time, of course, but Surrealism had no choice but to be open to anyone who came calling; if you’re going to let dreams and irrationality dictate the debate then everything that was previously fixed is up for grabs including gender dominance and sexuality. Leonora Carrington had a longer career than her contemporaries, and also distinguished herself as a writer of fantastic novels and short stories. Dalí aside, it could be argued that among the original Surrealists it was the women who stayed true to the project in subsequent decades. Max Ernst was a lover of Leonora and later married Dorothea Tanning but he left Surrealism after the Second World War for other styles of painting.

In Carrington’s work, mystical forces and surging instincts overpower the reign of reason. This is rebellion and liberation in the true surrealist sense. It is not the angry, testosterone-driven smack in the face typical of the high-profile showmen of surrealism. Rather, it is a low-key mystic subversion powered by the intrigues of seductive sibyls, sorceresses, and priestesses. (More.)

Among the obituary notices surfacing there’s a piece by Leonora’s cousin, Joanna Moorhead, who wrote a couple of years ago about her search for her celebrated relative, and a notice in the Telegraph. Ten Dreams has a small gallery of her paintings.

For Leonora Carrington by Peter Lamborn Wilson
• Coilhouse: Leonora Carrington – 6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011

Previously on { feuilleton }
Marsi Paribatra: the Royal Surrealist
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
Return to Las Pozas
The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996
Surrealist women
Las Pozas and Edward James