Morning of the Magicians book covers

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Éditions Gallimard, France, 1960.

Yesterday’s post proved popular so it seemed worthwhile taking another look at the book which birthed Planète magazine. The main problem The Morning of the Magicians presents for an art director is how to encapsulate such wildly diverse contents in a cover design. To judge from the examples here, most people seem to have either given up or gone for vaguely symbolic designs which at the most correspond to the contents in a minor way. The biggest surprise for me was seeing the cover of the first edition above, one of those typically sober French titles which gives away nothing of the intellectual fireworks within. Few of these designs have any credits, and this is nothing like a complete list (more editions can be seen at Goodreads). More recent editions have been avoided altogether since they’re pretty terrible.

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Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Italy, 1963. This edition, which runs to 476 pages, includes three translated stories inserted into the text: The Nine Billions Name of God by Arthur C. Clarke, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr, and The White People by Arthur Machen.

A hardback edition showing an alchemist at work.

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Stein and Day, USA, 1964.

You know a cover is failing when it could easily be applied to any number of other titles.

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Planète magazine covers

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Planète was a French magazine of “Fantastic realism” which ran throughout the 1960s. I’ve never seen a copy but sight of the immediately recognisable covers has always fascinated because this was the magazine established in the wake of the huge success of The Morning of the Magicians (1960), a unique “Introduction to Fantastic Realism” by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. Rather than enthuse at length about The Morning of the Magicians I’ll simply point you to this piece by the late RT Gault from his now-defunct website.

Pauwels and Bergier’s book was oft-imitated but never equalled during the 1970s. Where later authors such as Erich von Däniken tended to plough a single, narrow furrow, Pauwels and Bergier leapt breathlessly from one subject to another: alchemy in the 20th century, Forteana, a lengthy examination of the occult preoccupations of the Third Reich, speculations about nuclear physics, speculations about biological mutation, Hollow Earth theories, etc, etc, all the time dropping quotes from HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen and Albert Einstein. It’s a very heady mix which is great fun to read even though there’s nothing like a solid argument that comes out of it all.

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Planète continued the blend of Futurology and fringe philosophy while using the magazine format to print translations of science fiction and fantasy stories; among other things it was notable for bringing the stories of Jorge Luis Borges to a wider audience in France. The magazine’s name may have been science fictional but the magazine as a whole is closer to the kind of borderline sf/art magazine that New Worlds became under Michael Moorcock’s editorship in the late 1960s. I’ve never seen Moorcock or anyone connected with New Worlds mention Planète but the covers at least pre-empt the style adopted by New Worlds during its large-format run: consistently bold typography and imagery that only obliquely relates to the contents.

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All these covers are from Noosfere where the story contents for each issue are also listed. No credits for the designer, unfortunately. If anyone knows who was responsible for the magazine design then please leave a comment.

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More chimeras

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The Chimera (1867) by Gustave Moreau.

It’s no easy task to catalogue all the chimeras that proliferate between the numerous examples in the work of Gustave Moreau to those produced before the First World War. Consider this a sample, then, and a pointer to further research. Several of these artists—Malczewski, Ernst, Brauner—returned to theme many times.

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The Sphinx: “My gaze, which nothing can deflect, passes through the things and remains fixed on an inaccessible horizon.” The Chimera: “I am weightless and joyful.” (1889) by Odilon Redon.

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The Chimera’s Despair (1892) by Alexandre Séon.

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The chimeras of Dimitrie Paciurea

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Chimera (1923).

One of the many commendable things about Dreamers of Decadence (1971) by Philippe Jullian is the use of the figure of the chimera to describe the impulse that drove the development of Symbolist art in the late 19th century. A chimera is a fabulous, hybrid creature which is also a metaphor for an unfounded conception or mental phantasm, and chimeras happen to be as popular in Symbolist art as the more familiar sphinx. Both creatures had been given a heady promotion in the fin de siècle imagination thanks to Gustave Flaubert’s extravagant Temptation of Saint Anthony whose final version appeared in 1874; the fluid and metaphoric nature of the chimera, however, makes for a more useful image in art.

Romanian sculptor Dimitrie Paciurea was born around 1874 (his birthdate is uncertain), and is one of those artists who perpetuated Symbolist themes in the 20th century by which time they were rapidly losing the little grace they once possessed. In addition to the profusion of chimeras seen here Paciurea was also sculpting fauns and Pan figures, further hybrids from the Symbolist menagerie. These photos are from WikiPaintings where the artist is rather fatuously categorised as an Impressionist.

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Chimera of the Earth.

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Chimera of the Sky.

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February

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February Painting (Winter Series No.1) (1994) by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

The end of winter at the Google Art Project and the BBC’s Your Paintings site.

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Landscape: A Late February Afternoon (1979) by Steven Outram.

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February (above Tan y Foel) III (no date) by Darren Hughes.

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