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


Seeing Calvino: Invisible Cities


Continuous Cities 4: Cecilia by Leighton Connor.

Seeing Calvino is the most recent of the illustration projects featured this week, a group effort by three artists—Leighton Connor, Matt Kish and Joe Kuth—dedicated to picturing all 55 of the Invisible Cities. Matt Kish has been mentioned here before since he and I were among the many artists adapting literary works for The Graphic Canon (2012), a huge three-volume endeavour edited by Russ Kick. (Matt chose Moby-Dick while I worked on the rather less daunting Picture of Dorian Gray.) The depictions for Seeing Calvino are bold, vivid, and almost abstract at times. The trio completed their Invisible Cities project in April this year but there’s a promise on their Tumblr to commence work on an adaptation of Calvino’s astronomical fantasia, Cosmicomics.


Thin Cities 4: Sophronia by Matt Kish.


Cities and the Sky 1: Eudoxia by Joe Kuth.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities
Colleen Corradi Brannigan’s Invisible Cities
Le Città In/visibili
Mikhail Viesel’s Invisible Cities
Bookmark: Italo Calvino
Crossed destinies revisted
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
Tressants: the Calvino Hotel


Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities


I wrote a short appreciation of French artist Gérard Trignac back in 2006, and he’s been mentioned a few times since, so it would be remiss of me to not include his etchings in this week’s illustration series. Trignac is a favourite of mine among the current crop of French etchers and engravers for his superb renderings of fantastic architecture. Most of this work is from his own imagination but he’s also illustrated Borges (The Immortal) and Calvino, producing plates for expensive limited volumes. Les Villes Invisibles was published in 1993 by Les Amis du Livre, Paris, in an edition of 200. The combination of a small print run with a series of ten etchings makes this a costly volume; the cheapest edition on Abe.com just now is going for €1500.

Scarcity aside, these are marvellous depictions of Calvino’s cities, as detailed and meticulous as any of Trignac’s other works. One thing that becomes apparent when you start looking at illustrations of Calvino’s novel is that artists tend to pick the same few cities. So in Trignac’s case we have more views of Armilla, Octavia, Zenobia and so on. All of these may be seen at Trignac’s website, while one of the expensive volumes is for sale here. For those who can’t afford the latter I recommend Les Portes du Silence (2004), a collection of Trignac’s work that includes all the plates for Les Villes Invisibles, the Borges’ illustrations, and much more besides.


Thin Cities 2: Zenobia.


Trading Cities 5: Esmeralda.

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Colleen Corradi Brannigan’s Invisible Cities


Cities and Memory 5: Maurilia.

Colleen Corradi Brannigan’s multimedia project was linked here back in 2011 when news of her endeavours reached a number of high-profile websites. These artworks are another attempt to depict all of Italo Calvino’s cities, this time using a range of media that includes sculpture. I like the variety of this series; some of the depictions approach the more rigorous perspectives of MC Escher while others are as loose as Expressionist paintings. The website also includes extracts from Calvino’s descriptions.


Trading Cities 4: Ersilia.


Thin Cities 3: Armilla.

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Le Città In/visibili


Thin Cities 3: Armilla by Luca Enoch.

Sergio Bonelli Editore, an Italian comics publisher, staged an exhibition of art based on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities at the Triennale Milano in 2002. The drawings for Le Città In/visibili head in the opposite direction from Mikhail Viesel’s depictions, and in several pictures push the cities towards generic fantasy and science fiction. These images are from an extinct page on the publisher’s website although they may also be seen on the current site with a little searching. The publisher doesn’t offer much information, however, so while the artists are identified it’s less clear which cities are being depicted. I’ve noted the more obvious ones; Calvino obsessives can have fun guessing which the others might be.


Laura Zuccheri.


Thin Cities 2: Zenobia by Maurizio Dotti.

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Mikhail Viesel’s Invisible Cities


Thin Cities 2: Zenobia.

I’ve a lot of work to get through this week so the theme will be illustrated Calvino, and that means looking at various renderings of the Invisible Cities. Calvino’s novel has many attractions for illustrators, at least superficially: all those descriptions, the endless variety and invention. Whether the book should be illustrated at all is another matter. The conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan that bracket each chapter return continually to the veracity of the Venetian’s descriptions; this in turn places each city in a nebulous zone where the reader may see the places described as being simultaneously an actual place and a fabrication. And then there’s the question of Calvino’s anachronisms, with mentions of railway stations and the like… Visual adaptations of elusive fictions have a tendency to literalise the subject in a manner that isn’t always to the benefit of the book.

With that proviso in mind, this first selection of drawings are by a Russian artist, Mikhail Viesel, who illustrates each of the cities. All may be seen at this page with section titles in English although the text for each picture is in Russian.


Cities and Eyes 3: Baucis.


Thin Cities 5: Octavia.


Hidden Cities 4: Theodora.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bookmark: Italo Calvino
Crossed destinies revisted
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
Tressants: the Calvino Hotel




Coulthart Books

    The Haunter of the Dark



Previously on { feuilleton }

    flandrin_skate.jpg   orazi4.jpg



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