Das Thier in der Decorativen Kunst

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The development of the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th century led to the publication of many books and periodicals offering design suggestions to artists, craftspeople and decorators. The more popular examples, like the long-running Dekorative Vorbilder, comprised collections of plates by different artists, in styles that ran from imitations of rococo decoration to the latest Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil) graphics. Other books presented designs by single artists. Alphonse Mucha created two of these, Documents Decoratifs (1902) and Figures Décoratives (1905), while also collaborating with Maurice Verneuil and George Auriol on Combinaisons Ornementals (1901). Verneuil produced a book of his own designs, L’Animal dans la Decoration (1897), in which animals of all kinds were depicted in Verneuil’s precise and versatile Art Nouveau manner.

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Das Thier in der Decorativen Kunst (The Animal in Decorative Art) is an Austrian equivalent of L’Animal dans la Decoration, and one in which artist Anton Seder didn’t feel as constrained as Verneuil by biological accuracy. Three of the plates in Seder’s book are devoted to a variety of snarling dragons that were probably more useful for illustrators than interior designers. The rest of the book is a combination of reality and fantasy, with fish in various states of pop-eyed alarm, a collection of piscine grotesques that I’ll be looking at if I ever have to draw the inhabitants of Innsmouth again, and many beautiful renderings of birds, reptiles, crustaceans, feathers and shells. Seder’s book was reprinted by Dover Publications as Fantastic Beasts of the Nineteenth Century but you can browse or download the original for free here. (The date given at the Internet Archive is 1896 but several of the plates show dates later than this.)

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Weekend links 586

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Cover by Gordon Ertz for The Inland Printer, June 1916.

• “I worry that enthusiasm is being mistaken for a moral virtue, and negative criticism for a character flaw.” Dorian Lynskey on the dying art of the hatchet job. Also a reminder (not that we require it) that the word “fan” in this context has always been an abbreviation of “fanatic”.

• Culture.pl explores the work of Stanislaw Lem, the science-fiction writer “whose works, abilities and quirky sense of humor convinced Philip K. Dick that he was too brilliant to exist and must have actually been a committee of people”.

• The electronic music of Paul Schütze receives a reappraisal on Phantom Limb in November with a compilation album, The Second Law.

Aliya Whiteley on Amanita Muscaria, the hallucinogenic mushroom seen in hundreds of fairy-tale illustrations.

• Stuart Firestein talks to Roger Payne about changing the world’s attitude to whales by recording their songs.

• Jennifer Lucy Allan talks to Sam Underwood about his unique Acoustic Modular Synth.

Jóna G. Kolbrúnardóttir sings Odi Et Amo from Englabörn by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• A forthcoming release on Dark Entries: Back Up: Mexican Tecno Pop 1980–1989.

• Luc Sante looks at Jim Jarmusch’s collages.

John Grant‘s favourite albums.

• RIP Michael Chapman.

• The Divination Of The Bowhead Whale (1978) by David Toop & Max Eastley | Keflavik: The Whale Dance (1980) by Richard Pinhas | Ballet For A Blue Whale (1983) by Adrian Belew

Andreas, HPL and RHB

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Mention of Robert H. Barlow last week reminded me of a comic strip which is an unusual addition to the world of Lovecraft-related art. RHB, written by François Rivière and illustrated by Andreas (Martens), was published in a French magazine, À Suivre, in 1978. I discovered the story when it was reprinted in The Cosmical Horror of HP Lovecraft (1991), an Italian volume that was the first substantial collection in book form of Lovecraftian comic strips and illustrations. Andreas and Rivière’s strip is a short biographical sketch of Robert H. Barlow’s equally short life which focuses on his connections to HP Lovecraft but doesn’t attempt any spurious fictionalisation. A few of the pages were posted at Deep Cuts in June of this year, together with a translation of the French text. The post there notes something that hadn’t occurred to me before, that Rivière would have taken most of his information about Barlow from L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft biography. The post also made me realise that the Cosmical Horror reprint is missing its last two pages, so after 30 years I finally discover that the panel sequence showing a falling cat (seen earlier being dropped from a height by the young Barlow) has a happy conclusion that also ends the strip itself.

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The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman.

Andreas has been a favourite comic artist of mine for many years, thanks in part to strips like RHB with its combination of unorthodox page layouts, scraperboard drawings (scratchboard, if you’re American) and the occasional use of enlarged half-toned photos. The scraperboard technique can be a laborious one for a comic artist, especially when applied in a photo-realist manner, which may explain why Andreas has used a more stylised pen-and-ink rendering for many of his own books, the drawings of which often resemble the engraving-like illustrations of Franklin Booth. The only other Andreas strip I’ve seen to date that uses scraperboard is The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman, another collaboration with Rivière which relates the ill-fated encounters of a Belgian painter with the woman of the title. The story received its first English printing in issue 17 of Escape magazine in 1989, and its appearance there made Andreas an artist to look out for in the future. The museum tale and the Barlow story were collected with several similar pieces in a book collection, Révélations Posthumes, in 1980. I’d really like to see this even though my French is très pauvre:

Avec ce livre, vous découvrirez d’étonnantes révélations posthumes concernant la vie fulgurante d’un ami et confident de Lovecraft, l’étrange aventure survenue en 1926, à Hastings, à un orphelin et une mystérieuse Thérèse Neele. La rencontre d’un soldat nommé Raymond Roussel et de Jules Vernes, à Amiens. Les origines du talent morbide d’un peintre belge fasciné par les figures de cire du Musée Spitzner. L’avatar maléfique joué à un malheureux jeune Anglais par Pierre Loti en sa maison de Rochefort-sur-Mer.

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Rork.

Révélations Posthumes seems to have been a one-off for Andreas. His subsequent, self-written books are more commercial fare, being a succession of weird adventure stories which follow the exploits of eccentric characters such as Cromwell Stone (an occult detective), the ageless, enigmatic Rork (a white-haired magus and occult detective), Capricorne (an astrologer and occult detective), and so on. As with Philippe Druillet, Lovecraft is never far away: the first episode of Cromwell Stone opens with an epigraph from HPL’s Supernatural Horror in Literature, while elsewhere inexplicable leviathan entities lurk in parallel dimensions, and architectural anomalies abound. The Rork series is especially enjoyable, like Doctor Strange without the superhero histrionics, featuring wildly audacious storylines such as Le Cimetière de cathédrales (1988), in which a graveyard for cathedrals is discovered in the Amazonian jungle.

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The fantasies of Andreas, like those of François Schuiten, might be more familiar to Anglophone readers if his works had been translated more often (or, in the case of RHB, translated at all). Dark Horse ran English versions of stories by Andreas and Schuiten in their Cheval Noir anthology series in the 1990s, and also published English reprints of the Rork and Cromwell Stone books but, as with the translated editions of Schuiten, these are now hard to find. More recently, Titan Books has published a new English edition of the first Cromwell Stone book but I’ve not seen any indication that they’ll be following this with more of the same. (I’ve also not seen the book itself so can’t vouch for the quality of the translation. Titan’s recent Druillet reprints have been riddled with textual errors. Beware.) Rather than wait for translations that might never arrive, the better option would be to improve my French reading skills. Writing this post has prompted me to order a secondhand copy of Révélations Posthumes. I’m looking forward to seeing what else it contains.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles
The art of François Schuiten
The art of Andreas Martens

The art of Jens Lund, 1871–1924

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Sakuntala, 1900.

Jens Lund was a Danish artist and illustrator with an idiosyncratic drawing style that not only sets him apart from many of his contemporaries but looks forward to the stylisations of younger artists like Beresford Egan. Several of the examples here are illustrations and sketches for an unpublished edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems. Lund also illustrated Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, and Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach (which he translated into Danish with his wife, Bolette) but copies of these aren’t as easy to find.

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Anraabelse, 1906.

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Scent that sings… Flames that laugh, 1903–04.

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Fantasy Landscape with Palms, 1899.

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Fireball, 1899.

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Weekend links 579

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Untitled painting by Larry Kresek.

• “A good comparison might be Broken English-era Marianne Faithfull, Appalachian folk singer Hedy West, or the early-70s home recordings of German actress Sibylle Baier; spellbound female voices possessed of an uncanny emotional honesty.” Andrew Male on the songs of Karen Black. In 1989, the first issue of Psychotronic Video profiled Black’s remarkable acting career which was cultish enough for the magazine to give her the “psychotronic” label.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor Press, In A Sound World by Victor Segalen, “a work of fantasy concerning an inventor lost in his own immersive harmonic space”.

• At Messynessychic: Inside the Imaginarium of a Solarpunk Architect, or architectural designs by Luc Schuiten, brother of comic artist and illustrator François Schuiten.

De Strijd der Werelden, 1899. The first illustrated book version of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds was a Dutch edition with drawings by JH Speenhoff.

• New/old music: Words Disobey Me (Dennis Bovell Dub Version) by The Pop Group, part of a forthcoming Bovell remix of the group’s debut album, Y.

• Mixes of the week: A mix for The Wire by Sunik Kim, FACT Mix 817 by Malibu, and Rhythmic Asymmetrical Wyrd by The Ephemeral Man.

• “Whatever we call them, and whatever else they might be, they are, in fact, printed paintings.” Joseph Visconi on William Blake’s monoprints.

• Curious Music announces Moebius Strips, an audio installation by Tim Story from the sounds and music of Dieter Moebius.

• At Dangerous Minds: Richard Metzger‘s confessions of an analogue vinyl snob.

Strange Flowers departs from tradition by offering a summer reading list.

Moebius 256 (1977) by Zanov | Moebius (1981) by Cyrille Verdeaux | Elena’s Sound-World (2014) by Sinoia Caves