Another visit to The Other Side

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Readers of Alfred Kubin’s nightmarish fantasy novel, The Other Side, may like to know that a first edition was among the new uploads at the Internet Archive in December. The original printing is of note for the fine quality of its illustrations which—unlike subsequent editions—would have been taken from Kubin’s original drawings. Many of these are little more than vignettes but the book contains a number of full-page pieces that are densely cross-hatched, a technique that degrades the more the picture is copied, and which suffers even more if the picture is reduced in size, as these drawings have been in many paperback printings. I complained in an earlier post about the poor quality of the reproductions in my Dedalus reprint, and linked to a Flickr collection of scans from another first edition, but that set didn’t contain all 52 drawings. The pages of this new copy are rather discoloured but the sombre shade suits the increasingly dark tone of Kubin’s story. I imagine the author might approve.

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The art of Pinckney Marcius-Simons, 1867–1909

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Vision of the Demon.

The Symbolist movement in painting never really took hold in America the way it did in Europe so it’s a surprise to find a new name to add to the very small list of American Symbolists. Pinckney Marcius-Simons painted his share of 19th-century genre pictures but these give way in his later career to canvases that show a distinct Gustave Moreau influence, or perhaps Turner in those nebulous volumes of illuminated vapour. Marcius-Simons was born in New York but lived in Europe for most of his life; he studied in Paris so he would have been able to see Moreau’s work first-hand. A few of his later pictures are rather vague fantasies but his real obsession was with Wagner’s operas, and he spent the last few years of his life working as a set designer at Bayreuth while also creating a series of paintings intended to illustrate the entire run of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. His most remarkable creation isn’t a canvas, however, but a French edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which he painted over entirely, even decorating the binding. I’m surprised again that such a unique work isn’t more widely known. Happily the entire book is available online at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

All the usual caveats apply here with regard to the accuracy of titles and dates. There’s even some dispute about the artist’s birth year which is occasionally given as 1865. Most of these pictures have been found on auction sites where larger reproductions may be seen.

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Port City.

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Sunrise.

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The City of Dreams.

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Weekend links 600

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My kind of window. From a collection of machine-learning images by Unlimited Dream Co. Via Bruce Sterling.

• “I will never call myself a queer. That word is one of the things that I detest that has happened, and it’s almost being forced now. For me, you cannot separate that word from the hatred and violence that once accompanied it. When I read it being used in The New York Times, I think, ‘It’s their word and they can fucking have it all they want.’ I will never use ‘queer.’ It’s an ugly word.” John Rechy, still active at the age of 90, talking to Jeff Weiss about hustling, social opprobrium, and his pioneering books.

• “At a time when we are being constantly told that humanity is destroying the planet, it is somehow comforting to see nature not merely outlasting, but triumphing over humanity’s constructions—as nature does in many of Piranesi’s Views of Rome.” Alasdair Palmer on Piranesi’s peerless renderings of Roman ruins.

• “The magical aspect of Get Back is its total refusal to adhere to the standard tropes of music documentaries. There are no talking heads commenting on the Beatles’ greatness, no continual barrage of quick edits and highlights.” Geeta Dayal on Peter Jackson’s resurrection of the Fab Four.

But men are not traditionally meant to be objects of art. “Men look at women,” John Berger wrote. “Women watch themselves being looked at.” When men look at men, however, they break rules. “I didn’t set out to be radical,” says Miller. “But I was at a fair and I had a huge nude on a stand by Michael Leonard. I’d only been open ten minutes and a woman started having a go and saying it’s filth. What I found fascinating is she’d walked past a whole span of female nudes. I think society is just immune to female nudity. People don’t see it. If you take this to the straight world of an art fair, it provokes reactions other dealers don’t get. There isn’t anyone else like me.”

Tony Wilkes talks to Henry Miller, owner of an art gallery devoted to the male form

• “I imagine men with starched collars, horrified by an animal with no hard edges to grab onto, no solidity to venerate. Something low, lateral, creeping.” Fiona Glen on “Devil Fish”, Cthulhu and cephalomania.

• I like glowing things so Brian Eno’s glowing record turntable has an immediate appeal. A shame it’s a very limited production which is almost certainly sold out by now.

• The next release on the Ghost Box label will be A Letter from TreeTops by Pneumatic Tubes.

• At Dangerous Minds: A Sight for Sore Eyes Vol. 1, a visual history of The Residents.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on the supernatural thrillers of Archie Roy.

• Mix of the week: A reflection on 2021 at A Strangely Isolated Place.

Swan River Press looks back over a year of book production.

• New music: Spherical Harmonics by Joseph Hyde.

Octopus’s Garden (1969) by The Beatles | The Kraken (2006) by Hans Zimmer | Kraken (2017) by Dave Clarkson

The Knowles’ Norse Fairy Tales

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More tales from the northern lands, and a book illustrated by two people this time. The Knowles were a pair of brothers, Reginald Lionel (1879–1954) and Horace John (1884–1954), who produced several illustrated editions together while also working independently. Sibling illustrators are unusual but not unprecedented; the Knowles’ contemporaries included the Robinson brothers—Charles, William (Heath) and Thomas—who worked together on an edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. Norse Fairy Tales (1910) is a collection of folk stories that overlap in places with the more familiar tales from Denmark and Germany. The book was compiled by FJ Simmons from Norwegian collections by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe which had been translated into English by George Webbe Dasent. Simmons says in his introduction that he edited (or bowdlerised) his selection a little in order to make some of the pieces suitable for a young readership although he doesn’t give any details. His book is one I ought to have gone looking for sooner after I swiped part of a related illustration for a CD design some time ago. A drawing by Reginald Knowles of a troll walking among trees appears in a source book of Art Nouveau graphics which I’ve borrowed from for many years. Reginald’s trees proved to be perfect for the CD. This was a lazy move on my part but I’d been asked to rescue a design which wasn’t working, and the deadline was a tight one.

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Simmons may have trimmed some of the texts but Norse Fairy Tales still runs to 55 stories that fill 500 pages for which the Knowles’ provide full-page illustrations, a few colour plates and many smaller drawings. Each artist is identifiable by their initials. All the black-and-white art is pen-and-ink but Horace’s drawings imitate the style of early wood engravings, a look that works well with the material, while Reginald’s drawings would be identifiable even without his initials since his work tends to be a little more stylised, as with the sinuous trees that I borrowed. This is an impressive book that might be better known if there wasn’t such a profusion of illustrated Brothers Grimm and Hans Andersen collections. Find out what the trolls are getting up to here.

(Note: the Internet Archive scan has excessively browned pages. All the images here have been run through filters to remove the colouration.)

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Weekend links 599

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Taarna by Chris Achilleos for Heavy Metal, September 1981. A typical piece by Achilleos, whose death was announced this week, and very typical for a Heavy Metal cover. Achilleos was a prolific illustrator.

• New music: The Truth, the Glow, the Fall (Live At Montreux) by Anna von Hausswolff, from her forthcoming album, Live At Montreux Jazz Festival. The last gig I went to was in October 2019, to see Sunn O))) supported by Anna von Hausswolff. Easily one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. Meanwhile, Anna von Hausswolff has had to cancel a Paris church concert following protests by a rabble of outraged Catholics. Bravo les crétins!

• “…it is easy to forget that Montesquiou—regardless of his own work—was not merely emblematic of Decadence, he was essentially patient zero in its viral spread.” Strange Flowers explores the exquisite life of the bat-obsessed, hydrangea-cultivating Robert de Montesquiou.

• “Kotatsu have been around longer than we imagine. And art history has the proof.” Spoon & Tamago on an old Japanese method for warming a room during winter. Also further evidence that cats always find the warmest place in any house.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2021. Thanks again for the link here!

The Wire magazine has opened its collection of articles by the late Greg Tate so they may be read by non-subscribers.

• “Neil Bartlett is a gay writer’s gay writer,” says Jeremy Atherton Lin reviewing Bartlett’s latest, Address Book.

• James Balmont on the psychedelic cinema of Nobuhiko Obayashi.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Erotique.

Northern lights photographer of the year.

• The Strange World of…Takuroku.

• RIP Robbie Shakespeare.

• Robbie Shakespeare’s bass x 3: King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1974) by Augustus Pablo | Nightclubbing (1981) by Grace Jones | Bass And Trouble (1985) by Sly & Robbie