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.

Continue reading “The art of Pinckney Marcius-Simons, 1867–1909”

Weekend links 598

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The Wire, July 2004. Illustration and design by Non-Format. Christopher Cox’s interview with Lucier is available to read here.

• “I went into experimental overdrive. Lyrical motifs became literal imagery. A hammer shattering a plate of glass. A lyrical maze of geometric tunnels and formations.” Chris Mosdell talking to Aquarium Drunkard about writing lyrics for Yellow Magic Orchestra and others (you can hear his voice on YMO’s Citizens Of Science), plus the recording of his own debut album, Equasian.

• At Public Domain Review: “…this short, odd book confronts a question that has vexed naturalists for thousands of years: how do we account for the precipitation of animals?” Odd Showers; or, An Explanation of the Rain of Insects, Fishes, and Lizards (1870) by George Duncan Gibb.

• “…few writers on our list could have functioned in the culture that, today, sees literature as a profession for which you prepare like any other: going to the right school, meeting the right people.” Francine Prose on her encounters with the literary strange.

• “Where was glass first fashioned? How was it worked and coloured, and passed around the ancient world?” Carolyn Wilke presents a brief scientific history of glass.

• RIP Antony Sher and Alvin Lucier. In 1969 Lucier was sitting in a room different to the one you are in now. Elsewhere: Alvin Lucier at Ubuweb.

• New/old music: Zeitgeist: Ambient Music from 2012 to 2020 by Marco Simioni & Mattia Saviolo.

James Balmont on five unmissable films from the Japanese New Wave movement.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Illuminated paintings of Tokyo after dark by Keita Morimoto.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 724 by Laura BCR, and Isolatedmix 115 by HVL.

• At Strange Flowers: part two of James Conway’s Secret Satan end-of-year list.

• “Jony Ive’s first major design since leaving Apple isn’t what you’d expect.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Yasuzo Masumura Day.

Glass (1968) by Sagittarius | Glass (1979) by Joy Division | Glass (2009) by Bat For Lashes

Weekend links 584

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Cover for the 1970 US edition of Moonchild by Aleister Crowley. No artist credited (unless you know better…). Update: The artist is Dugald Stewart Walker, and the drawing is from a 1914 edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Thanks to Mr TjZ!

• “…a very mid-Seventies cauldron of Cold War technology, ESP, sociology, black magic and white magic, experimental science and standing stones, secret radar and satanic rituals, whirring aerials and wild moors: a seething potion of Wyndham and Wheatley.” Mark Valentine on The Twelve Maidens, a novel by Stewart Farrar.

• “The line in the song ‘feed your head’ is both about reading and psychedelics. I was talking about feeding your head by paying attention: read some books, pay attention.” Grace Slick explains why those three little words have been attached to these pages since 2006.

Freddie deBoer reposted his “Planet of Cops” polemic, a piece I linked to when it first appeared in 2017, and which used to come to mind all the time before I absented myself from the poisonous sump of negativity that we call social media.

• RIP Charlie Watts. The Rolling Stones’ last moment of psychedelic strangeness is Child Of The Moon, a promo film by Michael Lindsay-Hogg featuring an uncredited Eileen Atkins and Sylvia Coleridge.

• Old music: A live performance by John Coltrane and ensemble of A Love Supreme from Seattle in 1965 that’s somehow managed to remain unreleased until now.

• A short film about Suzanne Cianni which sees her creating electronic sounds and music for the Xenon pinball machine in the early 1980s.

• “I’ll be in another world”: A rediscovered interview with Jorge Luis Borges.

Steven Heller explains why Magnat is his font of the month.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the allure of toy theatre.

• New music: Vexed by The Bug ft. Moor Mother.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Nikola Tesla Festschrift.

Moon Child (1964) by The Ventures | Moonchild (1969) by King Crimson | Moonchild (1992) by Shakespears Sister

Weekend links 583

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Faun (1897) by Karel Hlavacek.

A teaser trailer for Mad God, a stop-motion animated feature by Phil Tippett. 30 years in the making and not the usual saccharine fare. The director talks about his film here.

• For those who missed Johnny Trunk’s book about Sainsbury’s Design Studio several years ago (or would like more of the same), packaging design at the Sainsbury Archive.

• Mixes of the week: Ces Gens-Là – Avec Bart De Paepe by David Colohan, and Phased Induction Phototaxis by The Ephemeral Man.

• Smoking dope and comparing bad reviews: Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine discuss the early days of their collaboration.

• At the cat-loving Spoon & Tamago: This cat table gives your feline a seat in the table.

John Lurie‘s tales of Bohemian living with The Lounge Lizards in 1979 New York.

• Luxury assortment: the British artists behind Cadbury’s chocolate boxes.

Kevin Richard Martin’s favourite albums.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Skeletons 2.

Hymn To Pan (2008) by Blood Ceremony | The Great God Pan (2011) by Blood Ceremony | Faunus (2013) by Blood Ceremony

PlacePrints by David Rudkin

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Hidden voices and haunted landscapes are conjured up in ten unique stories from the imagination of visionary writer David Rudkin. Join a stellar cast including Juliet Stevenson, Toby Jones, Josie Lawrence, Michael Pennington and Stephen Rea, among many others on an enlightening journey across the British Isles with this dramatic audio cycle that will transform your sense of the landscape around you.

PlacePrints is the umbrella title for ten new audio plays by David Rudkin, a series directed by Jack McNamara for the New Perspectives theatre company. The series has been freely available online for over a year but only came to my attention last month. One of the pleasures of recent years has been seeing David Rudkin’s dramas being reappraised after many years of neglect, although interviews suggest the writer has ambivalent feelings about the concentration on the gaudier, generic elements of his surviving TV plays. In The Edge Is Where The Centre Is, a book by Texte und Töne about Penda’s Fen, Rudkin is determined to frame the film as a political work when most of the reaction to it over the past decade has been to label it “folk horror”. I can’t complain too much when I’ve been partly responsible for giving it the horror label in the first place, having written (at the request of one of the editors) a short review of the film for Horror: the Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear (2006), and later contributing a lengthy piece about Rudkin’s stage and TV dramas to Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies (2015). In my defence, the latter was intended to draw attention to Rudkin’s work as a whole, and you have to start somewhere. In 2006 Penda’s Fen and Artemis 81 were mysteries to most people, not horror enough for the MR James obsessives, or, in the case of Artemis 81, too weird for the science-fiction crowd; both of them were also unavailable in any form. Grant Morrison was the only person I’d met who not only knew who Rudkin was but had read the available playscripts. Some of Rudkin’s works may touch on generic horror or science fiction but even his adaptation for the BBC of The Ash-Tree by MR James can be grouped with his own dramas via its themes of religious conflict and the presence of history in the landscape. He also changes Mothersole’s warning from James’s “There will be guests at the hall!” to the pithier “Mine shall inherit!”, a threat delivered with a playwright’s economy, and a declaration whose reference to inheritance connects the film to a persistent Rudkin theme, the legacies of people, place and history.

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All of which makes the existence of the PlacePrints dramas very welcome indeed. For the most part, these are closer to Rudkin’s theatrical works than his TV films, being a collection of lone voices engaging repeatedly with the legacies of people, place and history: a British Celt watching the invading Roman army build one of their roads across the Warwickshire fields (River, Of Course); a close description of a walk along an ancient pathway in Cornwall (Nemeton): the scathing voice of an earthwork following the clumsy searches of an aged academic (Grim’s Ditch); a young student slipping in and out of visions of life in Suffolk 30,000 years ago (Cave Girl/The Stone Age). The series features an impressive range of acting talent, especially Juliet Stevenson in Grim’s Ditch, and Frances Tomelty as an elemental spirit haunting the waters of Lough Fea in To the Waters and the Wild. Sympathetic sound design and music by Adam McCready adds a hint of location atmosphere and dramatic texture without ever being obtrusive. Each piece is preceded by an authorial introduction, one of which suggests that Rudkin may not be too displeased about being tagged with the horror label when he describes Grim’s Ditch as being a contemporary equivalent of an MR James warning to unwary academics. The episode has its share of uncanny moments, with Toby Jones as the professor receiving a lesson from the landscape that he won’t forget. The final recording is an interview with David Rudkin by Gareth Evans, one of the interviewers and contributors to The Edge Is Where The Centre Is.

There’s a further parallel in some of these pieces with chapters from Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore, a novel that also deals with (among other things) ancient Britain, the Roman invasion and the patterns of history. Fitting, then, that New Perspectives have produced the audio version of Voice of the Fire with the same director and sound designer, and with Toby Jones returning as one of the characters. I generally prefer to read books rather than to hear them read but I’m looking forward to listening to this one as well. (Thanks to Jay for the tip!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Voice of the Fire
Penda Reborn
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies
The Edge Is Where The Centre Is
Afore Night Come by David Rudkin
White Lady by David Rudkin
Penda’s Fen by David Rudkin
David Rudkin on Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr