Weekend links 528

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The Rhinoceros (after 1620) by Albrecht Dürer.

• “Today—Tolkien, Lovecraft, Miéville and M John Harrison!” Paul StJohn Mackintosh at Greydogtales explores HP Lovecraft’s lack of interest in fictional worldbuilding. The piece includes one of my book covers (ta!) plus a link to an earlier post I wrote about the cover designs of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium books. Since I’m connected to the thesis I’ll suggest that Lovecraft was resistant to the worldbuilding impulse in part because he was almost always writing horror stories. Having studied the genre at length he was well aware of the need to leave suggestive voids for the reader’s imagination.

• RIP Denise Johnson. All the obituaries mention the big names she worked with, notably New Order and Primal Scream, but being in the pool of Manchester session artists she also appeared on a couple of records by my colleagues at Savoy. Her voice is one of those you first hear on the PJ Proby cover of I’m On Fire, while with friend Rowetta she improvised her way through a Hi-NRG original (and a favourite of Anohni’s), the scurrilous Shoot Yer Load.

• At the BFI: Axel Madsen interviews Fritz Lang in 1967; Serena Scateni on where to begin with Nobuhiko Obayashi; and Roger Luckhurst reviews the spomenik-infested  Last and First Men by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• “Be more aware of the rest of the world!” says Jon Hassell, talking to Alexis Petridis about a life spent making music.

John Boardley on the Renaissance origins of the printed poster. Worth it for the selection of engraved details alone.

• “What Ever Happened To Chicken Fat?” Jackson Arn on a tendency to over-abundance in Jewish humour.

Erik Davis has a new writing home at Substack that he calls The Burning Shore. Bookmarked.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXII by David Colohan.

• Garry Hensey on The Strange World of John Foxx.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sergei Parajanov Day.

Romantic Rhino (1981) by Ananda Shankar | The Lone Rhinoceros (1982) by Adrian Belew | Blastic Rhino (2000) by King Crimson

Edmund J. Sullivan’s Sintram and His Companions

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More Sullivan, the illustrations this time being for a 1908 edition of Sintram and His Companions by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. This is one of Fouqué’s lesser known works, a tale of a Norwegian knight which the author based on the famous etching by Albrecht Dürer, The Knight, Death and the Devil (1513). The etching is shown as a frontispiece which Sullivan then has to follow, not an enviable task for any artist. If the subsequent drawings can’t match Dürer’s meticulous rendering they nonetheless base their characters on Dürer’s figures, the dog included. This kind of repurposing is commonplace today but it was very uncommon in 1908, and offhand I can’t think of an earlier example. It’s also worth noting the discussion in the comments for yesterday’s post about the influence of Edmund J. Sullivan on the young Austin Osman Spare. Sullivan and Spare knew each other, and Phil Baker’s Spare biography mentions Sullivan’s work being an influence, but I’d not given the matter much attention until this week. The influence is easy to see when you view their drawings together.

To return to Dürer, the sight of his etching always makes me think of a later piece of fiction, A Dog in Dürer’s Etching “The Knight, Death and the Devil” (1966) by Marco Denevi. A short tour-de-force that may be read in full here.

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Young Knight in a Landscape

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Young Knight in a Landscape (1510).

A painting by Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio (c. 1460–1525/26) replete with natural detail. Many of these details, the animal ones in particular, are no doubt symbolic, although what they symbolise can change over time, and may also refer to the personal mythology of the family for whom the painting was created. Dogs often represent fidelity but the dog crouching on the path behind the knight wears an expression that may be taken for a snarl. The hawk knocking another bird from the sky is more obviously a symbol of belligerence which suits the action of drawing a sword.

The note for this painting says it was attributed to Albrecht Dürer until 1919, something I find surprising. The vegetation is certainly painted with a Dürer-like precision but Dürer was equally precise with his figures, and would have paid more attention to the modelling of the hands. One detail I don’t recall seeing before is the codpiece pocket. The Scottish sporran often has a pocket in the back, there being no pockets in kilts or, for that matter, in suits of armour.

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Dürer’s Instruction of Measurement

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Underweysung der Messung (1525), a book of drawing instruction by the great Albrecht Dürer, predates Hieronymus Rodler’s “useful booklet” by six years. This also includes some perspective work although the lessons here are mostly concerned with the careful construction of various shapes, tesselated patterns and solid figures. Two of the illustrations at the end showing an artist using drawings guides are very familiar from reproduction in numerous art books; once again it’s good to see these pictures in their original context. This is also the book in which Dürer demonstrates the construction of letters of the alphabet. His lettering guides are almost as familiar as the illustrations, they often turn up in histories of typography, and now form the basis of several font designs. Durer Caps from P22, and Durer Initials from GLC, both give you an option of construction lines or solid fills; they also supply the letter U which is missing from the artist’s alphabet. Elsewhere there’s a free font, Duerer (sic) Latin Constructions and Capitals, available from l’Abécédarienne although this design lacks the U. Dürer’s book may be browsed here or downloaded here.

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Witches

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Scene of Witchcraft (1510) by Hans Baldung Grien.

Earlier this year Pam Grossman declared 2013 to be the Year of the Witch, so in honour of that (and the season) here’s a handful of sorceresses through the ages. Most can be found in higher quality at the Google Art Project but a couple are from other sources. I’ve taken the liberty of attributing the drawing below to Hans Baldung Grien, not Albrecht Dürer as Google has it. Not only is this the attribution I’ve always seen for this picture but Baldung’s “HBG” monogram is clearly visible beneath the sprawling woman.

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New Year’s Greeting with Three Witches (1514) by Hans Baldung Grien.

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The Witches’ Sabbath (c.1640–1649) by Salvator Rosa.

Salvator Rosa specialised in lurid depictions of bandits, executions and—as here—witches. The excessive imagery appealed to later generations, especially the Romantics. This painting is even more grotesque than usual with its flayed-bird abominations (below) looming out of the shadows.

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