Set in Stone


Urban Chiaroscuro 6: Paris (after Piranesi) (2007) by Emily Allchurch.

Pitzhanger Manor-House in Ealing, London, hosts an exhibition with architecture as its theme, a suitable subject given that the house was designed by notable 18th century architect (and friend of Piranesi) Sir John Soane. Artist Emily Allchurch has some meticulous and clever photo-collage reworkings of Piranesi on display while painter Stefan Hoenerloh—whose work I hadn’t seen before—is worthy of a dedicated post here seeing as he produces exactly the kind of imaginary architectural renderings I love. Some of his paintings could be colour views of similar scenes by Gérard Trignac.


Via Subalterna (1990) by Stefan Hoenerloh.

Set in Stone runs from 28 March–26 April 2008.

Artists: Emily Allchurch, Stephen Carter, Michael Durning, Stefan Hoenerloh and Ben Johnson.

PM Gallery present the work of five artists who share a fascination in the power and importance of architecture, as an inspiration for works in paint and photography.

Emily Allchurch makes collages from many photographs to create a seamless new ‘view’, creating imaginary buildings or recreating buildings that no longer exist. A series of works, inspired by the 16th Century (sic) artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s ‘Carceri d’Invenzione’ (Imaginary Prisons), seamlessly constructs Piranesi’s original work but shows buildings constructed in a mass of architectural styles, complete with warning signs, CCTV cameras, razor wire and security mirrors to give a sense of foreboding and claustrophobia. In ‘Crystal Palace, (recomposed)’, she took what remains of the platform as a basis to recreate the palace, using architectural details of the period, such as at the Palm House at Kew Gardens and Paddington Station.

The detail of London’s Westway has been examined by Stephen Carter, with a series of paintings taken from photographs shot beneath the huge concrete flyover. Carter sees the Westway as representing both an escape for city dwellers to the beauty of the countryside and for country dwellers to get to the exciting heart of the city. But this optimism is tempered by the fact that the perspective is often viewed from below the Westway in a forgotten, uncelebrated and polluted part of the city.

Michael Durning’s beautiful paintings of neglected and broken monuments and buildings, question attitudes to Scottish heritage and culture. Often buildings are shown in relation to Scotland’s grand landscapes and unforgiving weather, reducing their prowess in the face of the natural environment.

German painter Stefan Hoenerloh creates monumental buildings with accurate, detailed architectural features, in oil and acrylic. The works appear photographic, but in fact are all invented by Hoenerloh. The buildings loom, often so large that the viewer is only able to see part of them within the frame of the picture. There is little sign of life in these structures, which appear old and weather-beaten, but solid in the face of everything they have withstood over the years since they were built.

Ben Johnson paints calm, often majestic interiors and large city panoramas. Although painted in meticulous detail, Johnson ‘ investigates’ the built space, to create far more than simple photo-realism, allowing the viewer to gain an intense experience of the presented space. Here we show work dating from 1973 to 2007.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Gérard Trignac
Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons

The etching and engraving archive

Previous posts about etchings and engravings.

Bruegel’s sins

The World of Wonders


Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities

La Ronde du Sabbat

Meyer’s Todtengessängen

Jacques Houplain’s Maldoror

Athanasius Kircher’s Pan

Robert Fludd’s Temples of Music

Musaeum Hermeticum

Rodler’s Fine, Useful Booklet

Rules and Examples of Perspective Proper, 1693

Grand capitals

Rentz’s Todentanz

A Scholar in his Study

Old New Orleans

Les Terres du Ciel



Eustace details

The Library of Babel by Érik Desmazières

The labyrinth of Versailles

Atalanta Fugiens

Athanasius Kircher’s pyramids

The Royal Natural History by Richard Lydekker

Animating Piranesi

Melencolia details

Le style Louis XV

Sea and Land: An Illustrated History

Mérigot’s Ruins of Rome

Fonthill Abbey

The Turgot Map of Paris

Gustave Doré’s Ancient Mariner

Athanasius Kircher’s Tower of Babel

Alfred Rethel’s Totentanz

Paulini’s mythological alphabet

The paper architecture of Brodsky and Utkin

Six Suites of Engravings

The art of Jindrich Pilecek, 1944–2002

Further oddities

Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae

Charles Méryon revisited

Carceri, thermae and candelabra

Yuri Yakovenko bookplates

Wenceslaus Hollar’s peacocks

Liceti’s monsters

Albrecht Dürer’s Triumphal Arch

Cabala, Speculum Artis Et Naturae In Alchymia

Frans De Geetere’s illustrated Maldoror

Schott’s Physica Curiosa

Grandville’s Un Autre Monde

The Triumph of the Phallus

The art of Oleg Denysenko

Nicoletto Giganti’s naked duellists

Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales

Jan Saenredam’s whale

Digital alchemy

Oeuvres D’Architecture by Jean Le Pautre


Edward William Lane’s Arabian Nights Entertainments

John Bickham’s Fables and other short poems

Battle of the Naked Men
The art of François Houtin
Maldoror illustrated
Reynard the Fox
Czanara: The Art & Photographs of Raymond Carrance

Hadrian and Greek love

The art of Stella Langdale, 1880–1976

The art of Michael Goro

The art of Michiko Hoshino

The art of Toni Pecoraro

Piranesi as designer

Giorgio Ghisi’s Allegory of Life

Les lieux imaginaires d’Erik Desmazières

Gods’ Man by Lynd Ward

Weel done, Cutty-sark!

Prince Iskandar’s horoscope

Architectural renderings by HW Brewer

Happy Solstice

The art of Félicien Rops, 1833–1898

The art of José Hernández

Vedute di Roma

Frans Masereel’s city

Charles Le Brun’s physiognomies

The art of Erik Desmazières

The art of André Beuchat

The art of Yves Doaré

The art of Philippe Mohlitz

Angels 4: Fallen angels

Abelardo Morell

Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons

The art of Jean Coulon

The art of Gérard Trignac

Russian Utopia

The Essex Street Water Gate, London WC2

The Ranelagh Rotunda

The art of Peter Milton

Saint-Aubin’s Butterfly People

Filippo Morghen’s Voyage to the Moon

Charles Méryon’s Paris

The Atlas Coelestis of Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr

More archive pages:
The archive page archive

Happy birthday { feuilleton }


It was a year ago today that I sat down and wrote some words of Charles Fort’s, “One measures a circle beginning anywhere…”, as a headline for the first entry on this page. Some posts over the ensuing year have been more popular than others (and it should be pointed out that the “most popular” list in the sidebar has only registered hits since a new plugin was activated). Referral links and adds are a good guide to popularity so here’s the top five:

Watchmen (June 24th). An old Fantasy Advertiser interview with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about their graphic novel masterwork. I knew this would be popular, not least because it’s one of the best interviews I’ve read about Watchmen, and one conducted quite soon after the story had been completed. Good to be reminded that the book’s creation owed as much to the artist as it did to the writer. As Alan Moore’s popularity has grown there’s been a tendency on the part of critics to see him as the sole author of his comics, all of which are collaborations with different artists who invariably contribute to the work themselves. From Hell artist Eddie Campbell has recently been showing examples of these working methods on his excellent weblog, The Fate of the Artist.

Atomix by Nike Savvas (August 5th). A big surprise this. I spotted pictures of this installation in passing on a Yahoo! news page, thought it looked interesting so made a little entry about it. Many hits later people are still searching for pictures. Ms Savvas would be advised to tour this artwork, people love it.

Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons (August 25th). Another scanned article and another surprise. I remember thinking ?no one will want to read a long-dead writer talking about a long-dead engraver.? The moral, then, is never underestimate your audience.

The boys (various dates). Despite the groaning tubes of the interweb being stuffed with every shade and variety of porn, some pictures of unclothed young men remain more popular than others. So people arrive here searching for Eugen Bauder (very popular indeed), Felipe Von Borstel, Brian Joubert and others. I often feel as though I should apologise for not having any exclusive material but surfers of the one-handed variety are probably only stopping by for a moment before flitting elsewhere.

Barney Bubbles: artist and designer (January 20th). Very gratifying that this has been received with enthusiasm as this is the kind of post I like best, something that makes up for gaps in the pool of web data. These entries take time to prepare so it’s good to know that people appreciate the effort; I’m hoping there’ll be more to come (work allowing) in 2007.

Thanks for reading!

John x

Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons


I scanned this essay years ago from a library copy of a 1949 edition of Piranesi’s Carceri d’Invenzione (Trianon Press, London). It’s worth reproducing here since it’s still one of the best analyses I’ve read of these fascinating and enigmatic drawings. Online reproduction quality of Piranesi’s work is dismayingly low for the most part. And nothing matches seeing these etchings in their original printed state, of course. But you can start here then search around for more.

AT THE TOP OF THE MAIN STAIRCASE in University College, London, there stands a box-like structure of varnished wood. Somewhat bigger than a telephone booth, somewhat smaller than an outdoor privy. When the door of this miniature house is opened, a light goes on inside, and those who stand upon the threshold find themselves confronted by a little old gentleman sitting bolt upright in a chair and smiling benevolently into space. His hair is grey and hangs almost to his shoulders; his wide-brimmed straw hat is like something out of the illustrations to an early edition of Paul et Virginie ; he wears a cutaway coat (green, if I remember rightly, with metal buttons) and pantaloons of white cotton, discreetly striped. This little old gentleman is Jeremy Bentham, or at least what remains of Jeremy Bentham after the dissection ordered in his will—a skeleton with hands and face of wax, dressed in the clothes that once belonged to the first of utilitarians.

To this odd shrine (so characteristic, in its excessive unpretentiousness, of that nook-shotten isle of Albion) I paid my visit of curiosity in company with one of the most extraordinary, one of the most admirable men of our time, Albert Schweitzer. Many years have passed since then; but I remember very clearly the expression of affectionate amusement that appeared on Schweitzer’s face, as he looked at the mummy. “Dear Bentham!” he said at last. “I like him so much better than Hegel. He was responsible for so much less harm.” And of course Schweitzer was perfectly right. The German philosopher was proud of being tief, but lacked the humility which is the necessary condition of the ultimate profundity. That was why he ended up as the idolater of the Prussian state, as the spiritual father of those Marxian dogmas of history, in terms of which it is possible to justify every atrocity on the part of true believers, and to condemn every good or reasonable act performed by infidels. Bentham, on the contrary, had no pretensions to tiefness. Shallow with the kindly, sensible shallowness of the eighteenth century, he thought of individuals as real people, not as trivial bubbles on the surface of the river of History, not as mere cells in the brawn and bone of a social organism, whose soul is the State. From Hegel’s depths have sprung tyranny, war and persecution; from the shallows of Bentham, a host of unpretentious but real benefits—the repeal of antiquated laws, the introduction of sewage systems, the reform of municipal government, almost everything sensible and humane in the civilisation of the nineteenth century. Only in one field did Bentham ever sow the teeth of dragons. He had the logician’s passion for order and consistency; and he wanted to impose his ideas of tidiness not only on thoughts and words, but also on things and institutions. Now tidiness is undeniably a good—but a good of which it is easily possible to have too much and at too high a price. The love of tidiness has often figured, along with the love of power, as a motive to tyranny. In human affairs the extreme of messiness is anarchy, the extreme of tidiness, an army or a penitentiary. Anarchy is the enemy of liberty and, at its highest pitch, so is mechanical efficiency. The good life can be lived only in a society in which tidiness is preached and practised, but not too fanatically, and where efficiency is always haloed, as it were, by a tolerated margin of mess. Bentham himself was no tyrant and no worshipper of the all-efficient, ubiquitous and providential State. But he loved tidiness and inculcated the kind of social efficiency which has been and is being made an excuse for the concentration of power in the hands of a few experts and the regimentation of the masses. And meanwhile we have to remember the strange and rather alarming fact that Bentham devoted about twenty five years of his long life to the elaboration in minutest detail of the plans for a perfectly efficient prison. The panopticon, as he called it, was to be a circular building, so constructed that every convict should pass his life in perpetual solitude, while remaining perpetually under the surveillance of a warder posted at the centre. (Significantly enough, Jeremy Bentham borrowed the idea of the panopticon from his brother, Sir Samuel, the naval architect, who, while employed by Catherine the Great to build ships for Russia, had designed, a factory along panoptical lines, for the purpose of getting more and better work out of the industrialised mujiks.) Bentham’s plan for a totalitarian housing project was never executed. To console him for his disappointment, the philosopher was granted, by Act of Parliament, twenty-three thousand pounds from the public funds.

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