Max Ernst’s favourites

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The cover for the Max Ernst number of View magazine (April, 1942) that appears in Charles Henri Ford’s View: Parade of the Avant-Garde was one I didn’t recall seeing before. This was a surprise when I’d spent some time searching for back issues of the magazine. The conjunction of Ernst with Buer, one of the perennially popular demons drawn by Louis Le Breton for De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, doubles the issue’s cult value in my eyes. I don’t know whether the demon was Ernst’s choice but I’d guess so when many of the De Plancy illustrations resemble the hybrid creatures rampaging through Ernst’s collages. Missing from the Ford book is the spread below which uses more De Plancy demons to decorate lists of the artist’s favourite poets and painters. I’d have preferred a selection of favourite novelists but Ford was a poet himself (he also co-wrote an early gay novel with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil), and the list is still worth seeing.

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Poets: Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Hölderlin, Alfred Jarry, Edgar Allan Poe, George Crabbe, Guillaume Apollinaire, Walt Whitman, Comte de Lautréamont, Robert Browning, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Achim von Arnim, Victor Hugo, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Solomon (presumably the author of the Song of Solomon).

Painters: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georges Seurat, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung, Vittore Carpaccio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Francesco del Cossa, Piero di Cosimo, NM Deutsch (Niklaus Manuel), Vincent van Gogh.

I’ve filled out the names since some of the typography isn’t easy to read. Some of the choices are also uncommon, while one of them—NM Deutsch—is not only a difficult name to search for but the attribution has changed in recent years. The list of poets contains few surprises but it’s good to see that Poe made an impression on Ernst; the choice of painters is less predictable. Bruegel, Bosch and Rousseau are to be expected, and the same goes for the German artists—Grünewald, Baldung—whose work is frequently grotesque or erotic. But I wouldn’t have expected so many names from the Italian Renaissance, and Seurat is a genuine surprise. As for Ernst’s only living contemporary, Giorgio de Chirico, this isn’t a surprise at all but it reinforces De Chirico’s importance. If you removed Picasso from art history De Chirico might be the most influential painter of the 20th century; his Metaphysical works had a huge impact on the Dada generation, writers as well as artists, and also on René Magritte who was never a Dadaist but who lost interest in Futurism when he saw a reproduction of The Song of Love (1914). Picasso’s influence remains rooted in the art world while De Chirico’s disquieting dreams extend their shadows into film and literature, so it’s all the more surprising that this phase of his work was so short lived. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Viewing View
De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal
Max Ernst album covers
Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie
Max and Dorothea
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier

Year by Angus MacLise

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The Ascension of St Rose of Lima (1896) by Aubrey Beardsley.

There’s something about the idea of renaming the calendar that I find very attractive even if this is only workable on a personal level. When the Gregorian calendar is a reinvention of the Roman calendar based around Christian holidays (and with the days of the week still alluding to Norse gods), it’s easy to feel at liberty to start again.

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Year (1962) by Angus MacLise.

The most famous example of calendrical reinvention is the French Republican Calendar which called upon a gathering of scientists, a mathematician and a gardener to rename the months and days of the year. In this system the 29th of July would be “Panic” (ie: the plant Switchgrass) in the month of “Thermidor” which runs from July 19th to August 17th. (For the record, this is the year 221 in French Republic time.) The French Republican Calendar may have been an inspiration for the Pataphysical Calendar invented by Jarryites (or Ubuists) which is also French, and a sight more complicated:

The pataphysical era (EP) started on 8 September 1873 [Alfred Jarry’s birthday.] The week starts on a Sunday. Every 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd is a Sunday and every 13th day of a month falls on a Friday. Each day is assigned a specific name or saint. For example, the 27 Haha (1 November vulg.) is called French: Occultation d’Alfred Jarry or the 14 Sable (14 December vulg.) is the day of French: Don Quichote, champion du monde.

The year has a total of 13 months each with 29 days. The 29th day of each month is imaginary with two exceptions:

• the 29 Gidouille (13 July vulg.) is always non-imaginary
• the 29 Gueules (23 February vulg.) is non-imaginary during leap years

So today, July 29th, would be 16th Tatane (“Shoe” or “Being worn out”), Transfiguration de St V. van Gogh, transmutateur, in the Pataphysical Year 140.

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Month XI from Year by Angus MacLise.

After the Pataphysical Calendar, Year by percussionist/composer/poet Angus MacLise (1938–1979) comes as a relief. This is a poetic renaming of the days of the year which MacLise published in a now very rare booklet edition in 1962. I’ve known about this for years but still haven’t seen a full text so it was a surprise to discover that the cover illustration was The Ascension of St Rose of Lima by Aubrey Beardsley, one of the artist’s later pieces which tends to Catholicism despite being used to illustrate his unfinished erotic novel, Under the Hill. It’s difficult to say why this was chosen by MacLise or his publisher, but it pre-empts the renewed attention that Beardsley’s work received from 1966 on. MacLise’s names for the days are beautifully evocative, and infinitely preferable to the many days which few in this country bother about:

smoke of the shore
day of the inner lid
day of the magic child
day of bessie smith
day of anna
rose over the cities
the fire is a mirror
hrungirs heart

The full text for November and December can be found on this page. If anyone knows of an online source for the full text of MacLise’s Year then please leave a comment. For those with Android phones, there’s a page here offering a Pataphysical Calendar app. Bosse-de-Nage says “Ha ha”.

Ubu

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One last film post for a very busy week. Ubu is a highly-stylised animated adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. This was a British production directed in 1978 by Geoff Dunbar who employs an ink-spattered style reminiscent of Ralph Steadman’s drawings; in place of vocal dramatisation Pa and Ma Ubu shriek horribly and occasionally spit out speech balloons. As a condensation of the play, and a taste of Jarry’s grotesquery, this feels a lot closer to its source than Jean-Christophe Averty’s 1965 film which seems polite by comparison. Ubu took a long time to arrive on YouTube so watch it while you can, it may well vanish again.

Ubu pt. 1 | Ubu pt. 2

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bring Me the Head of Ubu Roi

Brothers Quay scarcities

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Igor: The Paris Years (1982).

More animation, and scarce in the sense that some of these films were omitted from the core Quay Brothers canon released in the UK by the BFI as Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003. Quay obsessives such as myself would have been happy to pay for an extra disc featuring more of their oeuvre but we can at least turn to YouTube to fill in some gaps. This is by no means everything so I may add more discoveries at a later date. Some of the DVD-issued films can be seen on the BFI’s official Daily Motion channel.

I was eager to see the Stravinsky film again having watched it one time only in a Channel 4 screening some 25 years ago. After a fresh viewing it’s not as impressive as I remembered, in part because the Quay’s distinctive approach to animation—and filmmaking generally—developed a great deal following the unforgettable Street of Crocodiles (1986). Igor: The Paris Years concerns the composer’s relationship with Jean Cocteau and Vladimir Mayakovsky, all of whom are animated as cut-out figures in a Modernist cityscape with The Rite of Spring playing on a piano.

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Leos Janácek: Intimate Excursions (1983). Part 2 is here.

In a similar vein, but more successful, is this portrait of Czech composer Leos Janácek. This uses the same cut-out character style but places the composer in Eastern European settings similar (down to the floating tram pantographs) to those seen in the very first Quay film, Nocturna Artificialia (1979). Among the other puppet characters there’s one figure singing an aria who later appears as Enkidu in This Unnameable Little Broom (1985).

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Old Piano (1988).

A very short (and poor quality) ident for MTV.

Continue reading “Brothers Quay scarcities”

Weekend links 90

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Portrait of Dr. Ignacio Chavez (1957) by Remedios Varo (1908–1963) some of whose Surrealist paintings can be seen at Frey Norris, San Francisco, from 19th January. There’s also In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 29th January.

The current crop of Republicans jostling for the Presidential nomination have reminded me of the Downunder people in Harlan Ellison’s post-apocalypse novella A Boy and His Dog (1969): a retrograde, fear-ridden community who send troublesome individuals to be exterminated at “the farm”. Rick Santorum (unforgettably pictured here with family in 2006 after losing an election) almost received the majority of Iowa’s votes for his nomination last week, prompting renewed scrutiny of his negative views about gay people, sexually active people, foreign people (especially Arabs and Mexicans), and anyone generally who isn’t a white, Catholic, Downunder person. Santorum is against gay marriage, of course—it’s hard to find a Republican who isn’t—but he also wants to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and given the opportunity would allow US states to prevent any use of contraception. Add to this his pro-torture stance (which offends current Catholic church policy), and his willingness to wage war with Iran, and it’s easy to see why his name prompts reactions such as this:

I have a history with Rick Santorum. In 2003, when Santorum, in an interview with the Associated Press, first compared gay relationships to child rape and dog fucking (have I mentioned that Santorum has compared gay relationships to child rape and dog fucking?), I held a contest to redefine Santorum‘s last name. The winning definition: “the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” (“Sometimes” is the most important word in the new definition of santorum; if you’re doing anal sex correctly, there won’t be any santorum – lower- or upper-case.) And since 2003, the new definition has been the No. 1 Google return when you search “santorum“.

Rick Santorum’s homophobic frothing by Dan Savage

Related: Santorum was named one of the three “most corrupt” Senators in 2006 | “Homohater fosser fram” which is how Dagbladet, Norway’s second largest tabloid newspaper, introduces Santorum to its readers | “Rick Santorum channels Saint Augustine” an article at Slate exploring the Handmaid’s Tale extent of Santorum‘s attitudes towards sex and morality | Rick Santorum quotes as New Yorker cartoons.

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The Rod (1973) by Brigid Marlin.

• Ballardian posts a long-overdue interview with Brigid Marlin, famous now for having brought two lost Paul Delvaux paintings back to life for JG Ballard, but also a woman with an extensive career as a fantastic artist using Ernst Fuchs‘s laborious mische painting technique.

Quentin Blake on Ronald Searle, in which Blake notes that his hero was given a full-scale exhibition of his work at the Bibliothèque Nationale, France, in 1973 whilst being ignored throughout his life by the major institutions in Britain.

Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life by Alastair Brotchie is reviewed by Michael Moorcock who tells me the Guardian cut out his references to Boris Vian, Maurice Richardson and David Britton.

Ian McKellen stirs things up by suggesting (not for the first time) that Shakespeare was bisexual.

• Ten posters by Only More Never Less inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

An end to bad heir days: The posthumous power of the literary estate.

Peace Eye! Fug! A Long Talk With Ed Sanders.

• Sand sculptures by Carl Jara.

Letterheady

• Skylab: These Are The Blues (1995) | Beyond The Breeze (1995) | Red Light, Blue Light (1995) | Indigo (Sabres of Paradise remix, 1995) | Seashell (Nobukazu Takemura mix, 1995).