Alphonse Mucha’s Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli

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One of the recent weekend posts linked to a Kickstarter page for a reprinting of Le Pater, one of several books designed and illustrated by Alphonse Mucha. Two years before Le Pater Mucha had created an equally sumptuous volume, Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli. The Mucha Foundation describes the book thus:

Based on Edmond Rostand’s La Princesse Lointaine, written for Sarah Bernhardt in 1895, L’Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli was commissioned from the author Robert de Flers by the Parisian publisher Henri Piazza.

By the time De Flers had completed his manuscript, Mucha had only three months to prepare 134 coloured lithographs before the edition was due to go to print. (more)

I’ve often wondered how Mucha managed to create so many posters and other designs—never mind books—in a short space of time, even if he used assistants now and then. Judging by this example he could work fast without diminishing his flair or invention. The pages here are from Gallica where the scans seem to be improving in quality. The whole of Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli is available for viewing or downloading, as is their copy of Le Pater and many other Mucha prints and illustrations.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Alphonse Mucha record covers
Combinaisons Ornementales

Weekend links 317

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Alphonse Mucha’s Le Pater, a book of mystical Symbolism written, designed and illustrated by the artist, was published in a limited edition in 1899. The book has been out of print ever since but Thomas Negovan at Century Guild will be reprinting it later this year.

• “Five axioms to define Europe: the coffee house; the landscape on a traversable and human scale; these streets and squares named after the statesmen, scientists, artists, writers of the past; our twofold descent from Athens and Jerusalem; and, lastly, that apprehension of a closing chapter, of that famous Hegelian sunset, which shadowed the idea and substance of Europe even in their noon hours.” George Steiner explores his idea of Europe.

Journey To The Edge Of The Universe by Upper Astral, 43 minutes of cosmic ambience, is a cassette-only release from 1983. The album has never been reissued so secondhand copies command excessive prices but it may be downloaded here.

• Mixes of the week: Three hours of ambience by Gregg Hermetech, XLR8R Podcast 446 by [Adrian] Sherwood x Nisennenmondai, and Secret Thirteen Mix 190 by Shxcxchcxsh.

Today [Angela] Carter is well known, widely taught in schools and universities, and much of what she presaged—in terms of recycling and updating (“old wine in new bottles”, she called it), or gender role play and reversal—has become commonplace in the culture. Despite this, many critics find it difficult to situate her work properly. This is partly because Carter is so sui generis (she has literary offspring but few antecedents), and partly because many struggle with the relationship of politics and aesthetics in her writing.

Kate Webb reviews two new books about Angela Carter

• Words that will forever pursue us: Tim Page on the late Michael Herr, “rock’n’roll voice of the Vietnam War”.

• From 2015: Luigi Serafini on how and why he created an encyclopedia of an imaginary world.

James Campbell on Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs: celebrating the Beats in Paris.

Fragile Beasts, an exhibition of grotesque print ornaments at Cooper Hewitt, NYC.

• Not before time, Guy Gavriel Kay wants to see an end to the plague of writing tips.

• David Bowie and Buster Keaton by Steve Schapiro.

Tom Charity on the films of Michael Cimino.

Alison Goldfrapp: photographer.

Golem Mecanique

European Man (1981) by Landscape | Europe After The Rain (1981) by John Foxx | Trans Europe Express (1994) by The One You Love

The case of the fin de siècle fleuron

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I said yesterday that poppies are a common feature of the fin de siècle magazines for the convenient way they combine long-stemmed flowers—ideal for all those Art Nouveau flourishes—with narcotic connotations that signal Decadence. The spiralling fleuron above is one example that readers of Savoy books may recognise, an occasional company logo which has been in use since the mid-1980s. David Britton chose the design from one of the Dover Pictorial Archive books, Carol Belanger Grafton’s Treasury of Art Nouveau Design and Ornament, and I later made a digital version from this page scan.

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One of the earliest Savoy uses, a label design for Heroes (1986) by PJ Proby.

Having spent a great deal of time in recent years trawling through Art Nouveau magazines I was sure I was going to run into the original printing of the fleuron eventually. Some of the page decorations in Jugend are very similar but it wasn’t there or in Pan, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration or The Studio. I don’t have a copy of the Grafton book, and Dave says his copy is lost, so I’ve no idea whether there’s a credit for the source of the designs; not all Dover books credit their source material in any detail. Earlier this week I decided to look in Art et Décoration, a magazine that was the French equivalent of The Studio, since the header at the top of the scanned page implied that the other designs might be from the same magazine. Aside from a couple of copies at the Internet Archive this means looking through the poor-quality scans at Gallica; by a fluke—because they don’t seem to have a complete run of the early issues—the January 1898 edition contained the page below showing the Savoy fleuron, an endpiece for an article devoted to another French art magazine, L’Image.

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Cocorico covers

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Alphonse Mucha.

For a while now I’ve been waiting for several French journals of the fin de siècle to turn up online but humour magazine Cocorico has never been among them. I knew that Alphonse Mucha had contributed a handful of covers and some other graphics to Cocorico, notably the frontispiece (below) which ran in every issue. What I didn’t realise was that this title was effectively the French counterpart to Jugend magazine which had been running for two years when the first issue of Cocorico appeared in December 1898. Both magazines share the same mix of humorous articles, cartoons, serious art pieces and poetry, all connected by some very fine Art Nouveau graphics.

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Alphonse Mucha.

Jugend has the edge when it comes to the graphics, some of which are very strange, but Cocorico looks much more like a humour magazine to contemporary eyes, with many cartoons that resemble those drawn today. Cocorico is also mostly free of the Jugend brand of satire which is often little more than nationalist rabble-rousing. Cocorico ran for 63 issues to 1902 by which time its format had changed and the florid graphics had been abandoned for a more sober layout. What follows is a selection of cover designs, many of which are Mucha’s work, and all of which follow the Jugend template of varying the art style and title design. There’s also one by František Kupka (or François as he was credited here) who also contributed interior illustrations in the later issues. There’ll be more about him tomorrow.

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Alphonse Mucha.

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The Dracula Annual

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A comment by Modzilla in last month’s post about psychedelic comic book Saga de Xam is responsible for this recent book purchase. Dracula was a full-colour large-format comic book from notorious pulp imprint New English Library (later to be distributors for my colleagues at Savoy Books) that repackaged Spanish horror strips for a British audience. The comic ran for 12 issues in the early 1970s; the pages shown here are from the hardback annual that gathered all the issues into a single volume. I remember this being around in secondhand shops for years but I never paid it any attention at all so the artwork has been a revelation.

NEL’s Dracula isn’t much of a horror comic, despite its title; Dracula himself only appears in one story, and that’s a jokey throwaway piece. The two main episodic strips are Wolff, a Conan clone searching for his lost wife in a world ravaged by witches, werewolves and other supernatural threats; and Agar-Agar, a deliriously psychedelic picaresque concerning a hyper-sexual “sprite” (or a hippyish young woman with blue hair and magic powers) from the planet Xanadu. Everything in the book is redolent of the early 1970s when strains of psychedelia were still percolating through pop culture. Watered-down psychedelia used to bore me because I wanted the authentic stuff but forty years on this kind of work is much more attractive.

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Wolff is the work of Esteban Maroto whose splash pages and inventive layouts give Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan the Barbarian (which was running at this time) some serious competition. Wolff is very much in the Conan mould—he even shouts “Crom!” at crucial moments—a pawn of supernatural forces he often fails to comprehend. The artwork in Smith’s Conan was often praised for its details and decor but the Art Nouveau influence in Maroto’s work is much more overt. Maroto’s flame-haired witches are like Alphonse Mucha sirens—one panel even borrows from Mucha’s Salammbô—and he’s no slouch with the Frazetta-like demons either. The scripting is perfunctory but I don’t mind that when it turns up pages like these. There’s also a brief nod to Lovecraft when “R’Lyeh” is mentioned.

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Continue reading “The Dracula Annual”