A Mountain Walked

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Art by David Ho.

This may be a frustrating post for some since it concerns a limited edition anthology that sold out almost as soon as it was announced a year or so ago. Even though the book was published last year it’s taken a few months for my copies to arrive. A Mountain Walked is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos stories compiled by leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, and published in the US by Centipede Press. Anyone familiar with Centipede’s more luxurious volumes will know that they don’t do things by halves, and this weighty tome is no exception: a large-format hardback (the signed edition is also cased), with heavy paper stock, colour printing, tinted sheets and a bulk that runs to almost 700 pages.

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Art by David Ho.

Many of the stories are reprints but there’s also new material from contributors including Thomas Ligotti, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, the late Michael Shea (to whom the book is dedicated), Patrick McGrath, TED Klein, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell and many others. The artwork also ranges widely; I’d not seen anything by David Ho before but he’s very good, hence the samples shown here. But there’s also a variety of other work, even a Lovecraftian Peanuts comic strip by Julien Baznet. I was pleased that my Cthulhoid picture was placed with the introduction, it makes up for my never having responded to Mr Joshi when he wrote to me years ago asking if I’d be interested in contributing something to Necronomicon Press.

Since the book was so successful there’s been talk of doing a cheaper reprint. In the meantime, bloated Lovecraftian plutocrats (Yuggothcrats?) will find very expensive copies for sale on eBay. A few more page samples follow.

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The art of Fabrizio Clerici, 1913–1993

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Un istante dopo (1978).

An Italian painter of the fantastic who’s managed to stay off my radar for one reason or another despite doing many of the things I like to see: weightless structures, imaginary architecture, and (towards the end of his career) a series of variations on Arnold Böcklin’s endlessly adaptable The Isle of the Dead. The latter paintings are some of the best Böcklin variants I’ve seen. These alone would have made him worthy of attention but the rest of his oeuvre is an equally accomplished development of late Surrealism (or, if you need another category, Fantastic Realism). The official website is a very good one so there’s plenty more to see. (Thanks to Michelangelo for the tip!)

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La tromba d’aria (1965).

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Latitudine Böcklin (1974).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Picture to Dream Over: The Isle of the Dead
The Isle of the Dead in detail
Arnold Böcklin and The Isle of the Dead

The art of Carlos Schwabe, 1866–1926

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Le Faune (1923).

Yesterday’s Pan prompted me to repost Carlos Schwabe’s wonderful painting of a faun, one of my favourite faun/satyr depictions, and easily one of the best in the entire Symbolist corpus. Other satyr aficionados of the period such as Arnold Böcklin and Franz Stuck had an unfortunate knack for making their goat gods look rather foolish.

Schwabe was a German artist, and one of the more mystical of the Symbolists, with a fondness for winged figures and a preoccupation with death. The mystical end of the Symbolist spectrum is the one I enjoy the most so I often point to Schwabe or Jean Delville as exemplars of this type of art. Both Schwabe and Delville were connected briefly by Joséphin Péladan’s very mystical Salon de la Rose + Croix although Delville later gravitated to Theosophy. Schwabe produced illustrations for an edition of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, and would have featured in the Baudelaire posts last week if some of those drawings hadn’t appeared here already. The title page was a new find, however, so it’s included below.

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Jour de morts (1890).

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La mort du fossoyeur (1895).

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Intertextuality

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): in the upper half there’s the big sun from Bob Peak’s poster for Apocalypse Now, in the lower half a radical reworking of Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead.

In 1990, shortly after the first season of Twin Peaks had finished showing in the US, Video Watchdog magazine ran a feature by Tim Lucas which attempted to trace all the various cultural allusions in the character names and dialogue: references to old TV shows, song lyrics and the like. This was done in a spirit of celebration with Lucas and other contributors welcoming the opportunity to dig deeper into something they’d already enjoyed. This week we’ve had a similar unravelling of textual borrowings in a TV series, only now we have the internet which, with its boundless appetite for accusing and shaming, can often seem like something from the grand old days of the Cultural Revolution.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): a more subtle allusion to Apocalypse Now.

The latest culprit ushered to the front of the assembly for the Great Internet Struggle Session is Nic Pizzolatto whose script for True Detective has indeed been celebrated for its nods to Robert Chambers and The King in Yellow. It’s also in the process of being condemned for having borrowed phrases or aphorisms from Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (2011). See this post for chapter and verse.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): It’s not very clear but that’s a boat from The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

If I find it difficult to get worked up over all this pearl-clutching it’s because a) it shows a misunderstanding of art and the way many artists work, b) True Detective was an outstanding series, and I’d love to see more from Pizzolatto and co, and c) I’ve done more than enough borrowing of my own in a variety of media, as these samples from my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu demonstrate, a 33-page comic strip where there’s a reference to a painting, artist or film on almost all the pages, sometimes several on the same page.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): Ophelia by Millais.

Cthulhu is a good choice here since Pizzolatto’s story edged towards Lovecraft via the repeated “Carcosa” references. You’d think a Lovecraft zine of all things would know better than to haul someone over the coals for borrowing from another writer when Lovecraft himself borrowed from Robert Chambers (and Arthur Machen and others), while “Carcosa” isn’t even original to Chambers’ The King in Yellow but a borrowing from an Ambrose Bierce story, An Inhabitant of Carcosa (1886). Furthermore, Lovecraft famously complained about his own tendencies to pastiche other writers in a 1929 letter to Elizabeth Toldridge: “There are my ‘Poe’ pieces and my ‘Dunsany pieces’—but alas—where are any Lovecraft pieces?”

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Max and Dorothea

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Photo by Arnold Newman (1942).

I love this photo of Max Ernst by Arnold Newman, one of several pictures of the artist together with Dorothea Tanning in Max Ernst: A Retrospective, a catalogue for a 1975 Guggenheim Museum exhibition at the Internet Archive. The catalogue itself isn’t so revelatory (and most of the reproductions are monochrome) but it’s good to see a connection made between Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead and Ernst’s work. It’s an obvious parallel: all those porous landscapes and “fishbone forests” which offer a kind of mutated Symbolism. Browse the book here or download it here.

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Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1961).

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Photo by Frederick Sommer (1946).

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No photographer credited.

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Photo by Frederick Sommer (1946).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dorothea Tanning, 1910–2012
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier
A Picture to Dream Over: The Isle of the Dead
Dorothea Tanning: Early Designs for the Stage