Daughters of Forgotten Light by Sean Grigsby


I’ve spent most of the year so far working on more black-and-white illustrations for Editorial Alma—47 full-page pieces to date—so this cover design made a welcome break, especially since all the black-and-white art has a late-Victorian setting. More about that later. Sean Grigsby’s second novel for Angry Robot Books is previewed at the Barnes & Noble SF blog as follows:

A floating prison is home to Earth’s unwanted people, where they are forgotten…but not yet dead, in this wild science fiction adventure.

Deep space penal colony Oubliette, population: scum. Lena “Horror” Horowitz leads the Daughters of Forgotten Light, one of three vicious gangs fighting for survival on Oubliette. Their fragile truce is shaken when a new shipment arrives from Earth carrying a fresh batch of prisoners and supplies to squabble over. But the delivery includes two new surprises: a drone, and a baby. Earth Senator Linda Dolfuse wants evidence of the bloodthirsty gangs to justify the government finally eradicating the wasters dumped on Oubliette. There’s only one problem: the baby in the drone’s video may be hers.

The gangs are biker gangs, riding machines with wheels of light, so the brief was for a design as much reminiscent of a rock poster as a science-fiction cover. I don’t stray very often into the SF world so this again made a refreshing break from the 19th century and its heavy furnishings. There’s a touch of Syd Mead in the background, a reference suggested by the Tron-style bikes, but he’s long been a favourite visual futurist of mine even before Blade Runner (as I noted recently). The side panels and parts of the halo are adapted from Art Deco designs, the panels being based on embellishments for a New York skyscraper. It doesn’t take much to push the aerodynamic qualities of Deco style into the Space Age (the Soviet Monument to the Conquerors of Space could have been designed in 1930), a suggestion that William Gibson explored from a different angle in The Gernsback Continuum.

The Barnes & Noble post linked above also has an extract from the beginning of the novel. The book itself will be out on 4th September, 2018.

Leo Visser calendar, 1903


Leo Visser (1880–1950) was a Dutch artist who created a number of calendars in addition to other decorative designs featuring plants and animals. This example is one of the earliest, combining both flora and the fauna in a series of attractive Art Nouveau plates. You don’t see monkeys very often in Art Nouveau designs, for some reason they were more popular during the Art Deco period.



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The art of Willem Arondeus, 1894–1943


Salomé (1916). “Your eyes are like black holes burned by torches in a Tyrian tapestry.”

This marvellous Salomé design is by a Dutch artist I hadn’t heard of before, Willem Arondeus, who might have had a longer career had his life not been cut short by a Nazi firing squad in 1943. Arondeus helped with the Dutch Resistance during the war, forging papers for fleeing Jews, and bombing the Amsterdam Public Records Office. His work warrants a place in the ever-popular gay artists archive not for any homoerotic qualities but because Arondeus was open about his homosexuality for his entire life, his last message to the world being “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.” The work that can be seen online is in that hybrid style that you see a lot from the 1920s on, a blending of the prevalent Art Deco manner with some hangover from the Art Nouveau period. The Salomé piece is particularly good for the way it entangles Salomé’s figure in writhing foliage and clustered architecture.


De Elfenzetel (1919).


Stamp advert (1923).

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Papillons by EA Séguy


I’d seen a couple of these plates before—BibliOdyssey has a post about Séguy’s insect art—but not the book as a whole. In addition to the butterfly portraits there are also a number of suggestions for textile designs based on butterfly wings. Papillons was published in 1925. Five years later Séguy produced a collection of Art Deco designs, Prismes, which was highlighted a while ago, and which is now also available at the Internet Archive. The Prismes plates tend to abstraction but nonetheless feature some stylised natural elements, butterflies included.



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George Barbier’s Le Bonheur du Jour


French artist and designer George Barbier was born on 16th October, 1882, so here’s a post for his birthday. Barbier’s work has appeared here in the past but there’s still more to be seen, especially his book illustrations. Le Bonheur du Jour; ou, Les Graces a la Mode is a series of prints from 1924, some of which turn up in collections of Art Deco graphics. Those tend to be the society scenes but I’m always more interested in Barbier’s decorative or decadent work examples of which are also represented here. Of note is a Sapphic scene in an opium den (a common theme in the 1920s), a great deal of Chinoiserie, and more of a homoerotic flavour than usual: the languid blue Cupid is like a male equivalent of Saga in Saga de Xam, while the scene au lido features a surprisingly naked man on the left who may be eyeing the bare breast of one of the women nearby but could also be capturing the gaze of the swimmer in the black cap on the right. More of these prints may be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.



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