Weekend links 498

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The Sentinel 280, a car design by Syd Mead from 1964.

• “Boris Dolgov did not exist. The man who bore that name may have existed, but there never was a man in the United States with that name until 1956, too late for Weird Tales.” Teller of Weird Tales on the mysterious identity of a magazine artist.

• Saying goodbye to 2019 also meant saying farewell to Vaughan Oliver, Neil Innes and Syd Mead. Related: Vaughan Oliver at Discogs; I’m The Urban Spaceman; a look back at Syd Mead’s vehicle designs.

Lanre Bakare on how ambient music became cool. (Again. This begs the question of when it became uncool, especially when a ten-year-old Brian Eno piece about “the death of uncool” is being quoted.)

Westerners interpreted the peyote experience very differently from the practitioners of the peyote religion, where the focus was “ritual, song and prayer, and to dissect one’s private sensations was to miss the point”. Writers such as Havelock Ellis, who published an essay on his peyote experiences in the Lancet in 1897 (it’s likely that he also administered the substance to his friends W.B. Yeats and Arthur Symons), instead tended to focus on its visual effects. Ellis described “the brilliance, delicacy and variety of the colours” and “their lovely and various textures”. Peyote reached Europe in tandem with the X-ray, cinema and electric lights, Jay notes, and “nothing delighted the eye of the mescal eater so much as the new electrical sublime”.

Emily Witt reviewing Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic by Mike Jay

Peter Bradshaw takes on the thankless task of ranking Federico Fellini’s feature films.

Geoff Manaugh on when Russia and America coöperated to avert a Y2K apocalypse.

• “Music is an ideal medium for interstellar communication,” says Daniel Oberhaus.

Keith Allison on Karel Zeman, a creator of remarkable cinematic fantasies.

•  Japanese Designer New Year’s Cards of 2020.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Vera Chytilová Day.

2020 in public domain.

Sentinel (1992) by Mike Oldfield | Sentinels (2001) by Cyclobe | Sentinel (2004) by Transglobal Underground

Form and Austin Osman Spare

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The University of Heidelberg‘s scanning programme continues to be a source of delight for those of us without professional or financial access to rare book collections. Having recently made the entire run of Der Ochideengarten available, they’ve added scans of another journal that was on my list of magazines I’d been hoping would eventually turn up online. Form was the first of two short-lived publications edited by Austin Osman Spare from 1916 to 1924, the second being The Golden Hind. Spare and co-editor “Francis Marsden” (Frederick Carter) published two issues of Form before Spare was conscripted in 1917. After the war, publication resumed with two further issues. Spare aficionados have long been familiar with the drawings in these publications, many of which have been reprinted over and over in collections of Spare’s art but often with no indication of their original context.

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Seeing the drawings in situ like this not only restores the context but also sets them beside the accompanying work by Spare’s fellow writers and artists. Some of the other contributors need no introduction—WB Yeats, Robert Graves—while others have been neglected or even forgotten. Most descriptions of Form mention its following in the lineage of The Yellow Book, publisher John Lane having been responsible for both publications. But looking through the first two issues I’d say the model is as much The Savoy, the magazine that Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons put together after The Yellow Book kicked out Beardsley in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial. Yeats was a contributor to The Savoy, and two other artists present in Form—Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon—were friends and publishers of Wilde.

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The samples here are mostly Spare’s work, and only a small selection at that. Enthusiasts are encouraged to download the PDFs for themselves. I had seen one of these issues before (Alan Moore has an enviable collection of Spare publications) but the rest were magazines I’d been waiting decades to see in full. I’m hoping now that the excellent staff at Heidelberg may have copies of The Golden Hind waiting for similar treatment.

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Continue reading “Form and Austin Osman Spare”

Ver Sacrum, 1903

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Concluding the series of posts about Ver Sacrum, the art journal of the Viennese Secession. The volume of issues for 1903 continues the bi-monthly format from the previous year only this time the calendar supplement is at the end of the volume. This was the last year for the journal, unfortunately, not least because the Secession had run its course, having perhaps proved its point in providing an alternative to the prevailing trends in Austrian art and design. Koloman Moser, Alfred Roller and Josef Hoffmann left to found the Wiener Werkstätte while Gustav Klimt, who again has an issue devoted to his drawings, went on to paint some of his most famous pictures, including The Kiss.

Ver Sacrum certainly ended on a high note. Most of the issues for 1903 contain woodcuts by a variety of artists with some superb examples of the form. For once there’s work by women—Irma von Dutczynska, Nora Exner and Hilde Exner—there’s more strange art from Marcus Behmer, and also a translated extract from the memorial book written by Arthur Symons following Aubrey Beardsley’s death in 1898. As before, anyone wishing to see more can browse all 498 pages or download the entire volume here.

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Continue reading “Ver Sacrum, 1903”

The Savoy magazine

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Further retrievals from the depths of the Internet Archive (and thanks to Lord Cornelius Plum for the tip) come in the form of three bound editions of The Savoy magazine, a British art and literary periodical which ran for eight issues from January to December 1896. Aubrey Beardsley was art editor and chief illustrator, Arthur Symons the literary editor and the publisher was the heroic and duplicitous London pornographer Leonard Smithers whose patronage and, it should be noted, exploitation of Beardsley’s work kept the artist solvent during his last two years.

A thesis could be written (and no doubt has been) exploring the curious symbiosis between pornography publishers and the artistic avant garde. Smithers was a proud purveyor of what he called “smut” but he also complained about all the money he lost supporting poets and down-at-heel writers. Posterity can thank him for publishing Teleny, the classic early work of gay fiction attributed to Oscar Wilde, as well as Beardsley’s Lysistrata illustrations and The Savoy, a magazine founded in the fallout of the Wilde scandal when The Yellow Book dropped Beardsley from its staff in order to appease its more conservative contributors. The magazine’s run was short due to poor sales after WH Smith’s refused to stock it, worried again about the controversial nature of Beardsley’s art. (Speculative fiction magazine New Worlds faced similar problems with Smith’s in the late Sixties.) This seems astonishing to us now when looking at the world-class roster of contributors to the first issue, a list which included two future Nobel winners—George Bernard Shaw and WB Yeats—as well as Max Beerbohm, Ernest Dowson, Havelock Ellis, JM Whistler, Charles Shannon, William Rothenstein, and Beardsley writing and illustrating the first part of his erotic caprice, Under the Hill.

Beardsley’s illustrations are very familiar from book reproduction but it’s good to see them in the context in which they first appeared, and to be able to read some of the features. The later issues include pages of adverts which always fascinate for their contemporary detail.

The Savoy: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Jugend, 1897
Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration
Jugend, 1896
Jugend Magazine revisited
Teleny, Or the Reverse of the Medal
Beardsley at the V&A
Merely fanciful or grotesque
The Great God Pan
Jugend Magazine
Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé

Merely fanciful or grotesque

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Thus the judgement of a reviewer examining Aubrey Beardsley’s work in The Graphic for May 23, 1896. The work in question was Beardsley’s Rape of the Lock illustrations being unveiled for the first time in the second number of The Savoy, the magazine which Beardsley co-founded with Arthur Symons and Leonard Smithers as a rival to the staid Yellow Book, also reviewed in the same column. Beardsley’s illustrations for Pope are now considered some of his very finest works and it’s difficult from our perspective to find any grotesquery there at all. It may be a reference to The Cave of Spleen, a drawing which saw the brief return of Beardsley’s earlier foetus creatures and a work to which some of Harry Clarke’s style would seem to owe a debt. In which case the reviewer should have been grateful to be spared the giant phalluses of The Lysistrata which Aubrey was also drawing for Smithers at this time.

The column above is one of many mentions of Beardsley and company to be found at the British Library’s new online archive of 19th century British newspapers. What might be a treasure trove is compromised slightly for me by being a collection of newspapers only, rather than magazines. A magazine database would give us all of The Savoy and The Yellow Book, as well as other titles which featured the work of fin de siècle illustrators. Patience is the key here, with every passing year more of the past becomes easily accessible.

So now, given the quantity of references there’s likely to be, dare I search for Oscar Wilde?

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
Beardsley’s Salomé
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé