I’ve known the work of Swedish artist Carl Larsson (1853–1919) for many years via a collection of drawings and paintings of the artist’s family and home life, light works created between bouts of more serious painting. The interiors in the At Home series are especially good, meticulously rendered watercolours which today resemble the kinds of delineations found in Continental comic books. Less familiar is the work Larsson created prior to these drawings.
Dödens Engel (The Angel of the Death) is a book-length religious poem by Johan Olof Wallin inspired by the cholera epidemic of the 1830s, the same epidemic that Poe writes about in The Sphinx. Larsson illustrates every page of this edition from 1880, deploying the full range of traditional death symbolism: skulls, hourglasses, scythes, extinguished torches and so on.The sombre imagery makes a striking contrast with the pictures of Larsson’s home life yet the painting for which he hoped to be remembered, Midvinterblot (1915), is equally doom-laden, a huge canvas that depicts a king preparing to sacrifice himself to spare his people from famine.
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October (1877) by James Tissot.
The autumnal month in paintings, and a post that brings this series full circle since the first one was for October last year. I try to be accurate when dating things but some of the dates of these pictures are either vague or missing altogther. The search at the BBC’s Your Paintings site kept failing so there’s fewer British paintings than usual.
October (The Pumpkins) (1883) by Carl Larsson.
October Gold (1889) by John Atkinson Grimshaw.
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Fantastic Art (1973).
Cover: Earth by Arcimboldo.
I’d thought of writing something about this book series even before I started this weblog since there’s very little information to be found about it online. I can’t compete with the serious Penguin-heads, and I’m not much of a dedicated book collector anyway, but I do have a decent collection of the art books that Pan/Ballantine published in the UK throughout the 1970s. These were published simultaneously by Ballantine/Peacock Press in the US and nearly all were edited by David Larkin, with Betty Ballantine overseeing the American editions. Two of the series, the Dalí and Magritte, were among the first art books I owned. Over the years I’ve gradually accumulated most of the set, and I always look for their distinctive white spines in secondhand shops.
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