The Talking Thrush and Other Tales of India

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British illustrator William Heath Robinson died in 1944 which means that 2015 will see his own books fall into the public domain in many countries. The books he produced during and after the First World War established his reputation as a creator of impromptu contraptions, to such a degree that the term “Heath Robinson” has the same currency in Britain as “Rube Goldberg” does in the US when describing an improbable mechanical device. Robinson’s whimsical drawings have always been his most popular works but I favour his earlier illustrations, especially his illustrated Poe and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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The Talking Thrush and Other Tales of India by William Crooke and William Henry Denham was first published in 1899; the version linked here is a reprint from 1922. The fin de siècle is evident in the Art Nouveau styling of some of the borders, the kind of detailing that Heath’s brother, Charles Robinson, often deployed. Heath’s later illustrations dropped the decoration to concentrate on human figures, caricature and the positive use of white space.

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Alice in Liverpool

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Alice and the Caterpillar (1865) by John Tenniel.

It’s perhaps surprising that an art gallery, rather than a library, is holding a huge survey exhibition about Alice, but then Carroll’s creation has been and still is the inspiration of artists, photographers, theatrical designers, animators, film-makers.

Thus Marina Warner writing about an exhibition of art based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books opening at Tate Liverpool this Friday:

Alice in Wonderland will offer visitors a rare opportunity to view Carroll’s own drawings and photographs, alongside Victorian Alice memorabilia and John Tenniel’s preliminary drawings for the first edition of the novel.

Carroll’s stories were soon adopted by other artists. Surrealist artists from the 1930s onwards were drawn towards the fantastical world of Wonderland where natural laws were suspended. From the 1960s through the 1970s, Carroll’s Alice tales also prompted conceptual artists to explore language and its relationship to perception, and the stories inspired further responses in Pop and Psychedelic art. Expect to see works by artists ranging from Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, to Peter Blake and Yayoi Kusama. (more)

The exhibition runs to January 29th, 2012, and I suppose this gives me a convenient opportunity to point again to my psychedelic Alice calendars which have been updated for the forthcoming year.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Coulthart calendars for 2012
Scenes from a carriage
Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar
Jabberwocky
Alice in Acidland
Return to Wonderland
Dalí in Wonderland
Virtual Alice
Psychedelic Wonderland: the 2010 calendar
Charles Robinson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Humpty Dumpty variations
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
The Illustrators of Alice

Coulthart calendars for 2012

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I did have vague plans earlier this year for doing a new calendar but when work gets as busy as it has been you really need to plan these things weeks in advance and in the end I didn’t have the time. Since I created my psychedelic Alice in Wonderland calendar in 2009 I’ve had a number of requests to make it available again. It’s still the most popular thing I’ve sold at CafePress so this year I decided to reissue it along with last year’s equally psychedelic take on Through the Looking-Glass. Here they are:

Psychedelic Wonderland wall calendar at CafePress | A full preview of the pages

Psychedelic Looking-Glass wall calendar at CafePress | A full preview of the pages

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Advice from a Caterpillar.

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A Mad Tea-Party.

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Jabberwocky.

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The Wasp in a Wig.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Scenes from a carriage
Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar
Jabberwocky
Alice in Acidland
Return to Wonderland
Dalí in Wonderland
Virtual Alice
Psychedelic Wonderland: the 2010 calendar
Charles Robinson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Humpty Dumpty variations
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
The Illustrators of Alice

Wildeana 6

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“The rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates.” Above and below: illustrations by Charles Robinson from The Happy Prince and Other Tales, an edition from 1920.

Continuing an occasional series. I’ve yet to see a copy of the recent annotated and unexpurgated edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray but Alex Ross wrote a marvellous essay for the New Yorker about the novel, its creation, its public reception, and Wilde’s decision to tone down the overt homoeroticism of its earlier drafts. This is one of the best pieces I’ve seen for a while about Wilde, replete with choice detail:

The gay strain in Wilde’s work is part of a larger war on convention. In the 1889 story “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.,” a pseudo-scholarly, metafictional investigation of Shakespeare’s sonnets to a boy, Wilde slyly suggests that the pillar of British literature was something other than an ordinary family man. In the 1891 play “Salomé,” Wilde expands a Biblical anecdote into a sumptuous panorama of decadence. Anarchists of the fin de siècle, especially in Germany, considered Wilde one of their own: Gustav Landauer hailed Wilde as the English Nietzsche. Thomas Mann expanded on the analogy, observing that various lines of Wilde might have come from Nietzsche (“There is no reality in things apart from their experiences”) and that various lines of Nietzsche might have come from Wilde (“We are basically inclined to maintain that the falsest judgments are the most indispensable to us”). Nietzsche and Wilde were, in Mann’s view, “rebels in the name of beauty.”

As for the novel, I’m feeling rather Dorian Grayed-out at the moment, having recently completed ten illustrations based on the story for a forthcoming anthology. More about that later.

Elsewhere, the William Andrews Clarke Memorial Library in Los Angeles has been running an exhibition, Oscar Wilde & the Visual Art(ists) of the Fin-de-Siecle, since July, and will continue to do so until the end of September. No word about what’s on display but this page on their website has details of their collection of Wilde materials which they say is the most comprehensive in the world.

Finally, the majority of visits to these pages in recent days have come from this post about Ivan Albright’s astonishing Dorian Gray painting in the Art Institute of Chicago. The post links to an earlier one of mine about the paintings used in Albert Lewin’s 1945 film of the book.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

Bookplates from The Studio

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Cyril Goldie.

Selections from Modern Book-plates and their Designers, an overview of British, American and European designs published by The Studio magazine in 1898. These small Studio books are always good to see, not least for the period ads in the opening and closing pages. A couple of the designs are familiar from later reprints, notably Cyril Goldie’s remarkable accumulation of thorns and skulls. Many others are in the swirling and tendrilled style of Art Nouveau which The Studio did much to promote in Britain. Also of interest are a few entries from well-known fine artists who are seldom associated with this kind of design. Among these is Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff who contributes a design of his own and an article about Flemish bookplate design.

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Charles Robinson.

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PJ Billinghurst.

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