Weekend links 465

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The Star (1970) from The Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini.

• Artist David Palladini died in March but I only heard the news this week. His poster for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu has been a favourite of mine ever since the film’s release, while some of his other works have featured here in the past. Still popular among Tarot users is the Aquarian Tarot (1970), a deck published a few years after Palladini had helped with the production of the Linweave Tarot. From the same period as the Aquarian deck is a set of Zodiac posters, all of which exhibit Palladini’s distinctive blend of Art Nouveau and Deco stylings. In addition to posters, Palladini produced book covers and illustrations, and even a few record covers. A book collecting all of this work would be very welcome.

Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movies (1974? 75? 78?): Fred Halsted presents a 90-minute history of American gay porn, from the earliest beefcake films to the hardcore of the 1970s, some of which Halsted also helped create. Related: Centurians of Rome [sic]: Ashley West and April Hall on the bank robber who made the most expensive gay porno of all time.

Peter Bradshaw reviews Too Old to Die Young, a Nicolas Winding Refn TV series described as “a supernatural noir”. Sign me up.

Naomi Wolf’s Outrages establishes the context for [John Addington] Symonds’s desperate efforts to justify his own sexual feelings. Since he was born in 1840, he was 15 when the first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass appeared, the same year that legislation in Britain streamlined the laws against sodomy and ensured that men found guilty of it served long prison sentences. With intelligence and flair, Wolf uses the various responses to Whitman to show the levels of intense need in the decades after the publication of Leaves of Grass for images and books that would rescue homosexuality from increasing public disapproval.

Colm Tóibín reviews Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love by Naomi Wolf

• Record label Dark Entries has discovered 40 more reels (!) of music by Patrick Cowley dating from 1974 to 1979.

• “Is Stockhausen’s Licht the most bonkers operatic spectacle ever?” asks Robert Barry.

• Sex, Spunk, Shoes and Sweet Satisfaction: A Q&A with artist Cary Kwok.

• Tripping his brains out: Eric Bulson on Michel Foucault and LSD.

• Paul O’Callaghan chooses 10 best Dennis Hopper performances.

• “More obscene than De Sade.” Luc Sante on the fotonovela.

• Karl Blossfeldt’s Urformen der Kunst (1928).

• The Strange World of…Gong

Neonlicht (1978) by Kraftwerk | Brüder Des Schattens, Söhne Des Lichtes (1978) by Popol Vuh | Lichtfest (2017) by ToiToiToi

The White People by Arthur Machen

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Aklo: A Journal of the Fantastic, Spring 1988 edition, edited by Mark Valentine & Roger Dobson. Illustration by Alan Hunter.

1: The White People

The White People by Arthur Machen was written in 1899 but not published until it appeared in Horlick’s Magazine, January 1904. The magazine, which ran for just over a year, was edited by Machen’s Golden Dawn colleague AE Waite which no doubt explains the unlikely venue. HP Lovecraft enthused about the story in Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927):

Less famous and less complex in plot than The Great God Pan, but definitely finer in atmosphere and general artistic value, is the curious and dimly disquieting chronicle called The White People, whose central portion purports to be the diary or notes of a little girl whose nurse has introduced her to some of the forbidden magic and soul-blasting traditions of the noxious witch-cult — the cult whose whispered lore was handed down long lines of peasantry throughout Western Europe, and whose members sometimes stole forth at night, one by one, to meet in black woods and lonely places for the revolting orgies of the Witches’ Sabbath. Mr. Machen’s narrative, a triumph of skilful selectiveness and restraint, accumulates enormous power as it flows on in a stream of innocent childish prattle, introducing allusions to strange “nymphs,” “Dols,” “voolas,” “white, green, and scarlet ceremonies,” “Aklo letters,” “Chian language,” “Mao games,” and the like. The rites learned by the nurse from her witch grandmother are taught to the child by the time she is three years old, and her artless accounts of the dangerous secret revelations possess a lurking terror generously mixed with pathos. Evil charms well known to anthropologists are described with juvenile naiveté, and finally there comes a winter afternoon journey into the old Welsh hills, performed under an imaginative spell which lends to the wild scenery an added weirdness, strangeness, and suggestion of grotesque sentience. The details of this journey are given with marvellous vividness, and form to the keen critic a masterpiece of fantastic writing, with almost unlimited power in the intimation of potent hideousness and cosmic aberration.

Lovecraft borrowed Machen’s naive narrator a year later for The Dunwich Horror: Wilbur Whateley’s diary is written “by a child of three-and-a-half who looked like a lad of twelve or thirteen”, and makes reference to “Aklo”, “the Dho formula” and “the Voorish sign”. (The journal in The White People refers to “a wicked voorish dome”.)

Lovecraft wasn’t alone in being impressed by the story, it’s long been regarded as Machen’s greatest piece of short fiction with good reason:

…it remains the purest and most powerful expression of what Jack Sullivan has called the “transcendental” or “visionary” supernatural tradition. Most other tales in that tradition, Blackwood’s The Wendigo, EF Benson’s The Man Who Went Too Far, and Machen’s own The Great God Pan, merely describe encounters with the dark primeval forces that reign beyond the edge of civilisation; The White People seems an actual product of such an encounter, an authentic pagan artefact…

TED Klein, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986)

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Palladini’s Aquarian Tarot

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For the past two months I’ve been busy drawing a new set of Tarot designs. More about these later, but sporadic research has naturally led to me to look at a few earlier sets, although my Trumps have mostly been following Pamela Colman Smith’s illustrations for the Waite deck. Tarot designs have really proliferated in the past few years (Is there a Lego Tarot? Yes, of course there is), so much so that many previous designs which would once have been notable are now swamped by mediocre decks.

David Palladini’s Aquarian Tarot first appeared in 1970 when the occult revival was getting into its stride. Palladini had contributed to the Linweave Tarot in 1967 along with three other artists, something you can read more about at the excellent Sweet Jane’s Pop Boutique. I’m sure I must have seen the Aquarian Tarot in the past but probably dismissed it for being too modish and not occult enough; for a long time Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck was the only one I’d look at. Palladini’s art is a lot more familiar now that his fabulous poster for Nosferatu the Vampyre looks down on me every day, and I’ve grown to enjoy his combination of Art Nouveau and Deco motifs so much that I wouldn’t mind a pack of these cards. The Aeclectic site reviews the deck, and has a few more examples of the designs. They also review the New Palladini Tarot which the artist produced in 1996. Given the choice I’d still go for the earlier set.

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Palladini’s Zodiac

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David Palladini’s poster for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre has been mentioned here twice in the past week so it seemed only fair to see whether any of his other work matched that splendid piece. The artist has worked for years as a book illustrator but seems to receive most attention these days for his Aquarian Tarot deck, first produced in 1970 and still being sold today. Many of the card designs show something like the kind of stained-glass window approach he used for his film poster but with less decoration. Far closer to the Herzog piece is a series of posters he made in 1969 depicting his own interpretation of the signs of the zodiac. Every mention I’ve seen of these notes their scarcity which is a shame when many of them are such striking designs. Of particular interest to this Aubrey Beardsley obsessive is seeing that the scale shapes which Palladini put into the “N” of his Nosferatu lettering may, as I guessed, go back to the similar shapes which Aubrey borrowed from Whistler’s Peacock Room; see the peacock-like bird in Aquarius below.

This page has some examples of the Major Arcana designs from Palladini’s Tarot. More of his zodiac posters follow, all of which are courtesy Meibohm Fine Arts.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Druillet’s vampires
The Art Nouveau dance goes on forever
The Sapphire Museum of Magic and Occultism
The art of Pamela Colman Smith, 1878–1951
Layered Orders: Crowley’s Thoth Deck and the Tarot
Whistler’s Peacock Room
The Major Arcana

Druillet’s vampires

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Le Viol du Vampire (1968) or Rape of the Vampire (stay classy, Jean!); re-titled Queen of the Vampires for the Anglophone world.

We’re so inundated these days with vampires and—worse—fucking zombies, that I’ll be perfectly happy if I never see another bloodsucker or shambling corpse again. But let’s overlook the degrading of horror staples for a moment to consider Philippe Druillet‘s excursions into the art of the cinema poster.

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La Vampire Nue (1969).

These pieces are for Jean Rollin‘s first three films, additions to the groovy-lesbian-vampire-with-false-eyelashes-and-bare-boobs sub-genre made at a time—the late 60s—when all the European film studios, Hammer included, were pushing the erotic content of their films more than had previously been dared. Rollin’s erotic comic strip from 1967, Saga de Xam, featured art contributions from Druillet, among others, which no doubt explains the choice of artist. As with David Palladini’s fantastic design for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), these are further examples of how unique and distinctive film posters once were in a way they rarely are today. (Druillet, incidentally, produced his own adaptation of Nosferatu in 1989.)

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Le Frisson des Vampires (1970).

Pages from the fabulously rare Saga de Xam feature in the Art Nouveau catalogue that was the subject of yesterday’s post. So too does Druillet’s poster for Le Frisson des Vampires although any of these pieces would have made suitable inclusions. Even more than in his comic strips Druillet’s work here shows the overt influence of Alphonse Mucha.

Most of Rollin’s films seem to be available on DVD should you be desperate for some fangs and boobs. I’d much rather see Saga de Xam be reissued; it’s been out of print since 1967 and the copies available go for upwards of £200. This site has samples of the pages and there’s a post about the book (in French) here. For more about Jean Rollin, see Fascination: the Jean Rollin Experience.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Art Nouveau dance goes on forever
Salammbô illustrated
Druillet meets Hodgson
The music of Igor Wakhévitch
Nosferatu