The art of Carel Willink, 1900–1983


Townscape (1934).

Carel Willink was a Dutch painter whose self-described brand of “imaginary realism” conjured in its early years a collection of views of desolate plazas, empty lanes and abandoned ruins over which smoke or cloud hangs like an ominous portent. The works of Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Delvaux come to mind when looking at these pictures although Willink’s work has enough unique qualities to stand apart from his more famous contemporaries. I’m also reminded a little of Spanish artist Arnau Alemany who has a similar predilection for isolated architecture.


Chateau in Spain (1939).

There’s an official Willink website here, while further paintings can be seen at this Flickr set and also at Ten Dreams.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux
The art of Arnau Alemany

Design as virus 10: Victor Moscoso


Continuing an occasional series.

A recent post at A Journey Round My Skull is a stylish series of Indian book jackets from 1964 to 1984. These impress partly for the way they rework western design approaches, and they consequently look very different from the florid visuals one might (lazily) expect of Indian cover design. Western culture borrowed more than enough from India in the 1960s, from clothes to music, so it only seems right that the sub-continent should be free to take something back.


Luna Toon by Victor Moscoso (1968).

Will at A Journey Round My Skull mentions the above cover design as reminding him of this Krautrock bible, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, a book which happens to be a favourite repository of musical obsession. The cover reminded me more of the weirdly abstract comic strips created by artist and graphic designer Victor Moscoso for the early run of Zap Comix in the late Sixties. Moscoso was one of the most graphically revolutionary of the West Coast poster artists, and his approach to comics looks surprisingly fresh today next to the work of fellow artists like Robert Crumb. Those limitless vistas go back to Giorgio de Chirico but it was Salvador Dalí who made deserts raked by evening shadows reflect interior landscapes of his own, and it was Dalí’s immense popularity that in turn popularised that endless plane as a stage for surreal events. Moscoso borrows from the Surrealists and comic artists like George Herriman as much as he borrows from Disney; in his posters he was one of many artists taking motifs or whole designs from Art Nouveau. Our Indian egg may well be an original work but the first example in Will’s post is a very Saul Bass-like hand, so I’m guessing that the designers of these books were looking around for inspiration. And that eye-in-a-hand? Moscoso had done that as well.


Blues Project Poster by Victor Moscoso (1967).

While we’re discussing Victor Moscoso, it’s convenient to draw attention to a slight mystery connecting his poster art and the great album cover designer, Barney Bubbles. The poster above was one of a number that Moscoso made incorporating Victorian or Edwardian photographs, and two at least of these use antique erotica as their central image.


Space Ritual interior, design by Barney Bubbles (1973).

This particular photo always stands out for me. The woman is familiar to anyone who’s seen the interior of the fold-out sleeve Barney Bubbles created for Hawkwind’s Space Ritual album in 1973. Barney spent some time in San Francisco in the late Sixties and was undoubtedly familiar with Moscoso’s work, as he was with all the great designs coming from the West Coast at that time. What surprises me is that he should have somehow found the same image to use as Moscoso did. Was there a popular book of Edwardian erotica which everyone was familiar with? Did he ask Moscoso where he’d found the photo? Did he find it by chance? Barney Bubbles experts don’t know the answer (I’ve asked) and the question is in any case a rather trivial one. But I’m still curious… As early porn photos go it’s a particularly fine one and I’d like to know whether there are more like it and where it came from. Needless to say, if anyone knows more about this, please leave a comment.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 9: Mondrian fashions
Design as virus 8: Keep Calm and Carry On
Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles
Design as virus 6: Cassandre
Design as virus 5: Gideon Glaser
Design as virus 4: Metamorphoses
Design as virus 3: the sincerest form of flattery
Design as virus 2: album covers
Design as virus 1: Victorian borders

L’Amour Fou: Surrealism and Design


Cadeau Audace by Man Ray (1921).

L’amour fou by Robert Hughes
Fur teacups, wheelbarrow chairs, lip-shaped sofas … the fashion, furniture and jewellery created by the Surrealists were useless, unique, decadent and, above all, very sexy.

The Guardian, Saturday March 24th, 2007

THE VICTORIA AND Albert’s big show for this year, Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design, is—well, maybe we don’t much like the word “definitive”. But it’s certainly the first of its kind.

Everyone knows something about surrealism, the most popular art movement of the 20th century. The word has spread so far that people now say “surreal” when all they mean is “odd”, “totally weird” or “unexpected”. No doubt this would give heartburn to André Breton, the pope of the movement nearly a century ago, who took the title from his friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had called his play The Breasts of Tiresias, “a surrealist drama”. But too late now. The term is many years out of its box and, through imprecision, has achieved something akin to eternal life. Surrealist painting and film, that is. In fact, some surrealist images have imprinted themselves so deeply and brightly on our ideas of visual imagery that we can’t imagine modern art (or, in fact, the idea of modernity itself) without them.

Think Salvador Dalí and his soft watches in The Persistence of Memory. Think Dalí again, in cahoots with Luis Buñuel, and the cut-throat razor slicing through the girl’s eye, as a sliver of cloud crosses the moon (actually, the eye belongs to a dead cow, but you never think this when you see their now venerable but forever fresh movie An Andalusian Dog, 1929). Think of photographer Man Ray’s fabulous Cadeau Audace (‘Risky Present’, 1921), the flatiron to whose sole a row of tacks was soldered, guaranteeing the destruction of any dress it would be used on. Think of Rene Magritte’s The Rape, that hauntingly concise pubic face, with nipples for eyes and the hairy triangle where the mouth should be. Think of the shock, the horniness, the rebellion, the unwavering focus on creative freedom, the obsessive efforts to discover the new in the old by disclosure of the hidden…

Continues here

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Surrealist Revolution
Surrealist Women
Las Pozas and Edward James
Surrealist cartomancy