The art of Stella Langdale, 1880–1976

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Nocturne (aquatint; no date).

One of Callum‘s recent book postings alerted me to the work of Stella Langdale, an artist and illustrator I hadn’t come across before. Judging from online listings her obscurity would seem to be a result of not having being as productive as some of her contemporaries, and her drawings are a deal more gloomier than the delicate pen-and-ink style that was common in book illustration at the time. But it’s her brooding charcoal masses which I find appealing. As with the better Gustave Doré illustrations, they adumbrate more than they depict by the use of careful composition. Some of her other works are aquatints, a form of etching which allows for similar effects to the graded atmospheres of charcoal.

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Karel Zeman

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Inspiration (1949).

Karel Zemen (1910–1989) is a filmmaker I’m often telling people about but whose work isn’t easy to see, so it’s good to find that YouTube has gained some clips of his animations and examples of the partly-animated adventure films he made in the Fifties and Sixties. Zeman was yet another great Czech animator, and the YouTube collection includes his most celebrated short, Inspiration, which gives life to glass figurines, an unyielding medium that he moves as expressively as if it were clay or plasticine.

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The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1961).

The adventure films are predominantly based on Jules Verne and place live actors into animated settings, many of which are taken directly from (or intended to imitate) the engraved illustrations of the original novels. The animation enabled Zeman to fill his films with dirigibles, submarines and various steam contraptions which would be too expensive to create otherwise. Zeman’s The Fabulous Baron Munchausen took the Gustave Doré illustrations for its visual style which is something this particular Doré enthusiast appreciates, and the film is closer to the spirit of the Raspe novel than the Nazi adaptation of 1943 or Terry Gilliam’s later version. The results are a lot more artificial than the seamless blend of animation and live action attempted by Ray Harryhausen in his own Jules Verne film, Mysterious Island, but the artificiality gives the films a distinctive charm.

A Deadly Invention aka The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958)
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne trailer (1958)
Excerpts from Baron Munchausen (1961)
The Special Effects of Karel Zeman pt. I | pt. II

Previously on { feuilleton }
Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux
Barta’s Golem
The Hetzel editions of Jules Verne

Angels 4: Fallen angels

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The Treasures of Satan by Jean Delville (1894).

Some more favourite paintings today. Jean Delville produced a splendidly strange portrayal of Satan as an undersea monarch lording it over a sprawl of intoxicated, naked figures. When Savoy Books decided to put together the definitive version of David Lindsay’s equally strange fantasy novel, A Voyage to Arcturus, I felt this was the only painting adequate to the task of filling out the cover. That was in 2002; a year later Gollancz used the same painting on the cover of their Fantasy Masterworks paperback edition of the book. Lindsay’s book has been plagued by bad cover art for years so we managed to raise the bar for future editions. Delville was one of the great painters of the Symbolist school, all his work is worth looking at.

There are numerous representations of Lucifer but Franz Stuck’s is especially striking and apparently caused viewers to cross themselves before it when it was first exhibited.

Gustave Doré’s tumbling figure is from his illustrated edition of Paradise Lost, a book full of armour-clad, spiky-winged angels. Some of those wings have even found their way into my work via the miracle of Photoshop.

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Lucifer by Franz Stuck (1890).

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Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré (1866).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Thomas Häfner, 1928–1985