Weekend links 325

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08-30-16 from the Everydays series by Beeple.

• “Monsieur de Bougrelon is a unique character: loquacious, proud, a leftover from an earlier age, wearing garish outfits and makeup that drips. To his speechless audience, he waxes nostalgic about his life as an exile in Holland, as well as what he calls “imaginary pleasures” – obsessions with incongruous people, animals, and objects. These obsessions are often sexual or border on the sexual, leading to shocking, surreal scenes. Monsieur de Bougrelon also enthuses over his beautiful friend Monsieur de Mortimer, making this novella one of the rare works of the nineteenth century to broach homosexuality in a meaningful way, years before Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet.” Monsieur de Bougrelon (1897) by Jean Lorrain will receive its first English publication by Spurl Editions in November.

• “…The Future seems in retrospect to have been no more than a spectacle, created by the optimistic few for the optimistic many, the readily gulled multitudes who had faith in technological seers just as an earlier generation had had faith in Great Men.” Jonathan Meades reviews Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture by Douglas Murphy.

In the Woods & On the Heath is a collection of 48 pieces of erotic prose and poetry by 24 writers, all of them illustrated by Van Rijn.

Borneman was widely read in European literature and, once settled in London, wasted no time bringing himself up to speed with developments in English-language writing, discovering a particular affinity with Hemingway and Joyce, not to mention American crime writers such as Carroll John Daly and Dashiell Hammett. This presumably explains the distinctive, sometimes highly eccentric style of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, which despite being set in an English film studio of the 1930s (which evokes images, perhaps, of genteel musical comedies performed in perfect RP accents), combines laconic, hardboiled dialogue with extended stream-of-consciousness passages, all filtered through the skewed phraseology of someone whose acquisition of English was still, to some extent, a work in progress.

Jonathan Coe on the mysteries of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, a novel by “Cameron McCabe” (Ernest Borneman)

• How Oscar Wilde paved the way for gay rights in the arts. Wilde will be honoured with a major exhibition in Paris later this month.

Noisy Rain is a free online publication dedicated to “artists working with the male figure and homo-eroticism”.

Dennis Cooper’s blog returns. The truth about Google’s deletion of the Blogspot account has finally emerged.

Peel Away The Ivy by The Pattern Forms will be release number 26 on the Ghost Box label in October.

• Glam Rock & Yorkshire Occult: Ben Myers on his novel Turning Blue.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 195 by Jake Meginsky.

• At Phantasmaphile: Unarius: We Are Not Alone.

Blokdust is a browser-based musical instrument.

• Official trailer for David Lynch: The Art Life.

Future Dub (1994) by Mouse On Mars | Future Proof (2003) by Massive Attack | Future Past Perfect pt 01 by Carsten Nicolai

New Life for the Decadents by Philippe Jullian

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This essay by cult writer Philippe Jullian appeared in an edition of the Observer colour supplement in 1971, shortly after Jullian’s chef d’oeuvre, Dreamers of Decadence, had been published in Britain. Esthètes et Magiciens (1969), as Jullian’s study was titled in France, was instrumental in raising the profile of the many Symbolist artists whose work had been either disparaged or ignored since the First World War. A year after the Observer piece, the Hayward Gallery in London staged a major exhibition of Symbolist art with an emphasis on the paintings of Gustave Moreau; Jullian alludes to the exhibition in his article, and also wrote the foreword to the catalogue. His Observer article is necessarily shorter and less detailed than his introductory essay, emphasising the reader-friendly “Decadence” over the more evasive “Symbolist”. But as a primer to a mysterious and neglected area of art the piece would have served its purpose for a general reader.

Many thanks to Nick for the recommendation, and to Alistair who went to the trouble of providing high-res scans that I could run through the OCR. The translators of the article, Francis King and John Haylock, had previously translated Jullian’s biography of Robert de Montesquiou.

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New Life for the Decadents

The end of the nineteenth century was the Age of Decadence in the arts. The painters of that time (who have since influenced Pop art) and poets (echoed in pop songs) are back in favour: Philippe Jullian, chronicler of the Decadent period, explains why.

AS THE nineteenth century drew to a close, a number of the finer spirits of the time wondered if progress, increasing mechanisation and democratic aspirations were fulfilling their promises. Horrified by the direction in which Western civilisation was moving, they called themselves “The Decadents” in protest against a society that was too organised, an art that was too academic and a literature that was too realistic.

The Decadents produced some delightful symbolist poets, particularly Belgian and Austrian; at least one musician of genius, Debussy; and a number of painters who, having been despised for many years, are now at last beginning to be admired by a generation surfeited with Impressionists in museums and abstract paintings in galleries.

The genius of these Decadent painters, like that of the Decadent poets, only came to full bloom in the 1890s, when they themselves were in their twenties. Never were painting, music and poetry so close to one another. The gods of the Decadents were primarily Wagner and Baudelaire, then Swinburne and Poe. The Decadent movement, so active all over Europe, turned towards two great sources of inspiration: the Pre-Raphaelites, and a French painter whose glory was for a while eclipsed by the Impressionists but who is now once again accorded his place among the great—Gustave Moreau.

The women whom the Decadents loved and of whom they dreamt resembled the women created 30 years previously by Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Moreau.

Nothing could be more naturalistic than the artistic style elaborated by the Pre-Raphaelites in the middle of the nineteenth century. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s model, inspiration, mistress and finally wife was the sweet and sad Elizabeth Siddal, on whom so many fin-de-siècle ladies had to model themselves on the Continent as did all the aesthetic ladies of England in the 1880s. She posed for Rossetti as Beatrix and as the Belle Dame sans Merci.

She was a rare spirit, about whom everything was nebulous and evanescent: the thick, wild hair; the tunic of a simplicity to challenge the elaboration of the crinolines then in vogue; the frail hands burdened with lilies; the gaze turned towards eternity. She also posed, fully dressed and lying in a bath, her hair outspread around her bloodless face, as Ophelia for another Pre-Raphaelite, Millais. Elizabeth died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1862.

A macabre episode, which might have been imagined by Poe, was the exhumation of a sheaf of Rossetti’s poems that had been buried in Elizabeth Siddal’s coffin. When this symbol of the New Woman died, the grief-stricken poet had insisted on placing the poems inspired by her under her long hair before the coffin was sealed.

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Beata Beatrix (1864–1870) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Continue reading “New Life for the Decadents by Philippe Jullian”

Weekend links 71

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Manuel Orazi (1860–1934) was one of the best of the many Mucha imitators. An untitled & undated posting at Indigo Asmodel.

The mob now appeared to consider themselves as superior to all authority; they declared their resolution to burn all the remaining public prisons, and demolish the Bank, the Temple, Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, the Mansion House, the Royal palaces, and the arsenal at Woolwich. The attempt upon the Bank of England was actually made twice in the course of one day; but both attacks were but feebly conducted and the rioters easily repulsed, several of them falling by the fire of the military, and many others being severely wounded.

To form an adequate idea of the distress of the inhabitants in every part of the City would be impossible. Six-and-thirty fires were to be seen blazing in the metropolis during the night.

An Account of the Riots in London in 1780, from The Newgate Calendar.

In a week of apparently limitless bloviation, a few comments stood out. Hari Kunzru: “Once, a powerful woman told us there was no such thing as society and set about engineering our country to fit her theory. Well, she got her way. This is where we live now, and if we don’t like it, we ought to make a change.” Howard Jacobson: “One medium-sized banker’s bonus would probably pay for all the trash that’s been looted this past week.” Meanwhile Boff Whalley complained about the predictable misuse of the word “anarchy” by lazy journalists.

• For further historical perspective, a list of rioters and arsonists from The Newgate Calendar (1824), and an account of the looting in London during the Blitz.

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From a selection of works by Max Walter Svanberg (1912–1994) at But Does It Float. There’s more at Cardboard Cutout Sundown.

• NASA posted a gorgeous photo from the surface of the planet Mars. Related: Astronomers have discovered the darkest known exoplanet. Obliquely related: Julio Cortázar’s From the Observatory, a prose poem inspired by the astronomical observatories at Jaipur and New Delhi, India, receives its first English translation.

The Advisory Circle is still in a Kosmische groove. Not Kosmische at all, Haxan Cloak’s mix for FACT has Wolf Eyes, Sunn O))) and Krzysztof Penderecki competing to shatter your nerves.

• The wonderful women (and friends) at Coilhouse magazine are having a Black, White and Red fundraising party in Brooklyn, NYC, on August 21st. Details here.

• Sodom’s ambassador to Paris: the flamboyant Jean Lorrain is profiled at Strange Flowers.

Empire de la Mort: Photographs of charnel houses and ossuaries by Paul Koudounaris.

The Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges: The Norton Lectures, 1967–68.

• Jesse Bering examines The Contorted History of Autofellatio.

Robert Crumb explains why he won’t be visiting Australia.

The Crackdown (1983) by Cabaret Voltaire.

Philippe Jullian, connoisseur of the exotic

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Monsieur Jullian as seen on the back cover of Dreamers of Decadence (1971).

Here at last is the long-promised (and long!) piece about the life and work of Philippe Jullian (1919–1977), a French writer and illustrator who’s become something of a cult figure of mine in recent years. Why the fascination? First and foremost because at the end of the 1960s he wrote Esthètes et Magiciens, or Dreamers of Decadence as it’s known to English readers, a book which effectively launched the Symbolist art revival and which remains the best introduction to Symbolist art and the aesthetic hothouse that was the 1890s. If I had to choose five favourite books Dreamers of Decadence would always be on the list. This point of obsession, and Philip Core’s account of the writer, made me curious about the rest of Jullian’s career.

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An illustration from Wilson & Jullian’s For Whom the Cloche Tolls (1953). “Tata has called these his Krafft-Ebbing (sic) pictures of his friend Kuno, whatever that means.”

Philip Core was friends with Philippe Jullian, and Core’s essential Camp: The Lie that Tells the Truth (1984) has Jullian as one of its dedicatees. It’s to Core’s appraisal that we have to turn for details of the man’s life. There is an autobiography, La Brocante (1975), but, like a number of other Jullian works, this doesn’t seem to have been translated and my French is dismally pauvre. Core’s piece begins:

Philippe Jullian, born to the intellectual family of Bordeaux Protestants which produced the well-known French historian, Camille Jullian, was a last and lasting example of pre-war camp. His career began as an artist in Paris with a reputation for drag-acts parodying English spinsters. Snobbery, a talent for sensitive daydreaming, and a consuming passion for antiques, obscure art and social history, made a very different figure out of the thin and dreamy young man. Jullian suffered terribly during the Second World War; he managed to survive by visiting some disapproving cousins dressed as a maiden aunt, whom they were happy to feed. However, he made a mark in the world of Violet Trefusis, Natalie Barney and Vita Sackville-West by illustrating their books with his wiry and delicate doodles; this led to a social connection in England, where he produced many book jackets and covers for Vogue throughout the 1950s.

Having only seen Jullian in his besuited and bespectacled guise it’s difficult to imagine him dragged up, but the cross-dressing interest is apparent in his humorous collaboration with Angus Wilson and in a later novel, Flight into Egypt. As for the wiry and delicate doodles, they’re very much of their time, in style often resembling a less-assured Ronald Searle. One early commission in 1945 was for the first of what would become a celebrated series of artist labels for Château Mouton Rothschild. Later cover illustrations included a run for Penguin Books some of which can be found at Flickr.

Philip Core continues the story:

Elegant in the austerely tweedy way the French imagine to be English, Jullian exploited his very considerable talents as a writer, producing a series of camp novels throughout the 1950s (Scraps, Milord) which deal frankly but amusingly with the vicissitudes of handsome young men and face-lifted ladies, grey-haired antique dealers and criminals. One of the first to reconsider Symbolist painting, Jullian reached an enormous public in the 1960s with his gorgeous book, Dreamers of Decadence – where an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre and its accompanying literature helped to create the boom in fin de siècle revivalism among dealers and museums.

An acerbic wit accompanied this vast worldly success; always docile to duchesses, Jullian could easily remark to a hostess who offered him a chocolate and cream pudding called Nègre en chemise, “I prefer them without.” Less kindly, to a gay friend who objected to Jullian’s poodles accompanying them into a country food shop by saying “Think where their noses have been”, he could also retort “Yes, that’s what I think whenever I see you kiss your mother.”

Continue reading “Philippe Jullian, connoisseur of the exotic”

Designing Booklife

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I created a cover design recently for Jeff VanderMeer‘s new novel, Finch, and shortly after completing that Jeff asked if I could put together some cover ideas for his forthcoming writer’s guide, Booklife, which Tachyon will be publishing later this year. Jeff is known as a fantasy writer but this book was intended to have a general appeal for any would-be or working writer. It also needed to look suitably contemporary and (possibly) reflect the discussion within which concerns the modern writer’s use of computers, the internet and social networks. Lastly, several lines of text needed to be placed on the cover without it looking confused or messy.

I agreed to this whilst busy with several other projects so the initial drafts were rather haphazard. (That’s my excuse, anyway.) The first version (above) came out of an idea to apply a kind of trompe l’oeil effect to the cover with a torn dustjacket and handwritten amendments. The red call-out/roundel highlights an important sub-section of the book. This was knocked up very quickly and, as well as not looking very contemporary, the title doesn’t look enough like gold blocking to be convincing. Jeff requested something more up-to-date.

Continue reading “Designing Booklife”