Weekend links 515

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A pair of Huysmans covers from 1978 designed by Gérard Deshayes.

• Friends of the great composer/musician Jon Hassell set up a GoFundMe account a few days ago to help raise money for Jon’s medical costs. It’s always dispiriting having to link to these fund-generators when they shouldn’t be required at all but until America sorts out its health situation this is how things are. For those who’d prefer to help Jon by buying his music, there’s a Bandcamp page with a handful of releases, and more available at Bleep, the online distributor of Warp Records who helped produce his last release, Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One). Related: Words With The Shaman: Jon Hassell interviewed by Chris May.

• Every time I think I must have heard all the best of the early Kraftwerk concerts another one turns up. This new posting at YouTube is taken from a recent file upload at the concert-swapping site Dimedozen, and is believed to be a radio recording of the group playing in Vancouver, Canada, in 1975. It’s very good quality (some slight bleed from other stations) and features excellent versions of their concert repertoire at that time. The version of Autobahn is especially good.

• in 2009 Dana Mattocks built a machine he called Steampunk Frankenstein, a construction which was attended by a frame containing my first piece of steampunk art. Dana’s latest creation is TILT, the Robot with Rocket Jet-Pack.

• RIP Tony Allen, the drummer about whom Fela Kuti said “without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat”. Allen was interviewed by John Doran in 2012. Related: Tony Allen: the Afrobeat pioneer’s 10 finest recordings.

• “Robert Fripp’s ‘Music for Quiet Moments’ series. We will be releasing an ambient instrumental soundscape online every week for 50 weeks. Something to nourish us, and help us through these Uncertain Times.”

• How to avoid Amazon: the definitive guide to online shopping – without the retail titan; Hilary Osborne & Poppy Noor have some suggestions. I favour eBay for many of my purchases, large or small.

Adam Scovell on A Cinematic Lockdown: Confinement in the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Liberty Realm, a book of art by Cathy Ward, is coming soon from Strange Attractor.

• One Great Reader: Luc Sante talks to Wes del Val about his favourite books.

• Oscar Wilde and the mystery of the scarab ring by Eleanor Fitzsimons.

Unica Zürn at Musée D’art Et D’histoire De L’hôpital Sainte-Anne.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 302 by Avizohar.

• Another concert: Tuxedomoon live in Rome in 1988.

Rarefilmm | The Cave of Forgotten Films.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ghosts.

Ghost Song (1978) by Jim Morrison & The Doors | Ghost Song (2000) by Air | Ghost Song (2005) by Patrick Wolf

Weekend links 146

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A Chinese postage stamp celebrating the Year of the Snake.

Cyclopean is a collaboration from Burnt Friedman, Jono Podmore and Can founding members Jaki Liebezeit, and Irmin Schmidt. The Quietus has a preview of all the tracks from their forthcoming EP. Great stuff.

Ten Things You (Possibly) Don’t Know About Kraftwerk. Related: a Speak & Spell emulator, and Atomium, a new single by Karl Bartos.

• In 1975 Barney Bubbles designed an inner sleeve for Hawkwind’s Warrior on the Edge of Time album, and this scarce recipe booklet.

• “We should all use language carefully. That is an obligation on the literate. But carefully doesn’t mean fearfully,” says Jenny Diski.

• Faber’s car-crash of a cover design for the 50th anniversary edition of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath caused an outbreak of parodies.

• At Strange Flowers: Ancient dreams and antique corruptions, Salomé via Gustave Moreau and Huysmans.

• FACT Mix 368 is a very varied collection of recent music and older pieces curated by Holly Herndon.

• At Ubuweb: eleven out-of-print recordings of Harry Bertoia’s sound sculptures.

Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno in conversation at Interview magazine.

Michael Chabon on Wes Anderson’s Worlds.

Snake Rag (1923) by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band | Rattlesnake Shake (1969) by Fleetwood Mac | Snakes Crawl (1980) by Bush Tetras | Ananta Snake Dance (1980) by Suns of Arqa | Snakeblood (2000) by Leftfield

Against Nature in New York

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I’ve always preferred Against Nature as an English translation of Huysmans’ À rebours, it’s a snappier and more provocative title than Against the Grain which these days might be taken as a prescription for a paleo diet.

À rebours this month is also the title of an art exhibition opening Venus Over Manhattan, a new exhibition space in New York City created by art collector and writer Adam Lindemann:

À rebours at Venus over Manhattan explores the notion of “against the grain” through a selection of more than 50 works including African fetishes. The artists represented range from Odilon Redon – the favorite of the book’s protagonist – to Henri Fuseli, Gustave Moreau, Felicien Rops, Franz von Stuck, Lucas Samaras, William Copley, Jeff Koons, Glenn Brown, Salvador Dalí, Walter Dahn, David Hammons and Bernard Buffet, as well as Jeni Spota, Andra Ursuta and Gavin Kenyon.

A document detailing the exhibits may be downloaded in pdf form here. Few of the works have any direct connection with Huysmans’ novel but there are some book covers there I hadn’t seen before. The exhibition runs to 30th June, 2012. (Thanks to @supervert for the tip.)

Looking around for some more Huysmans-related imagery turned up the uncredited title page above (the entire book is here), and the following quote from Theophile Gautier which Havelock Ellis uses in his introduction. Gautier was discussing Baudelaire but, as Ellis says, it’s an excellent statement of the principles of Decadence as an artistic concept:

The poet of the Fleurs du Mal loved what is improperly called the style of decadence, and which is nothing else but art arrived at that point of extreme maturity yielded by the slanting suns of aged civilisations: an ingenious complicated style, full of shades and of research, constantly pushing back the boundaries of speech, borrowing from all the technical vocabularies, taking colour from all palettes and notes from all keyboards, struggling to render what is most inexpressible in thought, what is vague and most elusive in the outlines of form, listening to translate the subtle confidence of neurosis, the dying confessions of passion grown depraved, and the strange hallucinations of the obsession which is turning to madness. The style of decadence is the ultimate utterance of the Word, summoned to final expression and driven to its last hiding-place. One may recall in this connection the language of the later Roman Empire, already marbled with the greenness of decomposition, and, so to speak, gamy, and the complicated refinements of the Byzantine School, the last forms of Greek art falling into deliquescence. Such indeed is the necessary and inevitable idiom of peoples and civilisations in which factitious life has replaced natural life, and developed unknown wants in men. It is, besides, no easy thing, this style disdained of pedants, for it expresses new ideas in new forms, and in words which have not yet been heard. Unlike the classic style it admits shadow… One may well imagine that the fourteen hundred words of the Racinian vocabulary scarcely suffice the author who undertakes the laborious task of rendering ideas and things in their infinite complexity and multiple coloration.

Previously on { feuilleton }
À Rebours illustrated
Arthur Zaidenberg’s À Rebours

À Rebours illustrated

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Not a comprehensive post by any means but a few items worthy of note for readers of Joris-Karl Huysmans’ Decadent classic. The Vera Bock cover is from a 1937 American edition which turned up here last year. Thanks to Jescie for drawing my attention to the presence of my Haunter of the Dark collection on the same site. Vera Bock is an unusual choice of illustrator for this particular novel, there’s more of her work and details of her career at A Journey Round My Skull.

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Auguste Leroux’s edition (above & below) is from 1920 and can be downloaded at the Internet Archive although the copy there seems to have had many of its full-page plates stolen. The artist produced an illustrated Memoirs of Casanova a few years later and he seems here to have concentrated on the more salacious aspects of Huysmans’ story, as with this brothel scene which is missing from the scanned edition. His depiction of Des Esseintes looks too middle-aged for me but the rendering of the unfortunate jewelled tortoise could hardly be bettered.

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Browsing the archives at Gallica turned up this extraordinary Art Nouveau edition from 1903 illustrated and embellished on every page by Auguste Lèpere. This would be an excessively lavish treatment for most books but for a story of aesthetic obsession it seems quite appropriate. Gallica also allows the downloading of many of their documents although that function kept failing my attempts. But this volume really does need to be seen in its entirety.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Arthur Zaidenberg’s À Rebours

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”