Exlibris (Bucheignerzeichen)

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I don’t use bookplates, and don’t know anyone who does, but the conjunction between art and literature is a fascinating one. Exlibris (Bucheignerzeichen) (1909) by Walter von Zur Westen explores the history of the bookplate, and would no doubt answer some of my questions about the form if it wasn’t in German throughout, and also typeset in the semi-legible Fraktur style that used to be de rigueur for all German texts.

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We still have the illustrations, however, and these range from woodcut engravings to contemporary works in pencil and ink, with many of the later contributions being from established artists whose names are familiar today; among the examples below are works by Symbolists Max Klinger, Fernand Khnopff and Felicien Rops. There’s also an especially fine example by Charles Ricketts. The latter are a reminder that bookplate commissions were a common thing for 19th-century artists, although their efforts are seldom seen outside collections such as this. Much of Zur Westen’s history is devoted to the German regions but later chapters cover other European countries and the United States.

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Gloves

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A Glove: Anxieties (1881) by Max Klinger.

Although the Glove‘s scenario was given its due Germanic explication by contemporary critics, it defies rational analysis. The last picture, which was seen as a kind of happy ending to the glove’s peregrinations, is particularly ambiguous and leaves the whole meaning of the series in doubt. The story is a parable of loss based on a trivial lost article, like the lost keys in Bluebeard and in Alice, like Desdemona’s missing handkerchief, or like the philosopher’s spectacles in Klinger’s own Fantasy on Brahms, which have slid out of their proprietor’s reach just as he was nearing the summit of a kind of Matterhorn. There are overtones of erotic symbolism and fetishism in the glove and the phalloid monster who abducts it, heightened for a modern viewer by the Krafft-Ebing period costumes and décors (the engravings appeared in 1881, and the drawings were apparently finished in 1878).

John Ashbery describing Max Klinger’s extraordinary series of etchings A Glove (aka Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove) which in their inexplicable narrative of fetishist obsession anticipate Surrealism. See the entire sequence here or here. For A Glove in print there’s The Graphic Works of Max Klinger from Dover Publications.

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The Song of Love (1914) by Giorgio de Chirico.

Ashbery begins by discussing Giorgio de Chirico’s enthusiasm for Klinger’s work, a passion and influence that provides one of the many connections between the Symbolists and the Surrealists. This “metaphysical” painting looks back to Klinger and forward to Magritte.

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The Pleasures of the Glove, 3 (1974) by Duane Michals.

The enigmatic encounter of ‘The pleasures of the glove’ follows the lead character as he fantasises about a pair of gloves on the hands of a mannequin in a shopfront window. The perverse pleasure of desiring the gloves but not acquiring them leads him on a surreal adventure of first imagining his own glove as a queer furry tunnel that swallows his hand to the fantasy of stroking the naked body of a woman he sees on the bus with her own glove. (more)

A more contemporary take on the same idea, albeit without the intercession of a pterodactyl-like thief. If Klinger is pre-Surrealism then this is the post- version; Michals photographed René Magritte, and many of his other works run in a distinctly Surreal direction. (Thanks to Anne Billson for the tip!)

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The Vanished World of Gloves (1982) by Czech animator Jiri Barta features sex, Surrealism and a lot more besides, all in the space of 16 minutes. A can of film is unearthed which contains a series of short episodes pastiching different cinematic styles: Chaplinesque slapstick, swashbuckling romance, Buñuel Surrealism, a war film, a Fellini orgy and a science fiction apocalypse. All the parts are played by gloves, of course, and if you didn’t see the credits you might take this at first for a Svankmajer short.

The Vanished World of Gloves: part one | part two

Update: I knew I’d forgotten something… Added de Chirico’s The Song of Love.

Previously on { feuilleton }
More Golems
Max Klinger’s New Salomé
Barta’s Golem

Max Klinger’s New Salomé

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The New Salomé (1887–1888) by Max Klinger.

The German Symbolist Max Klinger (1857–1920) is celebrated today for the etchings which comprise his Ein Handschuh (A Glove) series, ten prints that in their curious details and dream-like quality prefigure Surrealism and Giorgio de Chirico’s “metaphysical” paintings. During his life Klinger was highly regarded for his sculpture as well as his etchings: his Beethoven was a centrepiece of the Secession building in Vienna in 1902. His New Salomé is one of the handful of Klinger works at the Google Art Project where I still feel we ought to be able to view sculpture in the round. I’ve seen many photos of this piece before but hadn’t realised until now that the eyes were…what? Rubies? Amber? Whatever they are, their fiery cast ensures that his imperious female sits unequivocally with the Evil Women that proliferated in the late 19th century.

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Salomé (c.1910) by Julio Borrell Pla.

Klinger’s sculpture may have been fashionably misogynist but it was at least a serious piece of art. Twenty years later the Salomé theme had devolved to little more than titillating exotica, as with this vaporous painting by Julio Borrell Pla which I hadn’t come across before. The last gasp of this exhausted trend is William Dieterle’s 1953 film in which Rita Hayworth plays Herod’s daughter as all titillation and little else.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

Bookplates from The Studio

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Cyril Goldie.

Selections from Modern Book-plates and their Designers, an overview of British, American and European designs published by The Studio magazine in 1898. These small Studio books are always good to see, not least for the period ads in the opening and closing pages. A couple of the designs are familiar from later reprints, notably Cyril Goldie’s remarkable accumulation of thorns and skulls. Many others are in the swirling and tendrilled style of Art Nouveau which The Studio did much to promote in Britain. Also of interest are a few entries from well-known fine artists who are seldom associated with this kind of design. Among these is Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff who contributes a design of his own and an article about Flemish bookplate design.

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Charles Robinson.

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PJ Billinghurst.

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Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #10: Turin and Vienna

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Turin exposition poster by Leonardo Bistolfi.

Part two of a two-part skate through the contents of volume 10 of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, the German periodical of art and decoration. In addition to the Heinrich Vogeler feature which was the subject of yesterday’s post, this edition includes articles on the Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna in Turin—another international showcase for the Art Nouveau style—and a feature on the Viennese Secession exhibition of the same year. This latter piece was especially fascinating when seeing such a notable event reported for the first time. There’s more about that below. This volume also includes a piece on the Glasgow Arts and Crafts movement but the photos for that piece are poor quality. As before, anyone wishing to see these samples in greater detail is advised to download the entire volume at the Internet Archive. There’ll be more DK&D next week.

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A feature on dress design shows some rare examples of Art Nouveau style being applied to clothing.

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