Sculptured Melodies by Mera Sett

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Another week, another link to the Internet Archive. It’s hard to resist reporting these discoveries when so many are either surprising, much-needed, or—as in this case—fantastically rare and obscure. Sculptured Melodies (1922) was a book of short stories published privately in Britain in an edition of 500 copies. The possibly pseudonymous author and illustrator, Mera Sett, is so off the map that almost all the available information seems to derive from a series of posts about the book by John Hirschhorn Smith of Side Real Press. (The Internet Archive scan is also from Smith’s own copy of the book.) Each story is inspired by a piece of music, and written “in a decadent style reminiscent of Pierre Louÿs”; Orientalist or Ancient World exotica is the predominant tone.

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Whoever the author was, he (it does at least seem to be a he) illustrated his stories in the post-Beardsley idiom that continued to a feature of publishing in the 1920s. The drawings are very much the work of an enthusiastic amateur, although the same might be said of Sett’s better-known contemporary, Alastair (Hans Henning Voigt), another follower in Beardsley’s wake who compensated for his uneven figure drawing with copious decoration and outrageous costumes. Sett also uses decoration to disguise his shortcomings, borrowing some of Aubrey’s Japonisme peacocks along with other motifs from Persian and Indian art. The latter details suggest an unexplored artistic avenue that blends Beardsley’s black-and-white style with the tableaux of Persian miniatures.

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The art of Gisbert Combaz, 1869–1941

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More from this Belgian artist whose splendid Art Nouveau peacock is a regular feature in books about fin de siècle art and design. La Libre Esthetique was a salon for which Combaz produced a number of posters, a few more of which may be seen below. The salamander postcard seems to be part of another set devoted to the four elements; Combaz may have produced further series as there’s also a volcano card depicting fire. All of this work dates from the 1890s. A few years later Combaz’s art took a darker turn with a series of propaganda pieces reacting to events during the First World War.

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Weekend links 278

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El Hotel Satina (2006) by Oscar Sanmartin.

Andrew Kötting’s By Our Selves is “a melancholy, maverick film” says David Jays. With Toby Jones following in the footsteps of poet John Clare, Iain Sinclair in a goat mask, and Alan Moore warning about the “vision sump” of Northampton.

• “Shunga means ‘spring pictures’. They depict sometimes spectacular sexual contortions and come imbued with the power of taboo. For years they have largely been out of sight—until now.” Related: shunga prints at Ukiyoe Gallery.

• “Who else could link Smokey Robinson and JG Ballard, Iggy Pop and Josephine Baker, James Bond and Stephen Sondheim, Gary Numan and Johnny Cash, Tricky and Tom Moulton…” Grace Jones is the best, says Joe Muggs.

Ballardian space – what he called “inner space” to differentiate it from the science fiction that concerned itself with distant planets and space rockets – is in fact a fusion of inner and outer space. There is no “out there” totally separate from his characters; just as there is no exclusively private, isolated inner life. His most psychologically fulfilled characters look to transcend their physical surroundings, however hostile, by embracing them.

Chris Hall on High-Rise by JG Ballard

• “In March 1984, Jorge Luis Borges began a series of radio ‘dialogues’ with the Argentinian poet and essayist Osvaldo Ferrari, which have now been translated into English for the first time.”

• “I came up with a couple of tunes, literally in my bedroom. People think of bedroom recordings as a modern, laptop invention. It wasn’t.” Daniel Miller on the accidental success of Mute Records.

• “It was in Prague that I first awoke.” Strange Flowers on Gustav Meyrink’s life in Prague.

• At 50 Watts: Stencilled ornament and illustration by William Addison Dwiggins.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. X by David Colohan.

Wyrd Daze, Lvl2 Issue 4, is free and brimming with the weird.

Mythology, a new series of drawings by Howard Hardiman.

Spike Jones is the best, says MetaFilter.

Peacocks at National Geographic.

Warm Leatherette (1980) by Grace Jones | Warm Leatherette (1998) by Chicks On Speed | Warm Leatherette (2013) by Foetus

Album de la décoration

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Plates from a selection of art nouveau-styled prints for the use of artists and craftsmen. There’s more in this incomplete Flickr set; a little searching turns up further examples but the Flickr ones are the highest quality. The Four Seasons were featured here several years ago in a post about illustrator Patten Wilson. The bat-obsessed Robert de Montesquiou would no doubt have approved of the unusual conjunction of a chauve-souris with the favourite fowl of the fin de siècle.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Grammar of Ornament revisited
Dekorative Vorbilder
Combinaisons Ornementales
Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs
Styles of Ornament
The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

American Art Posters of the 1890s

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Selections from a 1987 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhbition catalogue which features many more colour plates. My choices gravitate as usual to the American Beardsley, Will Bradley. The other artists here are EB Bird (above) and Louis Rhead, both of whom also produced bookplate designs (see here and here).

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