The chimeras of Dimitrie Paciurea

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Chimera (1923).

One of the many commendable things about Dreamers of Decadence (1971) by Philippe Jullian is the use of the figure of the chimera to describe the impulse that drove the development of Symbolist art in the late 19th century. A chimera is a fabulous, hybrid creature which is also a metaphor for an unfounded conception or mental phantasm, and chimeras happen to be as popular in Symbolist art as the more familiar sphinx. Both creatures had been given a heady promotion in the fin de siècle imagination thanks to Gustave Flaubert’s extravagant Temptation of Saint Anthony whose final version appeared in 1874; the fluid and metaphoric nature of the chimera, however, makes for a more useful image in art.

Romanian sculptor Dimitrie Paciurea was born around 1874 (his birthdate is uncertain), and is one of those artists who perpetuated Symbolist themes in the 20th century by which time they were rapidly losing the little grace they once possessed. In addition to the profusion of chimeras seen here Paciurea was also sculpting fauns and Pan figures, further hybrids from the Symbolist menagerie. These photos are from WikiPaintings where the artist is rather fatuously categorised as an Impressionist.

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Chimera of the Earth.

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Chimera of the Sky.

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Le Panorama Exposition Universelle

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One day I really will have exhausted this subject but for the moment here’s another look at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. I’d downloaded this photo album months ago from the excellent resources at the University of Heidelberg then promptly forgot all about it. The book is of interest for the variety of views it gives of the exposition; despite this being a world event that attracted a host of photographers and even (as we’ve seen) early filmmakers, the views you see are often the same remote shots of the major buildings.

Ludovic Baschet’s book compensates for this with photos by the Neurdein brothers, Étienne and Antonin (assisted by Maurice Baschet) which show many close views of the pavilions, including a couple I hadn’t seen before in any detail. The oddest thing about these views is that many seem to be composites, with figures from other shots dropped into the scenes; this may be more obvious to eyes schooled in the disparities of Photoshop. Baschet’s book also has the best views I’ve seen of the Swiss exhibit, a miniature village built in the 7th arrondissement complete with livestock, authentic milkmaids and a fake mountain. And is that a joke at Britain’s expense in the view of Edwin Lutyens’ surprisingly dull British pavilion? Philippe Jullian tells us that Paris endured a heatwave in the summer of 1900—there are many parasols in evidence—yet the British pavilion is shown with a rain-soaked pavement, and set against a mass of impending storm clouds.

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Weekend links 132

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La Hora del Fantasma (no date) by Joaquim Pla Janini.

• Many of the art links featured here are tips from Thom Ayres, so it’s only right to point to his new album project which he’s funding through Kickstarter and embellishing with his own nature photography.

• Anne Billson is another writer beguiled by Philippe Jullian’s masterwork, Dreamers of Decadence. And thanks to Ms Billson for drawing attention to the insane opening of Crime Without Passion (1934).

• Does this fake ad for The Necronomicon use one of my Cthulhu pictures? Possibly. Get the picture for yourself in this year’s Cthulhu calendar. (My thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy so far.)

To break the ice, I talk about books: he is delighted to discover that I have read his beloved Denton Welch, also J. W. Dunne’s An Experiment With Time. I have found them in my old school library, and know both have been a tremendous influence on him in different ways. Knowing of his interest I also mention that I have just read Colin Wilson’s The Quest For Wilhelm Reich, published the year before. He likes Wilson, he says, jokes that “the Colonel” with his cottage in Wales in Wilson’s Return of the Lloigor and his own Colonel Sutton-Smith from The Discipline of DE are one and the same. On something of a roll, I mention Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits, and he acknowledges that it has “some good information” – but is much more enthusiastic about Magic: An Occult Primer by David Conway [years later I would discover that Burroughs & Conway had in fact exchanged letters on various subjects pertaining to magic, occultism, and psychic phenomena – but that is decidedly another story!]

Matthew Levi Stevens recalls The Final Academy and an encounter with William Burroughs thirty years ago.

Locomotif: A short survey of trains, music & experiments: Gautam Pemmaraju on Kraftwerk, Pierre Schaeffer, Luigi Russolo and others.

A flip-through of The Graphic Canon, volume 2. Wait to the end and you’ll see a couple of my Dorian Gray pages. Imprint has a review of the book.

• Julian Bell reviews two new books about Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

Alan Moore talks to The Occupied Times about art, education and anarchism.

• Colin Dickey reviews Vilém Flusser’s Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise.

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Las Parcas II (1930) by Joaquim Pla Janini.

• Michael Newton reviews A Natural History of Ghosts by Roger Clarke.

• Golden Age Comic Book Stories revisits the work of Sidney Sime.

Front Free Endpaper asks “What’s in an inscription…?”

Mormon Missionary Positions

Amateur Aesthete

Ghosts (1981) by Japan | Ghosts (2008) by Ladytron | Ghosts (2012) by Monolake.

Edward Gorey book covers

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Scribner’s edition (USA, 1978).

I’m still working through the Robert Aickman stories so curiosity had me looking up the covers of his first editions. Edward Gorey was a fitting choice as artist for Aickman’s fifth story collection, Cold Hand in Mine, and it’s interesting seeing his work labelled on both these books as “strange stories”; paperbacks tended to brand his fiction as horror which isn’t always accurate. We’re back with that term “weird” again: reading Aickman today is like finding the quotidian Britishness of Alan Bennett darkening into the inexplicable nightmares of David Lynch. Gorey’s gloomy renderings suit these atmospheres a lot better than later attempts to package Aickman’s books so it’s a shame he wasn’t allowed to illustrate more of them. Cold Hand in Mine has recently been republished by Faber, together with two more collections of Aickman’s stories.

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Scribner’s edition (USA, 1979).

Edward Gorey illustrated and designed many book covers, not all of them horror or ghost stories. This Flickr set has some of the more notable examples which includes Cold Hand in Mine. Also a flaming spider… There are more covers at Gorey Books where I was surprised to find he’d produced a cover for A Room in Chelsea Square, an early novel of gay life in London by Michael Nelson that was originally published anonymously to spare the author the attentions of intolerant authorities. Gorey’s drawing is like something Philippe Jullian might have done had he been a more careful draughtsman.

• See also: Edward Gorey’s Elephant House for more covers and Gorey ephemera.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Weird Fiction Review

Tony Grubhofer’s Exposition Universelle sketches

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The Exposition gateway.

In a blizzard of work this month I finished another project with a Victorian theme (not more Steampunk!) which I won’t reveal just yet as I dislike spoiling the surprise for publishers. Part of the preparation involved yet more trawling through scanned volumes at the Internet Archive, looking this time at British art magazines from the 1890s. As with the German magazines of the period, some of these are more interesting than others: The Magazine of Art, for example, has its moments but for the most part it’s a champion of the stodgily dull, conservative fare which no one would ever want to revive today. Their columnists also hated the Decadents; I found a wonderful rant against Aubrey Beardsley’s art from 1897 which suggested that the artist and others like him ought to stop poisoning the soul of the nation and emigrate to France. Poor Aubrey only had a year to live, and, as things turned out, ending up dying in that iniquitous nation. I think it’s fair to say he’s had the last laugh.

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The Chateau Tyrolien.

The Studio magazine, on the other hand, was very sympathetic to the Decadents and Symbolists in general, and to Beardsley in particular, who had his work featured in the first number of the magazine in 1893. The drawings in this post are a surprise find in one of the numbers for 1900, and concern that locus of everything The Magazine of Art loathed: Paris! We’re back again at the Exposition Universelle, a subject which has been explored here on so many occasions I’m surprised I keep finding anything new that’s worthy of mention.

Tony Grubhofer (1854–1935) was apparently an Austrian artist who in these drawings manages to crop his views so selectively that many of them don’t look like they’re part of an exposition in one of the world’s capital cities. Of interest for me are his watercolour of René Binet’s monumental gate, which gives an idea of how the structure would have looked at night illuminated by the novelty of electric light, and his view of Eliel Saarinen’s Finnish pavilion which he renders as though it was a provincial church. This was Saarinen’s first major commission (he was 27 at the time), and Philippe Jullian in his book about the exposition declares this design to have been the most interesting and successful of all the national pavilions that year. It’s certainly better than Edwin Lutyens’ pastiche of an Elizabethan manor for the British pavilion. Eliel Saarinen had a very successful career, as did his more well-known son, Eero Saarinen, one of the major architects of the 20th century.

Volumes 20 to 22 of The Studio can be downloaded here.

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The Finnish Pavilion.

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