Max Ernst’s favourites

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The cover for the Max Ernst number of View magazine (April, 1942) that appears in Charles Henri Ford’s View: Parade of the Avant-Garde was one I didn’t recall seeing before. This was a surprise when I’d spent some time searching for back issues of the magazine. The conjunction of Ernst with Buer, one of the perennially popular demons drawn by Louis Le Breton for De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, doubles the issue’s cult value in my eyes. I don’t know whether the demon was Ernst’s choice but I’d guess so when many of the De Plancy illustrations resemble the hybrid creatures rampaging through Ernst’s collages. Missing from the Ford book is the spread below which uses more De Plancy demons to decorate lists of the artist’s favourite poets and painters. I’d have preferred a selection of favourite novelists but Ford was a poet himself (he also co-wrote an early gay novel with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil), and the list is still worth seeing.

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Poets: Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Hölderlin, Alfred Jarry, Edgar Allan Poe, George Crabbe, Guillaume Apollinaire, Walt Whitman, Comte de Lautréamont, Robert Browning, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Achim von Arnim, Victor Hugo, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Novalis, Heinrich Heine, Solomon (presumably the author of the Song of Solomon).

Painters: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georges Seurat, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung, Vittore Carpaccio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cosimo Tura, Carlo Crivelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Francesco del Cossa, Piero di Cosimo, NM Deutsch (Niklaus Manuel), Vincent van Gogh.

I’ve filled out the names since some of the typography isn’t easy to read. Some of the choices are also uncommon, while one of them—NM Deutsch—is not only a difficult name to search for but the attribution has changed in recent years. The list of poets contains few surprises but it’s good to see that Poe made an impression on Ernst; the choice of painters is less predictable. Bruegel, Bosch and Rousseau are to be expected, and the same goes for the German artists—Grünewald, Baldung—whose work is frequently grotesque or erotic. But I wouldn’t have expected so many names from the Italian Renaissance, and Seurat is a genuine surprise. As for Ernst’s only living contemporary, Giorgio de Chirico, this isn’t a surprise at all but it reinforces De Chirico’s importance. If you removed Picasso from art history De Chirico might be the most influential painter of the 20th century; his Metaphysical works had a huge impact on the Dada generation, writers as well as artists, and also on René Magritte who was never a Dadaist but who lost interest in Futurism when he saw a reproduction of The Song of Love (1914). Picasso’s influence remains rooted in the art world while De Chirico’s disquieting dreams extend their shadows into film and literature, so it’s all the more surprising that this phase of his work was so short lived. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Viewing View
De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal
Max Ernst album covers
Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie
Max and Dorothea
Dreams That Money Can Buy
La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier

The art of Roland Cat

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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Axium, 1969).

The work of French artist Roland Cat is less Surreal—although some of it could be classed as such—than Fantastic in a manner similar to that of contemporaries such as Michel Henricot, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol, Gérard Trignac and others. Art of this nature receives support and encouragement from the French to a degree which often seems inversely proportional to the ignorance it receives from the Anglophone art world. For years the only example of Cat’s work I’d seen was the picture that Dave Britton used on the cover of the Savoy edition of New Worlds magazine in 1979. The examples here are the result of a web trawl, hence the missing titles and dates.

The Coleridge illustration above was for a volume that was part of a series produced by a French publisher in 1969, each edition of which was illustrated by a different artist. This forum post has more details. For more about Roland Cat see this short appraisal at Visionary Review.

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Sleep (1980).

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Dagon (Belfond, 1987).

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Gustave Doré’s Ancient Mariner

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A final Coleridge post, also the oldest illustrated edition featured this week. Gustave Doré’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was first published in 1870, and the poet’s sombre, doom-laden tale was more suited to Doré’s Gothic proclivities than many of the lighter books he illustrated. Despite their age, these engravings have proved memorable enough to keep turning up whenever an illustration of the poem is required. The ship among the icebergs above is close enough to a scene in the third Pirates of the Caribbean film to have maybe been an influence, while the ice-bound section of the poem inspired one of Doré’s few paintings.

Art Passions has a complete set of these engravings together with many more of the artist’s works. And while we’re on the subject, two of Harry Clarke’s surviving Ancient Mariner drawings appeared in a post last year. A third drawing from the series can be seen here.

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Joseph Noel Paton’s Ancient Mariner

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From Patten Wilson to Joseph Noel Paton (1821–1901), a Scottish artist whose illustrations for Coleridge’s poem I much prefer to his generic paintings. Other artists often skimp on the ship details but Paton’s crowded deck scenes are done with such accuracy they must have been based on a real vessel. The book was published in 1893, and the plates would appear to be engravings given the presence of another monogram besides that of the artist. The Internet Archive scans aren’t as bad as the Patten Wilson but Paton’s meticulous draughtsmanship is best seen in the near-complete set of images posted at Golden Age Comic Book Stories. And for anyone familiar with my comic strip adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark, the portrait of Enoch Bowen, founder of the Starry Wisdom cult, was based on Paton’s head of the Ancient Mariner in the scene where the sailors are fastening the albatross around the accursed man’s neck.

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Patten Wilson’s illustrated Coleridge

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As is evident by the blurred date on the title page, this illustrated Coleridge by Patten Wilson (1868–1928) was published in 1898. Once again, some of these drawings have appeared here before via copies at Chris Mullen’s Visual Telling of Stories where the scans are a lot better quality than the dreadful job done by Google at the Internet Archive. The drawings look passable when reduced in size but the full-size images are so aggressively compressed that much of Wilson’s fine detail is lost. There’s still very little of Wilson’s beautiful work to be found online—and Coleridge’s poetry is freely available everywhere—so the only reason to look at this particular edition is for the illustrations.

As with Gerald Metcalfe’s volume, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner dominates the collection. I love the way Wilson renders the opening scene by placing the Mariner and the wedding guests in the corner of the picture so he can prefigure the tale with the boats waiting in the harbour. And Kubla Khan’s Pleasure Dome is a lot more impressive than Metcalfe’s city in the clouds. Here’s hoping that a better copy turns up eventually.

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