Weekend links 20

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Transfiguration (1952) by Sulamith Wülfing.

• Observatory posted photos of its Lovecraft art exhibition; see if you can spot my pics. Related: Write Club has more photos. Also, A Word From Our Sponsor.

Taking the broooooaaaaad view of things: A Conversation with James Grauerholz on William S. Burroughs and Magick. Related: Beat Memories—The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg.

• Adam Curtis on BP and the Axis of Evil; how the the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company became British Petroleum and helped give Iran over to the Ayatollahs.

• The Quietus interviews Peter Christopherson (TG, Coil, etc) and Dr John.

The Strange World of Adolf Hoffmeister at A Journey Round My Skull.

An Artists’ Dialogue On CocoRosie’s Grey Oceans at Stereogum.

Werner Herzog and David Lynch combine their talents.

Jon Savage on The Residents versus The Beatles.

• BUTT magazine interviews James Bidgood.

• The Daily Drop Cap.

The Gay Rub.

Can on German TV in 1971.

The Age of Enchantment: Beardsley, Dulac and their Contemporaries

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“Everything about her was white.” Illustration by Edmund Dulac for
The Dreamer of Dreams by Queen Marie of Roumania (1915).

A major exhibition of British fantasy illustration opens at the Dulwich Picture Gallery this Wednesday, running to February 17th, 2008. Considering the huge resurgence of popularity in fantasy for children I’m surprised none of the UK galleries have done this before now. The Dulwich organisers have chosen a suitably wintry picture by the wonderful Edmund Dulac to promote the exhibition which—intentionally or not—happens to look like a precursor of the poster art for The Golden Compass.

With the death of Aubrey Beardsley in 1898, the world of the illustrated book underwent a dramatic change. Gone were the degenerate images of scandal and deviance. The age of decadence was softened to delight rather than to shock. Whimsy and a pastel toned world of childish delights and an innocent exoticism unfolded in the pages of familiar fables, classic tales and those children’s stories like The Arabian Nights and Hans Andersens’ Stories. These were published with lavish colour plates and fine bindings: these were the coffee table books of a new age.

As a result a new generation of illustrators emerged. This new group of artists was intent upon borrowing from the past, especially the fantasies of the rococo, the rich decorative elements of the Orient, the Near East, and fairy worlds of the Victorians. The masters of this new art form were artists like Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielson, whose inventive book productions, with those of Arthur Rackham, became legendary. Disciples gathered, like Jessie King and Annie French, the Scottish masters of the ethereal and the poetic, the Detmold Brothers, masters of natural fantasy, as well as those who remained in Beardsley’s shadow: the warped yet fascinating works of Sidney Sime, a joyously eccentric coal-miner turned artist, Laurence Housman, master of the fairy tale, the precious inventions from the classics by Charles Ricketts, the Irish fantasies of Harry Clarke, himself a master of stained glass as well as the gift book, and the rich and exotic world of Alaistair. Children’s stories were transformed by the imaginations of a group still bowing to the Victorians Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway and the fairies of Richard Doyle but these were now given a more colourful intensity by Charles Robinson, Patten Wilson, Anning Bell, Bernard Sleigh and Maxwell Armfield.

The exhibition of British fantasy illustration will be the first such exhibition in Britain and the first worldwide for over 20 years (the last being in New York in 1979). All works, of which over 100 are planned, will come largely from British museums and private collections, many of these will never have been seen publicly before in Britain.

The exhibition is curated by Rodney Engen.

AS Byatt reviewed the exhibition for The Guardian and also looked at the sinister perversity underlying many of the Edwardian fairy tales.

Edmund Dulac at Art Passions

Books by Queen Marie of Roumania:
The Dreamer of Dreams (1915; illus: Edmund Dulac)
The Stealers of Light (1916; illus: Edmund Dulac)
Vom Wunder der Tränen (1938; illus: Sulamith Wülfing)

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Masonic fonts and the designer’s dark materials

Fantastic art from Pan Books

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Fantastic Art (1973).
Cover: Earth by Arcimboldo.

I’d thought of writing something about this book series even before I started this weblog since there’s very little information to be found about it online. I can’t compete with the serious Penguin-heads—and I’m not much of a dedicated book collector anyway—but I do have a decent collection of the art books that Pan/Ballantine published in the UK throughout the 1970s. These were published simultaneously by Ballantine/Peacock Press in the US and nearly all were edited by David Larkin, with Betty Ballantine overseeing the American editions. Two of the series, the Dalí and Magritte, were among the first art books I owned. Over the years I’ve gradually accumulated almost the full set and I always look for their distinctive white spines in secondhand shops.

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