Illustrating Poe #4: Wilfried Sätty

satty_poe01

Here it is, the book that began my fascination with the collage art of Wilfried Sätty (1939–1982), a German artist and psychedelic poster designer resident in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s. Warner Books published his Poe collection in 1976 and for some reason omit the umlaut from his name even though it’s present in Thomas Albright’s introductory note. I bought my copy in 1979 at a time when I was writing a lot of unsuccessful “experimental” fiction, and the sight of these tremendous collages inspired a surge of writing activity which disregarded Poe’s stories altogether. I’d seen enough of Max Ernst’s engraving collages to know that Sätty was following Ernst’s example but something about Sätty’s work struck me in a manner I couldn’t articulate other than by trying to set down the thoughts they inspired. Personal obsessions aside, I’ve since come to regard this book as the only illustrated Poe which can approach Harry Clarke’s inimitable volume.

satty_poe02

I’m fortunate to own two copies of this edition otherwise I wouldn’t have attempted to scan any pages when doing so involves bending the spine rather badly. The book is profusely illustrated, with many full-page or double-spread illustrations most of which I haven’t tried to reproduce. What you have here are the title pages from nearly all the pieces and a couple of additional illustrations. Sätty’s Poe is still the easiest of his books to find secondhand if you browse the dealer pages at AbeBooks. For more of his incredible work there’s this page at Ephemera Assemblyman, and for details of the artist’s life and career there’s my 2005 essay in Strange Attractor Journal Two.

• Sätty’s illustrations for The Annotated Dracula (1975) at Flickr.

satty_poe03

Continue reading “Illustrating Poe #4: Wilfried Sätty”

Steampunk overloaded!

infernal.jpg

Yes, it’s the “S” word again, and if there was any doubt that this has been the Year of Steampunk here at Coulthart Towers, look at these recent works. And this is by no means everything I’ve been doing in this area, there’ll be further announcements later on.

The covers for KW Jeter’s novels are a pair of reprintings from UK publisher Angry Robot whose books will shortly be available in the US and Canada. Jeter is now famous—infamous, perhaps—for having given the word “steampunk” to the world in the early 1980s. This was intended as a jest after he and a couple of other writers (including a favourite of mine, Tim Powers) had written a number of science fiction novels set in the 19th century; like many light-hearted neologisms, it gained a life of its own. Angry Robot are reissuing two of these early works as a result of the ongoing steampunk explosion.

morlock.jpg

Morlock Night (1979) is a pulpy affair which sees the Morlocks from HG Wells’ The Time Machine using the Time Traveller’s vehicle to return to Victorian London and wreak no end of havoc. Infernal Devices (1987) is a rather more substantial confection involving a great deal of clockwork mechanisms (for once the clock parts are justified!), automata, fish people, and a device capable of destroying the earth. I’ve been producing a lot of engraving collage à la Ernst and Sätty recently but the technique seemed especially appropriate here as a means of illustrating works which themselves are collages of Victorian motifs.

zeppelins.jpg

Meanwhile, over at Tachyon Publications, there’s this cover for another Victorian adventure, two in fact, from master beserker Joe R Lansdale. Flaming Zeppelins combines a pair of comic adventures, Zeppelins West (2001) and Flaming London (2006), which feature a host of notable figures including Mark Twain, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody…and a talking seal. Publication date is November 1st.

steampunk.jpg

Then from Tachyon in mid-November there’ll be Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, a 430-page anthology edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer which includes fiction and non-fiction from William Gibson, Caitlín R Kiernan, Jeffrey Ford, Cherie Priest, and many others. Also a comic strip, copious illustrations and a very full-on interior design from yours truly of which I’ll only show you the above page for the time being. Yes, that’s a mechanical ostrich but if you want to know what it’s doing there you’ll have to read the book. More about this later. And more later about The Steampunk Bible to which I’m also a contributor, a glossy, full-colour guide to the entire sub-culture which will be published next year by Abrams. By the time that appears I’ll probably be sick of the sight of clockwork parts, dirigibles, florid typefaces and Victorian decoration; I’ll be needing a good dose of Helvetica and Josef Müller-Brockmann minimalism to calm down.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Skeleton clocks
Vickers Airship Catalogue
The Air Ship
Dirigibles
More Steampunk and the Crawling Chaos
La route d’Armilia by Schuiten & Peeters
The art of François Schuiten
Steampunk Redux
Steampunk framed
Steampunk Horror Shortcuts
The Airship Destroyer
Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls

Metamorphosis Victorianus

bucaille1.jpg

left: L’antre du magicien (1948); right: La Distribution des soleils (1945).

I’m rather late with this one, Metamorphosis Victorianus—Modern Collage, Victorian Engravings & Nostalgia is an exhibition running at the Ubu Gallery, New York until the end of the month. Lots of the names one would expect to see in a collection of engraving collagists although no Wilfried Sätty. The examples shown here are by Max Bucaille.

Max Ernst (1891–1976), with such work as his shocking and seminal illustrated collage-novel, La Femme 100 têtes (1929), influenced an entire wave of artists who looked towards the Surrealist and his use of 19th Century engravings as a point of departure within their own work in this medium. The first generation of artists were Ernst’s contemporaries, who worked primarily in the 1930s with significant connection to the Surrealists: Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), Jind?ich Štyrský (1899–1942), Otto Hofmann (1907–1994), Franz Roh (1890–1965), Max Bucaille (1906–1992), and Gerome Kamrowski (1914–2004). Those a generation later, including Ray Johnson (1927–1995), Bruce Conner (1933–2008), and Jess (1923–2004), each separately rediscovered Ernst, specifically choosing to use this type of collage as a jumping off point towards other conceptual ends.

bucaille2.jpg

Capture (1946).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Max (The Birdman) Ernst
The Robing of The Birds
Gandharva by Beaver & Krause
The art of Stephen Aldrich

Gandharva by Beaver & Krause

gandharva.jpg

I mentioned Wilfried Sätty’s collage work last week and this album sports one of his few cover designs. A cult object for several reasons, not least Sätty’s involvement. The title lettering was by fellow psychedelic artist David Singer who I had the good fortune to meet in California in 2005 whilst researching Sätty’s career. That chunky Seventies lettering style now looks distinctly contemporary having come back into fashion over the past couple of years.

Beaver & Krause were among the pioneers of Moog-based electronic music in the 1960s and notably provided the throbs and drones which Jack Nitzsche mixed into the soundtrack for Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg’s Performance. Gandharva was released in 1971 and one of the few all-electronic pieces on the album, Nine Moons in Alaska, is an outtake from those sessions. The first side is very uneven, with a blues jam and a gospel piece that don’t sit well with each other, never mind with the Moog tracks. Side two, however, is a far more successful suite of improvisations with organ, electronics, guitar, harp and saxophone (played by Gerry Mulligan) recorded live in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

Cover photo from the Psychedelic Music Flickr pool which features many fine examples of cover design from the late Sixties on.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ginsberg’s Howl and the view from the street
Further back and faster
Quite a performance
Borges in Performance

Nyarlathotep: the Crawling Chaos

nyarlathotep.jpg

Unveiling another new piece of work, this is a T-shirt design for metal band Cyaegha whose Steps of Descent album I illustrated and designed last year. They asked for something based on HP Lovecraft’s god Nyarlathotep so I thought I’d take the opportunity to rework from scratch the version of this I created in 1999 for the first edition of The Haunter of the Dark. I always felt the earlier piece was going in the right direction but lacked somewhat in execution; this makes up for that. Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep is one of his most curious creations, in part because the conception of the character changed over many years. In various stories, letters and dream fragments the god/entity is variously described as an Egyptian pharaoh, an itinerant showman with electrical apparatus, the “black man” of European witch cults and the more typically Lovecraftian squamous alien monstrosity. The challenge, then, is to try and represent a little of each of these elements without overly favouring one or the other.

This is one of two illustrations I’ve produced in recent months which use Photoshop to imitate the engraving collage style of Wilfried Sätty, an artist whose work I discussed in an essay for Strange Attractor #2 in 2005. Sätty’s style was derived from Max Ernst’s famous collage “novels” of the 1930s and Photoshop is the ideal tool for this, far better than the old method of scissors, paper and glue. Sätty expanded Ernst’s technique by using reverse printing and the duplication of images; Photoshop extends the technique even further, making it possible to scale images up or down instead of being limited to the size of the original reproduction. The other illustration I’ve done in this style is for a short story and I’ll reveal that closer to publication. In the meantime I should be making a slightly different version of the new Nyarlathotep suitable for the usual range of CafePress products. More about those when they’re done.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Haunted Palace
The art of Stephen Aldrich