Illustrating Poe #5: Among the others

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The Conqueror Worm (c. 1900) by František Kupka.

Poe’s illustrators are legion, you could easily devote an entire blog to nothing but depictions of his stories and poems. By way of rounding off this week of posts I thought I’d point to some of the works which have caught my attention over the years, several of them being obscure enough to warrant further investigation.

František Kupka’s drawing is, as far as I can gather, one of a series based on Poe’s poem; this seems to be a related piece. As with many Symbolists artists, you can spend a great deal of time scouring the available resources to find more of their work. We’re told that one of Kupka’s more well-known paintings, The Way of Silence (1903), was inspired by the poem Dream-land.

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Berenice (1905) by Alberto Martini.

Alberto Martini (1876–1954) is a fascinating artist whose work bridges the decline of Symbolism and the rise of Surrealism. He’s also another talent whose work is woefully underrepresented on the web so let’s hope that changes soon. Wikipedia describes him as having produced 135 Poe illustrations of which only a small handful are visible online, and most of the ones that are go unlabelled. I know this one is for Berenice since I have it in a book but any Poe reader should guess the title from those blazing teeth. A few more of Martini’s drawings can be seen here.

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Illustrating Poe #4: Wilfried Sätty

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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.

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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.

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Illustrating Poe #3: Harry Clarke

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And so to the master. Harry Clarke’s illustrated edition of Tales of Mystery and Imagination was published by Harrap in 1919, with a new edition following in 1923 that featured an additional series of colour plates. I can’t imagine anyone ever producing a better illustrated version of Poe than Clarke managed, the morbid quality which some complain about in his work is perfectly suited to that most morbid of writers. So too are Clarke’s haunted and neurasthenic figures, and the many decorative details which provide an analogue to the author’s distinctive prose style. The first four drawings which follow repeat the earlier order of the Beardsley illustrations; an unfair comparison, perhaps, since the subject matter didn’t suit Aubrey’s temperament, but a comparison shows how differently the same stories might be illustrated, and how much Clarke brings the macabre elements to the fore.

There’s no need to post a large selection this time when quality scans have already appeared at A Journey Round My Skull and Golden Age Comic Book Stories. These drawings really do need to be seen showing all their fine detail.

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The Black Cat: “I had walled the monster up within the tomb!”

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The Murders in the Rue Morgue: “Gnashing its teeth, and flashing fire from its eyes, it flew upon the body of the girl.”

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Illustrating Poe #2: William Heath Robinson

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The Raven.

Some of these drawings have been featured here before but they’re always worth seeing again. One of the problems for the early illustrators of Poe was a lack of sympathy among many of them for the author’s doom-laden Romanticism. It’s a shame that Aubrey Beardsley didn’t try illustrating some of the poems, as William Heath Robinson does here, Poe’s verse is significantly lighter in atmosphere than his stories.

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Ulalume.

This collection is from 1900 and I much prefer this style of Robinson’s to the later comic inventions which made him a household name. The complete book can be found at the Internet Archive. For a very different interpretation of Poe’s poems, Golden Age Comic Book Stories just posted the 1912 Edmund Dulac edition.

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Lenore.

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The Midsummer Chronophage

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The Midsummer Chronophage.

John C Taylor’s Corpus Chronophage—the extraordinary mechanical clock surmounted by a time-devouring monster—was featured here following news of its installation at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 2008. Two years later its creator is ready to unveil a new clock which he calls The Midsummer Chronophage.

The Midsummer Chronophage pays homage to the 18th century clockmaker John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer and the ‘grasshopper’ escapement, a low-friction mechanism for converting pendulum motion into rotational motion. The Midsummer Chronophage takes the grasshopper escapement out of the clock and presents it on the outside as a sculpture. The mythical creature is also the world’s largest grasshopper escapement.

The face of The Midsummer Chronophage is a 24 carat gold-plated steel disc almost 1.5M in diameter, polished to resemble a pond of liquid metal with ripples that allude to the Big Bang. It was created by a series of underwater explosions.

The Midsummer Chronophage has no hands or numbers but displays time by aligning slits in discs behind the clock face back lit with blue LEDS; these slits are arranged in three concentric rings displaying hours, minutes and seconds.

Dr Taylor’s new clock can be seen at London’s Masterpiece Fair from 23rd of June. For those outside London there are more pictures of the device here, and videos of the Corpus Clock in action here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Andrew Chase’s steel cheetah
Another Midsummer Night
The Corpus Clock
A Midsummer Night’s Dadd
William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Bowes Swan