John Austen’s Little Ape


British illustrator John Austen (1886–1948) illustrated many classic works of fiction throughout the 1920s, one of which, Hamlet, was recently reprinted by Dover Publications. His other work isn’t so easy to find, however, and I’d not seen Little Ape and Other Stories (1921) until Nick H drew my attention to a copy for sale at silver-gryph’s eBay pages. (Thanks, Nick!)

Ralph Holbrook Keen’s story collection was Austen’s first illustrated edition although you wouldn’t necessarily take it for a debut work. There are the familiar nods to Beardsley—the black-and-yellow cover especially—and possibly Harry Clarke whose influence is more evident in the Hamlet drawings. Clarke and Austen exhibited together in 1925. The skeleton with a floral crown makes me think of the rose-crowned skeleton in Edmund J. Sullivan’s Rubáiyát (1913), although this may be a result of Sullivan’s drawing having been made very familiar by its use on Mouse & Kelley’s posters for the Grateful Dead. One of the many connections between the Golden Age of Illustration and the Golden Age of Psychedelia.



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René Magritte album covers


Beck-Ola (1969) by The Jeff Beck Group. Painting: The Listening Room (second version, 1958).

An inevitable post considering the shape of the week, and also a continuation of an occasional series about paintings used as album cover art. Given Magritte’s continuing popularity I’m sure these can’t be the only examples, especially when his work had such an effect on the cover designs of the 1970s. In addition to the Magritte-like covers created by Hipgnosis for Pink Floyd and others you can find the artist’s influence in the cover by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse for The Grand Illusion (1977) by Styx, a hugely successful album whose painting is derived from Magritte’s The Blank Cheque (1965). There are many more examples.

Magritte died in 1967 so he missed out on this explosion of interest which also spread into the advertising world. When it comes to influence, Magritte has probably had more of an effect on the general culture than any of the other Surrealists, Dalí included.


See (1969) by The Rascals. Painting: The Big Family (1963).


Pipedream (1973) by Alan Hull. Painting: Philosopher’s Lamp (1936).


Vienne La Pluie (1975) by Daniel Balavoine. Painting: Hegel’s Holiday (1958).

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Stuck’s serpents


The Sin (1894).

Some pictures in honour of the Chinese year of the Water Snake which begins this Sunday. Paintings of women with snakes are legion, even after you winnow out all the Eve and the Serpent pictures, so you need to narrow the field of view. Artists of the 19th century must have been delighted when Gustave Flaubert published Salammbô in 1862, chapter 10 of which—The Serpent—gave them an excuse to depict an exotic woman involved with a snake completely free of any Biblical trappings.


Sensuality (1891).

Franz Stuck’s celebrated trio of serpent women can be read as Eve figures but their provocative posing is more in line with the prurient misogyny common to much art of the period, an attitude which condemned women for being so tempting whilst also secretly lusting after their bodies. Sensuality is remarkable for the way its oiled snake is so firmly lodged between the woman’s thighs. Stuck was never very interested in Christian themes—many of his other works are a Teutonic take on Classical subjects—so I wonder whether his use of the word “sin” was merely a fig leaf for delivering imagery he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to exhibit.


The Sin (1893).


Sin Dance (1966) by Wes Wilson.

Symbolist art was rediscovered in the 1960s after decades of neglect, and the psychedelic poster artists happily plundered the art books for suitable imagery. Stuck’s Sin returned to the world in these two Avalon Ballroom posters. Wes Wilson’s Sin Dance was a design for an event which was cancelled so this might explain why the same painting appeared a few months later on a Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley poster. The Mouse & Kelley version was printed with metallic inks.

For more of Franz Stuck’s work see WikiPaintings.


Jefferson Airplane at the Avalon Ballroom (1966) by Mouse & Kelley.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Serpentine pulchritude
Salammbô illustrated
The Feminine Sphinx
Men with snakes

San Francisco angels


Miller Blues Band/Mother Earth/Bukka White by Alton Kelley & Stanley Mouse (1967).

I already had this piece roughed out before discovering that psychedelic artist Alton Kelley died last month, something that doesn’t seem to have been reported very widely. I posted the picture above last October then in January this year wrote something about San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. But it’s taken me until now to realise that these two things are connected.

The San Francsico poster artists of the Sixties, of which Mouse & Kelley were leading members, borrowed frequently from earlier sources, especially Art Nouveau stylists such as Alphonse Mucha and the Symbolist painters. A recent Thames & Hudson book, Off the Wall: Psychedelic Rock Posters from San Francisco traces some of the more obvious influences but this is one example which seems to have eluded them.


Descending Night and Rising Day by Adolph Alexander Weinman (1914).

The statue that Mouse & Kelley used was titled Descending Night and was, with Rising Day (aka The Rising Sun), one of a pair of symbolic works created by sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870–1952) for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. The photos above are from one of the books I linked to earlier, Sculpture of the Exposition Palaces and Courts by Juliet Helena Lumbard James. The identities of artists’ models are rarely preserved but in the case of Descending Night we know that one Audrey Munson was the model. And I know that thanks to a well-timed overview of Ms Munson’s career by Silent-Porn-Star.


Weinman later worked his statue designs into these rather fine figurines which became his best-selling small bronzes. These pictures make visible the stars at the feet of Night and the sun at the feet of Day.


left: Adolph Alexander Weinman in his studio with a study for Descending Night in the background; right: Alton Kelley in the Sixties.

Weinman didn’t live long enough to see his work exploited on a gaudy concert poster and given his adherence to a pre-Modern, Beaux-Arts style it’s perhaps just as well. He’s most remembered today for his Liberty design for the American Silver Eagle which also used Audrey Munson as the model. Ms Munson lived to 1996 so I can’t help wonder if she ever saw her youthful figure return on Mouse and Kelley’s poster. The same year as the San Francisco Exposition she played an artist’s model in Inspiration, a film by George Foster Platt which is only notable now for being the first American non-porn film to feature a nude woman. She stripped off again a year later for Rae Berger’s Purity. Audrey was 76 in 1967 but something tells me she that her free spirit would have identified with the Summer of Love more than many others of her generation.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Evanescent City
Family Dog postcards