Ragnar von Holten’s Maldoror


More Maldoror, and more collage, this time from Swedish artist and art historian Ragnar von Holten (1934–2009). The Historical Dictionary of Surrealism describes von Holten as a Gustave Moreau enthusiast who first contacted the Paris Surrealists in 1960 when he was organising a retrospective of Moreau’s work at the Louvre. André Breton had long been a champion of Moreau, especially in the decades when the artist was out of fashion, and wrote a preface for von Holten’s L’Art Fantastique Gustave Moreau. One of the many things I like about the Surrealists is the continuity they provide with the history of fantastic and visionary art.


Von Holten’s Maldoror collages were begun in the late 1960s and completed in 1972 when they were published in a Swedish edition of the novel. I don’t know how many illustrations there were in all but you can see more at the Moderna Museet website. Not all the collages are labelled as being derived from Maldoror but many of the titles refer to the text all the same. Also there are two drawings intended as vignettes, one of which depicts in a rather literal fashion Lautréamont’s most popular metaphor.



Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Surrealism archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Harry O. Morris’s Maldoror
Covering Maldoror
Kenneth Anger’s Maldoror
Chance encounters on the dissecting table
Santiago Caruso’s Maldoror
Jacques Houplain’s Maldoror
Hans Bellmer’s Maldoror
Les Chants de Maldoror by Shuji Terayama
Ulysses versus Maldoror
Books of blood
Magritte’s Maldoror
Frans De Geetere’s illustrated Maldoror
Maldoror illustrated

Harry O. Morris’s Maldoror


Lautréamont’s delirious prose poem/novel/proto-Surrealist dream-text is sufficiently wild and free-ranging to inspire many visual interpretations. One of the peculiarities of the book is that all these interpretations are valid to some degree, although some still suit the general tone better than others. Quite a few of the well-known Surrealist artists had a crack at illustrating Les Chants de Maldoror but artists who don’t illustrate on a regular basis have a tendency to gesture vaguely at the given text while offering yet more of their own concerns.


Expert collage artist Harry O. Morris does a better job than Dalí, Magritte and co. in his depictions of Lautréamont’s mutable scenarios. Maldoror is very much a collaged text, a product of its author’s enthusiastic plagiarism, which suggests that if the book has to be illustrated at all then collage is the technique to use. Morris’s interpretation was published in 1983 as Scenes from Lautréamont’s Maldoror, a portfolio of 10 plates. A note from the artist on this page acknowledges the influence of photo-montagist JK Potter, Morris being better known for his collages of engraved illustrations and other pictorial matter.




Continue reading “Harry O. Morris’s Maldoror”

Max Ernst’s favourites


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.


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