Fender guitar catalogue, 1976


Another post prompted by 70s Sci-Fi Art, and a publication that’s very typical of its decade. The Fender guitar catalogue for 1976 showcases its product range with a series of illustrations that carefully pastiche the kind of art you’d find in books of fairy tales. Selling rock’n’roll equipment in this manner wasn’t a trend-setting step by 1976, not with the punk hordes on the march, but corporations are seldom ahead of the general culture. The cover art by Ruby K. Lee is a copy of one of Kay Nielsen’s drawings for East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Lee also provides one of the interior drawings, with the rest of the art being the work of Bruce Wolfe. (There may be another artist involved since one of the illustrations lacks a credit.) This looks like a huge amount of effort for a small product catalogue but the illustrations were also part of an ad campaign with accompanying storybook copy. It’s good to see Busorama being used for all the headings. I’ve been using this font myself for its associations with the 1970s.


Since I keep borrowing tips from 70s Sci-Fi Art I’ll note again that Adam Rowe’s Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s will be published by Abrams next month.




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Jo Daemen’s The Sacred Flame


Johanna Maria Hendrika Daemen (1891–1944), credited here as “Jo”, wrote and illustrated The Sacred Flame: The Fairy-Tale of Stefan Pártos (1927), a tribute to a Hungarian violinist who died young. Daemen was a Dutch illustrator, graphic designer and glass artist who one suspects would be better known if she’d been British or American. The detail and composition of these illustrations is exceptional, falling somewhere between Kay Nielsen’s meticulous detailing and Harry Clarke’s stained-glass designs. This is another volume currently for sale at silver-gryph’s eBay pages where larger views of the drawings may be seen. (Thanks again to Nick for the tip!)




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Kay Nielsen’s Grimm Fairy Tales


Illustrated editions of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales are so numerous it’s easy to overlook the better examples. Kay Nielsen’s edition isn’t only better than most, it’s an outstanding example of his meticulous approach to story illustration. Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories was published in 1925, and the beautiful colour plates really need to be seen at a larger size. You can view the rest of the book here or download it here.




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The Tinderbox


HJ Ford (1894).

“Do you see that great tree!” quoth the witch; and she pointed to a tree which stood beside them. “It’s quite hollow inside. You must climb to the top, and then you’ll see a hole, through which you can let yourself down and get deep into the tree. I’ll tie a rope round your body, so that I can pull you up again when you call me.”

“What am I to do down in the tree?” asked the soldier.

“Get money,” replied the witch. “Listen to me. When you come down to the earth under the tree, you will find yourself in a great hall: it is quite light, for many hundred lamps are burning there. Then you will see three doors; these you can open, for the keys are in the locks. If you go into the first chamber, you’ll see a great chest in the middle of the floor; on this chest sits a dog, and he’s got a pair of eyes as big as two tea-cups. But you need not care for that. I’ll give you my blue-checked apron, and you can spread it out upon the floor; then go up quickly and take the dog, and set him on my apron; then open the chest, and take as many farthings as you like. They are of copper: if you prefer silver, you must go into the second chamber. But there sits a dog with a pair of eyes as big as mill-wheels. But do not you care for that. Set him upon my apron, and take some of the money. And if you want gold, you can have that too—in fact, as much as you can carry—if you go into the third chamber. But the dog that sits on the money-chest there has two eyes as big as the round tower of Copenhagen. He is a fierce dog, you may be sure; but you needn’t be afraid, for all that. Only set him on my apron, and he won’t hurt you; and take out of the chest as much gold as you like.”

The Tinderbox (1835) by Hans Christian Andersen


Helen Stratton (1910?)

Will at 50 Watts is to blame for this one, the illustrations he posted last week were excessive enough to give even a master of exaggeration like Tex Avery second thoughts. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have proved so popular over the years that a core group of stories tend to drive out the less familiar works from fresh editions. The Tinderbox is one of these minor stories, the tale of a soldier with a magic tinderbox capable of summoning a trio of supernatural dogs with enormous eyes. My first contact with the story was via a German television adaptation, Das Feuerzeug, filmed in 1958 and later screened in the UK as filler for the children’s TV schedule along with that memorably creepy series (also from Germany), The Singing Ringing Tree. I remembered little about the story but was never able to forget those weird dogs even though their eyes in the TV version are nothing like the way they’re presented in illustrations. They may not be as freaky but the way they’re presented as huge and black makes me think now of the ghostly barghests or black dogs of British folklore.

Searching around for illustrations turned up the handful here. Many illustrators concentrate on other scenes but I’ve only been looking for the dogs. I’m sure there’s more to be found so this may well be a subject to revisit later. The Stratton and Tarrant pictures show the climax of the story when the soldier, about to be hanged for having used the dogs to kidnap a princess, summons his creatures to kill the king, queen and all the people who condemned him. Yes, it’s good wholesome fare for kids.


Margaret Tarrant (1910).

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Kay Nielsen’s East of the Sun and West of the Moon


Kay Nielsen’s meticulous approach to illustration is shown to great effect in the colour plates for this 1914 collection of fairy tales subtitled Old Tales from the North. The theme might be northern but Nielsen (who was Danish) maintains his beautifully hybrid style with its hints of Japonism and Persian miniatures. The whole book can be viewed or downloaded in a variety of formats here.

Kay Nielsen at Bud Plant





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