Tentacles #5: Art Nouveau


Fob watch (c. 1890) made by Gorham for Tiffany.

Concluding a week of tentacular posts. I was tempted to do something about tentacle porn but that subject has already been covered here, and besides, there’s rather a lot of it around these days. Given the writhing nature of octopus limbs you’d expect there to be far more octopoid Art Nouveau design than there is. The Art Nouveau style was exceptional in allowing the octopus to become a design motif, probably the first time in Western Europe the animal had been given its decorative due since the Ancient Greeks, Minoans and other Mediterranean civilisations used it to pattern dishes and vases. The remoteness of the animal is no doubt one reason it was shunned for so long in northern countries: British sailors used to refer to octopuses as “devil-fishes”, a term that appears in William Hope Hodgson’s fiction. Octopuses in Europe weren’t part of the general culture the way they are in Japan. It took the appearance of Ernst Haeckel’s Kunst-Formen der Natur, published from 1899 to 1904, to bring the aesthetic attractions of the stranger varieties of marine life to a wide audience.


The Prey (1895), bronze by Auguste Ledru.


From Animal Vignettes (c. 1900)


Buckle in silver, gilt, opal, garnet, chalcedony (c. 1900) by Karl Rothmüller.

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Weekend links 126


Mala Reputación (1991) by Dogo Y Los Mercenarios. Cover art by Nazario Luque.

Artist Nazario Luque was Spain’s first gay comic artist who’s also known for the drawing which appeared (without permission) on the sleeve of Lou Reed Live – Take No Prisoners in 1978. On his website Nazario says he’s been described as “Exhibicionista, solidario, provocador, agitador moral, rompedor, arriesgado, polifacético, transgresor, canalla, pintiparado, morigerado o simplemente superviviente…” Via Música, maestros, a two-part post (second part is here) about album cover art by comic artists.

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop Returns. And quite conveniently, Ubuweb posts some original Radiophonic creations by electronic music genius Delia Derbyshire. Ms Derbyshire is profiled along with her other pioneering colleagues in an hour-long TV documentary, Alchemists of Sound.

• Tor.com celebrates the fiction of Shirley Jackson. Too Much Horror Fiction has a substantial collection of Shirley Jackson book covers.

Phantasmagorical and all but plotless, Nightwood flings itself madly upon the night, upon Wood, and upon the reader. Its sentences pomp along like palanquins and writhe like crucifixions. They puke, they sing. Their deliriums are frighteningly controlled. […] TS Eliot loved Nightwood so much that he shepherded its publication and wrote the introduction to the first edition. Dylan Thomas complimented it with his left hand by calling it “one of the three great prose books ever written by a woman” and with his right hand by stealing from it. […] Nightwood’s Dr. Matthew-Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante O’Connor, florid monologist and transvestite, seems to have been a model (along with Captain Ahab) for Judge Holden in Blood Meridian. The difference is that Cormac McCarthy’s Judge is essentially Satan, whereas O’Connor is essentially Christ; they’re only just on opposite sides of the border of madness.

Austin Allen on The Life and Death of Djuna Barnes, Gonzo “Greta Garbo of American Letters”. There’s a lot more Djuna Barnes at Strange Flowers.

• Out at the end of the month, Extreme Metaphors, interviews with JG Ballard, 1967–2008, edited by Simon Sellars & Dan O’Hara.

• The favourite Polish posters of the Brothers Quay. Over at Cardboard Cutout Sundown there are more Quay book covers.

The Mancorialist: people on the streets of Manchester are given the Sartorialist treatment.

The Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia takes place on 29th September.

The Caves of Nottingham are explored in a detailed post at BLDGBLOG.

• In Remembrance: Bill Brent, Groundbreaking Queer Sex Publisher.

Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie

The Uranus Music Prize 2012

Fuck Yeah René Lalique

Dr Who: original theme (1963) by Ron Grainer with Delia Derbyshire | Falling (1964) by Delia Derbyshire | The Delian Mode (1968) by Delia Derbyshire | Blue Veils And Golden Sands (1968) by Delia Derbyshire.

Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #11


Continuing the delve into back numbers of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, the German periodical of art and decoration. Volume 11 covers the period from October 1902 to March 1903, and is almost solely devoted to the many design exhibits from the Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, a major exposition held in Turin in the summer of 1902. As with the Secession work in the previous edition, many of the featured pieces here are familiar from books about the art and design of the period but DK&D shows them in greater detail. Peter Behrens’ vestibule (above) is one of these, a very advanced design which looks ahead to the stylisations of Art Deco. As before, anyone wishing to see these samples in greater detail is advised to download the entire volume at the Internet Archive. There’ll be more DK&D next week.


The vestibule ceiling panel.


Another Behrens design which would have still looked modern twenty years later.

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Lalique’s dragonflies


Dragonfly woman corsage ornament (1897–1898).
Gold, enamel, chrysoprase, moonstones, and diamonds.

Seeing as dragonflies emerged as a theme this week I can’t resist mentioning my favourite of all, this bizarre confection by glass artist and jeweller René Lalique (1860–1945), a dragonfly with female torso and gryphon claws. This was owned by wealthy Armenian collector Calouste Gulbenkian (in whose museum it now resides) and was worn once by Sarah Bernhardt. You can barely tell from this picture but the delicate gold wings are hinged at several points so they wouldn’t be obtrusive for the wearer.


The Lalique company made more glassware than they did jewellery and these included a range of unique automobile mascots whose pedestrian-puncturing potential saw them banished to museum cabinets as road safety laws evolved. The dragonfly design was an especially splendid example, being placed above a multicoloured disc lit from beneath which rotated in accordance with the speed of the car. The faster the car travelled, the faster the colours changed.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lucien Gaillard
Wesley Fleming’s glass insects
The glass menagerie