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William Heath Robinson’s Rabelais


Ending the year with some Heath Robinson illustrations I’d not seen before, probably because their grotesque qualities set them apart from the rest of his whimsical drawings and fairy tale illustrations. Illustrated editions of Rabelais are rare owing to the coarse and scatological nature of the novels. Gustave Doré‘s robust and bloodthirsty character made him a good match for the material but it’s a surprise to find a generally light-hearted illustrator like Heath Robinson tackling the same stories.


Robinson’s illustrations were for a two-volume set published in 1904 (see here and here), and are suitably dark with plenty of solid blacks and heavy cross-hatching. Some of the drawings are so different to the artist’s usual work they could be taken at first glance for pieces by Sidney Sime or Mervyn Peake. More typical are the numerous vignettes that appear at the ends of chapters. The examples here are from Google scans at the Internet Archive but some of the original drawings may be seen in better quality (and purchased if you have the money) at the Chris Beetles gallery.


Bomb culture


The Atomic Mr Basie (1957) by the Count Basie Orchestra.

A few more examples and this would have been part of the ongoing Design as virus thread. A recent post at MetaFilter led to this piece about the use and misuse of photos of nuclear tests. The Count Basie album above appears there, a cover I’d not seen before. This isn’t the same cover as in the post since there were several variations of this album entitled either Basie or The Atomic Mr Basie.


Hood, 11:40.00.4 5 July 1957.

The photo on the cover was of “Hood”, one of the detonations from Operation Plumbbob, a series of tests that took place in the Nevada Desert during the summer of 1957.


Albert Weisgerber’s Grimm Fairy Tales


Following yesterday’s artwork by Andrea Dezsö, some illustrations from a German edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from around 1900. Albert Weisgerber (1878–1915) was more of a fine artist than a jobbing illustrator—Alfred Kubin was a friend—but some of his drawings appeared in Jugend magazine as well as this book. The heavy shading and blocks of colour are reminiscent of the Beggarstaffs, while the illustration choices don’t avoid the darker moments of the tales, as with the picture of Gretel pushing the witch into the oven. 50 Watts has some of Weisgerber’s other drawings. Browse the book here or download it here.




















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The saintly cephalophores may be reconciled to their martyrdoms but none of them decapitated themselves, unlike Chinnamasta, the self-decapitating Tantric goddess. The most common representations show her sitting or standing on a copulating couple while blood from her neck spouts into the mouth of her severed head and the mouths of her attendants, Dakini and Varnini. In other depictions she should probably be classed among the cephalophores when she goes for a walk or a ride on a lion. The fourth picture here is of Chinnamunda, a related, wrathful form of Vajrayogini from Tibetan Buddhism.




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Martyrdom of Saint Denis, Saint Eleutherius and Saint Rusticus by Pierre II Mignard.

Consider this an addendum to an earlier post about decapitations in art history. What I didn’t know then was that decapitated saints have their own “cephalophore” category if they’ve been recorded as going for a post-decapitation stroll; a case of “take up thy head and walk”. Saint Denis of Paris receives more attention than most on account of his being a patron saint of France. This also explains why his martyrdom is depicted in gory detail on the wall of the Pantheon in Paris.


St. Denis bearing his head and halo (1896).


Tony George-Roux’s Fleurs du Mal


More illustrated Baudelaire. This edition of Les Fleurs du Mal dates from 1917 but the illustrations by Tony George-Roux have a distinctly Symbolist quality even though Symbolism as an art movement was pretty much over by this point. Baudelaire died twenty years before the first Symbolist manifesto was published but that manifesto named him as one of the leading poets of the movement so the connection is a fitting one. There’s a touch of Félicien Rops in some of these plates.

Tony George-Roux (1894–1928) was French, and if he produced more work along these lines I’ve yet to find it. The illustrations, engraved for this edition by Charles Clement, aren’t the best reproductions so I’ve added an additional plate at the end found on another site.


Maska: Stanislaw Len and the Brothers Quay


Did I mention the Brothers Quay? This is a mesmerising piece, and another short film to add to the growing number of Quay works yet to be collected on DVD. Maska (2010) is a 23-minute digital animation based on Stanislaw Lem’s short story, The Mask (1976), which the producers have recently made available on YouTube. It was perhaps inevitable that if the Quays were going to venture into science fiction they’d use an Eastern European source. Lem’s story concerns a sophisticated technological society which is nonetheless still a monarchy. The narrator is an artificial woman who the aristocracy have created for a special mission; her human exterior conceals a robot interior, but this is no Maria from Metropolis. Midway through the story the robot breaks free of its human shell and is revealed to be a mantis-like creature.


More hypercubes


A few more extensions of the idea, not all of which have much to do with Hinton’s concepts beyond the name.



Salvador Dalí with hypercube (1952). Photo by Francesc Català-Roca.


Hypercubic Metropolis (2002) by Peter Gric.


HyperCube (2012) is an installation by artist Jaap van den Elzen and sound composer Augusto Meijer which combines the mirror room familiar from the work of Yayoi Kusama with changeable lighting and sound effects. See also Cube 2: Hypercube (2002) which concerns a group of people imprisoned in a tesseract.

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RS Sherriffs’ Tamburlaine the Great


I would have posted this by now if it hadn’t been for the recent unpleasantness. Robert Stewart Sherriffs (1906-60) was a Scottish artist who I confess I hadn’t come across before until Nick H (thanks, Nick!) drew my attention to this book on a well-known auction site. Sherriffs’ illustrated edtion of The Life and Death of Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe was published in a limited edition in 1930.

The drawings are black-and-white throughout, and of such a quality you have to wonder why Dover or someone hasn’t done a reprint. The general approach owes much to the usual suspects, notably Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke, but there’s a development of these earlier styles that you also find in the work of Ray Frederick Coyle and Beresford Egan. In addition to the full-page plates Sherriffs also provided a number of insect vignettes, the last of which is a Death’s-head Hawkmoth.


Heimkiller and High



More Giger. Among the pre-Alien films, Passagen (1972), a documentary by FM Murer about the artist’s work, is the one I’d most like to see. That’s yet to appear online, however, so in the meantime here’s two shorts from 1967 which are the earliest entries in Giger’s filmography. Heimkiller is a brief study of Giger’s Blood-Glass sculpture which shows the piece in action and does little else. High is the first of several collaborations with director FM Murer, a black-and-white journey through the late Surrealism of Giger’s early works, some of which show a slight Dalí influence. I’ve always liked the drawings in his Shafts series, some of which can be seen here: views of plunging walls threaded with staircases that were derived from nightmares about a cellar stairway in his parents’ house.