Posts Tagged ‘Fine art’


The perfect book

December 11, 2008

A little while ago, from a dealer somewhere in the States, I bought The Perfect Book. It cost me, oh, not that much, around USD 200, if I remember correctly.

It’s The King of Ireland’s Son, an enchantling re-telling of Irish folk-tales by Padraic Colum, with marvellous illustrations by Willy Pogany. The first edition, Henry Holt & Company, 1916.

Why perfect? Well, not just for its content, which is fabulous enough. For its look, its feel. Gold embossed boards, rich, slightly textured, cream-coloured paper, superb typeface (don’t know which font, exactly), wonderful colour plates – and throughout, great black-and-white decorations and chapter initials.

I was first introduced to The King of Ireland’s Son when I was about seven – which reveals me, to those in the know, to be a Rudolf Steiner child. I was reminded of this by the previous post’s reflection on Alice Springs, which I was astonished to find hosts a Rudolf Steiner school among its more unlikely artefacts. I don’t know if the book is still introduced to pre-schoolers, along with eurythmy, lyre-song and knitting, but I strenuously hope that it is.

This is what the glorious book looks like:


His hound at his heel,
His hawk on his wrist;
A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
And the green ground under him

As you do.

Happily, you can read the whole thing here online.

But it’s still not nearly the same thing as reading the actual book. Nothing replaces the sensuous experience of reading, especially when it’s this perfect book you hold in your hands.

But probably not while you’re eating pizza or drinking red wine.


Women in art

June 17, 2007

Yes, I know it’s been around for a while but just in case you haven’t seen it yet.


More on that headless plinth

June 19, 2006

The Royal Academy as its own Ern Malley. It’s beyond satire.


Forget the plinth — that little wooden bangy rolly jigamarooka on its own would have got my vote. It’s one of those things you hit an Irish drum with.

The unpronounceable Bodhran

I bet the judges picked up that Punch head and said, ‘But where’s Judy?’, and chucked it.


Grist for Milligan’s mill

June 16, 2006

The late, great British comedian Spike Milligan used to scour the daily newspapers for funny stories on which to base episodes of The Goon Show.

What would he have made of this, from yesterday’s ABC News On Line?

British art gallery displays slate as art

One of Britain’s most prestigious art galleries put a block of slate on display, topped by a small piece of wood, in the mistaken belief it was a work of art.

The Royal Academy included the chunk of stone and the small bone-shaped wooden stick in its summer exhibition in London.

But the slate was actually a plinth and the stick was designed to prop up a sculpture.

The sculpture itself – of a human head – was nowhere to be seen.

“I think the things got separated in the selection process and the selectors presented the plinth as a complete sculpture,” the work’s artist David Hensel told BBC radio.

The academy explained the error by saying the plinth and the head were sent to the exhibitors separately.

“Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently,” it said in a statement.

“The head was rejected, the base was thought to have merit and accepted.

“The head has been safely stored ready to be collected by the artist.

“It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended.”

Just take a moment to think about this again:

The head was rejected, the base was thought to have merit and accepted.

On the other hand, maybe not.

Quite made my early morning.

(Via Tim Blair.)

Update: For the latest and best in art-iculate (haha!) idiocy check out this commentary on the event from a person by the name of Mark Lawson (possibly a work of art himself. Well, why not?).


Favourite artists

April 5, 2006

Oskar Kokoschka
Austrian, expressionist

Where Delvaux takes you back into dreams, Kokoschka calls you out of them. In his paintings the waking, everyday world recalls the resonances of the dreams we would rather forget. Behind every brushstroke lie torment, nightmares, horrors. Perhaps his WWI experience of being gassed contributed to his macabre vision. Perhaps it was his succession of traumatic love affairs, not least with Alma Mahler, widow of Gustav, later the wife of Franz Werfel, and the female subject in Windsbraut (Bride of the Wind, also called The Tempest), below. The tortured male is Kokoschka himself, his agony the counterpoint to her serenity.


Montana, 1947


Bride of the Wind
Windsbraut, 1913

Read the rest of this entry ?


Persian rugs, African cats

March 16, 2006

Two passionate obsessions that really do not mix.

Get off that beautiful Isfahan, Francesca. I just vacuumed it.


Favourite artists

March 10, 2006

Paul Delvaux
Belgian, surrealist

Trains du soir, 1957

Delvaux, though not as well known as many, was one the finest of the surrealists. He understood the essence of the genre better than almost any of them, better than Miro, Chagall, the bombastic Salvador Dali. He knew that surrealism was the reconstruction of dreams from the heart of re-entered darkness.

His haunting, enigmatic nudes are ethereal, other-worldly — yes, dreams — but are probably not suitable for posting here.

On the other hand, why not? The Belgians put them on postage stamps.

Sleeping Venus, 1944