THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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85 posts categorized "Visual arts"

19 May 2017

Dmitrii Moor interrogates: Have *You* Bought Your Ticket?

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One of the main founders of Soviet political poster design, Dmitrii Orlov was born in 1883 in Novochekassk to the family of an engineer. In 1898 the family moved to Moscow. Although the young artist did not receive a systematic training, he started publishing caricatures in the satirical magazines that thrived during a short period after the first revolution in Russia in 1905. Early in his career, Orlov adopted the pseudonym D. Moor, alluding to Karl Moor, one of the protagonists in Friedrich Schiller’s romantic play The Robbers

Having started as a caricaturist in satirical magazines, Moor was very much influenced by the German satirical publication Simplicissimus (British Library LOU.F459) and the Norwegian artist and designer Olaf Gulbransson, known for his clear lines and emphasis on linking verbal and non-verbal messages. Moor’s artistic style also incorporated imagery from silent films with their exaggerated emotions, which can be seen on this film poster:

Image 1-Моор_кино_Убийца_афиша
Moor’s poster for the lost black-and-white film Ubiitsa (The Murderer)

It is interesting that he returned to a similar style in the 1930s: the worker on this poster bears a striking resemblance to the criminal from the film poster:

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‘Workers of the World Unite!’ Poster by Moor from the 193os. British Library 1899.c.12(22).

Today Moor is probably best known for his famous Red Army Recruitment poster of 1920, which appears on the poster for our current exhibition, Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, MythsMoor is  also considered one of the main founders of that unique area of Soviet art – political poster design. His other striking  posters, well known to Soviet audiences, include ‘Wrangel is still alive! Finish him off without mercy!’ and ‘Be on Your Guard!’

Image 3-29-Far East-Krasnaia Armiia-Cup.1247.dd.20.
‘Wrangel is still alive! Finish him off without mercy!’ (left), as reproduced in the album Krasnaia Armiia (Moscow, 1938) designed by Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova. Cup.1247.dd.20.

Maps CC.6.a.38
‘Be on Your Guard!’ (1920) Maps CC.6.a.38

Here the right shoulder and raised leg of the Red Army soldier actually become the western state border, and thus the soldier personifies the state. His body is the body of Soviet Russia (his back rests against and fuses into the Urals, depicted as the bony ‘spine’ of the country – in Russian the same word means both ‘spine’ and ‘mountain range’). The vitality and resilience of the state is equated with the strength and will of its citizenry-in-arms.

Moor’s Alphabet for a Red Army Soldier, published in 1921, is a small book of cartoons intended to teach soldiers literacy as such and ‘political literacy’ at the same time: each letter is illustrated by a picture emphasising the special mission and the triumphs of the Soviet forces. The letter ‘G’ is the initial letter of the Russian word goret’ (‘to burn’), and the inscription to this picture reads: ‘The Earth burns with a fire lit by the worker’s hand.’ Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders hoped to instil in the Red Army a sense of historic mission, and an understanding that it was not simply a conventional national army but the custodian of world revolution.

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Dmitrii Moor, Azbuka krasnoarmeitsa (‘Alphabet for a Red Army Soldier’), 1921 (shelfmark Cup.401.g.25)

In the image for the letter ‘IA’ (Я), which also means the pronoun ‘I’ in Russian, the artist emphasised the idea of the new world and the new man who from now on will dominate in space and time for the next century: “The new Man has come! Long live the century of the Commune!”:

Image 6 smaller cup_401_g_25_014v

And there are examples of Moor’s caricature style, where enemies of the Soviet state look miserable and laughable. However, in most of the cases Moor uses the narrative and graphical themes that were very common and reproduced in many variations, such as Lenin sweeping the counter-revolutionary elements out of the country or a collection of ‘typical’ enemies opposing the new way of life.

Image 7-P1050733Images 8 P1050745

In the 1920s Moor worked for the anti-religious satirical newspaper The Godless and its reincarnation as the satirical magazine The Godless at the Workbench. The secularization of society and promotion of atheism was a crucial element of the ‘cultural revolution’ desired by the Bolsheviks, as Orthodox Christianity had been a pillar of support for the Tsarist state. Under Stalin anti-religious propaganda soon became quite aggressive. In 1925 the League of Militant Atheists, a volunteer organisation that promoted anti-religious views, was formed. In this image the peasant is sneezing out his religious beliefs under the supervision of the worker.

Godless P.P.8000.rs
Bezbozhnik u stanka (‘The Godless at the Workbench’; Moscow, 1923) P.P.8000.rs
.

Many art critics compared the aesthetics of Moor’s posters with the aesthetics and compositions of Sergei Eisenstein’s films and this is this is very true, as Moor was always thinking about perception of his works. For example, he wrote that a poster artist should not only be a complete craftsman in graphics, but also analyse the situation in which his art would be seen. He suggested that a poster artist should know the speed with which passers-by walk, the width of the streets in his town, the position of lights in the evening and many other things. It is not surprising then that his piece of agitation art invites you – or commands you – to come to our exhibition.

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections

The British Library’s exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths is open until 29 August 2017, telling the extraordinary story of the Russian Revolution from the reign of Russia’s last Tsar to the rise of the first communist state. You can also read articles from our experts exploring some of the themes of our exhibition on our Russian Revolution website

 

25 April 2017

French Medieval Tales in the 19th Century

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A two-volume copy of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, a collection of tales delivered by different historical characters, has recently been acquired for the British Library French collections. 

Robida Fig 1
Cover of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles illustrated by Albert Robida, (Paris, 1888) RB.23.a.37261

This collection of 100 entertaining and often licentious short stories was written at the court of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, who was presented with a now-lost manuscript copy of the text in the 1460s. The main surviving manuscript copy of the work is in Glasgow University Library, (Hunter, 252 (U. 4. 10)), also produced in the 1460s at the court of Burgundy. The collection is anonymous, though it was (wrongly) attributed to Antoine de la Salle, author of the late medieval chivalric novel Jean de Saintré, by Antoine Vérard, who published the first (illustrated) edition of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles in 1486. The text was reprinted by Vérard in 1498-99, and led to new editions throughout the 16th century.

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Antoine Vérard’s 1499 Paris edition of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, IB.41194

In the first half of the 20th century, the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles have been attributed by their editor Pierre Champion to ‘Mgr de la Roche’, Philippe Pot, Chamberlain to the Duke of Burgundy, who is responsible for the highest number of short stories in the compilation (15 in total). The text, which bears the influence of the medieval genre of the fabliau, is modelled on Boccaccio’s highly influential Decameron, which was disseminated in French through its translation by Laurent de Premierfait in the 1410s, published by Vérard in 1485, and reprinted c. 1499-1503.

The newly acquired copy of Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles is a merger of two items: 50 leaves of colour illustrations by Léon Lebègue, dating from 1900, have been inserted into the 1888 first edition of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles originally illustrated with over 300 black and white engravings by Albert Robida.

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Illustrations in Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, by. A. Robida (left) and L. Lebègue (right)

Robida was a well-known caricaturist. He wrote and illustrated a science fiction trilogy imagining life in the 20th century, featuring modern warfare and scientific inventions (Le Vingtième Siècle, La Guerre au vingtième siècle, Le Vingtième Siècle: La vie électrique, 1883-1890).

Robida Fig 4
Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles
, ill. A. Robida, 1888

Robida had a particular interest in the Middle Ages and contributed to several works relating to the period. He engaged in illustrated youth fiction, authoring Le roi des jongleurs (1896) and Les Assiégés de Compiègne, 1430 set around the story of Joan of Arc, and illustrating Georges Trémisot’s Le bon roi Dagobert  (1918).  He also illustrated the collection Contes et Fabliaux du Moyen Age (1908), as well as the works of the 15th century poet François Villon (1897;  12237.k.5.). In Les escholiers du temps jadis (1907), Robida tells the story of students in Parisian and provincial universities from the Middle Ages to his own time.

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Cover of A. Robida, Les Assiégés de Compiègne, 1430 (Paris, 1906) 12518.p.1.

Robida illustrated the very successful play by Frédéric Gaillardet and Alexandre Dumas, La Tour de Nesle, first performed in 1832, which tells the scandalous story of the daughters-in-law of Philip IV of France (the plot reappears in Maurice Druon’s 1955 bestseller Les Rois Maudits, 011306.gg.15.). The British Library holds a copy of the play, printed for the Société des Amis des Livres, donated and signed by its president, Henri Beraldi.

Robida Fig 6
F. Gaillardet / A. Dumas, La Tour de Nesle (Paris, 1901) 11739.g.106.

Robida also produced several series of books encompassing the history and architecture of old European cities (Les Vieilles Villes 1878-1880, 10129.ee.1.) and regions of France (La Vieille France) as well as of Paris, about which he was particularly prolific. He was the instigator of the monumental and hugely successful ‘Vieux Paris’ reconstituted historical quarter at the International Exhibition of 1900.

Robida fig 7
Cover of A. Robida, La Vieille France: La Bretagne (Paris, 1890-1893) 2362.dd.1.

Our copy of the Lebègue plates for the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, issued by Charles Carrington, is number 104 of an edition of 120 copies. A folded advertisement for this edition is bound at the end of the second volume, along with its preface by Jules de Marthold.

Robida Fig 8
Advertisement for Lebègue’s 50 illustrations of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles

The pages of the Lebègue volume fit within four red lines which delimitate a central space, a feature which is strongly reminiscent of the rulings on the folios of medieval manuscripts.

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Cover of Lebègue’s illustrations of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles

This concerted medievalism, which agrees with the content and setting of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles is immediately apparent on the book cover, with a Gothicising script printed in red ink, framed by two tournament spears and a scroll at the bottom. At the centre of the page are depicted a lady with a distinctive headdress and a knight in armour jointly reading a book in between two rose windows. On top of the illustration, the title is printed in a vegetal frame and ornamented by two lilies, and under the image feature the names of the artist, the writer of the preface and the printer, as well as the date of publication. Despite the anonymity of the author of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, the front cover designed by Lebègue contains a wealth of information, which contrasts with the paucity of bibliographic information provided in medieval manuscripts.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator Romance Collections.

References:

Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, ed. Pierre Champion (Paris, 1928) W.P.8406/5.

Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, ed. Franklin P. Sweetser (Geneva, 1966) W.P.2063/127.

Philippe Brun, Albert Robida, 1848-1926: sa vie, son œuvre: suivi d'une bibliographie complète de ses écrits et dessins (Paris, 1984) YV.1986.a.430.

Daniel Compère (dir.), Albert Robida du passé au futur : un auteur-illustrateur sous la IIIe République (Amiens, 2006) Awaiting shelfmark.

Albert Robida et son blog… http://albert-robida.blogspot.co.uk

16 April 2017

Happy Easter from Imperial Russia

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Among various collections of visual material at the British Library we have a collection of postcards (HS.74/2027) published by the pioneer of postcard production in Russia, the Society of Saint Eugenia. The Society started as a charity organisation to support  nurses who had served in the Russian army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, but after the war had no means of livelihood. Supported by artists and elites the society was patronised by Princess Eugenia of Leuchtenberg (1845-1925), a cousin of Tsar Alexander III, father of Nicholas II.

The Society supported hospitals, subsidised nursing homes and organised learning courses for young nurses to prepare them for work at the front in the war-time. To fund its activities, the Society started a publishing business, producing popular and commercially viable picture postcards with landscapes, photographs, art works reproduced on cards and made especially for the postcard format. Artists close to the World of Art group as well as other famous and popular painters and illustrators, such as Dmitrii Mitrokhin, Nikolai Samokish, Stepan Iaremich and many others took active part in the work of the society and contributed their art works to the print production of the Society.

The first printing endeavour of the Society was a decorative envelope for Easter 1896. Under a different name the Society continued its work after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and in 30 years of its existence produced around 6,500 postcards, with an average print-run of 10,000 each.

Vol 8  sleeve 10

Vol 14  sleeve 22

The use of postcards for holiday greetings definitely commercialised even religious holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. But we think that you might like to get our sincere Easter greetings with these old Russian postcards.

Happy Easter!

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections

The British Library’s exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths opens on 28 April 2017, telling the extraordinary story of the Russian Revolution from the fall of Russia’s last Tsar to the rise of the first communist state.

23 March 2017

From Cubism to concentration camp: the life and death of Josef Čapek

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Many English speakers who claim that they do not know a word of Czech would be surprised to hear that at least one has found a firm place in their vocabulary: robot. Those who are aware of its origins might confidently state that it owed them to Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), first performed in 1920. However, he declared that he had merely given it currency, and the term had actually been coined by his elder brother Josef Čapek (1887-1945).

CapekSelf-portrait Self-portrait from Co má člověk z umění a jiné úvahy (Prague, 1946) 07812.m.41.

The two brothers had been born in the Bohemian town of Hronov as the sons of a doctor, and enjoyed a happy childhood there with their older sister Helena, who later remembered them affectionately in her memoir Moji milí bratři (‘My dear brothers’: Prague, 1962; 11880.r.19). All three siblings showed talent as writers from an early age, but Josef also displayed a gift for painting and drawing, and it was as an artist that he found his true vocation, studying at the Uměleckoprůmyslová škola in Prague and the Académie Colarossi in Paris. In later life he often illustrated the writings of Karel and Helena, but the paintings which initially made his name were in a very different style with a strong Cubist element, even in portrayals of Czech peasant life which recall the angular and bizarrely-coloured figures who people Chagall’s Vitebsk.

CapekHnedakrajinaJosef Čapek, Hnědá krajina (1936) from Josef Čapek, ed. Emil Filla and Bedřich Fučik  (Prague, 1937) X.0423/14.(63.)

Josef possessed considerable creative versatility, however, and developed not only a variety of idioms appropriate to the authors whose works he illustrated but a literary career of his own. He collaborated with Karel on the play Ze života hmyzu (‘The Insect Play’: Prague, 1921; Cup.408.z.53). Its satirical parallels between human society and that of various species of insects, from the bourgeois Crickets to the totalitarian world of the Ants, were universally applicable, and two years later it was translated by Paul Selver and ‘adapted for the English stage’ as The Life of the Insects (London, 1923; 11758.a.40.) Under his own name he published the utopian play Země mnoha jmen (‘The Land of Many Names’), which was also translated into English in 1923. However, one of his best-loved works was a charming collection of tales about a dog and cat who set up house together, Povídaní o pejskovi a kočičce (‘The Tale of Pup and Puss’), which is still a firm favourite with Czech children.

CAPEKPOVIDANINEWTitle-page from Povídaní o pejskovi a kočičce (Prague, 1929) X.992/1488)

He also had the capacity to provide humorous illustrations which matched the style of the comic authors such as Eduard Bass as well as Karel’s fairy tales and stories for young readers; though both brothers married, Josef had only one daughter, Alena, and Karel no children, but they were both adept at creating books for them whose wit and fantasy were in no way inferior to their works for adults.

However, as the 1930s progressed, political events provided sharper and bleaker matter for Josef to portray. He had had many years of experience as a journalist, initially as a critic and the editor of various art periodicals, including Umělecký měsíčník (Prague, 1911-14; ZA.9.b.1513), the journal of the Skupina výtvarných umělců (Group of Representational Artists), which he had co-founded in 1911. From 1918 to 1921 he acted as editor of Národní listy (MFM.MF641) which he left to spend 18 years as the editor and art critic of Lidové noviny (MFM.MF623). The caricatures which he provided for the newspaper became increasingly pointed and bitter in the period leading up to the annexation of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis in 1938, and on 1 September 1939 he was seized and imprisoned by the Gestapo. Eight days later he was transferred to Dachau, and thence to Buchenwald, where he spent two and a half years. His artistic gifts led him to be assigned to a calligraphic workshop where, along with other artists including Emil Filla, he was given the task of painting the family trees of SS officers.

CapekDiktatorskieBotyA drawing from the cycle Diktátorské boty (‘The Boots of the Dictator’: 1937), reproduced in Josef Čapek, ed. Emil Filla and Bedřich Fučik  (Prague, 1937) X.0423/14.(63).

His creative spirit remained undaunted even after his removal to Sachsenhausen on 26 June 1942, where he not only translated English, Spanish and Norwegian poetry but wrote and illustrated a long poem dedicated to his brother Karel and circulated further poems in manuscript. However, on 25 February 1945 he was moved yet again – this time to Bergen-Belsen, where typhus had broken out. In his weakened state after five years of incarceration Josef soon fell victim to the disease, and although some witnesses claimed that he was still alive in April, he died shortly before the camp was liberated, and as his body was never recovered he was officially declared in 1948 to have died on 30 April 1947. Karel had died at Christmas 1938, having contracted pneumonia after working in his beloved garden, and with his spirit crushed by the fate of his country; he is buried in Prague’s Vyšehrad cemetery, where a monument also commemorates the brother whose last resting-place remains unknown.

Perhaps less well known in the English-speaking world than his brother, Josef Čapek deserves to be remembered on the 130th anniversary of his birth for the original and many-sided vitality of an artistic spirit which remained unquenched even in the grim circumstances of his final months.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Services

02 February 2017

The art of wrecking a friendship 2: Henrik Pontoppidan, L. A. Ring and Nattevagt

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Over a century ago there lived a famous author who, inspired by his strong social conscience, embarked on a series of novels in which he depicted in vivid and unsparing detail the conditions of his times. Among his friends he numbered a painter who shared his revolutionary ideals and his concern for social justice. However, he was unwise enough to use this friend as a model for an unflattering character in a novel about the artistic life, and the latter, deeply hurt and offended by this betrayal, ended their friendship with no further explanation.

At this point our readers may be suspecting that inspiration is running short and they are about to read a recycled version of an earlier post. However, a very similar drama was played out just a few years after Cézanne’s rupture with Zola in 1886. This time the year was 1894 and the place was Denmark.

The novel in question was Nattevagt (‘The Night Watch’, 1894; 012581.aaa.73), the work of Henrik Pontoppidan (1857-1943), of whom we shall hear more this year, as in 1917 he was to share the Nobel Prize in Literature with Karl Gjellerup. However, in the earlier part of his career he concentrated on pithy short stories set in the Danish countryside; they recall Maupassant’s mordant sketches of the avaricious and crafty Norman peasantry in their refusal to idealize rural life. These culminated in a collection named Skyer (‘Clouds’, 1890; 012581.e.23), a searing attack on the oppression of Denmark by the Conservatives and the apathy with which many Danes greeted it. The following year he began a series of three novels portraying Denmark in the era of the constitutional struggle between Conservatives and Liberals, the growth of industrialization, cultural conflict and the rise of revolutionary movements: Det forjættede Land (‘The Promised Land’, 1891–95; 12582.b.40), Lykke-Per (‘Lucky Per’,1898–1904; 012581.dd.8.), and De dødes Rige (‘The Realm of the Dead’, 1912–16; 012582.cc.35.). In writing these he made a deliberate break with his privileged family background and its clerical tradition; he himself had taught in an elementary school before turning to journalism and literature.

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 Portrait of Henrik Pontoppidan from Vilhelm Andersen, Henrik Pontoppidan: et nydansk forfatterskab (Copenhagen, 1937) 011853.s.46

His friend, the artist L. A. Ring (1854-1933), had also grown up in the country, though in less prosperous circumstances. While Pontoppidan’s father had been a pastor, Ring’s was a wheelwright and carpenter. Originally known as Laurits Andersen, he renamed himself after his native village of Ring in Zealand in 1881. While living and working in Copenhagen Ring’s opposition to the repressive conservatism of the 1880s led him to join a student rifle corps and also to paint not only landscapes but scenes of rural poverty, industrialization and backbreaking labour, as in his studies of a railway guard (1884) and workers in the Ladby tile factory (1892).

Ring Tile factory

 I Teglværket. Ladby Teglværk (1892) from Cai Mogens Woel, L. A. Ring. Et Levnedsrids (Copenhagen, 1937) 7813.ee.6/2.

In Pontoppidan’s novel we meet two members of the Scandinavian artists’ colony in Rome, ‘Red’ Jørgen Hallager, so called because of his politics as well as the colour of his hair and beard, and his friend Thorkild Drehling. At first the latter slavishly imitates Hallager’s paintings of industrial subjects, as when Hallager’s portrayal of a worn-out labourer buried under a fall of marl and crying in vain for help (‘A Martyr’) inspires Drehling the following year to create a pastel drawing, ‘The Last Comforter’: ‘There was no difference except that in this one there was a poor woman who, in the middle of a bleak, comfortless landscape, had sunk down under the weight of a heavy burden of kindling, while out on the horizon, [instead of Jørgen’s] elegant carriage with a liveried coachman and footmen, there could be seen a misty, indistinct figure representing Death…’ No-one familiar with Ring’s work could fail to catch the allusion to his painting Evening: The old woman and death (1887).

Ring Evening

 Aften. Den gamle kone og døden, 1887, from Peter Hertz: Maleren L. A. Ring (Copenhagen, 1934; 7862.v.21.)

Later in the story there is a confrontation between Drehling and Hallager, who accuses him of pandering to popular taste and creating ‘chocolate-box’ art in his new works whose ‘riot of colour must surprise anyone who was accustomed to see Drehling as a faithful imitator of Hallager’s powerful but strictly restrained way of painting’, with an even more startling choice of subjects: ‘fantasies, dream pictures, strange and mysterious sights’ culminating in a large painting of the legend of the merman gazing wistfully from the sea to the church where his earthly bride Agnete sits.

However, it was not the depiction of Drehling as a failed revolutionary and exponent of the ‘lyricism’ despised by Hallager which wounded Ring. In the novel Drehling falls in love with Ursula Branth, the only child of a wealthy state counsellor and connoisseur, but before he can summon the courage to declare himself, Hallager claims her in marriage despite her father’s misgivings. Hallager’s fanatical political views lead to a scene at the Scandinavian artists’ gathering and a growing distance between the couple which culminates in Ursula’s sudden death from a cerebral aneurysm. For many years Ring had been in love with Johanne Wilde, the wife of his friend Alexander Wilde, an amateur painter. As he approached forty, realizing that the relationship could never develop further, he broke with the Wildes and travelled to Italy on a study grant in 1893.

When Nattvagt appeared the following year, Ring was alarmed by the possibility that it could be read as an allusion to his hopeless love for Johanne. This would not only have created a scandal but jeopardized his growing attachment to Sigrid Kähler, a painter half his age, whom he married in 1896. Despite the age gap, the marriage was a happy one, producing three children and enduring until Sigrid’s death in 1923. Sadly, however, the relationship between Pontoppidan and Ring was irreparably damaged; Pontoppidan gained the Nobel Prize, but forfeited forever the regard of his former friend.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Services

19 January 2017

The art of ruining a friendship: Zola, Cézanne and L’Œuvre

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Once again Christmas is over, and many of us will have been fortunate enough to receive a book among our presents. Some may be a delight, others a disappointment, as in the case of the gift which Stephen Leacock’s young Hoodoo McFiggin found in his Christmas stocking:

‘It’s a book,’ he said, as he unwrapped it. ‘I wonder if it is fairy stories or adventures. Oh, I hope it’s adventures! I’ll read it all morning.' No, Hoodoo, it was not precisely adventures. It was a small family Bible. […] After that he took his book and read some adventures called ‘Genesis’ till breakfast-time. (Literary Lapses: Montreal, 1910; British Library 012331.e.44)

Unlike Hoodoo, most of us have the option of returning and exchanging a book which might not have been quite what we had hoped for. Although this may require tact, it is rare for an unwelcome gift to produce such drastic consequences as the one which Paul Cézanne received from his friend Émile Zola in 1886.

As part of his Rougon-Macquart cycle, a series of twenty novels chronicling the ‘natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire’, Zola had begun work earlier that year on a story entitled L’Œuvre (translated into English as His Masterpiece: London, 1902; 1094.k.8). Although he was initially inspired by Balzac’s cycle La Comédie humaine, Zola planned not merely to depict contemporary society but the workings of environment and heredity among the many members of a single family.

Zola Oeuvre 12517.e.33
Émile Zola, L’Œuvre (Paris, 1886) 12517.e.33.

In earlier books Zola had portrayed life in Paris and the provinces and the fortunes of market traders, miners, prostitutes, absinthe addicts and the staff of a department store. Here, though, he turned his attention to the world of art, with which he was well acquainted through his friendship with Cézanne. The two had known each other since their boyhood in Aix-en-Provence, the model for Zola’s Plassans, home to Adélaïde Fouque, founder of the three branches of the Rougon-Macquart dynasty and great-grandmother of Claude Lantier, the protagonist of L’Œuvre.

Zola Cézanne letter
An illustrated letter from Cézanne to Zola written in 1866. Reproduced in John Rewald, Cézanne: sa vie - son œuvre - son amitié pour Zola (Paris, 1939) 010655.i.24.

Unlike other members of the Macquart family who become labourers, soldiers or farmers, Claude Lantier shows artistic talent and settles in Paris to pursue his career as a painter. He has less in common with his murderous engine-driver brother Jacques (La Bête humaine) and half-sister, the notorious prostitute Nana, than with his second brother, the activist miner Étienne (Germinal); however, Claude’s revolutionary spirit manifests itself not in the struggle against corrupt industrialists but against another kind of conservatism – the stifling influence of academicism on art.

Zola suggested titles 1
A list of titles which Zola considered for L’Œuvre. Reproduced in Émile Zola and the Arts, ed. Jean-Max Guieu and Alison Hilton (Washington D.C, 1988)

We are given a glimpse of Claude’s revolt against convention when, in the novel’s opening pages, he takes in a young woman, Christine Hallegrain, stranded late at night in Paris on her way to a post in Passy:

What especially frightened her were some sketches in oils that hung frameless from the walls, a serried array of sketches reaching to the floor […] She had never seen such terrible painting, so coarse, so glaring, showing a violence of colour that jarred upon her nerves like a carter’s oath heard on the doorstep of an inn.

Clearly this is something very different from the staid historical, mythological and Biblical subjects favoured by the establishment, and it is not surprising that Claude’s work fails to find acceptance into the annual Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. When a group of rejected artists sets up a Salon des Refusés to display their paintings, his Plein Air creates a sensation, recalling Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe in its juxtaposition of clothed male and nude female figures, the latter modelled on Christine, who becomes his mistress, the mother of his son Jacques, and finally his wife. They move to the country in an attempt to draw inspiration from the rural surroundings, but this proves a failure, and at Christine’s instigation he returns to Paris. After repeated rejections he embarks on a gigantic painting of the Île de la Cité which becomes an obsession as he constantly revises and repaints it even as his neglected young son lies dying. It is not this painting but a study of the dead boy, ‘a masterpiece of limpidity and power to which was added a note of boundless melancholy’, which is accepted for the Salon, though arousing such controversy that Claude is driven back to his ‘masterpiece’, the huge landscape which is never completed and ultimately costs him his marriage, his friendships and his life as he hangs himself in his studio.

Zola Ouevre KTC.35.b.5.
Cartoon of Zola, representing L’Œuvre, from: H. Lebourgeois, L'Œuvre de Zola : 16 simili aquarelles (Paris, 1898) KTC.35.b.5.

The one friend who attends his funeral is Pierre Sandoz, a novelist who, like Zola, is engaged on a cycle of Naturalist novels charting the fortunes of an extended family. Zola himself had written many articles on painting as a young journalist and had promoted the work of Manet in particular, and when Cézanne received his copy of L’Œuvre it was not difficult for him to interpret Sandoz as a self-portrait of the author and Lantier as a study of Cézanne himself. Another Claude, Monet, felt impelled to write an open letter shortly after the novel’s publication declaring that he did not recognize himself or any of his fellow Impressionists in it. However, the damage was done; with impeccable politeness Cézanne penned a thank-you letter to Zola, parcelled up the book, returned it to the author, and broke off all contact with him.

As she sits for the nude in the ill-fated ‘masterpiece’, Christine reflects bitterly on Claude’s first painting of her which had been the source of all her misfortunes: ‘It had come to life again, it rose from the dead, endowed with greater vitality than herself, to finish killing her…’ It may not be fanciful to see here a foreshadowing of another ominous portrait in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which appeared four years later (London, 1890; Eccles 395). Sadly, in human terms L’Œuvre possessed a far greater destructive power than Zola had ever imagined.

Susan Halstead,Content Specialist (Humanities & Social Sciences) Research Services

13 January 2017

Science, Art and Insects: Maria Sibylla Merian

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Maria Sibylla Merian, who died 300 years ago today is justly remembered both as a pioneering naturalist and an entomological and botanical artist, and as a woman who made her mark in both art and science at a time when these fields were dominated by men.

Maria was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1647 into an artistic family. Her father was the engraver and publisher Matthäus Merian, but his death when Maria was just three years old meant that her own talent was mainly fostered by her stepfather Jacob Marrel. As well as being encouraged to draw and paint, the young Maria developed a fascination with insects and began collecting, studying and drawing them.

In 1675 Maria published a book of botanical illustrations, the Neues Blumenbuch. Four years later, the first part of a new work appeared. Der Raupen wunderbarer Verwandlung und sonderbare Blumennahrung (‘The Wonderful Transformation and Strange Floral Food of Caterpillars’ – a second part followed in 1683) drew on Maria’s interest in and close observation of caterpillars and butterflies, illustrating and describing the stages of the different species’ lives and also the specific plants that they fed on.

Maria Sibylla Raupen tp
Title-page of Der Raupen wunderbarer Verwandlung... (Nuremberg, 1679) Britsh Library 445.c.15. 

It was not until 1705 that Maria published another book, but for lovers of both science and art it was worth the wait. In 1699 she had travelled  from her home in Amsterdam to Suriname with her daughter Dorothea to record the insect life of the country, then a Dutch colony. The resulting work Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium appeared in 1705 and combines careful observation and detailed recording of the insects’ habitats, lives and behaviour with aesthetic skill in depicting the different stages of the life-cycles and their favoured plants. The British Library holds a splendidly hand-coloured copy of the 1726 edition (649.c.20) from which the pictures below are taken.

In Suriname, as in Frankfurt, Maria’s primary interest was in butterflies:

Maria Sibylla 2
Plate 2 from Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium

Maria Sibylla 15Plate 15 (The rather plump larva about to feast on a watermelon here might remind the modern reader somewhat of Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar)

 Details of individual butterflies show Maria’s talents:

Maria Sibylla 20 detail  Maria Sibylla 44 detail

Maria Sibylla 34 detail
Details (clockwise from top left) from plates 20, 44 and 34

But as well as butterflies, Maria also depicted and described other insects as in these images.

Maria Sibylla 24
Plate 24

Maria Sibylla 50
Plate 50. The painter here has used gold to capture the iridescence of the fly in the bottom right-hand corner

She also portrayed spiders (for the sake of sensitive arachnophobes I merely add a link), snakes and lizards:

Maria Sibylla 14
Plate 14

Maria Sibylla 69
Plate 69, the famous image of a caiman attacking a snake which is trying to steal its eggs as the young hatch

In one image she even shows a mammal, a tree-rat carrying its young on its back, although her hand seems a little less sure here than with the insects: 

  Maria Sybilla 66
Plate 66

Like many fine-printed books of its day, our 1626 edition of Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium has a fine engraved frontispiece which has also been hand coloured. It shows a woman instructing an eager group of botanising putti, with a Surinamese landscape in the background.

Maria Sibylla frontis

The artist of the frontispiece clearly knew the work he was illustrating. The open book in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture shows one of Maria’s plates, in a nice tribute to the original creator of the work. 

Maria Sibylla frontis detail

Detail from the frontispiece (above) and plate 29 (below)

Maria Sibylla 29

I hope the gallery above will likewise act as a tribute to a woman who is justly celebrated  today for her achievements as both artist and natural historian.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

 

25 December 2016

The Universe in ‘the Galosh of Happiness’: Halia Mazurenko

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Anyone who wants to see the construction of the artistic phenomenon in the space of the artist and poet Halia Mazurenko’s syncretic meaning and metaphor has to understand the aesthetic nature of her artistic heritage. Her childhood and youth were full of sharp collisions and spiritual dramas, which in her later years gave corresponding emotional material for deep philosophical reflections.

Halia Mazurenko was born on 25 December 1901 in St Petersburg into the family of a Russian landowner, Sergei Bogoliubov, and Elyzaveta Mazurenko, the descendant of a Ukrainian Cossack family. Her godmother was the Russian poet Zinaida Gippius. But soon the circumstances Halia’s life changed: her parents divorced, and the mother and daughter returned to their family in Ekaterinoslav/Katerynoslav (now Dnipro).

GalyaMazurenko

 Cover of Vybrane (Selected works) by Halia Mazurenko (Kyiv, 2002). YF.2005.a.20221

Young Halia spoke French fluently and started to write poems at an early age. Her first poem was dedicated to Ukraine. At the same time she also studied drawing and sculpture in the private studio of the well-known Ukrainian impressionist Viacheslav Koreniev. At the age of 14, she started to work in the Ekaterinoslav Historical Museum, which held a valuable collection of Ukrainian Cossack artefacts. Its director, Dmytro Iavornytskyi, commissioned her to sculpt the heads of Ukrainian Hetmans for the facade of the museum building. But Halia went to join her uncle at the front during the First World War, and later joined the Ukrainian liberation struggle in the army of Symon Petliura.

After the end of the War, Halia continued her studies in Warsaw and Berlin, where in 1921 she presented her sculpture at the Exhibition of Ukrainian Art Students, together with Mykola Hlushchenko, Ivan Babii, Mykola Butovych and Fedir Iemets. After this she moved to Prague, where in 1926 she published the first collection of her poems Akvareli (‘Watercolours’). At the same time she became a student at the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts, where her supervisors were the painter Ivan Kulets', the sculptor Kostiantyn Stakhovskyi, and the graphic artist Robert Lisovskyi. She also prepared her dissertation on the psychology of colour in the work of Vincent van Gogh, as well as collaborating on the literary journals Literaturno-Naukovyi Visnyk (L'viv, 1892-1932; Ac.762/4) and Proboiem (Prague, 1935-1937; ZL.9.a.159).

Being in difficult financial circumstances she married, but soon after the birth of her daughter she was divorced. Halia’s mother persuaded her to continue her studies in Prague, and took the grand-daughter Maryna with her to Ukraine. Halia would never see her child again: in 1937 she received a message about the arrest and execution of her mother. Only at the end of her life in London did she find that Maryna had been rescued by her mother’s neighbour and grew up in a strange family under the name of Goncharova. This was not the end of difficult circumstances in Halia’s life; in the 1930s she married the literary critic Baikov, and had a son and a daughter. With two small children she survived the bombardment of Prague, and after the Second World War she moved to London with her family, where she worked actively in the fields of literature and art. From 1961 to 1973 there were nine personal exhibitions of her work in the USA, Iceland, Wales, Pakistan, and London.

MazurenkoMemoirsNeToiKozak

Cover of autobiographical novel by Halia Mazurenko Ne toi kozak, khto poborov, a toi kozak, khto ‘vyvernetsia’(‘A true Cossack not so much defeats the enemy as knows how to escape from his clutches’) London, 1974; X.908/28914.

The majority of her works were watercolours, mixed graphic techniques, and enamels. The subjects of her works were symbolic landscapes, floral and animal motifs, sketches for psychological portraits, and mystical scenes. In London she published at her own expense collections of her poetry, often illustrated with her own drawings. The most famous of them are Kliuchi (‘The keys’, London, 1969; X.908/19768), Zelena iashchirka (‘The Green Lizard’, London, 1971; X.900/5253), Skyt poetiv (‘Poets’ retreat’, London, 1971; X.908/24280), Try misiatsi v literi zhyttia (‘Three months in the alphabet of life’, London, 1973’ X.108/12821) and Pivnich na vulytsi (‘Midnight on the street’, London, 1980; X.950/2914; cover below).

MazurenkoPivnicnavulytsiCover

For decades, working in her modest accommodation in London’s Belsize Square, she built her unique imaginary world, and as she wrote in one of her poems, ‘The Galosh of Happiness’ creating her own milieu. As well as making thousands of drawings, paintings and enamels, hundreds of poems (some in English), and her albums of memoirs, she also taught pupils at her private art studio ‘Tuesday Group’.

MazurenkoSilentMelodiesTitle-page
Title-page of Silent melodies (London, 1982). X.955/1928

She died on May 27, 2000, leaving a massive heritage, which we can describe in her own words ‘In philosophy I am interested firstly in the moral strength of humans… The moral height of a strong personality which did not bend under circumstances was always the inspiration for my work’.

MazurenkoЗ новим роком

  Handwritten message Z Novym Rokom! (Happy New New!) by Halia Mazurenko (From the private archive of Roman Yatsiv, reproduced with his kind permission).


Dr Roman Yatsiv, Pro-Rector, Lviv National Art Academy

Further reading:

25 poetiv ukrains’koi diaspory (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.a.23877

Ihor Kachurovskyi,  Promenysti syl’vety (Kyiv, 2008). YF.2011.a.17413

Halia Mazurenko. (Lviv, 1991). YA.2000.a.13341

03 October 2016

Pavlo Kovzhun or ‘adopt his enthusiasm...’

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When Filippo Tommaso Marinetti explained his view of the beauty of the contemporary world, in his first Manifesto of Futurism (1909), Pavlo Kovzhun was only thirteen. A few years later he already considered himself to be a Futurist, but at the same time did not care for the radical Italian’s desire to “exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap”.

In a short time this fact became the main point of difference in the experience of Ukrainian and Italian Modernism. However this was never a point of contention between Western European and Ukrainian artists – later Kovzhun, already an experienced artist, promoted Italian artistic classics of the 1900-1910s with admiration, showing his understanding of the audacity of this avant-garde movement.

In the history of Ukrainian modern art it is difficult to find a figure with equal enthusiasm and devotion to his art as Pavlo Kovzhun. The inheritance which he took from his idol Heorhii Narbut committed him to the exhausting work which drove him to his grave at the age of 43. But the scale of his creative work is enormous compared to the shortness of his life.

PavloKovzhunPortraitPavlo Kovzhun was born on October 3, 1896 in the village of Kostiushky in the Zhytomyr region. He studied at  the Kyiv Art College from 1911-1915, where his teachers were Hanna Kliuer-Prakhova, Mykola Murashko, and Ivan Seleznov. From 1913 he began to show his works in exhibitions. Aged 18 he was one of the founders of the Futurist Literary Artistic Group.

His first artistic works (mostly graphic) were under the influence of the St Petersburg artistic group Mir Iskusstva, and its leading representative, Heorhii Narbut. The direction introduced by this outstanding graphic master appealed to the young artist – the recreation of the heritage of the old Ukrainian engravers. Kovzhun wholeheartedly shared the ideas of the young Kyiv intellectuals that new qualities of Ukrainian art should be built on the spiritual and aesthetic basis created in former times. This appeal to the period of the climax of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, recognized throughout Europe, seemed to Pavlo Kovzhun and some of his student friends (Robert Lisovs'kyi, Vasyl' Kryzhanivs'kyi and Anatol' Petryts'kyi) the best choice as a basis for their art. Later Kovzhun developed this idea theoretically, analysing some aspects of contemporary Ukrainian graphics, and also presented his own formal-aesthetic arguments to prove it. His first graphic works, marked by modernist stylistics, appeared in the prestigious St Petersburg journal Apollon (British Library P.P.1931.pmf), and in some periodicals in Kyiv.

With the start of the First World War, and the Ukrainian National Liberation struggle, Kovzhun was at the front, creating printed matter for the army units, promoting Ukrainian national identity. He was one of the co-founders of the Hrunt publishing house and the Muzahet literary-artistic group. After the retreat with army troops and the government of the UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic), in 1921 he edited the satirical humorous journal Izhak (Hedgehog) in Stanislav (then in Poland; now Ivano-Frankivsk). In the same year he moved to Lviv. ‘From now I begin to work,’ he wrote in a letter to the Ukrainian poet and intellectual  Mykola Voronyi. ‘I nearly lost my faith. I lived through the war in fire and revolution in blood, but still holding our banner. This is my nature. Now there is no blood, no fire, I pulled up my sleeves and took my brush and pen.’

In Lviv he initially worked on some private commissions (interior design, artistic decoration). In 1922 he became a member of the literary-artistic group Mytusa, and was a founder member and Secretary of the Group of Representatives of Ukrainian Art. As well as taking part in numerous art exhibitions, he cooperated with the editors of the periodicals Mytusa, Moloda Ukraina, Budiak, Masky, Zyz, Kul'tura, Nova Kul'tura, Svit, Mystetstvo, Universal'nyi Zhurnal, and Nova Heneratsiia. He was a member of the artistic group ‘Artes’ (Lviv, early 1930s), co-founder of the Association of Independent Ukrainian Artists (1931), of which he was also Secretary.

PAVLOKOVZHUNAWARDEXLIBRISDSC_2994Exlibris of the Ivan Franko  Society of Writers and Journalists by Pavlo Kovzhun. From: Ekslibris. Zbirnyk asotsiatsii nezalezhnykh ukrainskykh mysttsiv. Pershyi vypusk. (L'viv, 1932) Cup. 936/2190) 

Kovzhun’s artistic legacy consists of hundreds of graphic works, dozens of paintings, and more than a hundred publications on art. In cooperation (mostly with M. Osin'chuk) he created frescoes in twelve churches in Galicia, which became exemplars of this type of work for his contemporaries, and have not lost their artistic value even at the start of the 21st century. But the most remarkable contribution of Kovzhun is in the area of book illustration and periodical design. He was responsible for the design of the most prestigious books published in Ukraine between the wars: books by Ivan Franko, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Pavlo Tychyna, Osyp Makovei, Borys Hrinchenko, Mykhailo Staryts'kyi, Mykola Holubets' and others, and dozens of calendars and periodicals. Among his works are posters, caricatures, book-plates, publishers' logos and emblems, theatre designs and more.

PACLOKOVZHUNBOOKCOVERSDSC_2985Covers of books designed by Pavlo Kovzhun from the British Library's collections: Chykalenko, Ievhen. Spohady (L'viv, 1925-1926).20003.f.45 (on the left) and Franko, Ivan. Boryslav smiiet'sia (L'viv-Kyiv, 1922) YA.1988.a.15528 (on the right).

In his stylistic designs Kovzhun’s graphic works absorb in themselves a combination of the leading concepts of European visual art between the wars: Futurism, Expressionism and Constructivism. The basis of his artistic creations which he developed systematically as plastic equivalents of Ukrainian national style, was the concept of Neo-Baroque. In combination with these leading universal styles the majority of Kovzhun’s works are marked by his interpretation of Art Deco, which was recognized by famous artists and critics: articles about Kovzhun appeared in prestigious art journals, such as Grafika (Poland), Umeni Slovanu (Czechoslovakia), Gebrauchsgraphik (Germany) and others.

PAVLOKOVZHUNBACLEXLIBRIS2DSC_2993Bookplates for various Ukrainian authors designed by Pavlo Kovzhun (from: Ekslibris. Zbirnyk asotsiatsii nezalezhnykh ukrainskykh mysttsiv. Pershyi vypusk. L'viv, 1932. Cup. 936/2190) 

Pavlo Kovzhun died on May 15, 1939 in Lviv, and was buried in the historic Lychakiv Cemetery . He left a huge and varied artistic and theoretical legacy. His art and his mentality were full of the pathos of the creation of new values in Ukrainian aesthetic culture, which unites with the realities of 21st century art.

PAVLOKOVZHUNMOSTRECENTBOOKTITLEPAGEDSC_2989Title page of Pavlo Kovzhun. Tvorcha spadshchyna khudozhnyka: materialy, biobibliohrafichnyi dovidnyk. (L’viv, 2010). YF.2012.b.406

Dr Roman Yatsiv, Pro-Rector, Lviv National Art Academy

Further reading:

Sviatoslav Hordynskyi. Pavlo Kovzhun. 1896-1939. (Krakiv-Lviv, 1943). Available at: http://www.ovruch.info/svyatoslav-hordynskyj-pavlo-kovzhun/

Roman Iatsiv. “Pereimemo ioho entuziazm..”. In Dzvin, issue 12/1991, pp. 93-98. P.P.4842.dpt

Myttsi Ukrainy. Entsyklopedychnyi dovidnyk (Kyiv, 1992). YA.1999.a.172

Syrota L. Literaturna hrupa “Mytusa” i Pavlo Kovzhun. In : Narodoznavchi Zozhyty. Issue 5/1998. ZA.9.b.1768

Kis-Fedoruk, O. Knyzhkova hrafika Pavla Kovzhuna. In : Narodoznavchi Zoshyty. Issue 1/2000. ZA.9.b.1768

Kis-Fedoruk, O. Z istorii vzaiemyn Pavla Kovzhuna i Mykoly Voronoho. In : Vidkrytyi arkhiv. Tom 1, 2004. ZF.9.a.3222

Pavlo Kovzhun. Tvorcha spadshchyna khudozhnyka: materialy, biobibliohrafichnyi dovidnyk. (L’viv, 2010). YF.2012.b.406

Mitchenko, Vitaliĭ. Estetyka ukraïnsʹkoho rukopysnoho shryftu. (Kyiv, 2007). YF.2008.b.2188

17 August 2016

Umberto Boccioni 1882-1916

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On 17 August 1916 the Italian artist Umberto Boccioni, who was stationed in an artillery regiment near Verona, died from the injuries he suffered after he was trampled by his horse in a riding accident.

CM Boccioni Fig.1
A photograph of Boccioni taken shortly before his death. Reproduced in Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), genio e memoria, Edited by Francesca Rossi. (Milan, 2016). British Library LF.31.b.11722.

His untimely death – he was only 33 – deprived the Futurist movement of one of its key members. To mark the centenary of Boccioni’s death a major exhibition, “Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), genio e memoria”, was organised in Milan earlier this year, accompanied by a remarkable catalogue.

CM Boccioni Fig.2
Cover of the catalogue Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), genio e memoria

It was worthy tribute paid to the artist by the city he celebrated in some of his greatest paintings, making it the symbol of the modern metropolis. The rapid transformation and expansion of Milan can be seen in a series of works Boccioni painted between 1908 and 1911, which include his famous self-portrait showing him on the balcony of his apartment in Via Castel Morrone, in the Porta Venezia area.

  CM Boccioni Fig.3
Boccioni, Self portrait (1908) Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera.

In the background can be seen, in what were still the outskirts of city, several recently-erected buildings, one of them still under scaffolding. A similar urban landscape also features in two works painted in 1909 and 1910, Twilight and Factories at Porta Romana.

  
CM Boccioni Fig.4

Above: Twilight (Crepuscolo) 1909. Private Collection; Below: Factories at Porta Romana (Officine a Porta Romana) 1909-10. Milan, Gallerie d’Italia –Piazza Scala.

CM Boccioni Fig.5

Sharing an identical viewpoint, this time from the balcony of the apartment in 23 Via Adige, in the Porta Romana area, where Boccioni now lived with his mother and sister, but painted a few months apart, they show the rapid changes in the city. “The city rises” (to mention the title of one of Boccioni’s most famous paintings) so to speak in front of our very eyes. By the time Boccioni painted The Street enters the House (1911), showing his mother looking from the balcony into the the street below, the area has been even more dramatically transformed. The mood of this celebration of the modern city, full of dynamism, movement and activity, is not unlike that of several early Impressionist depictions of Baron Haussmann’s Paris.

CM Boccioni Fig.6
The Street enters the house
(La Strada entra nella casa), 1911. Hanover, Sprengel Museum. 

The exhibition in Milan (which will also be shown in Rovereto this autumn) demonstrated the enormous variety of Boccioni’s output both before and after he joined the Futurist movement in late 1909 or early 1910 becoming, with Marinetti, its major theorist. It also showcased two major recent discoveries of Boccioniana, both of them among the papers of Guido Valeriano Callegari, Boccioni’s brother-in-law, bequeathed to the Biblioteca Civica di Bologna in 1955 by his widow, Boccioni’s sister Amelia. Callegari was a noted scholar of Pre-Colombian America and the Boccioni material had remained unnoticed and uncatalogued among his papers for over half a century until it was discovered in 2009 on the occasion of a small exhibition the library organised to commemorate the centenary of the first Futurist manifesto. As well as books from Boccioni’s own library, it also includes a group of 22 large sheets pasted on cardboard, on which were mounted 216 cuttings from illustrated magazines reproducing works of art.

CM Boccioni Fig.7
A sheet from the ‘Memory Atlas’, reproduced in Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), genio e memoria

The images in this compilation – now called ‘Atlante della Memoria’ (‘Memory Atlas’) and reproduced in their entirety in the catalogue of the exhibition – a range from Medieval and Renaissance works of art to contemporary paintings and show the variety of visual influences on Boccioni between 1899 and 1909. Several works featured in the Atlas were included in the exhibition, where they were juxtaposed with works by Boccioni. After 1909 the compilation of the Atlas stopped and was replaced by a collection of cuttings of hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles about Futurist events, similarly pasted on large cardboard sheets. They were kept in three folders, the third of which was compiled after Boccioni’s death perhaps by his sister and brother-in-law.

Chris Michaelides, Curator Romance Collections

References:

Chris Michaelides, ‘Umberto Boccioni, Milan and Rovereto’, The Burlington Magazine, July 2016, CLVIII, pp. 578-80. P.P.1931.pcs.

Maurizio Calvesi, Ester Coen, Boccioni (Milan, 1983). LB.31.b.279.

Roberto Longhi, Umberto Boccioni (Florence, 1914). 7875.dd.31.