It’s a Great Illustration – But No Cigar!

Above: Inside of cigar box illustrated by Eirene Mort containing wood working tools belonging to Nora Weston ca. 1920.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Eirene Mort’s death at the age of 98, a fitting time to consider her life and work. Thanks to a generous gift from her heirs Canberra Museum and Gallery is well endowed with artefacts from Mort’s art practice. From 30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018, they are presenting her art in Eirene Mort: A Livelihood.

Australian artist, Eirene Mort was born on 17 November 1879 at Woollahra, Sydney. She attended St Catherine’s Clergy Daughters’ School, Waverley and studied painting with Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo and Albert H. Fullwood. In 1897 she travelled alone to London where she completed courses at the Grosvenor Life School, the Royal School of Art Needlework and the Royal College of Art, South Kensington, gaining an art-teacher’s certificate.

Returning to Sydney in 1906, Eirene Mort set up a studio with her lifelong friend Nora Kate Weston. Mort was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and later studied medieval art, illustration and illumination, and etching with Luke Taylor. On her return she made many etchings using historical and rural subjects.

  • Her studio became one of Sydney’s earliest centres for professional design and applied art, and she was a founder of the Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales becoming Vice-President until 1935.
  • She helped to organize and publicize the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in 1907.

By 1921, Eirene Mort was a founder  and council-member of the Australian Painter-Etchers’ Society, honorary treasurer of the Australian Ex Libris Society and a member of the Australian Bookplate Club. She was also a founder of the Australian Guild of Handicrafts.

  • She lived at Greenhayes, Mittagong, from 1937 and continued to teach until she moved to Bowral in 1960. Unmarried, Eirene Mort found time in her busy life to maintain contact with her large extended family, becoming its focal point and historian until she died at Bowral on 1 December 1977; where she was later cremated.

Copy of exhibition brochure for Eirene Mort: Livelihood is available from Canberra Museum and Gallery.

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Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

Above: Henri Martin: Gabrielle at the Garden Door, 1910 (201cm x 105.4cm) London.

Renowned French impressionist painter Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin was born in Toulouse on August 5, 1860 to a French cabinet-maker. Martin successfully persuaded his father to permit him to become an artist; and in doing so, began his career in 1877 at the Toulouse School of the Fine Arts.

  • In 1879, Martin gained a scholarship to Jean-Paul Laurens’ studio in Paris.
  • Four years later, he received his first medal at the Paris Salon, where he would hold his first exhibition three years later in 1886.
  • The following year, he won his first medal – a scholarship tour in Italy.

At the 1900 World Fair, Martin was awarded the Grand Prize for his work. During this period, he became friends with Auguste Rodin.

Although Martin’s work as a neo-Impressionist is not considered ground-breaking, his work was well-received, and has been associated with world-class symbolist painter, Puvis de Chavannes.

Due to his introverted temperament, Martin decided to move away from Paris. After a decade of searching for an ideal home, Martin bought Marquayrol, a mansion over-looking La Bastide du Vert, near Cahors.

  • He created his best work here until he died on 12 November, 1943.

Knock knock who’s there, is this Gabrielle calling? –  if so, then open the doors and come inside!

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The Fate of the Owl My Dear is Ever So Clear to Hear, Due to the Verse and Cheer My Love, From the One and Only Edward Lear

The Owl & The Pussycat (1990) wood engraving 4 x 5.5 cm

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
[Verse I] by Edward Lear
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

About the artist:
Scottish wood engraver, illustrator and art lecturer Jonathan Peter Gibbs began his career by first studying painting and art from 1973 – 1978 at the Lowestoft School of Art, then at the Central School of Art & Design, (London) and finally at the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL.

  • Jonathan Gibbs is currently a lecturer, Head of Illustration and Program Director at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Art.

Gibbs’ artwork involves drawing, painting, illustration, print-making and wood engraving. His main interest in wood engraving began during his studies in London at the Central School of Art & Design and he began engraving around 1982-83. Prior to this he had been making scratched drawings onto heavily chalked paper when he discovered that carving into wood surfaces was similar in technique.  His works in oil are made on wood panels primed with gesso and he makes wood-blocks from boxwood and holly blocks to engrave images which are then sometimes printed onto Japanese paper by hand-burnishing with a bone spoon. He often produces monochromatic works using charcoal, graphite, paper linen or canvas, black and white with occasional use of red, blue or grey colouring.

His work has been published in a variety of books, magazines and printed artifacts as well as in digital formats and web design. As an illustrator, he has worked for Hamish Hamilton, Faber & Faber and Routledge Publishing. He has also conducted illustration work for Prada.

Gibbs has presented 11 solo exhibitions in London and Edinburgh since his first in 1987. His most recent ‘Life is but a dream‘ was held at the Open Eye Gallery, where he presented over 40 new works including wood engravings, pencil drawings and oil paintings. Gibbs is renowned for his 15 feet decommissioned diving-board which features one of his woodcut prints.

  • He continues to exhibit every couple of years as well as contributing to various group exhibitions. In his research he explores various aspects of ink and contemporary approaches to drawing.
  • You can find out more about Jonathan Gibbs from his website.

Illustration: Header is detail from ‘Charlotte’s Kitchen‘ (2010) wood engraving 10 x 7.7cm

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Agnes Toth: From ‘Man in Cloth’ to Darkest Goth

Above: “The Magician” by Agnes Toth

Contemporary artist Agnes Toth (born, 1981 in Gyor, Hungary) displays an inimitable style and with great story-telling ability.  Toth graduated from University College, Falmouth (U.K.) with an M.A. in Fine Art Contemporary Practice and prior to this; the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. She has had several international solo and group exhibitions. She also does coverf art for Hungarian neo-classical dark wave artists “The Moon and the Night Spirit”.

  • The source of Toth’s inspiration is primarily from nature, and her own life, using images from personal experiences. Whilst painting in her studio, she likes to listen to a wide variety of music ranging from classics such as Debussy through to the hip hop sounds of Eminem.
  • On average, each painting takes about 5-6 months to paint; and she often has 2 or 3 paintings in progress at the same time, so she can focus on one of the pieces for a week, and the following week move to the next work. It also depends on the oil paint, because it takes about 3-4 days to dry.

Above: Cover art from The Moon and the Night Spirit’s Album Regő Rejtem

  • In 2013, Toth was interviewed by Hungarian Success Stories and the following is a summary of this interview. See the full interview from 27 October, 2013.

In September 2013, the National Portrait Gallery in London nominated her portrait “The Magician“, of British Magician Drummond Money-Coutts for the BP Portrait Award. This award is one of the most prestigious awards in portraiture in the world today. Although Toth does not consider herself a portrait artist, figures have always played a major role in her paintings. Drummond Money-Coutts is an English Magician, and Toth found his character determining. She described him during the sitting as: “The man of today, the man of our age. He is an iconic figure, ambitious, unique and metropolitan; with a strong traditional and historical English background. Drummond’s character seemed to be the perfect model to describe portraiture today”.

The conception of the tripled portrait composition was due to Toth’s observance of his presence and she found something very geometric about him, his movements, his lines, and the crispiness of his suit. It was then that she knew it was not going to be a painting like anything she had done before.  She knew it had to be very specific and very sharp and described this as: “My aim was to paint the finest possible portrait, to make it become the ultimate portrait that I can possibly achieve, and the ultimate portrait to represent portraiture today.”

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Sometimes – Time and Tide Wait For No Man

 Above: Patrick Woodroffe’s LP cover design for Greenslade’s  “Time & Tide for No Man”.

Patrick James Woodroffe was born on 27 October 1940, in Halifax, West Yorkshire.  He became a full-time artist in 1972; the year in which he gave an exhibition of his paintings, etchings and related works at the Convent Garden Gallery, in London.

In 1979, Woodroffe provided illustrations for Pentateuch of the Cosmogony: The Birth and Death of a World, (later shortened to ‘The Pentateuch’), a joint project with the symphonic rock musician Dave Greenslade.

The Pentateuch purports to be the first five chapters of an alien Book of Genesis. The album consisted of two-discs by the band Greenslade, and a 47-page book of Woodroffe’s illustrations. The record sold over 50,000 copies between 1979 and 1984. The illustrations were shown at the World Science Fiction Convention, at Brighton’s Metropole Hotel in 1979.

  • In 1983 Woodroffe created an album sleeve for the rock band Pallas, as well as related logos for merchandise. The same year saw Woodroffe creating art (including representations of a Snark – a subject traditionally taboo for an artist to do) for composer Mike Batt’s 1984 musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark.
  • The 1980s also saw another Patrick Woodroffe exhibition, Catching the Myth, at Folkestone’s Metropole Arts Centre (1986), which featured 122 pieces selected from 21 years of work.
  • In 1989, he prepared the conceptual art used in the film “The Never Ending Story II.”

Woodroffe lived with his family in Cornwall until his death, after succumbing to a long illness, on 10 May, 2014.

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There is Nothing Harder at Task for Haida the Mask

Among the Haida people from the Pacific Northwest of North America existed secret religious societies that performed dances in which they wore wooden masks or carried wooden puppets that represented gagid, or the spirits of the forest.

gagid mask can be either male or female and usually has a wrinkled face and a gaping mouth. The masks tend to be painted bluish-green but sometimes earrings were added to the mask.

Masks were also worn at potlatches, (ceremonial banquets where a family observed a wedding or a funeral with feasting, dancing and speeches). The culmination of a potlatch came when the host distributed gifts of food and blankets to its guests.

  • Once Christian missionaries made inroads among the Haida, the secret societies died out and so did the Haida mask-making.

The Haida had a very long tradition of wood-carving. Beginning about 2000 years ago, they made canoes and rattles; carved and painted boxes and chests; and fashioned the equipment and furnishings necessary for a potlatch and they traded these items with neighbouring tribes for food, furs and other necessities.

  • When the visiting sailors, explorers, traders and settlers arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the 1840s, they were astonished by the high level of craftsmanship of Haida woodcarving.
  • In response, recognizing that they had a new market, Haida artists began creating pieces for Americans, Canadians and Europeans. One of the most popular items were Haida masks, which to meet the demand, the woodcarvers turned out by the thousands.
  • Today, most Haida masks found in private and museum collections were made in the 19th C, not for religious rituals but for the tourist trade.

No need to feel ripped off, just be aware, because, the Haida the Mask; the Harder the Task – for full authentication.

 

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Lotte Lenya and the Ballad of Mack the Knife

Portrait of Lotte Lenya by Saul Bolasni.

The famous Austrian-born singer and actress, Lotte Lenya  was born Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer on 18 October 1898, to Catholic working class parents in Vienna. In 1914, she studied in Zürich, taking her first job at the Schauspielhaus, using the stage name Lotte Lenja. She later moved to Berlin in 1921 to seek work.

The following year, Lenya was noticed by German composer Kurt Weill, (who later became her husband), during an audition for his first stage score. She was cast, but owing to the  loyalty to her voice coach, she declined the role. It would take another two years before Lenya and Weill would meet again, in 1924.

It was then, that she accepted the part of Jenny in the first performance of the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill play, “The Threepenny Opera” (Die Dreigroschenoper) in 1928, which  became her break-through role.

  • Although Lenya and Weill married in 1926, they divorced in 1933, only to reconcile in September 1935, after emigrating to the United States.
  • They remarried in 1937.
  • Kurt Weill died in 1950.
  • Lottie Lenya died in Manhattan of cancer on 27 November, 1981, aged 83.
  • She is buried next to Weill at Mount Repose Cemetery in Haverstraw, New York.

The following is from one of the Operas’ most famous songs: Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (“The Ballad of Mack the Knife”).

“Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight”.

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Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

Above is the cover design for Japanese ‘Rainbow’ Ne-Ne stationery note-paper designed ca. 1969.

Japan has a plethora of smart pieces of stationery with both practical and sophisticated design elements. Japan is the design stationery capital of the world. Stationery fans love to visit Japan for so many reasons but most of all it is to see a thriving culture of loving stationery! Precise, elegant, and refined, design stationery notebooks, pens, pencils and accessories ‘Made in Japan’ are of the highest and most enduring quality.

  • As for information about the image above: The artist details are unknown, but the paper appears to be related to Nakamra Seiko, who produced the Seiko Quartz Astron 35 SQ, which was the first quartz wristwatch on the market.
  • Regardless of its Seiko connection, it sure is colourful, and if you wear some flowers in your hair, …

maybe … summertime will be a love-in there.

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Nothing Like Passing Through Air When You Are Feeling a Bit Like ‘Head in the Clouds’

Passing Through‘ (2010) oil on canvas 91 x 116.5 cm

Taiwanese born artist Joyce Ho was born on 9th October, 1983 in Taipei. She received a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies), University of California, Irvine (2007) and a Master of Arts (Painting, studio art), University of Iowa (2010).

Joyce Ho is an interdisciplinary artist who presents painting, sculpture and theatre.  She has exhibited at the:

  • Kobe Biennial,
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai,
  • Today Art Museum and Museum of Fine Arts Shanghai; and the
  • Asian Arts Biennale.

The images Ho creates through her paintings, installations or performances all have some disturbing quality, whether it’s the angle of the character’s head or the awkwardness of the distorted bodies. But in order to complicate these unsettling images, Ho uses strong yellow hues to create a warm overall lighting that emanates throughout the entire space to seduce the viewer with bright colours, while simultaneously confronting them with the damaged characters.

Above Image: ‘Picnic‘ (2010) oil on canvas 100 x 150 cm

Through her use of this luminescent palette and theatrically charged compositions, Ho works to create a decidedly feminine perspective that embodies her generation’s precarious state of unbalance.

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The Story of Angélique and the Illustrator

[Above: Book cover for Angélique]

These illustrations are from various dust jackets from the “Angélique” series of 13 French historical adventure books, written by the novelist duo Anne and Serge Golon known collectively as ‘Sergeanne Golan’. Some of the titles in this series include: Angélique in Love, Angélique and the Sultan, Angélique and the King, Angélique in Revolt and Countess Angélique.

From these titles, you could easily hazard a guess that the emerald-eyed Angélique is a  tempestuous and adventurous girl who seems to ‘get around’ and get involved in some historical fictional hi-jinx. The stories are set in 17th Century France and often revolve around King Louis XIV, his cohorts and various characters of the Parisian underworld, to name but a few.

This series published by Heinemann provided colourful dust jacket illustrations by Italian commercial artist Renato Fratini, who was born in Rome, in October, 1932.

  • He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and began his career working on illustrations and comic strips.
  • In 1952, Fratini joined the Favalli brothers’ studio, which was Italy’s biggest producer of film posters.
  • Following the collapse of the Favalli studio in the late 1950s, he moved to Milan and later to London in late 1958, despite not speaking English.

Fratini (along with Eric Pulford) produced cinema poster artwork for Whistle Down The Wind (1961), Phantom of the Opera (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963); as well as many others. Together, they also illustrated most of the posters for the Carry On films starting with Don’t Lose Your Head (1966) up to Carry on at Your Convenience (1971).

Fratini - Angelique 2[Above: Dust jacket for Angélique and the Sultan]

As for book covers, Fratini  completed work for publishers Corgi, Coronet, Hodder, Heinemann and Pan amongst others.  As well as the Angélique series, he illustrated covers for other historical romance novels by Catherine Gaskin, Victoria Holt and Norah Lofts.

[Above: Dust jacket from Angélique In Revolt]

In 1959 Fratini met the fashion designer Georgina Somerset-Butler at a party and they married in 1961 after which she went by the name Gina Fratini. They later divorced.

  • Fratini was known for his exuberant love of life. His ex-wife Gina said of him:”He loved food, drink,  cigars, dancing … he just liked to generally live it up. He adored jazz, and we were always out at Ronnie Scott’s.”

He left for Mexico circa 1970 and attended a beach party in Mexico in 1973 where he died suddenly, reportedly of a heart attack, thus ending his great illustrative legacy.

And if you want to know the fate of Angélique, you won’t find any spoiler alerts here – that would only end In Revolt.

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Truly “Chihuly”: The Beauty is in the Eye of the Glass Beholder

Both images featured are from an untitled group from the Macchia Series (1982).

Dale Chihuly (Born September 20, 1941 in Tacoma, Washington) is an American glass sculptor. In 1960, Chihuly was studying interior design at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he learned how to melt and fuse glass. Without finishing this course, he transferred to studying art in Florence, Italy in 1962.

  • The following year, after travelling to the Middle East, Chihuly returned to his studies where he received an award for his work from the Seattle Weavers Guild in 1964.

Chihuly graduated from the University of Washington in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design where he began experimenting with glass-blowing and in 1966 received a full scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He then studied under Harvey Littleton, who had established the first glass program in the United States.

  • In 1967, Chihuly received a Master of Science degree in sculpture. He then enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design the following year and was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant for his work in glass, as well as a Fulbright Fellowship.
  • Chihuly traveled to Venice to work at the Venini factory on Murano, where he first saw the team approach to blowing glass. After returning to the U.S., he spent the first of four consecutive summers teaching at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine.
  • In 1971, with the support of John and Anne Gould Hauberg, Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington. He also founded the Hill Top Artists program in Tacoma, Washington at Jason Lee Middle School and Wilson High School.

Sadly, in 1976, whilst in England, Chihuly was injured in a head-on car accident during which he flew through the windshield. His face was severely cut by glass and he was blinded in his left eye. After recovering, he continued to blow glass until 1979 when he dislocated his right shoulder in a body-surfing accident. No longer able to hold the glass blowing pipe, he hired others to do his work.

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Sacre Couer – Sacre Bleu

Above: An example of cover edition from notorious French violently anti-clerical and Republican  journal La Lanterne.

  • The illustration displays a sinister priest-like vulture squatting over the newly-built Sacre Coeur Cathedral at Mont Matre, in Paris.
  • La Lanterne was founded by Henri Rochefort and began as a daily magazine from 1868-1870, and became reinvigorated until in 1876.

The cover of this issue was illustrated by French poster artist Eugène Ogé, who was born in Paris on 5 May, 1861. He died in May 1936.

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Viva Vivat Bohmen

Above: Vivat Bohmen cup and saucer, supposedly the oldest surviving Bohemian porcelain from  Klášterec nad Ohří (1794). The cup measures 5.6 cm high.

  • Klášterec nad Ohří, was a Bohemian factory founded in 1793, by Mikuláš (Johann Nicolaus) Weber with support from the landowner Count František Josef (Frank Joseph) Thun. The arcanist employed was Johann Gottlieb Sonntag from the Rebengrun factory in Thuringia.
  • Together they fired the first kiln on 15th September 1794. This is also the date of the first known and preserved Czech porcelain coffee cup with saucer inscribed Vivat Bohmen (see above).
  • The cup and saucer are on display at the Museum of Porcelain at Klášterec Castle.

The Neo-Gothic castle in Klášterec nad Ohří, houses a rare exhibition of porcelain from the collections of the  Museum of Applied Arts from the city of Prague in the Czech Republic. The exhibition on the ground-floor hall in the southern wing houses the remnants of the original Renaissance building built in 1600. It offers in its four halls; a brief history of the old Oriental and European porcelain production.

Twenty-one rooms on the 1st floor are dedicated to the development of Czech porcelain production from its beginnings to the present. It includes porcelain ware of individual porcelain factories produced in various periods, such as Empire, Biedermeier, Second Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau, etc., with examples from the areas of Horní Slavkov, Klášterec, Březová, Loket, Dalovice and Chodov.

The Klášterec Castle was built on a promontory of the river Ohře at the foot of the Ohře Mountains. It is one of the most important historical sites in the north-western region of Bohemia. The name of the castle and town is an Old Czech term for a small monastery (derived from the Latin” claustrellum), which was founded around the year 1250 by Benedictine’s from Postoloprty, in places of the present-day town.

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Bear With Me – You’ll Adore These

Paola Pivi (b. 1971 in Milan, Italy) is an Italian multi-media artist who lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. In her work, she uses a wide range of art techniques, such as photography, sculpture and performance. Some of her works contain performance elements, at times involving live animals and people. In 1999, she received a Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale.

All of the above are featured in her installation “You Started It…I Finish It” Pivi’s set of 8 life-size sculptures of polar bears adorned with psychedelic coloured plumage. Their carefully modeled figures each have distinct personalities and body language. Together, they create an enigmatic scene of Baroque excess and surreal desire recalling fables and fairy tales, dreams and allegories in which unexpected forms become strangely familiar and the pleasure principle prevails.

  • As with much of her work, this set also invokes an animistic spiritual wonder and deep concern about the vulnerability of the natural world.

A little something for you to ‘bear in mind.’

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I Will Keep an Open Mind – Is It Art or Science?

Above: Plaster model of the brain by [unknown maker]. This item is one from a display at the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne. The Museum and Library is part of the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

  • The Museum is one of Australia’s largest collections of real human tissue specimens offering students and researchers a unique insight into the human body.
  • The collection includes over 10,000 dissected anatomy and pathology specimens, moulages (such as this model), death masks and historical teaching models.

Although not usually open to the general public, there are opportunities to visit the Museum including the University’s Open Day held each August. Tours of the museum are available for external health professionals and student groups by appointment.

As for this plaster model, is it art? or science? If it were in an art gallery it would be art, but this is in a museum, which would indicate science. – To answer this, I think I’ll hand this over to the brains trust.

Come to think of it, it’s been on my mind for so long … I just can’t get you out of my head!

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