Here is a stereoscope I’ve had in my possession for over 10 years. On the right is an illustration by Maurice Sendak (1928-2012). It is one of Sendak’s illustrations for Herman Melville’s PIERRE. Under the image is a caption that reads, “an unbidden, most miserable presentiment.” On the left is a doodle from a private letter by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) an artist to whom William Blake admitted a debt. In the Tate Gallery’s catalog of Fuseli’s work this drawing is titled “Caricature of the Artist Leaving Italy.” The naming of Sendak as the “Shtetl Blake” I take from Margalit Fox in her obituary of Sendak in today’s New York Times.
These are plates 9 & 10 from William Blake’s little book FOR THE SEXES: The Gates of Paradise. I grabbed them off of the wonderful site The Blake Archive. One way to read them is as adjacent comic book panels: ‘this happens and then this happens. Another is to read them as slightly different views on the same thing, as in a stereoscope. Another possibility is that they are completely unrelated.
Since in my post on Seurat I quoted Rilke’s “cell of my art” statement, I figured I might as well post one of my favorite all time comparison lessons on that style “commandment.” Above are two well known paintings by Van Gogh. One is painted by the artist we know Van Gogh becomes and one is painted before Van Gogh fully realized that transformation. I think the chief difference between these two paintings is how each painting relates to itself. The difference between these two painting styles is in the relation between what the painting conveys and how it is rendered. In the first, the smoking skull image, an idea of something is conveyed, however vaguely, without regard to how it is rendered. The idea is communicated then we notice how it is communicated, the calligraphy in which it is written. In the second one, the sunflower,what the painting conveys is conveyed through how it is rendered. It contains no abstractable message by which we can paraphrase it and do without the painting. The painting is all. I like to think that both paintings have the same thing to say. They are both Van Gogh expressing something, but only in the second painting is the artist mature enough to say what he means.
“The deeper the influence of the formal, decorative element upon the method of representation, the more probable it becomes that formal elements attain an emotional value. An association between these two forms of art is established which leads, on the one hand to the conventionalization of representative design, on the other to the imputation of significance into formal elements. It is quite arbitrary to assume a one-sided development from the representative to the formal or vice versa, or even to speak of a gradual transformation of a representative form into a conventional one, because the artistic presentation itself can proceed only on the basis of the technically developed forms…”
— Franz Boas, “Representative Art,” pps. 82-83 Primitive Art (1927)
… The Rat ran into The Minotaur.
This cartoon came to me while I was working on a film for a general illustration class. The assignment was to make a film meditating on the relation between place and character. What I came up with I called, “A film on location.” Funny, right?
Hi Kenya! Write me a comment when you see this!
I made this post card to send to James Kochalka when his daily comic AMERICAN ELF reached the ten year mark. My image is based on a photo of Kochalka and his kids and on a somewhat famous painting by someone else.
Here’re the same elements presented as a comparison, bits of multiply reproduced (degraded) GUERNICA and grid paper atop pages from Kochalka’s THE HORRIBLE TRUTH ABOUT COMICS. This is from a series of photographs I took: videotaped collages I made while I was designing a previous version of this web site (no longer extant.)
And here again a comparison involving the GUERNICA baby: this time posed against Minnie, Vinny and some Mayan Glyphs. I appreciate glyphs, especially with regard to their foreignness. I am always looking to achieve in my drawing and writing the formal quality I appreciate most readily in markings that are illegible to me.
And finally, GUERNICA baby and some grafitti I copied from a barrier on the side of southbound Route 17, around Allendale, NJ. (Graffiti no longer extant, except in the series of photos I took. I believe this tag says or originally said, “Messiah.”)
Stereoscope juxtaposing Plate XI from William Blake’s ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BOOK OF JOB (1826) and Panel 2, page 74 from Lynda Barry’s THE FREDDIE STORIES (1999). Separated by 173 years, sharing a similar vision. I’m sure Lynda Barry has seen this image of Blake’s. Does that make her’s a copy of his? Not necessarily. Blake himself found the poses and compositions for his divine visions in reproductions of Renaissance Masterworks.
I find this likeness wonderful and marvelous. I have notes for an essay I’d like to put up as a permanent page here. For now, though, I will suggest the direction the essay would take with a quote from a book I’ve already mentioned here:
“Medieval visionary allegory offers its readers participation in a process of psychic redemption closely resembling, though wider in scope than, modern psychotherapy …
“the basic content and structural elements of such allegory consist largely of imagery derived from and constituting progressive developments of the imagery of classical and pre-classical religion and myth, as they are manifested in literature and art …
“The major poets of medieval visionary allegory regard themselves as part of a cumulative tradition, in which each allegorist recapitulates, refines and develops the thought and imagery of his [sic] predecessors, exploring new dimensions of traditional topics, and, most important, attempting to integrate earlier thought and imagery pertaining to the topic into a coherent whole …
“Allegory as a serious genre waned in the fifteenth century owing to the growing inability of allegorical poets to continue to achieve imaginative comprehension of the symbolical and mythical elements of the form. By the seventeenth century, a more strictly analytic approach to the phenomenal world made allegorizing seem intellectually trivial … ”
(from Propositions 1, 2, 8 & 9 from the introduction to Paul Piehler’s THE VISIONARY LANDSCAPE (pps 19-20)
And a last thought:
Is 173 years a long time? A bit too long, I guess, for any one of us to endure. Whatever the number of years, Blake seems irrevocably long ago, from the age of revolution, the mythical time of our era’s origin. His words, images and ideas shine through history like a dead star. He has, it seems, joined history — that flat offensive significance of human life which the living are barred from entering.
Meanwhile, Lynda Barry has such a knack for the voices of adolescence and childhood she seems to resurrect a reader’s own past. The memories she stirs live again.
That makes THE FREDDIE STORIES all the more a marvel: in it Freddie undergoes a “journey to the underworld” which employs imagery familiar from Dante’s journey, even Virgil’s journey. But she builds Freddie’s journey of ” psychic redemption” out of such recognizable, contemporary stuff that she invites us to our own inside of a visionary landscape that has floated along with people for thousands of years.