Art Books and Eye Candy

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Art Books and Eye Candy

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Nov 11, 2016, 10:00pm

I need to wash my brain periodically over the last few days—too many images of vile people in the news, and too much general heartache. This is one that does it for me:

Watercolours from a 16th-Century De Materia Medica from Public Domain Review.
These wonderful full-page watercolour illustrations are from a 16th-century edition of Pedanius Dioscorides’s work on herbal medicine, De Materia Medica. Dioscorides (ca. 40–90 AD), a Greek physician and botanist, is considered to be the father of pharmacology, with this five-volume book hailed as the forerunner of modern pharmacopoeias (books that record medicines along with their effects and directions for their use). His book was translated from the original Greek to Latin, Arabic, and Spanish, and continued to be in use with additions and commentaries written by various authors, one of them being the 16th-century Italian doctor Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501–1577). Describing one hundred new plants not included by Dioscorides, Mattioli’s expansion of the book first appeared in Italian and was later translated into Latin, French, Czech, and German. These illustrations, found in Mattioli’s version of the book, are dated between 1564–1584 and are the creation of the Italian artist and botanist Gherardo Cibo (1512–1600).

Nov 12, 2016, 4:53pm

Lisa, that is so lovely and restful.

Nov 12, 2016, 5:42pm

Really beautiful.

Nov 13, 2016, 8:30am

At BB 2.0 I posted about Tara Books, the children's and art book publisher out of Chennai that does handmade books. And in particular, about The Night Life of Trees.

Well, I tracked down a good copy, and lisapeet, here is a case where the internet does a disservice to the work. The book is a tribute to the art and mythology of the Gondi tribe, which I am now in love with. The pages are heavy, textured black paper and the colors are so vivid they glow. I tried to take a picture of some of the pages, but even with my good camera I'm not a good enough photographer.

But here is a Brain Pickings article about the making of the book:

and a few pictures from the article:

It really is quite amazing. They've produced a set of cards that I think I'm going to send to my mother.

Nov 13, 2016, 10:15am

Those are gorgeous -- and I really like how the angles of those photos reveal their texture. The cards are tempting me, though lord knows I don't need more stationery (as if that has ever stopped me).

Nov 16, 2016, 10:33pm

I love this site - looks like its been inactive for a while, but you can still go back and see some of the gorgeous works of art over the centuries.

? How does one do links in LT?

Nov 17, 2016, 7:35am

Regular old HTML tags—see this post:

Nov 17, 2016, 9:01am

'k, thx

Nov 27, 2016, 12:25pm

So on another LT thread the subject of travel literature came up (thank you, Cindy) and somebody mentioned Chiang Yee's "Silent Traveler" series. Which I have never heard of, ever! So there is someone for my "non European, non American travel writers" list. But the reason I mention it here is that Yee, who was living in England in the late thirties, did his own illustrations to his books. And since he's also a poet and an expert in Chinese calligraphy (he's written books on the subject), his artistic sensibilities are pretty unique.

So here is a link to some of the work he did for his first book The Silent Traveller: A Chinese Artist in Lakeland

It's not your usual English landscape watercolors.

Dic 21, 2016, 11:06am

I guess this is the thread for this:

The Best Book Covers of 2016 chosen by designers.

The Murakami backlist is fun.

Dic 21, 2016, 4:35pm

It's a good list -- I picked the Offutt last year as #1 when I saw it, not knowing it was technically a 2017 book. The David Salle cover was my pick this year.

Dic 27, 2016, 2:11pm

Checking in briefly while the rest of the family cooks lunch to report on the MS Escher exhibit we all went to see on Christmas eve. The exhibit is called "Reality and Illusion"

Escher is one of those artists I've taken for granted my whole life. If I thought about him at all it was in relation to his optical illusion, tricky pieces -- all of them so well known at this point to be apparently doomed to the realm of cliche.

So I wasn't really expecting much from the exhibit -- which was massive-- by the way. It took us two hours to get through. But I have to admit, I came away impressed. And with a bit of a headache after peering at strange twisty repeating patterns for hours on end.

But the exhibit is designed to let us see Escher's artistic development -- from his very earliest graphic designs, where it is obvious he is drawn to juxtapositions of white and black, and to unusual perspectives, unexpected lines of sight, to the later strange, contorted and almost seething masses of figures that he used to fill a plane to the point where you almost forget that you are looking at a piece of paper, and not some window into Flatland.

So the exhibit was great for showing how his work explores this or that technical issue -- impossible perspectives, negative space that isn't really negative space, flatness that has dimesion, and depth that turns out to be nothing more that a flat reflection. The viewer learns a lot about tessalation, crystallography, repeating forms in nature, etc. etc.

And, something that surprised me although on reflection it shouldn't have, a little about Escher's own dark outlook. He did book illustrations for friends, sometimes on demonic themes. The tortured forms of his figures, as they morph from one kind of creature into another, often seem to owe something to Heironymous Bosch. Devils seems to bind themselves more easily to his mathematical racks than angels. Even the occaisional religious subjects (there was an illustration of St. Francis and the Birds I will never forget) feel damned:

And despite this, there was real beauty in his work, not just gimmicks, not just mathematical problem solving. The landscapes in his "Italian period" were strange but it was hard to avoid being drawn in to them.

And this habit of his work -- the way it sort of entraps the eye (I kept thinking of tentacles) coupled with his techinical brilliance at mezzotint, his relentless mathematical awareness and his cool exaltation of the beauty of shape and form -- all of this together all at once in a big room surrounded by pictures of birds that become fields, or perfect translucent geometice shapes resting upon a pebbled beach, or flatworms swimming through a mad cathedral --- was overwhelming to say the least. I don't think I'll ever be able to think of Escher just as "the guy who does optical illusions" again.

Dic 27, 2016, 2:19pm

That must be the same exhibit I went to a couple of years ago when it was in NH. My mom and I had a great time being mesmerized by his work.

Dic 27, 2016, 5:25pm

What a great report. I remember being really entranced by Escher as a kid, trying to figure out how he did what he did graphically, but I hadn't given him a lot of thought as part of my adult cultural consumption. I love those Italian etchings, though--I may have to revisit him now. Thanks, Nicki.

Dic 30, 2016, 10:24am

>13 Bookmarque: it has been traveling for awhile, so it must have been. It was in Raleigh the beginning of last year - alongside an exhibit of Da Vinci's notebooks and I can't believe I missed that.

It was especially rewarding to visit it with my family, because we all react to art so differently. My sister is drawn to the beautiful. My nephews, such teenagers, loved the creatures, and the Celtic knot designs, although they had trouble explaining to me exactly why. My brother in law, who in a biomedical engineer, spent a long time talking to me about the problems of representing infinite space in two dimensions, and mom and I, simpatico with each other, vacillated between awe over the sheer technical brilliance of his prints, and being unsettled at the dark implications of his subjects and choice of perspectives.

Afterwards everyone went to the gift shop, but I detoured into a small exhibit of Indian miniature illuminated pages, some showing the life of Rama and some illustrating old love songs. Beautiful in the exact opposite way from Escher.

Abr 7, 2017, 4:28pm

13 Artists create covers for their favorite books:

You can click on the covers to enter to win a framed print. The only one that appealed to me was the one for Giovanni's Room, but still...

Abr 7, 2017, 7:07pm

Some of those are flat out terrible and student-y and maaaaan have they just cut typography classes altogether?

Abr 7, 2017, 7:27pm

I don't get how you can redo The Very Hungry Caterpillar—it's a picture book, so shouldn't the pictures be on the cover too?

Abr 11, 2017, 2:36pm

WOW most of those suck.

Jun 14, 2017, 7:44am

I don't often wish I were in Texas, but I do right now—I'd love to see all these Garth Williams illustrations together in one place. That's a big chunk of my childhood:

Garth Williams exhibition at The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, TX, from June 8 to Sept. 1.

Jun 14, 2017, 2:29pm

ME TOO! Is it traveling?

Ago 24, 2017, 11:42pm

Hmmm... I guess not.

But anyway. I picked this up at work because it was just. so. pretty. Even though I've never read Proust and in fact may never (but hey, I could): Eric Karpeles's Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time. It's all basically really nice reproductions accompanied by the text that references them—so actually a good compromise would be to just dip in and out of those and read what's there, and that way I can at least see if I like it.

The book itself is neat, too—it's a trade paperback but looks and feels and smells like a hardcover. Heavy paper, good-looking reproductions. I should probably give it to someone who loves Proust, but I want to play with it a little first.

Ago 25, 2017, 1:04pm

If you need to pass it on, I'm your gal. signed, Proust lover.

Ago 25, 2017, 1:41pm


Abr 7, 2018, 8:38am

Jul 5, 2018, 7:45am

Those are gorgeous.

Nov 15, 2018, 9:14am

Mom has been talking to me about an exhibit of Esther Krinitz work she went to in Rochester: The Fabric of Survival.

It is amazing and humbling, and somehow makes me feel hope instead of despair

Nov 15, 2018, 10:00am

>27 southernbooklady: Thanks for sharing those!

Nov 15, 2018, 10:28am

Those are spectacular!

Nov 15, 2018, 10:39am

Katie Scott has illustrated several natural history books.

I highly recommend this one:

You'll want to check out her home page as well. She does advertising and fabric design too.

Nov 21, 2018, 1:30pm

"Hyacinth red" is the color of the red spots of the Lygeous Apterus Fly, and the red blush found on the golden Rennette Apple. "Scotch Blue" is the blue on the throat of the Blue Titmouse, and in the stamina of the Single Purple Anemone. -- From Werner's Nomenclature of Colors: Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts.


Editado: Nov 23, 2018, 9:05am

>31 southernbooklady: It's a beauty, isn't it? I actually have it propped up on my desk at work so I can see the front cover at all times. The scan above doesn't do the color justice—it's more of a deep teal blue color—and when I'm having a rough patch at the computer I often just pick it up and look at the colors and read the descriptions. Which is really dorky on the one hand but it's a good 30-second reboot for my brain when I'm trying to think of words.

Sometime I should do a little photo thing of the books I have on my desk there. They all serve a particular purpose, mostly as touchstones of calm in my hectic work world.

Nov 23, 2018, 10:11am

>32 lisapeet: "touchstone" books for rebooting an "books kept close because they serve a purpose" are two different categories in my mind. The former is an ever-growing list because I fall in love with books so easily. So they tend to be close when I'm in need of them or rediscovering them, but then they will be supplanted by others. Right now that's a book called Microcosmos by Lynn Margulis, because I'm reading David Quammen's book The Tangled Tree and she has a whole section in it. But no matter what they are I always know where they are. I can always lay my hands on them.

The latter are more practical, but nevertheless books I'm very fond of. The Pocket Guide to North Carolina Birds. Skeat's Etymological Dictionary, a battered french-english dictionary. These books tend to be pulled out to sit in stacks close to wherever I am working and likely to need them. Bird books and plant guides in my bag of gardening tools (yes, I even have books there). dictionaries on the library table where I work in the morning, the little collections of essays I like to mine for quotes in the living room where I tend to settle in the evenings, etc. None of these books ever seem to make it back to their space on the bookshelf.

Feb 26, 2019, 11:45am

Via LT on facebook: Edward Gorey's covers of classics:

I like the Alain-Fournier.

Feb 26, 2019, 3:11pm

I buy those when I find them in used books stores - even though the paper is crumbly and the books almost unreadable. I find them irresistible.

Feb 26, 2019, 8:57pm

>34 southernbooklady: Those are great. Agree with you on the Alain-Fournier—it looks like the type on the front of that Tana French book, In the Woods.

>35 laurenbufferd: Me too.

Abr 27, 2019, 12:49pm

I also posted on facebook, but since some of you aren't there, I thought it might be appreciated here as well. I am just addicted to old field guides and nature books. There is something about their language --both flowery and formal, and yet so often in the "we" form, like a teacher talking to a collection of his or her less promising students.

"Firstly, we must always bear in mind that a pebble is a transient thing." The Pebbles on the Beach by Clarence Ellis.

A reprint of an old 1950s guide book to the pebbles you can pick up while walking along a shingle beach. The kind of guidebook that thinks scattered quotes from literature about rocks is de rigueur (my favorite being the quote from a poem about how Chalcedony brings good luck in lawsuits: "But pierced and worn upon the neck or hand/ A sure success in lawsuits 'twill command") The cover unfolds into a spotter's guide:

Editado: Abr 27, 2019, 7:32pm

Oh how lovely! That's a great find. Reminds me a bit of Sea Glass Chronicles, a book I always wanted but haven't managed to pick up for myself yet—I've bought a few copies to give as gifts over the years.

Abr 27, 2019, 7:04pm

Beautiful book.

Abr 28, 2019, 5:17pm

>38 lisapeet: Oh! I think that might be the book I've been trying to recall. Thanks!

I had acquired the book London in Fragments: A Mudlark's Treasures, which reminded me of an older book from the library. You'd think there would be cataloguing keywords to unify these, but I haven't found what it is.

Cover of mine:

Abr 30, 2019, 11:37am

I follow a couple of mudlarkers on Instagram. Great stuff.

Mayo 4, 2019, 6:25pm

Mudlarkers, huh. I think I'm definitely doing instagram wrong.

Mayo 5, 2019, 1:10am

I definitely am. I want to follow mudlarkers. Show us the way, LB.

Mayo 5, 2019, 5:26pm

I have a good friend headed for London soon and she was delighted to learn that there are several organized mudlarking groups to choose from

Mayo 6, 2019, 11:02pm

Well..... there's one called london.mudlark and another called beahkeazel which is more beach glass and stones.

and my favorite is Jacqui Wise who also paints delicate little renderings of what she finds.

Mayo 7, 2019, 11:34am

OOPs, that's beachkeazel.

Ago 25, 2019, 8:06am

Well thank you for putting the concept of mudlarking on my radar—there's a cool little world out there. I got a hold of a galley of Lara Maiklem's book, Mudlark: In Search of London's Past Along the River Thames, but guessing that as an e-galley there aren't going to be pictures. So it's a good thing there's Instagram.

Ago 25, 2019, 8:17am

Here's the touchstone for the book:

Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames

I read a YA fiction book recently that had a mudlarking character in Victorian times - Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

Editado: Oct 7, 2019, 12:59pm

History of Women Photographers by Naomi Rosenblum, which I posted about the other day in What Are You Reading? It's all I want to talk about (unfortunately, as some people can attest), which I think is rare for a big fat survey like this one. It's beautifully produced, and also rare for this sort of huge, heavy book the text is laid out to actually make it possible and pleasant to read--aside from the notes superscripts which are faint and tiny. The images themselves are TO DIE, and Rosenblum gets the balance exactly right between contextualizing/celebrating/rediscovering women photographers and a subtle, erudite "fuck the patriarchy" thread which of course I find utterly irresistible. Or maybe it's just the existence of these women themselves that weaves in that thread. Doesn't matter!

One extra little exciting bit, Naomi Rosenblum who is your basic magisterial eminence grise on the subject, was ALSO married to Walter Rosenblum, who was implicated in the sale of fraudulent Lewis Hine prints to collectors. Huge brouhaha about 20 years ago that was fun to read about if, like me, you enjoy nothing more than a good hifalutin scandal.