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The strange case of the lovely sketchbooks by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s father
11.23.2016
08:49 am

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Art
Books

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the celebrated author of detective fiction who created the immortal (and highly adaptable) character Sherlock Holmes, was the product of an artistically gifted family. An uncle, the marvelously-named Dicky Doyle, became quite famous as an illustrator during a noteworthy tenure at Punch. Other uncles James and Henry Doyle were also artists of some repute.

And then there was his father, Charles Altamont Doyle. Charles was also an artist, but he achieved no prominence in his lifetime. He was employed as a civil servant in Edinburgh, an assistant surveyor in the Scottish Office of Works. Though as a young man he was cheerful and curious, he retired at the improbable age of 46, suffering from headaches, alcoholism and depression. He spent the last dozen years of his life involuntarily committed to various asylums, and his 1893 death certificate lists his cause of death as epilepsy.

But during his period of commitment, Doyle père continued to make art, and even illustrated for his son an 1888 edition of A Study in Scarlet, the very first Sherlock Holmes story. But the depth of Charles’ talent only really emerged decades after his death, in the most improbable of ways:

Doyle’s book came to light in early 1977. It belonged to an Englishwoman who had been given it more than twenty years before by a friend who had in turn bought it in a job lot of books at a house sale in New Forest. This was probably Bignell House, Conan Doyle’s country retreat near Minstead, which was sold by the Doyle family in 1955. For years the book lay undisturbed, stored with other items in a children’s playroom.But finally, on the recommendation of a painter friend, its owner approached the Maas Gallery with it. The Maas Gallery, one of the leading dealers in Victorian art in London, quickly realized that the Doyle book was a major find. Richard or “Dicky” Doyle, Charles’ brother, had long been familiar to art historians as a talented and successful Victorian illustrator, but only in the previous ten years had there been any awareness of Charles—and even then only through rare original works. Here, however, was evidence for the first time of a more systematic output which, in its scope and originality, entitled Charles to artistic status in his own right.

The foregoing comes from Michael Baker’s exhaustively researched biography of Charles Altamont Doyle, which served as the introduction to his lovely book The Doyle Diary, which reproduced the unearthed sketchbook/journal. Doyle’s drawings reproduced therein reveal a melancholic soul—hardly surprising as all the works are dated during his lengthy confinement—with a naturalist’s flair for rendering birds and flora, plus an interest in the Victorian vogue for fairies. It’s a volume of escapist work, heavy on spiritualist and fantasy themes, and it opens with the inscription “Keep steadily in view that this Book is ascribed wholly to the produce of a MADMAN. Whereabouts would you say was the deficiency of Intellect? Or depraved taste? If in the whole Book you can find a single evidence of either, mark it and record it against me.” Doyle clearly bristled strongly against his internment, and found in art an escape.

The Doyle Diary, published in 1978, is long out of print, though curiously, someone seems to believe there’s a demand for housewares emblazoned with Doyle’s fairy paintings. We’ve selected some favorite sketchbook images to show you. Clicking an image spawns an enlargement.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Sex, death & dismemberment: Joel-Peter Witkin’s portraits of outcasts, severed heads & George Bush
11.22.2016
05:06 pm

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Art
Sex

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A photograph by Joel-Peter Witkin featuring a real severed arm obtained from a cadaver in Mexico.
 

Anyone who is a Republican has a spiritual problem.

—Joel-Peter Witkin

 
When photographer Joel-Peter Witkin got the idea to compose his photograph “The Raft of George W. Bush” in 2006 (which you can see below) he built upon the 1818 painting by French painter Théodore Géricault “The Raft of the Medusa.” To Witkin, Géricault’s masterpiece seemed to distinctly parallel the eight awful years the U.S. spent under the Republican administration of George W. Bush (You miss him right now, don’t you?). “The Raft of George W. Bush” took four weeks to complete and included a Bush lookalike who also worked at a zoo in Miami. Like the other photographs in Witkin’s large portfolio that spans nearly five decades, “The Raft of George W. Bush” though not as grotesque as much of his work, is still rather impossible to look away from.

Originally from Brooklyn, Witkin received his Masters in Fine Art at the University of New Mexico where he has lived and worked for most of his life. His photographs feature a variety of outcasts, circus performers and other humans who often operate on the outskirts of society. Distinctly dark in nature Witkin incorporates a wide variety emotions into his photos that run the gamut from sex to religion. For his more macabre works Witkin goes full-method using real limbs and heads of cadavers—something he is only able to do legally in Mexico. There is much to digest when it comes to Witkin’s work which contain elements of Surrealism, collage and homages to still-life “Vanitas” style paintings from the 1600s that use the symbolism of skulls to remind the viewer that the arrival of death is inevitable. While there are many of Witkin’s photos that I can’t show you here as they feature nudity too explicit for a family publication like DM (you can see them here if you’d like), I have posted what I still believe is a compelling cross-section of his photographs below. I’ve also included an excerpt from the 2013 documentary film on the artist, Joel-Peter Witkin: An Objective Eye.
 

‘The Raft of George W. Bush,’ 2006.
 

‘Bad Student,’ 2007.
 
More Witkin after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Nightmares’: The perfect calendar for 2017
11.22.2016
09:40 am

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Animals
Art
Design

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If you think 2016 has been a bad year then be prepared for what may come in 2017 with John Coulthart’s magnificent Nightmares calendar.

Following on from his highly successful Lovecraft calendar last year, artist, writer and all round good guy Coulthart has pulled together a rich selection of his finest artwork to create an eye-catching calendar for 2017. His theme this time round is nightmares—which may be apt considering some of this year’s startling events.

Coulthart has picked some of his best known (and some little known) artwork from the mid-1990s—including paintings of Lord Horror, the Burroughs influenced Red Night Rites diptych and “one of the pages from [his] Kabbalistic collaboration with Alan Moore, The Great Old Ones.”

I like Coulthart’s work—it unsettles those dark corners where imagination grows wild—and think his Nightmares 2017 will look damned good on any wall. Order yours here.
 
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January: ‘Steps of Descent ‘(digital, 2008).
 
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February: ‘Untitled’ (acrylics on board, 1997).
 
Take a peek at what the rest of 2017 has in store for you on John Coulthart’s ‘Nightmares’ calendar, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Surreal depictions of the human body by the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ of the art world
11.22.2016
09:28 am

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Art

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A painting by Valerio Carruba.
 
Valerio Carruba uses the technique of painting two identical images on top of one another, a process that removes all traces of brush strokes on his canvas. It also lends a distinctly surreal aspect to Carruba’s hyperrealistic paintings.

For his series of paintings that feature vivisected people Carruba drew inspiration from ancient and contemporary anatomy and surgery atlases. In addition Carruba also says this particular series of work came to life thanks to the iconography of Saint Bartholomew. If you’re not hip to Saint Bart’s story it goes like this: In the New Testament Saint Bartholomew was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. After helping a king in India get rid of a nasty ol’ demon, the king’s priests (who were pagans) sold Saint Bartholomew out to the king’s brother who had Bartholomew flayed (or skinned alive) as punishment. Owch.

So like the unfortunate saint, Carruba’s painted people are also having their skin removed while seemingly still alive. His subjects show a range of emotions including fear and even indifference despite their dramatic physical state. The art blog Street Anatomy referred to Carruba as the “Hannibal Lecter” of the art world. A fair comparison when you consider Lecter’s penchant for expertly dismembering his victims with the precision of a skilled surgeon. Though they are beautiful works of art, the images in this post are probably NSFW. I’ve also included a few of Carruba’s paintings that feature gorgeous wavy-haired beings that I know you’re going to dig.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
These pairs of photographs get super dirty when you combine them in your head
11.21.2016
02:03 pm

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Art
Sex

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Prolific French photographer Sacha Goldberger has put together a marvelous series of paired tableaux that serve as erotic meditations on différance, sex, loneliness, and conflict, and they also function as clever puzzles or fractured narrative that it’s up to the viewer to figure out or complete. The series is called Secret Eden, and it gets more NSFW as more information is revealed.

Every portrait actually consists of two photographs, which go together. In every case some of the subjects are in one of the photos and some are in the other one—both of which depict the same place from the same angle but at different times. When you take in a pair of the photographs, the mind is obliged to superimpose the figures literally “onto” each other, as the people in the pictures (often half-naked and/or supine) inevitably combine to create familiar images of coitus or fellatio.

In lay terms, you look at the two pictures, put ‘em together in your mind, and they’re fuckin’.

Such games do not define the limits of Goldberger’s art, however. On a purely technical level the pictures are masterfully done, requiring patience and precision in the areas of blocking, set design, makeup, and much more. Although the pictures in Secret Eden range in setting from the distant past to the distant future, the core of the images define or exploit a meticulously imagined midcentury modern environment that will cause you to remember the UN building in NYC, the architecture of Eero Saarinen, and the many evocative interiors of Mad Men.

Further, Goldberger runs with the twinned nature of his own project to come up with scenarios that play on the Romeo-and-Juliet-ish binaries that govern our lives—East/West, male/female, black/white, man/beast, and day/night. One of the dual portraits imagines the Cold War coupling of a female U.S. soldier and her male counterpart from the USSR. Another reimagines Planet of the Apes as a sex romp. Others have fun with our shared fairy tale heritage or the rarefied nobility of centuries past. The invariably indifferent or nonplussed expressions only serve to accentuate the essential loneliness captured by the idea.

Two years ago (almost to the day, actually) we looked at “Super Flemish,” another project of Goldberger’s that remagined the superheroes of our own era as 16th-century aristocrats.
 


French Garden
 


A Dog’s Life
 


Ape’s Patrol
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Etchings of Parisian prostitutes and drug addicts portray ‘deadly and delicious passions’
11.21.2016
12:30 pm

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Art
Drugs
Sex

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Édouard Chimot was an artist, editor and writer whose career burned brightly through the 1920s but fizzled out during the 1930s and forties. His artwork was a last hurrah for the decadent world portrayed (and generally indulged in) by many French artists during the 1890s.

Born in Lille in 1880, Chimot studied at his local art college and at the École des Arts décoratifs in Nice. It’s fair to say, not much is known about Chimot during this period—though it has been posited he may have originally started out as an architect before switching career to becoming an artist. This may explain why he didn’t exhibit until he was in his early thirties in 1912.

His first exhibition featured drawings, etchings and paintings of the “jeunes et jolies femmes”—the prostitutes and drug addicts who worked and lived near his studio in Montmartre. Chimot often paid these women to sit for him—as prostitutes were often cheaper to hire than models especially when paying by the night. He was heavily influenced by the Symbolist movement of the 1860s to 1890s—writers Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Verlaine; artists Félicien Rops and the Post-Impressionist Toulouse Lautrec. The success of his first show gained Chimot his a commission to illustrate René Baudu’s Les Après-midi de Montmartre—a depiction of seedy lowlife in Paris’s 18th arrondissement.

However, Chimot’s career was once again halted this time by a far more deadly and dangerous interlude—the First World War. Chimot served for almost five years in French army. One can only surmise what happened to him during this time. Yet, it may be possible to ascertain something of his grim experience from the comments of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who once wrote that during war he never felt more alive than when in proximity to death. Wittgenstein’s bloody experience led him to some recklessness behavior—volunteering for several near fatal (if not downright suicidal)  missions.

On leaving the trenches, this intense experience led Wittgenstein to a burst of creativity. Something similar undoubtedly happened to Chimot—who produced a large portfolio of drawings and etchings upon quitting the army. This portfolio formed the basis of illustrations published in books—including Les Après-midi de Montmartre.

Most of these artworks were featured in limited edition books—which catered to the tastes of an exceedingly rich clientele. Chimot’s frenzied burst of activity produced his trademark monochromatic erotica of his favored “deadly and delicious passions”—prostitutes, drug addicts and lost young girls. His work tended to romanticize this shabby world of poverty, disease and addiction—but there are moments when his etchings captured some fleeting awareness at the depths of their despair. All that prostitution and skulls without thinking that men might have something to do with it.

Chimot’s career blossomed. He became an editor of Les Éditions d’Art Devambez—responsible for producing fine quality limited editions imprints of such infamous tales as Les Chansons de Bilitis, La Troisième Jeunesse de Madame Prune, Les Belles de Nuit and Mitsou. He also brought together a group of prominent writers and artists like Henri Barbusse, Collette, Pierre Brissaud and Tsuguharu Foujita.

However, his career came quickly unstuck by two very different forces—the major advances in art (Cubism, Fauvism, Dada, Surrealism and Abstraction) and most damagingly the Wall Street Crash which overnight killed off the demand for high-end exclusive erotica. Chimot carried on—but never to the same success. He moved to Spain where he produced artworks that now looked sadly dated, trite and often the kind of representations seen on sailor’s tattoos or low rent pulp magazines. The glory days of Chimot’s best work were over—the early 1920s when he produced some of the most memorable and haunting images for works of decadent literature.
 
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More of Chimot’s decadent art, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The kitschy erotic art of Suzanne Ballivet (NSFW)
11.18.2016
09:39 am

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Art
Books
Sex

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The great Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir sanded the corners off his wooden furniture so there could be no sharp edges against which his children could accidentally injure themselves. It was a nice idea—but not altogether practical as the furniture—the hard substance—against which his offspring could accidentally injure themselves was still very much present.

This story came to mind while looking at the erotic artwork of French artist Suzanne Ballivet. Firstly, because of their style many of her drawings reminded me of Renoir—and to some extent those artists to be found camped out on the streets of Paris who sketch kitschy portraits of tourists where the faces are always smiling and almost cherubic.

Secondly, just as Renoir sanded his furniture to soften the blow, Ballivet produced sensuous—often highly explicit—erotic images in a very twee, kitsch and populist manner—like the overly sweet images found on Christmas cards or shortbread tins or hanging on an elderly relative’s wall. The style may look soft but the content is undoubtedly hard.

Suzanne Ballivet was born in Paris in 1904. She was the daughter of local photographer Jules Ballivet—who was best known for his photographs of Montpellier in the south of France. Ballivet became a costume designer in theater before finding her true métier in the 1940s as an artist producing comic and often explicit illustrations for magazines and classic works of erotic literature like Pierre Louÿs’ Les Chansons de Bilitis, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs.

Ballivet also illustrated several other literary works by Balzac, Rimbaud, Raymond Radiguet, Anatole France, Mirabeau, Charles Dickens and mores contemporary writers like Collette, Raymond Peynet and Albert Dubout—who she married in 1968.

Though Ballivet’s work is best known in France, her pioneering erotic art has influenced a whole generation of succeeding graphic artists and illustrators of erotica and is eminently collectible.
 
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More erotic art from Suzanne Ballivet, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Cool stuff they used to paint on bass drum heads in the ‘20s and ‘30s
11.18.2016
09:01 am

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Art
Music

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“Spider woman” design drum head
 
These vintage drum kits from the ‘20s and ‘30s feature sometimes scenic, sometimes bizarre painted front bass drum heads. I’m not sure why a drummer would have needed a windmill or a cabin in the woods of the front of their kit, but, hey, the illustrations do add a touch of class.

These nifty kits and more can be found on the Polarity Records vintage drum kits page.

This is a style we’d love to see make a comeback.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Totally Insane James Bond comic books from India
11.17.2016
12:13 pm

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Amusing
Art
Literature

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Diamond Comics are the largest comic book distributor and publisher in India. They’ve created a lot of original Indian comic book characters as well as publishing
foreign comic titles like The Phantom, Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. The Diamond superhero comics look more or less as we’ve come to know them. They don’t depart radically from the American versions.

But the James Bond comic books in Hindi are from another universe entirely. With eye-searing colors and primitive graphics, Diamond’s James Bond series completely lacks the elegance and style we associate with the suave superspy. Day-Glo 007 has been shaken, stirred and put up wet.

I was going to say that these covers are kind of lysergic. But really they’re not. This is what shit looks like after eating a handful of Datura or Amanita Muscaria. Double oh my God!
 

 

 
More double-0-WTF, after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Surreal images of exquisite women and their strange companions
11.17.2016
10:17 am

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Art

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A painting by Dan Quintana.

LA -based painter Dan Quintana says he never decided to be an artist, he was just “born that way.” The talented, self-taught artist has been compared to a 20th century Hieronymus Bosch as well as having a style that has strong ties to other Flemish masters such as Hugo van der Goes especially when it comes to Quintana’s use of moody color schemes.

I’ve been a fan of Quintana for many years and his works never cease to intrigue and amaze me, much like his ability to interject images of mesmerizing, goddess-like women amid his shadowy landscapes filled with creepy, crepuscular beings lurking about. Here’s Quintana on that aspect of his creative process:

I’m attracted to the curves and lines in the female form as opposed to the bold and masculine, although I have painted and drawn many male figures as well. There’s a sort of lovely contrast/juxtaposition in the beautiful, elegant lines of the female figure, colliding and blending back in the mix with that of gloom and the malformed.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Quintana’s remarkable paintings up close and can say unequivocally that they are even more captivating in person. If you are a fan of Quintana or just became one thanks to this post, you can pick up a few of his prints—such as one of my favorites featured in this post “Atriums” (pictured directly below)—over at his official website. Some of the images in this post are slightly NSFW.
 

‘Atriums.’
 

‘The Cozen Den,’ 2011.
 
More Dan Quintana after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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