Friday, August 28, 2009
Six Bookplates by David Frazer
Robert C. Littlewood
As the new Australian Bookplate Society struggles with all the pangs of re-birth, we have before us a dynamic group of young artists willing to create bookplates. One such artist is David Frazer. Frazer's contribution to this second life of the Australian Ex Libris movement is found amongst the English boxwood blocks stored in his studio. David Frazer's enormous energy for this neglected art form has caused him to produce some thirty wood-engraved bookplates in eighteen months. Six of these works were selected to be exhibited at the State Library of Victoria as part of the “Mirror of the World – Books and Ideas” exhibition featuring the finest books and examples of the book arts from the Library's Rare Book collection. Selected independently by the curator (without knowledge of the commissioning process or the forthcoming publication of The Bookplates of David Frazer), as one of the very few examples contemporary contributions to the book arts, it is indeed another fine compliment Frazer has received for his outstanding art work.
Viewing the entire body of David Frazer's bookplates so far reveals an artist with a strong sense of humor. His use of symbolism is so brilliantly simple the viewer may miss it completely in enjoying the fun of each bookplate solely. At times the subject's life story is concealed within a topographical image.
English born artist Tony Irving lives amongst his urban subject matter in his adopted city of Melbourne, Australia. The artist has punctuated his career as a realist painter with focus on images from his city ... the Luna Park fun fair, Dimmey's department store’s Edwardian clock tower folly and the now unused silos which exist simply to support the Nylex Plastics electronic clock.
Leigh Hobbs, artist and author, best known for his children’s book characters of 'Old Tom', 'Horrible Harriet' and 'Fiona the Pig', is depicted here with his friend 'Mr. Punch' embarking on another moonlight adventure.
Secretary of The Australian Bookplate Society, Edwin Jewell is a serious collector of many things. David Frazer has succinctly fused Edwin's profession as an accountant, displaying an abacus, with his collecting all things related to the 'Incredible Hulk', the famous green monster Lou Ferrigno created for television.
If you go down to the woods tonight you're in for a big surprise. Artist John Hart and his fellow bears involve themselves in fun rituals ... big and hairy ... wearing the same tribal uniform, sometimes not! John Hart's constant companion Ralph barks with pagan delight as a good time is had by one and all. Deep inside Ralph's canine mind is a hope that the next life will deliver him to Paradiso.
Some of the author's immediate family are represented here too. Katherine N. Littlewood, affectionately known as Kitty, is a multiple published author in her own field of expertise. Every now and then (and more often in conversation) David Frazer's egocentric sense of humor surfaces in his art work. Interestingly, the artist has put himself in as an author and collaborator of imaginary book titles from the subject's library. The bookplate for Caitlin Littlewood reflects the joy of childhood. Sometimes parental ambition for a child is blind to the notion that a child should enjoy their childhood by simply being a child. The image of the Skipping Girl comes from a landmark in Melbourne, Victoria, where this neon sign sits on the roof of a building that once was the 'Skipping Girl Vinegar' factory.
A critical comment may be mentioned: "David Frazer`s ex libris are some of the most beautiful designs I have seen in my life. They are very, very beautiful - an enjoyment for the senses and the eyes … sensitively full of strength and beauty engraved in a tree. He is really a great artist and Australia can be proud!" -- Ingeborg Kunze–Jørgensen, Curator, Frederikshavn Museum of Art and Ex Libris Collection, Frederikshavn, Denmark.
Checklist of the Bookplates of David Frazer
Lars T. Holden
Caitlin E. Littlewood
James R. Littlewood
Marcus J. Littlewood
Robert C. Littlewood (The Wine Bar)
Robert C. Littlewood (The Boat)
John R. Walker
Friday, August 21, 2009
The Bookplates of Vladimir Vereschagin
By Veniamin Khudoley
Translated from Russian by Ilya Libenzon
Perestroika in Russia broke the stagnation of society in Russia, in all fields of life, including the fine arts, and also enabled the number of extraordinarily thinking and feeling artists to emerge. One of the artists is Vladimir Vereschagin whose work had been appreciated in the West long before perestroika began, a typical situation for artists in the Soviet Union. Vereschagin is a well-recognized master of the graphic arts, and one who largely determined the face of the modern Russian bookplate. He is the first among the Leningrad bookplate artists who participated in the XXIII FISAE Congress in Mönchen-gladbach, Germany, where he introduced the unique world of modern St.Petersburg exlibris. Vereschagin is also the first Russian to be included in the Bibliographical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Exlibris.
Vladimir Vereschagin was born in 1949, in Onega, situated in the northern part of Russia, in Archangel province, on the White Sea. In 1951 the family relocated to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. He has been drawing since childhood. He graduated from V.E. Mukhin Industrial-Art School in 1972. He is a member of the Union of Russian Artists. Now Vladimir lives in the historical suburban district of St. Petersburg--Tsarskoje Selo.
The artist’s first exlibris was made in 1975 and since then he has created some 300 bookplates. Vladimir is a member of the ASBC&D and he has participated in many international exlibris and graphic exhibitions and competitions. He has won international prizes and awards in Italy (1989), Czech Republic(1990), France(1994), Russia (2000), Germany (2003), Greece (2005); and the International Exlibris Centrum, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium (1987, 1988, 1993).
Vereschagin’s first five bookplates were created on linoleum, then he tried lithography (three plates) and mezzotint for the deck of card series. The artist’s favorite technique is aquatint etching with manual painting of samples for exhibitions, which makes his bookplates unique works of art.
Bookplate design differs somewhat from the language of other art forms, even book graphics. During thirty years of Vereschagin’s work his designs have evolved from simple romantic symbolism into a deeply philosophical, metaphorical expressionism, frequently depicting the phantasmagoria of modern realities.
Beginning with his early work, Vereschagin has shown a sharp eye and superb technical skill and the ability to make a portrait using several details; the portrait not only copying the model, but also depicting his spiritual world. As a good example of these skills, I would like to mention the exlibris of Valeriy Mishin who in the early nineteen-eighties re-introduced color lithography: the owner of the bookplate is shown tied to the lithographic stone with the Petersburg’s landscape as a background.
One can immediately recognize Andrey Gennadiev, the leader of the Petersburg avant garde movement, in the tall figure wearing a historical costume, standing near the statue of Gogol’s Nose. Creating bookplates for his fellow artists, Vladimir often uses unique characteristics of their own art styles. That is shown in the exlibris of Alexander Kolokoltsev: in comparison with the small planet in the background, a huge snail is piercing the dark with searchlights projecting from the top of his shell which has turned into a flying saucer, symbolizing the relativity of being on micro- and macro-cosmic levels, a theme Kolokoltsev has been interested in all his life.
Vereschagin is always recognizable in his diverse and original work of art. The technical sophistication cultivated by the Petersburg artists is absent in Vladimir’s work. However, obvious courage, unstoppable humour and energy, with which his art is intertwined, can leave nobody untouched; and give his miniatures the quality of monumentality and greatness. He created a number of memorial exlibris for political figures: Margaret Thatcher, G. Kohl, and Ronald Reagan. The bookplate of Huib Bongers showing Mikhail Gorbachev sitting at a chess board manipulating statesmen and people is masterfully done. Vladimir’s opuses depicting poets of “Silver Century” literary movement are crystal clear: A. Akhmatova (exlibris Luc Van den Briele) and M. Tsvetaeva (exlibris R. Enikeeva); on the theme of Bulgakov’s novels (Y. Argo), and for the great bard, B. Okudzhava.
In recent years Vereschagin has often used mythological and biblical themes: Adam and Eve (M. Hagedorn), Rape of Europa (P.A. Burggraff), Leda and the Swan (Lars Stolt), Susanna and the Elders (G. Van der Zee), The Trojan Horse (Gernot Blum), Salomea (H. Sparke), The Three Graces (G. Smith). These themes are used by the artist to emphasize the internal substance of the bookplate in relation to his vision. This is especially valued by the renowned bookplate collectors and graphic art specialists, interpreting mythological and biblical themes in the modern literature from the different angles, and so attracted by the art work of Vladimir Vereschagin.
One of the interesting projects Vladimir has been working on for over ten years, is the creation of a complete deck of playing cards in exlibris form. This idea is remarkably simple and tempting for bookplate collectors: the owners of each exlibris could exchange them and collect the complete set. These cards are made for the famous bookplate collectors, such as Luc Van den Briele, Agaath and Jos Waterschoot, Wout and Miets Meulemans, William E. and Maryann Butler, Nicola Carlone, Dante Fangarezi, Spartas Cadoli, and the National Museum of Cards in Belgium. Life is a game, and why not commission a card from the artist, and get into the company of Aces? After all, bookplate collecting has an element of risk, gambling, and passion in itself. It is well illustrated in one of the latest bookplates, created for James P. Keenan: dinosaurs, reptiles and snakes exchange bookplates at a congress on the back of an ancient tortoise.
Vereschagin is known to bookplate collectors not only as an artist, but also as an entrepreneur, organizing art projects and exhibitions, local and international, all celebrating art. Vladimir helped in organizing the following exhibitions: “Interproject” and “Russian Artists for Holland’s collectors” in Belgium, Holland, and Russia; “World Exlibris” and “Work of Uri Nozdrev in Belgium; “Graphic Art of Nikolay Batakov” in Switzerland; “The Artists of St. Petersburg” in Hamburg, Germany; “ Art of V. Pogulaev” in St. Petersburg, Russia, and “ The Artists of Tsarskoe Selo” in the United States and Germany. The art is a method of discovering the world!
Travel is a hobby for Vereschagin. He has been present at exhibitions with his inseparable camcorder in many European countries. Recently Vladimir visited America : Kalamazoo, Chicago, New York : well deserved success and tons of impressions. New exhibitions and new friends mean that there will be new bookplates of this tireless artist. “If you want to be happy, be happy”. This aphorism of Kosma Prutkov could be the name for the exlibris Marlies and Dieter Kogler and credo for the artist from Tsarskoe Selo.
The work of Vladimir Vereschagin is held by many prestigious libraries and museums, among them the Library of the Hermitage, the Russian National Library, the Smithsonian Institution, the Gutenberg Museum of Book Printing, and the Museum of Exlibris, Malbork, and hold prized places in private collections around the world.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Don Quixote (Quijote) on Exlibris
"Youngsters read it (Don Quixote's story), grown men understand it, and old people applaud it." So wrote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of the immortal story, Don Quixote.
History. Cervantes, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, was born in Spain in 1547 and led quite a fascinating life. His first poems were written as early as 1567. He served years in the Spanish army under Philip II and in 1571, during the Battle of Lepanto, suffered a gunshot wound which caused permanent damage to his left hand. Then, in 1575, en route to Spain, his ship was captured by Barbary pirates and he was sold into slavery in Algiers. He made four unsuccessful attempts to escape. Trinitarian friars paid his ransom in 1580. In 1582 his first plays were performed and in 1584 at the age of 37, he married a young woman 20 years his junior. By 1587 he was a quasi-government official who traveled widely around Spain, requisitioning wheat and olive oil. He became an aspiring dramatist and a tax collector, but was imprisoned again in 1597 - this time for a shortfall in taxes collected and irregularities in his accounts.
Drawing on his vast variety of life experiences, he finally published Part 1 of Don Quixote in 1605 (at age 57!). It was an immediate success; ten years later he published Part 2. In addition to Don Quixote, he published other novels, short stories, and poems during this decade. He died in 1616, a few days after Shakespeare.
Don Quixote, considered by many to be the first truly modern novel, marked its 400th anniversary in 2005 with worldwide celebrations and symposiums. It has been translated into more than 70 languages and continues to be newly translated by each generation so as to adapt to the changes in nuances of language. Differences in translations can range from subtle to extreme. It won the Norwegian Nobel Institute's "Best Work of Fiction Ever" survey, conducted in 2002; 100 prominent authors from over 50 countries responded to the poll.
The Story. In Part 1, Alonso Quixano (Quijano), an elderly Spanish "hidalgo," or country gentleman, goes mad after reading too many stories about knights errant (heroes of romantic chivalry who travel in search of adventures in which they exhibit skill, prowess, and generosity). He takes the name Don Quixote (here Don means Mr. or Sir), and clad in ancient armor, sets out on his nag of a horse, Rosinante, to right wrongs and fight for justice. He desires to be a champion of the oppressed and savior of damsels in distress; in short, to be the hero of his own book of chivalry. Naturally, his material conditions - age, physique, social and economic circumstances - are thoroughly unsuitable for such a design - so much so that the idea could only be seriously entertained by someone whose mind was unbalanced. (1)
Almost immediately upon setting out to search for chivalrous deeds to perform, the noble Quixote acquires an ignoble squire, Sancho Panza. Sancho, a tout little fellow, more concerned with where his next meal will come from and where he will sleep that night, believes that by following his master he will eventually be rewarded with an island-kingdom of his own. Early in their journey, they meet a young peasant woman, Aldonza, who in Quixote's imaginary world becomes Dulcinea del Toboso, his beloved lady fair, Reality is harsh for these "tragicomic" figures and they frequently run into difficulties.
In Part 2, the knight and his squire are well known and many people they meet have read Part 1. These people play up to his delusions by staging adventures for his benefit as well as their own amusement. Even though he is often mocked, his dignity raises him above his taunters. Gradually, however, as his dream fades, his sanity is restored (partly from the eccentric behaviors of those he meets) and he returns home to die, as Alonso Quixano.
At the time it was written, most readers viewed his novel as pure entertainment - like a comic book or farce. Later it was interpreted as a romantic novel with pathetic or even tragic elements. Over time it has also been seen as a satire, possibly of the Catholic Church or Spanish politics. Quixote and Sancho are often seen as two halves that form a whole; Quixote's idealistic interpretation of the world and Sancho's bodily functions combined with his hungers interact to teach them both that human experience is made up of both imagination and reality. (2) Sometimes what we perceive as one is, in fact, the other. Arguments over the book's purpose have existed since it was written. Multiple volume scholarly study editions that include historical explanations, parallel literary texts, and contemporary lore were printed as early as 1797.
Influences on the World. The novel has inspired many artists such as William Hogarth in the 1700s, Gustav Dore in the 1800s, and Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso in the 1900s. In the 1700s, the French gobelin tapestry industry also created a popular series of four scenes from the story.
It has prompted musical pieces to be written by composers ranging from the classical era Richard Strauss (Opus 35 for cello, performed by prominent musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma) to contemporary folk song writer Gordon Lightfoot. Who could ever forget the song, "The Impossible Dream," from the Broadway Musical, "Man of La Mancha?" This musical was adapted for the stage by Dale Wasserman, music was written by Mitch Leigh, and lyrics were by Joe Darion. It opened in 1965 off-Broadway; with over 2,328 performances it was the third longest running musical of the 1960s.
Filmmakers have also found the story motivational. There have been several popular versions made for the big screen as well as for television. A famous version from 1973 features Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren. In 2003, a retired business professor from Harvard University even made a film entitled "Passion and Discipline: Don Quixote's Lessons for Leadership."
The world of dance has not been immune to its influence. First created for the Russian Bolshoi Theater in 1869, the Don Quixote Ballet is now performed by famous dance companies the world over. The music was composed by Ludwig Minkus, who was born in Vienna in 1826.
Several words or phrases have become part of our everyday language. To be "quixotic" is to be imaginative, courageous, but usually foolishly so - with an impractical pursuit of ideals; the admirable and the futile combined. "Tilting at windmills," refers to expending one's energy in a futile attack on what cannot be overcome.
Therefore, few genres or mediums remain untouched by this masterpiece. Playing cards, postage stamps, computer games, statuettes, and other memorabilia help keep Quixote's memory alive. There is even a male agouti (a large rodent) namesake at the Wellington Zoo in Australia and a U.S. Don Quixote Solar System Mission whose goal is to crash a spaceship into an asteroid in 2007.
Ex Libris. As of 2003, at least 2,200 Don Quixote exlibris had been produced by about 800 artists, from over 50 countries, for over 900 owners. European owners are numerous, with the largest number of collectors, not surprisingly, among the Spanish. There are also avid owners in the Americas and the Far East. Peter Hosokawa (1932-1997) and Dr. George Sekine are two Japanese enthusiasts who have commissioned several editions. Although Hosokawa amassed over 1,000 ex libris with this topic, he never commissioned Japanese artists. Sekine, on the other hand, has utilized Japanese artists; some of these depictions have portrayed Don Quixote as a Samurai (Japanese knight). (4)
Vodrazka (1894-1984), from Prague, is the artist given the distinction of having produced the largest number of Don Quixote exlibris (more than 150), with Eduardo Dias Ferreira (1925-1991), from Portugal, creating over 100. When was the Don Quixote topic first used in exlibris? Authorities vary in their estimate, but possibly as early as 1770, although probably not until the late 1800s. (6)
The most common subject areas are: 1. Quixote in armor, 2. Quixote on his horse, 3, Rocinante, 4. Quixote and books, 5. Quixote and Sancho Panza; 6. Quixote and other characters (most often Dulcinea), 7. Quixote and some representation of death or religion, 8. Quixote and other miscellaneous items or themes, 9. Cervantes.
Stylistically they range from realistic to abstract. Techniques used to produce them include metal plate engravings and etchings, woodcuts and wood engravings, lithographs, serigraphs and other photo processes.
Although there is not a great deal of literature regarding "Cervantine" exlibris, there are exhibition pamphlets, sections of exhibition catalogues, occasional articles in specialized magazines, several books, and at least one doctoral dissertation that have described the topic of Don Quixote on exlibris. Some offer the reader excellent reproductions, occasionally tipped-in originals, and interesting text. (3), (5), (6)
"Can we ever have too much of a good thing?" asks a friend of Don Quixote in Part 1. It appears that we'll never have enough exlibris using the theme of Don Quixote. Anyone who is easily able to lose him or herself in any sort of fiction is in some degree a Quixote. (1) Dr. Sekine mentioned in his paper that he used "Don Quixote" as his pen name because "Non Qui" has the meaning of carefree or easy-going in Japanese which appealed to him. (4) The legacy of Cervantes is that "the novelist teaches the reader to comprehend the world as a question." (2) The innocence of Don Quixote in his pursuit of his dream will continue to attract ex libris enthusiasts and artists alike.
Grateful acknowledgement to Luigi Bergomi, for his loan of literature and ex libris.
1. Cervantes, Miguel (de Saavedra). Don Quixote de la Mancha. Translated by Charles Jarvis (first published in 1742). Oxford University Press. Introduction by E.C. Riley (Emeritus Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Edinburgh). 1992. Introduction pages vii-xxii.
2. The Don Quixote Exhibit. Featured holdings of the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University. Curated by Harry Sieber, John Hopkins University, Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies, 1996. Retrieved 11/05 from http://quixote.mse.jhu.edu/.
3. D. Quixote No Mundo dos Ex Libris. Edited by A.M. Da Mota Miranda Portuguese Association of Ex Libris. 1964.
4. Sekine, Dr. George. Don Quixote Bookplates by Japanese Artists. Ex Libris Chronicle, The International Collector, Volume 4, Numbers 3 and 4. A publication of the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers. 2006
5. Torre, G.C. Don Chisciotte Nell' Ex Libris. Edizione MAF Servize-Torino- Italia. 1994.
6. Torre, Gian Carlo, La Aventura de Don Quijote en los Ex Libris. Portugal, 2003.