japonisme: the strange mr. strange

16 January 2009

the strange mr. strange

edward fairbrother strange made his living writing articles and books about design: lettering, bookbinding, lace, etc. his tone was often one of arch dissatisfaction and resentment that no longer were the excellent standards of the past being upheld.

we've met him already, listening to him rail against the degenerate work of seitei watanabe, and i promised you you'd hear more. after railing generally against american book design, he says:

to turn to the consideration of some particular cases, one is compelled to reiterate a somewhat well-worn story, that of the wide-spread and curious influence of aubrey beardsley. the cover designs by bertram g goodhue are often full of it--
beardsley's earlier manner of the morte d'arthur;

but of all beardsley's disciples the one who has more closely approached to him in method is will h bradley. the binding of the romance of zion castle is a typical example of this somewhat common tendency. here we have another version of the 'avenue poster' type of decoration;

with, however, not a tithe of the marvellous success of the latter in indication form and drapery by judiciously balance flat masses. in mr bradley's design the gold is over-done, and the hard boundary lines to which it gives rise spoil the effect of the decidedly clever distribution of the upper part of the cover.

the same artist's lyrics of earth wants balance; the serpentine line is rather too heavy, and not very gracefully distributed, although the tree is well rendered and just in its proper place.

a very pleasant treatment of a conventional landscape is that adopted by mr louis rhead, in meadow grass. the use of a picture pure and simple for a cover, instead of some arrangement of ornament, is a new and dangerous device; and it requires powers of no uncommon order to secure for it the success obtained by mr rhead in this instance.

a book-cover has been made by margaret armstrong for love-letters of a musician. it is good in color, the rare subordination of the two lines of floral diaper giving a pleasing effect, but the head of st cecelia, done on an inlay of vellum in slight relief, and the border gold which surrounds it, seem rather forced and over-wrought.

the same artist has produced an effective composition of poppies and pipe-stems, in crimson, light green and gold, on coarse white canvas, for washington irving's rip van winkle.

this is, one would imagine, a good 'saleable' cover, though, from the critical point of view it must not be too closely considered, and the lettering cries aloud for condemnation.

(mr strange was by no means alone in his pouts; snipping, snapping and sniping were the trade of the day in the large and gor- geously produced periodicals covering the art world. so what else is new?)

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Blogger harlequinpan said...

Wonderful! everything here !

16 January, 2009 20:32  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you so much for noticing, harlequinpan -- it took a fair amount of work to find everything!

16 January, 2009 22:06  
Anonymous evan said...

Nothing the out-going administration may have done would surprise me. One of Bush's last manuevers while in office was to try to deregualate many policies (over 90) in place that protect the environment & us as consumers. The fact that he is trying to allow "clean coal" mining by virtue of mountain top clearing (it's called erosion, MR B. I learned that in grade school). Off-shore drilling, opening up park lands for foresting & oil drilling (it's called photosynthesis, Mr. B. Plants take in carbon, put out air- you know, the stuff we breathe). And that's the simple, no duh, stuff.

17 January, 2009 14:33  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i just shake my head.

has anyone ever compiled a complete list of every single study that has been distorted or discarded?

17 January, 2009 16:36  

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