Eye Candy for Today: Dore illustration for Fables of La Fontaine

Shepherd Wolf, Gustave Doré

Link is to WikiArt, from this page.

19th century illustrator and printmaker Guatave Doré is noted primarily for his dramatic illustrations for Dante’s Devine Comedy and Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost and Cervantes Don Quijote, as well as The Bible.

Less well known are his illustrations for Shakespeare plays, other epic poems and a number of fables and fairy tales.

This wonderfully sly example is from his illustrations for Fables of La Fontaine (link is to Dover book of just the illustrations).

I love the delicately rendered plants, the wonderfully casual hatching in the handling of the clouds and foreground, and the “WTF?” expression on the foremost sheep. As always, Doré and his engraver exhibit a mastery of establishing value with cross hatching.

I’ll leave it to you to wonder if there is any connection to current events.


Didier Graffet

Didier Graffet, fantasy and steampunk illustration
Didier Graffet is a French illustrator, recognized in particular for his fantasy and steampunk themed work. Well known in his native France, Graffet is undeservedly less familiar here in the U.S.

Graffet uses a keen sense of value relationships, a muted palette and a good amount of intricate, textural detail to create arresting images that demand the viewer slow down and linger over them, rather then scanning through them quickly. This, I think, is one of the best uses of detail in illustration — to encourage the reader to pause and reflect on the story while lingering over eye-pleasing interpretations of the text.

Though he does beautifully evocative fantasy themed work, I particularly enjoy his Victorian science fiction images, notably his illustrations for classic Jules Verne novels, and his steampunk versions of alternate times.

Unfortunately, I found the galleries in his website somewhat awkward to navigate, and not as conducive to browsing as one might hope. It’s not a language barrier, the site is nicely available in both French and English, just the arrangement.

The galleries have a drill-down structure, and the obvious path back to the top — the “Galleries” tab in the main navigation — is disabled when in the Galleries section (there is a non-obvious link on the work “Galleries” within the display area that can be used instead).

The thumbnails are small, and it’s easy to miss the links on many sets of thumbnails to subsequent pages, accessed from a small linked row of numbers at the bottom.

The effort to dig around is worthwhile, though, and you will find lots of interesting stuff tucked away. You’ll find most of the steampunk goodies in the Jules Verne section, and in the “Personal” section under “Other Worlds“.

The Fantasy section also contains some personal work and some wonderful dragons.

Most books containing Graffet’s work available in the U.S. are in French editions, a few of which are available through Amazon new, the others available used. There is also a new A Song of Ice and Fire 2017 Calendar, based on George R.R. Martin’s work, with illustrations by Graffet.


Shiro Kasamatsu

Shiro Kasamatsu, Shin Hanga Japanese woodblock prints
Shiro Kasamatsu was a Japanese painter, print designer and printmaker active in the 20th century.

Though he initially studied with Kaburagi Kiyokata —a master of the bijin-ga movement, which focused on figurative subjects — Kasamatsu chose landscape as his primary subject.

Kasamatsu is known particularly for his delicately finessed portrayals of rain, mist, snow and the subtle play of light in night scenes.

Like his contemporaries Kawase Hasui and Hiroshi Yoshida, Kasamatsu’s landscapes may hold particular appeal to European and American collectors because of his incorporation of influences from Western art.

In addition to his prints done in the traditional shin-hanga manner — in which the artist collaborates with woodblock cutters, printmakers and publishers — Kasamatsu also did work in the Sosaku-Hanga, or “creative” manner, in which the artist cuts and prints his own woodblocks. In Kasamatsu’s case, the latter were done largely for his own enjoyment rather than for commercial release.

There is an article on some of Kasamatsu’s blocks and process on Ukiyoe-Gallery.

In viewing the prints in the sources listed below, notably on Ukiyo-e.org, you will see what appear to be repeated entries. These are actually listings of different impressions from the same blocks, some of which are in different states or printed in different color ranges. Some of the images are of better quality than others, depending on the condition of the print and the quality of the photograph. I find it worth continued digging to find the versions of the prints I like best.


Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt portrait etching and preliminary painting

Portrait of Dr. Ephraïm Bueno, Rembrandt, etching and preliminary oil painting
Portrait of Ephraim Bueno, Physician, Rembrandt van Rijn; etching & drypoint; roughly 8 x 7 inches (21 x 18 cm)

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project, original is in the Jewish Museum, New York, which has a downloadable version.

Portrait of a Man, thought to be Dr. Ephraïm Bueno, Rembrandt, oil on panel, roughly 7 x 6 inches (19 x 15 cm); Rijksmuseum (downloadable with creation of free Rijksstudio account).

We’re used to thinking of old master drawings and even etchings as being preliminary works from which paintings are made.

In this case, Rembrandt made a small preliminary painting from which he then produced the etching.

Rembrandt’s mastery of the medium of etching and drypoint shines in his portrayal of the pensive, perhaps somewhat world-weary physician, who was also a poet.

The soft drypoint lines lend the face a naturalistic feeling, and the sensitive rendering is a wonderful example of the empathy and humanity for which Rembrandt’s portraits are revered.


Eye Candy for Today: Fuseli’s Nightmare

The Nightmare, Henru Fuseli
The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781; The Nightmare, engraving after Fuseli by Thomas Burke; The Nightmare Henri Fuseli, 1791; The Nightmare, engraving after Fuseli by Thomas Halloway

Images are from Wikimedia Commons; original of the first version is in the Detroit Institute of Arts

This 18th century painting by English-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli has become one of those famous and familiar images that is hard to see with fresh eyes — as a painting rather than a cultural icon.

The painting achieved almost immediate notoriety in its time, critics found it scandalous and improper due to the sexual nature of the work. An engraving by Thomas Burke was widely popular, and the image became the subject of cartoons and other mention in popular culture.

Though the painting appears to depict both dream and dreamer, it may be more likely that it is the artist’s nightmare — one of unrequited love, representing a young woman with whom Fuseli was in love and proposed marriage to, but whose father disapproved and who married another not long after. Perhaps the demon is a stand-in for the woman’s eventual husband.

The painting was so popular that Fuseli painted several other versions. The most famous of the three surviving alternative versions was done in 1870 or 1871, for which there was an engraving by Thomas Halloway.

See my post on Henry Fuseli.


Eye Candy for Today: Meryon’s Apsis of Notre Dame

L'abside de Notre-Dame de Paris</a></em> (The Apsis of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris), Charles Meryon, etching”  /><br />
<em><a href=L’abside de Notre-Dame de Paris (The Apsis of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris), Charles Meryon

Etching with engraving and drypoint, state 3 of 9; 6 1/2 x 3 3/4 (16.5x29cm).

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project, original is in the National Gallery of Art, DC, which has downloadable files; but you have to create a (free) account to get the highest-resolution version.

This beautiful mid-19th century etching captures not only the striking presence of the cathedral, but the activity on the quay and the flights of birds across the sky. I love Meryon’s handling of the clouds in particular.

Like most prints of its kind, this image was printed as multiple impressions in multiple states; you will find variations of the print in other collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection.