Phillip K. Dick Book Cover Art Gallery

Phillip K. Dick Book Cover Art Gallery
Though I’ve come across it before, the Phillip K. Dick Book Cover Art Gallery is one of the unusual galleries featured in the Museum of Online Museums I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Phillip K. Dick was a science fiction writer active in the mid Twentieth Century, noted for his eccentric and um… original viewpoint. Though perhaps not the best writer in the sense of well-structured prose, his unique ideas and flights of bizarre imaginings set him apart and made him a favorite of many (myself included).

There have been attempts to translate a number of his books into films, most of them about as successful as returns from the hilarious game he suggested back in 1969 in his novel Galactic Pot-Healer, of translating famous phrases from one language to another and back, say from English to Japanese to English, and letting others try to guess the phrase from its mangled translation.

(The actual ability to do this eventually became practical with the advent of online translation services like Babel Fish and Google Translate, and we used to have fun with it a few years ago, but it’s actually become more difficult lately as the translation programs have gotten much better.)

Blade Runner, adapted from Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is the best of the movies made from his novels, but is more Ridley Scott’s vision than Phillp Dick’s. I’ve long thought that the best cinematic adaptation of the ideas of Phillip K. Dick (and William Gibson), though not a direct adaptation of a work by either author, was the original Matrix movie (you know, the good one).

As more movie adaptations have been made and interest in Dick has been revived, a number of his books have been reissued (again), and there is now a long list of various versions, editions and translations from the last half century or more.

A large number of these (though certainly not all, yet) have been gathered in a cover gallery on the site. Though the list of links is text rather than thumbnails, it’s easy to look through them if you’re using a modern tabbed browser, by Command-clicking (Mac) or Control-clicking (Windows) to open multiple links in additional tabs.

Some of the cover illustrations (particularly on one recent series of reissues) are very good, others are varying degrees of good, mediocre, terrible, worse than bad and just plain bizarre.

It’s fun to look through multiple versions of the same title, both to see the different approaches to science fiction illustration over a 50 year or so span, and also to see the variety in interpretations of the same story by different artists.

Many have nothing whatsoever to do with the story, but look great anyway, like the cover at top, left for The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (one of my favorite Dick novels, a psychedelic black hole of recursive paranoia that leaves you wondering “How did anybody even think of this?). (Side note to fans of David Cronenberg’s films, look for the nod to the influence of Three Stigmata in the form of fast food from Perky Pat’s in one scene of eXistenZ.)

Unfortunately, the Phillip K. Dick Book Cover Art Gallery does not include artist credits for the covers (and I’m not confident enough in my guesses to give credits for the covers I’ve shown here).

I won’t go into Dick’s personal life, which is in some ways even stranger than his novels, but there is a wonderfully bizarre graphic story (i.e. comics) account of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by Robert Crumb from Weirdo, readable online.

If you’re new to Phillip K. Dick and curious to read something of his, I recommend Ubik (currently being adapted for film) or Man in the High Castle as places to start.

There is a compendium of four of his better known novels, Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s: UBIK, The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

You can very often find Phillip K. Dick novels, frequently with interesting covers, by digging around in second hand book stores; a wonderful way to come across odd treasures.


The Museum of Online Museums

The Museum of Online MuseumsI’ll start out by giving the Major Time Sink Warning.

The Museum of Online Museums is site maintained by Coudal Partners, a design firm based in Chicago.

Basically it’s a list of links to an eclectic collection of online sites, either virtual museums, or online extensions of brick and mortar museums.

It ranges from the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Timeline of Art History, to obscure and wonderfully bizarre collections like The Galleries of Thrift Store Art and the Museum of Vintage Octopus Pulp Covers.

Though there are plenty of art related links, the MoOM is not entirely art oriented, and you’ll find such gems as Very Small Objects, The Museum of Useful Things, The Virtual Typewriter Museum and the Squished Penny Museum.

The majority of the selections are art or design oriented, however; bearing in mind that’s a broad definition that includes things like The Museum of Bad Album Covers, The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, The Magazine Cover Archive, A Few Thousand Science Fiction Magazines, The Comic Book Cover Browser (which I’ve mentioned before), and the Museum of Imagined Contemporary Art.

There are also big items like the National Portrait Gallery (my post here), the Rijkemuseum, The Van Gogh Gallery, Art Treasures from Kyoto and the Russian Museums List.

There is a small, blog-like column on the left called “Now Showing”, in which half a dozen items are featured and described in more detail.

The MoOM is updated quarterly and you can sign up for a mailing list notification.

Remember, I did give you the Major Time Sink Warning.


A Vermeer in Rome

Vermeer - Woman With a Pearl Necklace
In a situation similar to the one I described in my recent article on A Vermeer Comes to California, Jonathan Janson, the director of the amazing Essential Vermeer web resource, let us know in a comment on that post that there is currently a Vermeer on view in Rome.

Normally the southernmost location to see a Vermeer in Europe is in Vienna (see the Essential Vermeer map of Vermeer locations in Europe).

From now until February 15, 2009, Vermeer’s Woman With a Pearl Necklace (larger version here), a painting that also bears fascinating similarities with the previously mentioned A Lady Writing, will be on loan from the Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie in Berllin and on view at the Museo del Corso, along with masterpieces by Rembrandt and other Dutch greats.

Jonathan Janson has articles on the show here and here on his new Vermeer oriented blog Flying Fox. He also has a list of other Vermeers that are traveling this year.

Hi resolution images from the show are available for download here.

It’s remarkable how similar this painting is to A Lady Writing in terms of the composition, the use of the same fur lined jacket, string of pearls and, of course, those famous pearl earrings; and yet how different it is in emotional tone, the far away gaze of the woman, turned away from us here, directly into that airy flood of light, and the seemingly blank wall that frames her.

The wall, where Vermeer so often displays works of art within his own paintings, here serves to display the light itself — flowing in through the delicate latticework of the window like a shimmering ghost, past the hinted sliver of a framed painting and the golden drapery, across the broad tableau of that seemingly empty space, where it reveals the rainbow spectrum within its overall hue, to find and embrace the figure of the woman, warm her robe, sparkle off her pearls like miniature suns and caress and reveal her face and hands with the soft highlights and delicate shadow that Vermeer coaxes out of his brush with uncanny skill.


Gris Grimly

Gus Grimly
Gris Grimly is the author and illustrator of children’s books like Jordan Ray’s Muddy Spud and the Wicked Nursery Rhymes series. He is also the illustrator for numerous other books, including The Dangerous Alphabet with Neil Gaiman.

His web site, Mad Creator Productions, has a showcase of many of them, as well as a portfolio of art that includes both color and black and white illustration and gallery art. (I can’t give you direct links because the site is in Flash.)

He works in ink and watercolor, often using fine lines drawn with technical pens over which he lays washes, splotches and glorious spatters of watercolor. He also appears to use ink spatters, giving his gothic horror themed illustrations a wonderful feeling of looseness and texture.

Grimly also maintains a MySpace page, and there is a gallery of his book covers, along with a short bio, on the site.


Kerr Eby

Kerr Eby
For the benefit of those in other parts of the world, I’ll point out that today is Veterans Day here in the U.S., a day set aside to honor those who have given or risked their lives, endured hardships and put themselves in the service of their country in military service.

The same date, November 11, is also observed in many other countries as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, a date taken from the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

Harold Kerr Eby, usually known as simply Kerr Eby, was an artist who made first hand observations of both World War I and World War II, the former as an artist/soldier, the latter as a civilian member of the combat art program sponsored by Abbott Laboratories (see my posts on They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of World War II and Art of War: Eyewitness U.S. Combat Art From the Revolution through the Twentieth Century).

You can see his impressions of World War I in the form of his dark and emotional etchings, done after the fact but carrying the weight of first hand observation. His World War II images (image above, top) were more direct, often done on the spot with charcoal, pencil and other dry media, with piercing observations of the horror, extremes and physical and emotional fatigue suffered by the soldiers.

Eby was born in Japan, where his father was as a missionary for the Canadian Methodist Church. He studied at Pratt Institute and the Art Students League in New York, at the later studying with George Bellows. He also frequented the Cos Cob artist colony in Connecticut and became friends with Childe Hassam, giving lessons in etching to the senior artist.

He enlisted in the Army and served as ambulance crew during World War I (known at the time as “the war to end all wars” because of its horrible scale; little did they know).

Eby was never officially commissioned to cover the war as an artist, but recorded many of his impressions on his own, later rendered into a series of lithographs that were published as a book.

At the entry of the U.S into World War II he attempted to enlist again, but was over the age limit. Instead he participated in the combat artist reportage program in the Pacific, landing with the Marines at Guadalcanal and Tarawa. He died of a disease contracted while covering the war.

In between the wars, Eby created a a body of work, apparently mostly in the form of etchings and lithographs. If he was a painter to any great extent, I’ve been unable to find any examples.

His etchings, though, are wonderful, with scenes from his trips abroad as well as domestic subjects, and to my eye showing the influence of etchers like James Whistler and Joseph Pennell. The best display of these is on the Old Print Shop site.

There is a long series of Eby’s drawings from WW II on the Navy Art Collection. (The server can be a bit slow, give it time, and note the links to multiple pages at the bottom.)

At times while looking through Eby’s WW II battlefield sketches, I found myself thinking about Gustav Dore’s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, not from any stylistic similarities, but from the emotional weight of the images.

These are the hardships we’re called on to remember and honor on Veterans Day.

[Suggestion courtesy of Robert Tracy (see my post on Robert Tracy)]


Gilles Tréhin (update)

Gilles Trehin
In 2006 I wrote about autistic savant Gilles Tréhin and Urville, a large and fantastically detailed city that he has been creating in mind since the age of 12, and shares with us by way of hundreds of intricate drawings.

I recently learned that shortly after I wrote that post, Tréhin’s English language book about the project, Urville, was released, containing an elaborate tour of the imaginary city in over 300 of his drawings.

Tréhin is an autistic savant, with extraordinary abilities in mathematics, music, language and art. His visions of Urville form a comprehensive image of this city, complete with economic, social, political and historic background, in addition to geography and architecture.

There are two sites devoted to Urville,, and the newer The latter can seem a little hard to navigate unless you notice links at the top dividing the site into two sections, one for Tréhin, and the other for his partner Catherine Mouet. Once in Tréhin’s section you can navigate to pages of images for skyscrapers, transportation, public buildings and squares.

The is a bit more straightforward, with sections for views of Urville and recent drawings.

There is an article about Thehin on the site of the Wisconsin Medical Society, and 4 videos about him on YouTube. There is an extract of the book on Google Book Search.

The fascinating thing about these drawings is that they are not an unconnected series of make-believe street scenes and envisioned architecture, but glimpses of a connected whole, a complete city that exists as a mental construct; a matrix, if you will, of interconnected buildings, plazas, streets and their relationships in a projected geographical space.

For more, see my previous post about Gilles Tréhin.