Brain Pickings

Own a Warhol for $5: Warhol’s Obscure 1959 Children’s Book

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Priceless art at a petty price, or what spades have to do with the secret nooks of the art world.

Andy Warhol may be one of only seven artists in the world to have ever sold a canvas for $100 million, but it turns out you don’t have to be a billionaire to own “a Warhol.” In fact, you can do so for about $5.

In the late 1950s, Warhol belonged to Doubleday’s stable of freelance artists, making a living designing book covers and illustrating dry business books. Shortly before halting his love affair with the corporate world in fear of compromising his flirtations with the art world, he illustrated six stories for the excellent Best In Children’s Books. (Cue in our recent review of little-known children’s books by famous “adult” authors.) Among them was the story “Card Games Are Fun,” from Best of Children’s Books #27, published in 1959.

What’s most striking about this artwork isn’t only its complete lack of resemblance to Warhol’s most iconic pop art, but also the fact that it remains largely unacknowledged by art historians and virtually absent from most Warhol biographies. Yet something about its honesty, of style and of circumstance, makes it a rare treat of creative history.

via We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie

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Visualizing the Expansion of the Universe: The Most Accurate Measurement Yet

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What 120,000 galaxies have to do with understanding our place in the universe.

We’ve previously looked at different ways to grasp the scale of the universe, but how can we measure its growth? Australian Ph.D. student Florian Beutler has created the most accurate measurement yet of how fast the universe is expanding. Working at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), he used the Hubble constant and data from the 6dF Galaxy Survey, the most ambitious survey to date of over 120,000 galaxies across the southern sky, collected between 2001 and 2005. The result is a remarkable map of the expansion of universe, animated here to unfold before your very eyes.

For more on the universe, its history, its future and its mystery, don’t forget the excellent and timeless Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything.

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The Book of Symbols: Carl Jung’s Catalog of the Unconscious

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Why Sarah Palin identifies with the grizzly bear, or what the unconscious knows but doesn’t reveal.

A primary method for making sense of the world is by interpreting its symbols. We decode meaning through images and, often without realizing, are swayed by the power of their attendant associations. A central proponent of this theory, iconic Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustaf Jung, made an academic case for it in the now-classic Man and His Symbols, and a much more personal case in The Red Book.

Beginning in the 1930s, Jung’s devotees started collecting mythological, ritualistic, and symbolic imagery under the auspices of The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS), an organization with institutes throughout the U.S. In the intervening 80 years, the ARAS archive has grown to contain more than 17,000 images and 90,000 pages of cultural and psychological scholarly commentary on pictorial archetypes, all of which is now fantastically, fully digitized.

You can browse through ARAS via a list of common archetypes, or search by word, producing a cross-indexed result with thumbnail images and a timeline of where and when that idea appeared throughout history.

Nonetheless, to access this treasure trove you still have to be a member of ARAS online, or take trip to one of its four physical locations. Enter publishing powerhouse Taschen, and the extraordinary release — 14 years in the making — of The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images. An 800-page reference tome of ARAS’s archival riches, The Book of Symbols is epic in every sense — its ambition is nothing less than to represent the pictorial patrimony of human history.

The book divides its images into five categories, “Animal World,” “Creation and Cosmos,” “Human World,” “Plant World,” and “Spirit World,” and contains 350 essays from experts in art, folklore, literature, psychology, and religion — a systematic exploration of symbols and their meanings throughout history and an unparalleled reference guide to visual experience from every era and part of the world.

Whatever the nature of your own work, from advertising to zoology, you’ll find yourself endlessly fascinated and illuminated by The Book of Symbols and its beautiful exploration of the origins, forms, and influence of our common visual culture.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





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