Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

07 MAY, 2012

Harry Clarke’s Haunting 1919 Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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Artful Edwardian-era erotica at the intersection of the whimsical and the macabre.

Somewhere between Henry Holiday’s weird paintings for Lewis Carroll and Edward Gorey’s delightfully grim alphabet fall Harry Clarke‘s hauntingly beautiful and beautifully haunting 1919 illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination — a collection of 29 of Poe’s tales of the magical and the macabre.

So lavish was the artwork that a copy of the “deluxe” Clarke-illustrated edition went for 5 guineas in 1919, or about $300 in today’s money. The book, an epic volume of 480 pages, was eventually reprinted by Calla Editions in 2008, and is now available for the much more reasonable $27, or free with a trip to your local public library.

Eerie and erotic, Clarke’s illustrations bring his Edwardian-era aesthetic and early Art Nouveau influences to the post-Victorian liberated fascination with sensuality.

See more illustrations at the always-wonderful 50 Watts, who took care to scan the images above.

Clarke’s style brings to mind a beautiful German short film I recently shared, titled The Boundaries of Life and Death and inspired by Poe:

50 Watts FastCo Design

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07 MAY, 2012

The Dalai Lama on Science and Technology

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Pain, pleasure, and what sets man apart from machine.

Last month, in response to the impossibly fantastic conversation between Einstein and Indian philosopher Tagore, reader Feña Avila recommended an intriguing collection of conversations between the Dalai Lama and prominent Western scientists across physics, neuroscience, biochemistry, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive psychology. Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind is an extraordinary exchange of ideas in its entirety, but this particular excerpt from the Dalai Lama’s opening remarks articulates an incredibly important point, one C. P. Snow passionately addressed in 1959 and Jonah Lehrer called a “fourth culture” half a century later.

For quite some time I have had a great interest in the close relationship between Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism, and Western science. My basic aim as a human being is to speak always for the importance of compassion and kindness in order to build a better, healthier human society, and a brighter future.

[…]

Western civilization’s science and technology bring society tremendous benefit. Yet, due to highly developed technology, we also have more anxiety and more fear. I always feel that mental development and material development must be well-balanced, so that together they may make a more human world. If we lose human values and human beings become part of a machine, there is no freedom from pain and pleasure. Without freedom from pain and pleasure, it is very difficult to demarcate between right and wrong. The subjects of pain and pleasure naturally involve feeling, mind, and consciousness.

(This, of course, brings us to the grand question of what consciousness actually is, which is a whole different can of intellectual worms.)

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04 MAY, 2012

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lesser-Known Contributions to Graphic Design

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Shedding new light on the iconic architect’s legacy through the kaleidoscope of his diverse design work.

Frank Lloyd Wright is considered by many the most influential architect in modern history, but despite his enormous cultural recognition, the full extent of his contribution to design — posters, brochures, typography, murals, book and magazine covers — remains relatively obscure. In Frank Lloyd Wright: Graphic Artist (public library), Penny Fowler examines Wright’s ingenious and bold graphic work — his covers for Liberty (some of which were so radical the magazine rejected them), his mural designs for Midway Gardens, his photographic experiments, his hand-drawn typographical studies, the jacket designs for his own publications, including The House Beautiful and An Autobiography, and a wealth more.

Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, 1955. ©FLW Foundation

From his childhood encounter with Friedrich Froebel’s educational building blocks at the 1876 Centennial Exposition to his experiments with geometric designs long before the Mondrian age to his obsession with the woodblock art of Old Japan, Fowler traces Wright’s inspirations, influences, and singular style as his work dances across aesthetic movements like Bauhaus, Japanisme, Arts and Crafts, and De Stijl.

Magazine cover, Town and Country, July 1937.

One of the designs that Wright originally proposed for Liberty, it is the only one ever published as a magazine cover. ©FLW Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright, 'Descriptive Geometry' class drawing, 1885.

Shade and Shadow of a Surface of Revolution. Pencil and ink on paper. ©FLW Foundation

LEFT: This colorful 1973 adaptation of Wright’s design is a backlit art glass mural made for the Arizona Biltmore by Taliesin Architects. ©FLW

RIGHT: Frank Lloyd Wright, Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers. Cover design for Liberty, c. 1927–1928. Presentation drawing (detail). Pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

As Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation director Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer writes in the introduction, what Wright wrote in 1908 of architecture could well apply to his graphic design work as well:

As for the future — the work shall grow more truly simple, more expressive with fewer lines, fewer forms; more articulate with less labor; more plastic; more fluent, although more coherent; more organic. It shall grow not only to fit more perfectly the methods and processes that are called upon to produce it, but shall further find whatever is lovely or of good repute in method or process, and idealize it with the cleanest, most virile stroke I can imagine.

Frank Lloyd Wright, presentation drawing, City by the Sea mural (south wall), Midway Gardens.

Pencil, color pencil, gold ink, watercolor, and crayon on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright, 'Kinder Symphony,' for the Avery Coonley playhouse, Riverside, Illinois, 1912.

Title page designed by Wright for the Auvergne Press. ©FLW Foundation

Midway Gardens. Tavern Room, looking north to entranceway.

©FLW Foundation

'The Eve of St. Agnes'

Title page designed by Wright for the Auvergne Press. ©FLW Foundation

Fowler writes of Wright’s formative years:

Reading, sketching, and music each played a role in shaping Wright’s character. So did hard work. Beginning when he was eleven, he worked through the late spring and summer on his uncle’s farm. Wright described the long hours and hard work as ‘adding tired to tired.’ Nevertheless, this farm labor as an ‘amateur hired hand’ fostered an everlasting appreciation of nature.

TOP: Frank Lloyd Wright, conceptual sketch for promotional brochure, Midway Gardens. Pencil and color pencil on paper. ©FLW Foundation

BOTTOM: Cover, Midway Gardens (Chicago: The Midway Gardens Co., n.d.) This rare promotional pamphlet describes the facilities and their attractions and features photographs of patrons enjoying the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Collection of Brian A. Spencer, AIA/IAA

Frank Lloyd Wright, perspective of model J902. 'American System-Built Houses for the Richards Company,' 1915–1917.

Lithoprint ©FLW Foundation

Hendrikus Theodorus Wijdeveld, wrapper design for the Wendingen Wrightnummers (fourth paper, January 1926).

Published by C. A. Mees, Santpoort, Netherlands. Black and red ink on white paper. This wrapper design was used (with minor variations) for all of the Wrightnummers (October 1925–April 1926). ©FLW Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright, 'Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers.' Rug design, 1955.

Adapted from a cover for Liberty magazine, 1927–1928. Presentation drawing. Pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

BOTTOM: Frank Lloyd Wright, Scherzo. Rug design, 1955.

Adapted from Liberty cover design. Presentation drawing: pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

Hendrikus Theodorus Wijdeveld, 'Architectuur/Frank Lloyd Wright,' 1930.

Printed by Jon Enschede en Zonen, Harlem, Netherlands. Color lithograph ©The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MIA

Frank Lloyd Wright, cover and dust jacket, The Disappearing City (William Farquar Payson, 1932).

Wright’s abstraction of the “futile pattern” foretold the American dilemma of centralization without planning. ©FLW Foundation

Shedding new light on the beloved creator’s legacy through his kaleidoscope of creative contributions, Frank Lloyd Wright: Graphic Artist is an essential bible of design and cultural history.

Images courtesy of Pomegranate / © FLW Foundation

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