Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘history’

22 NOVEMBER, 2011

Destino: A Salvador Dalí + Walt Disney Collaboration Circa 1945

By:

‘A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.’

After last week’s discovery of Salvador Dalí’s little-known 1969 Alice in Wonderland illustrations, I followed the rabbit hole to another confluence of creative culture titans. In 1945, Dalí and Walt Disney embarked upon a formidable collaboration — to create a six-minute sequence combining animation with live dancers, in the process inventing a new animation technique inspired by Freud’s work of Freud on the unconscious mind and the hidden images with double meaning. The film, titled Destino, tells the tragic love story of Chronos, the personification of time, who falls in love with a mortal woman as the two float across the surrealist landscapes of Dalí’s paintings. The poetic, wordless animation features a score by Mexican composer Armando Dominguez performed by Dora Luz.

As fascinating as the film itself is the juxtaposition of the two creative geniuses behind it, each bringing his own life-lens to the project — Dalí described the film as “A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time” and Disney called it “A simple story about a young girl in search of true love.”

The project remained a secret and didn’t see light of day until a half-century later when, in 1999, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney accidentally stumbled upon it while working on Fantasia 2000, eventually resurrecting the dormant gem. In 2003, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

(I can’t help but wonder whether Destino inspired Ryan Woodward’s stunning Thought of You.)

Destino can be found on the 2010 DVD Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Special Edition.

via io9

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

15 NOVEMBER, 2011

Salvador Dalí Illustrates Alice in Wonderland, 1969

By:

What the Mad Hatter has to do with one of the most inspired collaborations in Western culture.

Last week, we marveled at Leonard Weisgard’s stunning illustrations for the first color edition of Alice in Wonderland, circa 1949. But it turns out they might not be the most culturally intriguing. As reader Varvn Aryacetas points out on Twitter, exactly two decades later a collaboration of epic proportion took place as the Lewis Carroll classic was illustrated by none other than Salvador Dalí. (And let’s not forget what a soft spot I have for obscure children’s illustration by famous artists.)

Published by New York’s Maecenas Press-Random House in 1969 and distributed as their book of the month, the volume went on to become one of the most sought-after Dalí suites of all time. It contains 12 heliogravures, one for each chapter of the book, and one original signed etching in 4 colors as the frontpiece, all of which the fine folks at the William Bennett Gallery have kindly digitized for your gasping pleasure:

Frontpiece

Down the Rabbit Hole

The Pool of Tears

A Caucus Race and a Long Tale

The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill

Advice From a Caterpillar

Pig and Pepper

Mad Tea Party

The Queen's Croquet Ground

The Mock Turtle's Story

The Lobster's Quadrille

Who Stole the Tarts?

Alice's Evidence

As you might expect, the book isn’t exactly easy to acquire — Amazon currently spots just a single copy, handsomely priced at $12,900, and there’s even a video tutorial on what to look for when you hunt for this treasure:

But the collaboration brought together two of the most exceptional creators of Western culture, both ticklers or curiosity and architects of the imagination, and who can really put a price tag on that? Besides, if this baby can command $4.3 million, what’s $13K for a Dalí?

Donating = Loving

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:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

11 NOVEMBER, 2011

How Darwin’s Photos of Human Emotions Changed Visual Culture

By:

What disdain and devotion have to do with the dawn of photography, evolution, and Lewis Carroll.

In 1872, some thirteen years after The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, one of the first scientific texts to use photographic illustrations. Though the work itself was hardly groundbreaking — it was based on the research of French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne, who ten years prior used electrodes to explore the human face as a map of inner states and published Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine (The Mechanisms of Human Physiognomy) — Darwin’s book is regarded not only as his main contribution to psychology, but also as a pivotal turning point in the history of book illustration, right up there with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

(More than a century later, psychologist Paul Ekman used Darwin and Duchenne’s research as the basis for his Facial Actions Coding System, or FACS — a codified approach to reading human emotion based on facial micro-expressions — on which I happened to do a decent portion of my undergraduate work and which went on to aid everyone from the CIA to animators. You may also recall the subject from our recent look at the science of smiles.)

Darwin’s contribution to many fields of science, from evolution to geology to botany, are well-known — but it turns out he was also a seminal figure in the history of visual culture. In Darwin’s Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution, photography curator Phillip Prodger tells the remarkable story of Darwin shaped not only the course of science but also forever changed how images are seen and made.

Prodger traces Darwin’s tireless quest to capture human emotion at its most visually expressive — not an easy task in an age when photography was both slow and painfully awkward. After scouring countless galleries, bookstores, and photographic studios, Darwin finally found the eccentric art photographer Oscar Rejlander, a titan of creative history in his own right, and recruited him to capture the emotional expressions Darwin intended to study.

A page of photographs by Oscar Rejlander from the Darwin Archive, 1871-1872. Albumen prints.

Infants: Suffering and Weeping. Heliotype print.

At first, photographs were judged in exactly the same way as prints and drawings. The same standards that applied to them — plausibility, authority, skill, and convincingness — applied equally to photographs. But photographic technology improved rapidly… It took approximately fifty years, but during the latter half of the 1800s photography moved into territory traditional drawing and printmaking could not. Once it became capable of taking pictures faster than what the naked eye could see, it began to affect measures of scientific integrity.” ~ Phillip Prodger

Joy, High Spirits, Love, Tender Feelings, and Devotion. Heliotype print.

Low Spirits, Anxiety, Grief, Dejection, and Despair. Heliotype print..

Indignation and Helplessness. Heliotype print.

But what’s perhaps most interesting is Darwin’s remarkable cross-disciplinary curiosity, a quality I believe is the key to combinatorial creativity. Though he never studied art formally, he had an active interest in art, read art history books, visited art museums, and mingled with the artists on his HMS Beagle voyage. Eventually, the sensibilities of art seeped into his work. Prodger takes a closer look at many of Darwin’s curated friendships — Lewis Carroll, iconic photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, celebrated animal painters Joseph Wolf and Briton Riviere, sculptor Thomas Woolner, and many more.

Disdain, Contempt, and Disgust. Heliotype print.

Hatred and Anger. Heliotype print.

Surprise and Astonishment, Fear and Horror. Heliotype print.

Photographic illustration was an inexact process. Because there were no present rules for using photographs in books, Darwin attempted to create them. Working at a time when printmaking still dominated scientific illustration, he internalized prevailing notions about authority and authenticity in picture making. In this regard, he was a transitional figure, with one foot firmly in the past — lessons learned from the books he knew and admired — and one foot in the future, with the enormous potential he recognized in photography.” ~ Phillip Prodger

Researchers at The Darwin Project, an ambitious initiative to digitize Darwin’s legacy and a fine addition to these 7 important digital humanities projects, are currently crowdsourcing Darwin’s experiment on emotions by asking you to name which core emotion each of Darwin’s images conveyed. The experiment features 11 images and can be completed in under a minute — give it a try.

Rigorously researched and eloquently narrated, Darwin’s Camera is an essential missing link in the evolution of visual culture at the intersection of history, psychology, and art.

HT How To Be a Retronaut; images courtesy of Oxford University Press

Donating = Loving

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:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.