Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘history’

15 AUGUST, 2013

How Beloved Chef and Entrepreneur Julia Child Conquered the World: An Illustrated Life Story

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“Oh, nuts! I burned the sauce.”

Legendary chef Julia Child, who would have been 101 today, not only revolutionized the world of cookbooks but was also a remarkable beacon of entrepreneurship and perseverance more than a decade before women started raising their voices in the media world. Her unrelenting spirit and generous heart cast her as one of modern history’s most timeless role models, and that’s precisely what writer and illustrator Jessie Hartland celebrates in the endlessly wonderful Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child (public library) — a heartening illustrated biography of the beloved chef, intended to enchant young readers with her story but certain to delight all of us. Hartland’s vibrant drawings — somewhere between Maira Kalman, Wendy MacNaughton, and Vladimir Radunsky — exude the very charisma that made Childs an icon, and infuse her legacy with fresh joy.

Amidst the beautiful illustrations are practical glimpses of Child’s culinary tricks and the context of her recipes:

At the end of the story, as at the end of her life, Child emerges not only as a masterful cook but also as a fierce entrepreneur, a humble human, and restlessly creative soul.

Complement Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child with some equally delightful graphic biographies for grown-ups, chronicling the lives of Charles Darwin, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, and Hunter S. Thompson, and revisit the story of how Child published her legendary cookbook against all odds.

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12 AUGUST, 2013

Salvador Dalí Illustrates Montaigne: Sublime Surrealism from a Rare 1947 Limited Edition, Signed by Dalí

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Two of history’s most formidable talents, at the intersection of literature at art.

In 1946, more than twenty years before his little-known and lovely illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was commissioned by the creatively ambitious Doubleday publishing house (who also released a number of books with stunning cover art by Edward Gorey and enlisted young Andy Warhol as a freelance artist) to illustrate The Essays of Michel De Montaigne (public library) in a special limited edition of 1,000 copies. Dalí, forty-two at the time and already an avid admirer of Montaigne’s mind, leapt at the opportunity. What resulted, published in 1947, was nothing short of a masterpiece — an intersection of literature and art, of two formidable talents, unlike almost anything else except perhaps Ulysses illustrated by Matisse and Sendak’s illustrations of Tolstoy.

I was fortunate enough to track down one of the last surviving signed copies, #101 no less, but unsigned ones — which are also respectably rare — can still be found online for gobsmackingly little — as little, in fact, as $6.99 at the time of this writing.

For our shared delight, here are Dalí’s color folios and black-and-white etchings — sensual, otherworldly, appropriately surrealist, just the right amount of bizarre — from my copy of the book, captioned after the original Montaigne essay they illustrate. (The essays themselves — timeless wisdom on life, morality, and the human condition — are in the public domain, thus available as a free download, and are very much worth a read.)

Portrait of Michel de Montaigne by Salvador Dalí

'The Force of Imagination'

'Of Physiognomy'

'Upon Some Verses of Virgil'

'Upon Some Verses of Virgil'

'Upon Some Verses of Virgil'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That We Taste Nothing Pure'

'That We Taste Nothing Pure'

'Resemblance of Children to Fathers'

'Resemblance of Children to Fathers'

'Of Repentance'

'Of Coaches'

'Of Vanity'

'Of Vanity'

'Of Experience'

'Of Custom, and That We Should Not Easily Change a Law Received'

'Of the Education of Children'

'That Fortune Is Oftentimes Observed to Act by the Rules of Reason'

'That Fortune Is Oftentimes Observed to Act by the Rules of Reason'

'Of Cannibals'

'Of Democritus and Heraclitus'

'Of Age'

'Of Age'

'Of Drunkenness'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Glory'

'Of Thumbs'

Try your luck at grabbing a surviving copy, and be sure to revisit Dalí’s drawings for Alice in Wonderland.

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12 AUGUST, 2013

Stunning Illustrations for Irish Myths and Legends

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“I have wished to become a child again that I might find this book.”

Irish folklorist and dramatist Lady Augusta Gregory penned some of the most memorable and timeless retellings of tales from Irish mythology. Recently, the Folio Society — makers of such exquisitely crafted books as The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook illustrated by Natacha Ledwidge– resurrected Lady Gregory’s tales in a lavish slip-case edition of Irish Myths and Legends (public library) featuring stunning art by Brooklyn-based illustrator and cartoonist Jillian Tamaki.

In the preface, W. B. Yeats, with whom Lady Gregory’s co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, writes of the stories’ mesmerism:

One must not expect in these stories the epic lineaments, the many incidents, woven into one great event of, let us say, the story of the War for the Brown Bull of Cuailgne, or that of the last gathering at Muirthemne… The men who imagined the Fianna had the imagination of children, and as soon as they had invented one wonder, heaped another on top of it. Children — or, at any rate, it is so I remember my own childhood — do not understand large design, and they delight in little shut-in places where they can play at houses more than in great expanses where a country-side takes, as it were, the impression of a thought. The wild creatures and the green things are more to them than to us, for they creep towards our light by little holes and crevices. When they imagine a country for themselves, it is always a country where one can wander without aim, and where one can never know from one place what another will be like, or know from the one day’s adventure what may meet one with to-morrow’s sun. I have wished to become a child again that I might find this book, that not only tells one of such a country, but is fuller than any other book that tells of heroic life, of the childhood that is in all folklore, dearer to me than all the books of the western world.

Tamaki’s drawings — reminiscent of Kay Nielsen’s Scandinavian fairy tale illustrations from the early 1900s and the late Yan Nascimbene’s art for Italo Calvino’s short stories — envelop these age-old tales in a new layer of enchantment:

Complement Irish Myths and Legends, which is exquisite in its entirety, with Alice and Martin Provensen’s stunning vintage illustrations for 12 classic fairy tales and Pixar’s Ancient Book of Myth and War. You can see more of Tamaki’s breathtaking work on her site.

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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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