Saturday, December 14, 2013

British Library engravings... CAN'T GET ENOUGH!

Did you know? The British Library just released ONE MILLION image scans of book illustrations from its 17th, 18th, and 19th century collections onto Flickr. I spent an hour scratching the surface of this treasure trove this morning, here are a select few of my favorites (and I do mean select; guys, I cannot stop downloading images! This is incredible!).

The visual inspiration for Frozen's Kristoff?? Look at his hat!!
Bebe! Pull my heartstrings!

Anyone else excited to go home for Christmas??
Winter always makes me want to go snowmobiling in Yellowstone, especially after seeing/getting obsessed with Frozen.

Now go find your own!
PS I saw TONS of illustrations from old French and German art history texts like this^. Made me miss research. I always checked out the oldest possible books on whatever I was researching because those books help you get a sense of the initial perception of an artwork. Then you move forward in time and research and start to sense how society changed its thinking about an object's significance and meaning over the centuries. One of my favorite shifts was the old 19th century penchant of Germans to "scientifically" document (aka own) every aesthetic type (and every ethnographic type, but that's a different story). Thus they produced a lot of tight-fisted, pseudo-scientific, occasionally racist illustrations of items. Around the same time, the French realized, in part thanks to Victor Hugo, that they had a majority share in the worlds' collection of Gothic architecture, and likewise began recording all aspects of the built environment (like the example you see above). 

Around that same time, the early American cultural leaders were informed by their Puritain heritage and the idea of Manifest Destiny. They thought good art should encapsulate history, morality, and the natural sciences. Great art would be painted with a "magesterial gaze." An example of an artist who they thought did this superbly? Frederic Edwin Church. See his Twilight in the Wilderness, from 1860 (The Cleveland Museum of Art):

I'm getting a bit nostalgic. Three years ago I spent every waking moment of my December on a final research project on this artist. Can you see how he would have been lauded back in the day for incorporating something of the divine in his paintings? As well as the scientific? (That atmosphere!) Today, a more modern avenue of study taken with Church's works to identify which pigments Frederic Edwin Church used. According to William Talbot, formerly of the Research Library of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Church was experimenting with both organic and synthetic pigments on his canvases. These pigments included (in case you want to know) lead white, vermilion, red lead, strontium yellow, chrome yellow, cadmium yellow, chrome green, green earth, earth colors, umber, artificial ultramarine, and Prussian blue. Art Historian John Howat argues that this mix of traditional and modern pigments illustrates the artist’s penchant for following the latest achievements in chemistry and science, but I still think there's a trace of symbolic, even alchemical manipulation in the artist's choice of pigments (Vermilion? Hello!).

Happy Saturday!

PPS Do you like my new blog layout? First time I've touched my template in four years! Obviously, I couldn't stand to stray too far...