Art & Design.


The son of a Evangelical inner-mission parish priest, Danish painter and graphic artist Johannes Holbek was born in a small town called Årby, near Kalundborg, Denmark in 1872. Just thirty one years later he walked into, or was brought into Copenhagen Municipal Hospital’s Sixth Ward suffering with manic-depressive psychosis after a huge...
Kamisaka Sekka was a Kyoto artist born into a Samurai family. He was the last, and greatest proponent of the traditional Rinpa style and was responsible for modernising and re-popularising the old school craft. Rinpa design focussed on design values and historical or natural motifs rather than detailed illustration of contemporary life. In Momoyogusa...
The Victoria Regia; or the Great Water Lily of America, a gigantic water lily, was first discovered along the Amazon River and taken to Britain for cultivation. This so-called “vegetable wonder” was a spectacular flower. Nineteenth century commentators described with amazement the vast dimensions of its floating leaves, which could exceed...
Whilst these woodcut prints (below) by Watanabe Seitei for the art magazine, Bijutsu Sekai (The World of Art) seem surprisingly simple and contemporary, the artist’s background is complex and ancient. In 1851 when the artist now known as Watanabe Shōtei (AKA Watanabe Seitei) was born he was named Yoshikawa Yoshimata and Tokyo didn’t...
The first issue of the German satirical magazine, Lachen Links (Laughter Left) was published on January 11, 1924. “Ridiculousness kills” was its’s motto. The name, Laughter Left refers to German parliamentary parlance – the laughing at an opponent on the other side of the political spectrum was referred to as to “laugh...
The ginger hair, blue eyes and pale skin make it very obvious. An European woman in Mughal costume and jewellery. She (unlike the women in the other portraits here) is bare-headed with nothing to cover her hair. Her fingertips are dipped in henna, she wears elaborate jewellery and holds something to...
A very rare glimpse at Budapest as seen through the lens of the Hungarian concert pianist and writer, György Sándor (1912 – 2005). In the classical world, Sándor was up there. He recorded piano works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov and Schumann amongst others; he toured the world, playing at New...
Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty (1716–1785) was a French anatomist, painter and printmaker who, as part of his practice, had his own personal human dissectionist. His imagery makes the goriest of todays horror movies look like Disney. The Marseille born Gautier-d’Agoty, began his career as apprentice to a painter and engraver from Frankfurt...
Joseph Schillinger (1895-1945), was a man way ahead of his time. In the 1930’s he wrote that in the not to distant future, old school orchestra instruments will be all but forgotten museum peices. The author of The Schillinger System of Musical Composition and The Mathematical Basis of the Arts maintained...
It began in the early 1860s and as a student in Berlin when German botanist, Carl Ignaz Leopold Kny (1841-1916), started collecting algae samples from southern Europe for his studies. His biological tastes changed over time and he moved on. His specialist subject, and the one he would become famous for, was...
These images are University instructional posters. They come from a series entitled Botanische Wandtafeln (1874-1911) by Carl Ignaz Leopold Kny (1841-1916).  Consisting of 120 lithographs and an accompanying textbook, Botanische Wandtafeln (botanical blackboards), is an epic work of both research and mushroom/fern art that took 37 years of Kny’s life to creatre....
Feted by the hyper rich and influential of the time, Pillement was avidly collected by the famous English actor, David Garrick, and his Austrian wife Eva Maria Weigel and Marie Antoinette employed him to decorate the Petit Trianon, her Neo Classical château on the Versailles Palace grounds. Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808), was...
Arnold Lang (1855 – 1914) was a Swiss naturalist, a comparative anatomist and student of the German biologist, Ernst Haeckel. From 1878 to 1885 he was stationed at the Zoological Station in Naples, where he conducted research on marine wildlife native to the Gulf of Naples.  The illustrations are from the book...
Adolphe Menzel was different to other people. Or rather, everyone was different to him. He was very small man, he stood just four feet and six inches tall, and had an unusually over-large head. Menzel was different to everyone else in another way too. He was a genius. Adolphe Menzel, or...
The brothers Horácio (1910-1988) and Mário Novais (1899-1967) were born into a Portuguese photography family. The brothers spent their lives based in Lisbon. The Novais brothers were two of the most prolific national photographers of the 20th century They both spent over 50 years as photographers leaving us with images of great...
The Metal Book raises problems. It is beautiful, and it is tainted. A seminal work, crucial in the development of the Italian Futurist art movement, it was co-authored by the Italian artist, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a fascist-sympathiser. The Futurist movement launched on 20 February 1909, with a manifesto printed on the...
We have this. Anna Berent was born in 1871 in Kaiserslautern and died sometime after 1944. Perhaps in Zagreb. In the 1890s, she was studying in Munich, at the Stanisław Grocholski school and at the school of Anton Azbe. In 1899 She met, became engaged and then married Stanisław Berent, the couple moved to...
Physiognomy is the practice of assessing someone’s character and personality based solely on their appearance, especially the face. It’s judging a book by its cover. In his Gallerie Physionomique of 1836, the prolific caricaturist, Charles-Joseph Traviès de Villers (known as C.J. Traviès), practiced this shamelessly un-PC exercise on the denizens of...
He was an untiring, left handed, worker who was known for making seemingly endless preliminary studies and trial compositions before he’d even think about a final painting in oils. His paintings manage to pull the spontaneous boldness of a master painter and a draughtsman’s considered intricacy at once. Dean Cornwell (1892-1960),...
Caspar David Friedrich was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic or megalithic ruins. His primary interest as...
Amaldus Clarin Nielsen (1838 – 1932), was born in Halse, Norway, the son of a shipmaster and merchant, grew up in Mandal in Vest-Agder county, Norway. For most of his childhood and adolescence the boy Amaldus was without a father and, after tuition at the hands of a traveling drawing teacher...
Leon Wyczółkowski (1852-1936) was a leading figure in Poland’s modernist movement who dabbled in history painting, the Polish Realism movement, Impressioniam (after visiting Paris, of course), Orientalism and even Symbolism. This was all held together by a unique richness of form and complex technical means. He painted landscapes full of drama,...
Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929), is regarded as the father of Polish Symbolism. His creative output took in the predominant style of his times; historical motifs of Polish martyrdom, the romantic ideals of independence, mythology, folk tales and an evident love of the natural world. Born under the under the Russian Empire’s occapation,...
One day in September 1890, in Ornavasso, a small Italian village in the Piedmont region of Italy, Enrico Bianchetti (1834-1894) received news of something that would possess him totally until his death. 56 year old Bianchetti was born into an affluent family, studied science, wrote poetry and became a meteorologist. His house was...
Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926), was amongst the most prolific and best-known painter of Māoris in the late 19th & early 20th centuries. He was born far, far away form New Zealand in Pilsen, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although his surname sounds German, he was ethnically Czech and was initially...
Fedor Grigoryevich Solntsev was a Russian painter and historian of art who played a major role in recording and preserving medieval Russian culture. He was the principle author of the epic Antiquities of the Russian State, an exhaustive, exquisitely illustrated encyclopedia detailing contents of Moscow’s Grand Kremlin. He discovered and restored...
Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov (May 15, 1848, Lopyal, Vyatka Governorate – July 23, 1926, Moscow) was a Russian artist who specialized in mythological and historical subjects. He is considered the co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic nationalistic painting (see also neo-romanticism), and a key figure in the Russian revivalist movement. Viktor Mikhaylovich...
Allan Douglas Davidson was born in London on 14 May 1873. He was an English painter who predominantly worked in oils. His father was the historical painter Thomas Davidson. Allan Douglas Davidson studied art at the Royal Academy London, where he won a medal and the Armitage prize, he also studied at Julian’s in Paris. He...
A son of a Northamptonshire shoe factory owner, the English painter and book illustrator Thomas Cooper Gotch or “T.C.” Gotch (1854–1931) operated on the margins of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and is perhaps the movement’s most unsung exponent. With his father’s help Gotch studied at all the very best schools. He studied art at Heatherley’s...
Władysław Teodor “W.T.” Benda (1873–1948) was a Polish painter, illustrator, designer and mask-maker. The son of musician Jan Szymon Benda, and a nephew of the actress Helena Modrzejewska (known in the United States as Helena Modjeska), W.T. Benda studied art at the Kraków College of Technology and Art in his native...
There’s not an awful lot to say about George Spencer Watson (1869-1934), he seems to have possessed both a quiet, slightly reclusive, somehow intense presence, and yet he made sure there’s an elegant abundance for us to see and to feel. The word Arcadia came from a place, an ancient mountainous,...
In his prime, Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) was one of the most famous painters in the United States. He painted huge panoramic landscapes, of mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets in exquisite detail and dramatic light. Some of his major works were so popular Church was able to debut them individually, in single-painting...
Born and raised in Oakland, California in 1913, “San Francisco’s best loved artists’ model”, Florence Wysinger “Flo” Allen (1913-1997), was a legendary black Californian artist’s muse who posed for virtually every prominent West Coast painter of the past half century. There was only one motivating factor for Florence “Flo” Wysinger Allen...
Herbert George Ponting (1870-1935) is best known expedition photographer and cinematographer for Robert Falcon Scott’s legendary Terra Nova Expedition to the Ross Sea and South Pole (1910–1913). In this role, he captured some of the most enduring images of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.  Herbert also had a lesser known role....
The shaffron (also spelled chaffron, champion, chamfron, chamfrein, champron, and chanfron) was designed to protect a horse’s face. Sometimes they included hinged cheek plates. A decorative feature common to many chanfrons is a rondelwith a small spike. Shaffrons date back as early as ancient Greece, but vanished from use in Europe until the twelfth century when metal plates replaced...
Selected 1950s imagery from two Chinese government (propaganda) pamphlets on Tibet, Xizang hua ji (1954) and Zhong yang dai biao tuan zai Xizang (1956). Xizang hua ji depicts the arrival and activities of the People’s Liberation Army in Lhasa as well as traditional Tibetan landscape, architecture and society. Pictorial work of...
One day in 1839, two explorers – an East Londoner, Frederick Catherwood, and an American, John Lloyd Stephens – climbed the crumbling steps of the pyramids in the Maya city of Copán. The pair were the first to do so for centuries, the pyramids, overgrown by jungle, their origins long forgotten by...
The extremely prolific English architect,Digby Wyatt was the younger brother of another, much less interesting architect, Thomas Henry Wyatt and related to the huge Wyatt dynasty. He was Secretary to the Executive Committee for the Great Exhibition (1851) and “orientalized” the architectural detailing of London’s Paddington Station, London (1852–4), for Brunel....
Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), was an enigma. He was many other things, things known mostly only to himself; a 19th century mystic for one: a man who created hundreds of extraordinary paintings behind the façade of an ordinary looking house in an ordinary Parisian street for another; a progressive and a herald;...
Exotic flora from foreign climes, their genitalia turned provocatively, suggestively toward the viewer, Dr. Robert John Thornton’s romantic floral opus, A New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus; Part III, Temple of Flora, was very sexy science. Sumptuous flower porn at the turn of the 18th century.  The making...
Before the Russian Revolution(s) of 1917 there was another; the First Russian Revolution of 1905. Lenin later called it “The Great Dress Rehearsal,” without which the “victory of the October Revolution in 1917 would not have been possible.” The years 1904 and 1907 saw mass movements, strikes and protests decline and...
In the late 1800s, Eduard Hallberger (1822-1880), claimed to be bringing Germany all the latest “from nature and life, science and art for entertainment and instruction for the family” in his Illustrierte Welt, (Illustrated World). Instead, the magnificently bearded publisher/editor presented readers with a bizarre smorgasbord of fighting animals, fairies, sultry...
ULK, Illustriertes Wochenblatt für Humor und Satire, (Illustrated weekly paper for humour and satire), was a German satirical magazine based in Berlin & the North German counterpart of the South German magazine Fliegende Blätter (Flying Leaves).  The abbreviation “ULK” stands for the three departments “nonsense, carelessness and Kneipsinn” of the well known...
Yle is Finland’s national public broadcasting service. Suomen Yleisradio (Finland’s General Radio) was founded in Helsinki on 29 May 1926. By 1928 Yle’s broadcasts became available to the whole country. After this the broadcasting network was developed and by the beginning of the 1930s, 100,000 households were able to listen to Yle programmes. Cut...
Not the most likely canditate for artistic photographer, Hubertus Salomon Hordijk (1862-1930) kept his passion to himself for a decade. No-one was going to argue. He was the police chief. On April 22 1903 and by Royal decree an infantry captain by the name of Hubertus Salomon Hordijk succeeded the outgoing...
Between 1805 and 1808, the Amsterdam artist Christiaan Andriessen kept a diary; a visual diary with over 700 drawings and watercolors depicting the the goings on in his life, with his friends, family and events in the city. Christiaan came from a family who encouraged his artistic pursuits; his father was...
The life of the Dutch photographer, Chris de Ruig (1930-2013), is sketchy and elusive. Here’s what little we have. De Ruig discovered photography as a boy in the darkroom of his father, a man who sold photo products and traded cigars as well as developing and printing for customers in the...
Abraham Hendriksz van Beijeren or Abraham van Beyeren was born in The Hague somewhere around 1620. He died in March 1690 in Overschie, Rotterdam. During his 70 years he was little known or recognised for his dark, Baroque still lifes. Van Beyeren specialised in an ornate style of still life known as Pronkstilleven,...
Léon-Henri-Marie Frédéric (1856-1940) was born too late. Centuries too late for the 16th century Flemish school and Renaissance art of the 1400s he so admired. The mythical scenes of Botticelli with their creamy nude goddesses and floating sky babies, the richly epic, stoic biblical scenes of Domenico Ghirlandaio. These two were by...
Augustus Leopold Egg RA (1816 – 1863), was a Victorian artist best known for one thing. An incredible symbol-laden, epic triptych called Past and Present (1858), which chronicled the disintegration of a middle-class Victorian family. Egg was born to Joseph and Ann Egg, in London. He had an elder brother, George...
John Martin painted various apocolypses. Over and over and over. He was an Apocolyptian painter. Perhaps, it was a kind of escapism. It makes a kind of sense; a man born in a claustrophobic one bedroom cottage in Northumberland, England, who grew up to paint vast open expanses. It could be...
The French poet Apollinaire once described how his friend Rousseau would quite genuinely become frightened by his own creations. He would tremble and rush away from his easel to open a studio window. For him, the images he was making took on a real life of their own. He once said...
When the French painter, Jean-Gabriel Domergue claimed he was “the creator of the pin-up,” he wasn’t lying. His Parisian women are unmistakably, idiosyncratically his. They were also way ahead of their time. Oozing with a sultry, wide-eyed, slender-necked, unpretentious sensuality and something more vital than simply elegance, Domergue’s 1920s eye candy...
The French painter, Jean-Gabriel Domergue wasn’t simply, as he claims “the creator of the pin-up.” As well as redefining the look and attitude of a new, liberated “la belle Parisienne”, in the aftermath of The Great War, the ridiculously prolific artist also found time to design for fashion houses, organise huge...
Somewhere in the early 2000s, the Ialomita County Museum, a small regional museum in a small Romanian regional town was handed an authentic Pandora’s Box by a curious member of the Acsinte family. Several wooden crates that had lain, in a farm cowshed for decades, slowly deteriorating. The crates held boxes...
Adolf Wölfli, born in Bowil (Switzerland) in 1894, had a rough childhood : his father, a stone sculptor who drank away all of his paycheques, abandoned his family in 1872. Adolf and his mother were sent to farms as labourers, but she died shortly thereafter. From then on, the young boy wandered...

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