Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Books: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

In 1865, Boston-based printer Louis Prang (1824-1909), introduced the Christmas Stocking Library, a boxed set of chapbooks full of holiday merriment for the kiddies. This was published nine years before he introduced the first commercial Christmas card to the American public in 1874. Prang, a German immigrant, learned the art of dyeing, printing, and engraving from his father who was a textile printer of calico fabrics. In 1848 Prang was forced to flee Germany because of his political opposition to the Prussian government. Two years later he arrived in Boston and supported himself by making wood engravings for various publications and eventually partnered with Julius Mayer to form Prang and Mayer, Lithographic Printers. They specialized in the printing of business cards, advertisements, and other job printing, and also gained some success with the printing of a series of colored album cards featuring scenic landscapes, animals and flowers which were sold for $3/dozen inside a patented envelope. Just like this boxed set of Christmas chapbooks, the illustrated album cards were printed in four colors, each drawn on stone and folded into accordion structures. The label appearing on the box of the Christmas Stocking Library was printed five solid colors.  

The title page and interior illustrations in each chapbook are early examples of Prang's chromolithography.

As a side story to this lovely little Christmas Stocking Library; it was sold last February at the PBA Galleries auction for $5500. This very rare boxed set belonged to book collector, Pamela Harer, who I last reported on July 3, 2014 when she attended the opening of her Early 20th Century Soviet Children's Books exhibition held at the University of Washington's Allen Library in Seattle. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Pamela was very ill and died the day before I wrote the post. She lived just long enough to receive a private family tour of her remarkable exhibit on July 1st, and quietly died at home on the following day. This exhibit was a dream Pamela had envisioned for many years. It was also her remaining wish that this rare collection of Soviet children's books was to permanently reside at the UW Library. Although much of her research was sadly eclipsed by her illness, Pamela Harer's collection of early 20th century Soviet children's literature remains intact and we can all benefit from her generous gift. At this time her collection has not been entirely digitized, however an earlier endowment of her rare 18th - 20th century children's literature can be seen here. Happily, the gift of books is everlasting. Happy holidays all!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Venetian Paper Reliquaries of Patty Grazini

Rosalba Carriera (1673-1757), an artist who painted the portraits of all the nobility throughout Europe. 
She tragically lost her eyesight at the end of her life. This is one of the portraits she painted. Below is a tool box and stand constructed entirely of paper which might have held her brushes.

I've always thought of my friend, Patty Grazini as someone who would be equally comfortable living in the Victorian or Edwardian era, but as nobility, as she would be revered for her rarified talents. She works tirelessly all year long to craft a group of paper sculptures based upon a theme—often of real events or real people. This year, she again has a new exhibition of exquisite paper constructions currently on display until December 21st at the Curtis Steiner Gallery in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. Her latest new works are inspired by historic reliquaries, or sacred relics made to honor the dearly departed. 
     Patty explains the theme of her new group of paper sculptures by saying, "I wanted to create memorials that were reminiscent of the reliquaries that I saw while traveling in Italy over the years."
     For this new group, Patty chose to memorialize ten notable women from Venice "who lived in an age of extreme decadence and beauty—during the long decline of the Venetian Empire in the 16th to the 19th centuries." The ten women she chose to honor with her own imagined paper reliquaries were noted for their contributions to the arts and culture of Venice, yet their legacies have been nearly obscured by history. Each piece is accompanied by a small handmade book with a quote by these remarkable women, or one of their contemporaries.
     I believe this must now be Patty's tenth annual exhibit at the Curtis Steiner Gallery and the fifth time I've reported on her annual exhibitions in this space, and each of her shows have been impressively staged like a walk through history, fabricated entirely of paper. The stories she tells of people are true—and whose lives she characterizes in period paper garments, with personal possessions, and furnishings—each produced in exquisite detail by twisting, embossing, folding, decorating and manipulating beautiful found papers and ephemera. Magnifying glasses are definitely encouraged. All of these artworks seen here, and more are for sale, and yes, they are made entirely of paper. You can learn more about Patty and her work at this link, and read some of my past posts of Patty's paper productions here. 

Caterina Cornaro (1454-1510).
Through and arranged marriage, she became the last queen of Cypress.

Beads, baubles, jewels, and stones are mounted in metal-like settings, all made of various found, decorated, embossed, distressed and marbled papers and ephemera which Patty has collected from her travels and from friends.

Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646-1684), was the first woman
in the world to earn a doctorate degree. Here, Patty Grazini features her quilled pen,
inkwell and eyeglasses as a tribute to her life's work.



Gallery owner, Curtis Steiner is an exemplary artist himself.
Not only is he a curator, painter, calligrapher, jewelry designer, and sculptor,
but he also constructs the most imaginative window displays of paper each year. This year's display features a paper garland of large, gold leaves made of folded text pages above a display of
his hand lettered holiday cards. The white tramp art table below this is made of old
wooden thread spools—another sight to behold.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Daily Doodles

Do More of What Make you Happy, the delightful daily doodles of self-taught Tokyo artist, Mogu Takahashi. This sentimental platitude is a nice reminder for all of us to attempt to embrace throughout the year. I hope Takahashi's daily doodles give her as much joy as they do me. See so much more of Takahashi's daily doodles and sketchbooks here. And look for a wee bit more of me in this space in weeks ahead...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bruno Munari: Pioneer of the Modernist Book

Abecedario de Munari
Image credit: Rome: Emanuele Prandi, 1942

Italian artist and designer, Bruno Munari (1907—1998) wore many creative caps over the course of his artistic career. In the late 1920s, he engaged in the Futurist painting movement and took part in group exhibitions at the Venice Biennale. He focused his interests on the book as object near this same time and found it unnecessary to fill the page with words. Although spare, Munari's books were typographically rich in content and imagery. This devotion to the design of books never ceased throughout his seventy-year career. This 1935 Abecedario di Munari title is seen as one of the great modernist ABC books of all time. (I recently watched a rare first edition of this book quickly slip away at auction for $850.) 

Abecedario de Munari, 1942

Today, I am pleased to announce the official June 23rd release of the long-awaited title, Munari's Books, from Princeton Architectural Press. This definitive guide—available here and at other favorite retailers—is the first English-language monograph celebrating the book work and achievements of this visionary designer. Author and art historian Giorgio Maffei has catalogued over one hundred and fifty of Munari's books in chronological order beginning with his first—a 1929 children's book. According to Maffei, "Munari considered the book the best medium to communicate his visual ideas, showcase his art, and convey his creative spirit." Umberto Eco once said Munari "worked on the page as if tuning up a fiddle." A fit portrayal, as he was one of the great pioneers of 20th century book design. He designed and illustrated books for learning and lifting the human spirit. He experimented with materials and structures, and was not afraid to apply an element of surprise and wit to every page. Decades before the term artist books was coined, he produced a number of complex structures and wordless books. He also became concerned with every aspect of a book's production, going so far as writing instructions to the publisher for the book's display. Bruno Munari would have been mighty pleased with this fine production. 

Bruno Munari’s ABC_02
Image credit: Mantua: Graziano Peruffo, 1960

La favola delle favole
Image credit: Mantua: Maurizio Corraini Editore, 1994

Supplemento al dizionario italiano
Image credit: Milan: Muggiani editore, 1963

  Munari’s Books by Giorgio Maffei, published by Princeton Architectural Press (2015)