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Picturing a World


One of the first jacket illustrators that I became aware of was Carol Bascove—though I didn't know she was a she. The attribution was always simply to Bascove. What I knew was that Robertson Davies' new novels were always immediately identifiable because of the jackets. The Lyre of Orpheus is on my shelf. And now, just as I've become interested in illustrative jacket design, the Norman Rockwell Museum is devoting an entire show to her work. You can catch BASCOVE: The Time We Spend with Words any time between now and June 5, 2022. Yea!


CORRECTION: The artist's name is ANNE (not Carol) BASCOVE!!!!!!!!!!

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Hutsuls in art

Blog post alert: Paintings of the Hutsuls in the Carpathians has artwork by several 19th and early-20th C artists depicting the life of the Hutsul people in what is now Ukraine. It reports that of twenty-five thousand remaining Hutsuls, twenty thousand live in Ukraine—may they be safe. Many of the pictures in the post could suggest stories; and it interests me that at least one of the artists, Teodor Axentowicz, studied with Carolus-Duran. I've chosen this Madonna by Kazimierz Sichulski, however, just because it is gorgeous (well, and because of its 1909 date, so close to my magic year, 1908).

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Sybilla von Bondorff

Seeking diversion from the sorrows of war, I clicked on a British Library blog post on Medieval and Renaissance Women. What did it include? a medieval woman artist whose name is known! Sybilla von Bondorf. The post has a link to a manuscript she illustrated, and the British Library holds another from which this image of St. John composing the Book of Revelation comes.

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Wolstenholme book battle

Website alert: A set of witty pictures by British artist Jonathan Wolstenholme are diverting. Would that all battles were bibliomachias!

Via Beautiful Life

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Ivan Pokhitonov

Here the Berkshires, we had a snowstorm last Saturday; but under the strong sun of late winter, bare ground was already showing through the next day. In the Garden by the Ukrainian artist, Ivan Pokhitonov, is a reminder that spring will come soon and bring the first gardening chores. If only his fellow natives of Kherson could be looking forward to the same! For this and more of Pokhitonov's paintings, click here.
Via Lines and Colors

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Zinaida Serebriakova

Website alert: Zinaida Serebriakova (1884–1967) was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine; studied art in St. Petersburg; and was active in France. Oh, that we all could be international in our outlook! Wikiart has a gallery of 415 of her works, including one I love for its subject and tonalities, In the Studio Braz.France (1906).

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Mermaid daguerreotype

Website alert: The story of the how this and other daguerreotypes were recovered from a shipwreck is found at "Doomed ship of gold's ghostly picture gallery is plucked from the seabed." It's a good enough tale in itself. But don't you wish you knew more about this woman with her coiffed hair and those racy black lace sleeves? For me, it's one step from the knowing look in her eye and the crooked smile into siren territory. A few more changes, and I could make her a mermaid with dangerous intentions. Or, of course, there is the possibility of gold-rush historical fiction. And get this: there are other unrecovered daguerreotypes and ambrotypes still down there in the same wreck, lying on the seabed. Now how suggestive is that!

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Eric Ravilious, Submarines in Dry Dock (1940)

Just before Putin attacked Ukraine, I happened to have bought a copy of Ravilious, the catalogue for a 2015 retrospective of work by Eric Ravilious at the Dulwich Gallery, London. What makes this poignant is the fact that Ravilious, who had worked under the auspices of the War Artists Advisory Committee, died on duty when his airplane disappeared over Iceland in 1942. And here we are, witnessing what may be only the start of another war.
Aestheticizing war is a bad idea; yet because the human eye sees differently from the camera lens, the artist's record brings its own witness to both combat and mundane efforts. Moreover, works made during war can have lasting value beyond the historic. Looking at the deceptively quiet Submarines in Dry Dock, for instance, says a lot about tension.

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The internet is abuzz with the revelation that Volodymyr Zelensky was the voice of Paddinton Bear in the Ukrainian version of the movies. It's hideous a way to find anything endearing in the current disaster; yet to see him at work is irresistible. As a writer, sometimes I act out something in a story to locate actions and feelings in my own body. How marvellous to see a trained actor imparting a whole interpretation to a role when his work will be only heard—and to know that President Zelensky is now giving heart to an entire country.

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Margit Selska

Blog post alert: I plead being as ignorant of Ukrainian artists as the next person, but a post, Women in Ukrainian Art: Blank Spots in Ukrainian Art History at the Wilson Center's Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, has given me a way to begin learning about them. In this case Marit Selska (1903–1980). She was born in Lyiv; studied in Cracow, Vienna, and Paris; escaped the Holocaust (though most of her family perished); and had a productive career after WWII. I chose this image for its blue and yellow Ukrainian colors and for the thoughtful introspection on the subject's face. Would that the choice of a hat and personal stories were all that Ukrainians—and the world—had to worry about today!

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