It’s about time that the 19th century’s most staggering and arguably prolific artist of the fantastic received a worthy hardcover tome, and with the almost sold out 2014 book, DORE:MASTER OF IMAGINATION edited by Phillippe Kaenel, Gustave Dore finally has that acclaim, and his fans finally have that book.
The book however, by shear breadth of Dore’s output, is in no way a comprehensive overview of his output, and is more a very cursory sampling of the different projects and mediums this renaissance man of the 19th century put his hand to.
“I am sorry to have made a mere 100,000 drawings by the age of 33” – Gustave Dore
So it is not perfect, but it is essential and makes a great companion to those quickly going out of print, but wonderful, 1970s Dover paperback compilations of Dore’s work. Whoever the editor at Dover Publishing in the 1970s who spearheaded reprinting Dore’s acclaimed works in affordable but quality paperback volumes, they created a great boon to art lovers everywhere.
Dore was the master of the meticulous and the detailed and the imaginative, a single one of his painstaking engravings having more complexity and depth and range than most modern day artists produce in a year.
There is this school of thought, that I do not subscribe to, that detail is bad, or unnecessary, or overkill. Largely spearheaded by modern artists incapable of doing detail, so they attack the idea of detailed illustrations to justify the value of their limitations. Simplicity and minimalism have their uses, but they will never replace, or supplant, or overshadow, prodigious talent, prodigious passion, and prodigious detail, all in service to a prodigious imagination. And Gustav Dore brought all that immense talent to every drawing he did. As an artist he has my highest recommendation.
All of the Dover Dore books are collectible, but the four best are the DORE BIBLE, DORE DANTE’S DIVINE COMEDY, DORE’s ORLANDO FURIOSO, and Dore’s IDYLLS OF THE KING.
And the DORE: MASTER OF IMAGINATION book serves as a bit more upscale exploration of Gustav Dore’s life and work. Price your copy of that and the Dover Titles below!
Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.
I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.
I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.
While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.
Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.
Today’s selection is one of those books.
“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.
In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.
Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.
So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.
Get your copy here:
Today’s classic comic cover (alliteration is your friend) is a Jim Aparo cover from writer Bob Haney’s crazy 1970s run on BRAVE AND THE BOLD. This is one of the best books DC was putting out back in the 70s, and even back then the stories were outrageous non sequiturs, diverging wildly from established DC tropes of storytelling and often character. I loved Bob Haney’s stories, and being even of their time the stories were out of their time, and therefore remain oddly timeless.
This particular cover and comic of the day is BRAVE AND THE BOLD #149, from 1979, starring BATMAN in conflict with the TEEN TITANS, and titled ‘LOOK HOMEWARD, RUNAWAY’. Both the absurd and highly entertaining writing of Bob Haney and fluid and graceful art of Jim Aparo are at full gallop in this fun story.
If interested grab a copy here!
Enjoy till next time!