Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Yellow Book Designs by Aubrey Beardsley



For its first four volumes, Beardsley was the art editor of the Yellow Book.  Through most of the preparation of volume five he held the same position, but very shortly before its going to press he was fired and all of his drawings were excised with the exception of the back cover (which was an oversight.)  The reason for this regrettable action taken against him at the height of his fame and influence was his tenuous friendship with Oscar Wilde and the public perception of unbreakable links between their careers.  Wilde had of course just been arrested for sodomy; and (though it took two trials) was soon enough imprisoned for it.



The lovely drawing of the handsome young satyr reading poetry to the pretty young lady near the edge of a pond was Beardsley’s design for the cover of volume five.  Though John Lane continued to throw odd jobs Aubrey’s way, no more of his drawings would be seen in his best known publication.  In their place were substituted mediocre imitations by lesser illustrators, but (as can be seen from the poster advertising volume six) every now and then something of Beardsley’s would crop up around the periphery.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Beautiful Book by Jack Smith,

first published 1962 by Dead Language Press (Piero Heliczer)

The Beautiful Book was advertised with a statement from the filmmaker Ron Rice: 'we studied these photographs with keen eye discovering new & more beautiful images hidden in every dissolve & curve of the draperies & silks which ran through these masterpieces like some long lost mysterious fume from byzantium.'


The book consisted of twenty hand tipped photographs made from contact prints (two and a quarter inches square) presented on yellow pages.  Nineteen of the photos (most of which had been shot over the course of the previous year) were by Jack Smith and the twentieth was a portrait of Smith by his former friend, Ken Jacobs, taken some years before on the steps to the walkway across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Marian Zazeela designed the silkscreened cover and appeared as a model in over half the pictures.