Jean Lurçat (1892-1966): a singular surrealist

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The exhibition catalogue stands at S950.a.201.4730

In 2016, I was lucky enough to visit an exhibition presenting some of the most striking works of art I had ever seen: monumental pieces, several square metres each, all bursting with incredibly vivid colours. What surprised me the most was that these masterpieces were by an artist I had only vaguely heard of before, his talent apparently eclipsed by that of his more famous contemporaries. Perhaps this was due to the nature of most of his works: they were not paintings, but tapestries.

Tapestry in France was at its highest point in the late medieval period, with famous examples such as La Dame à la licorne and the Tenture de l’Apocalypse but was more or less a forgotten art by the beginning of the 20th century. A great admirer of this medieval tradition, Jean Lurçat, the artist whose works I was admiring, sought to revive it by borrowing many of its themes for his tapestries. The “mille-fleurs” for example, a style that consists in weaving hundreds of flowers, all different, around the main subject of a work, features heavily in his art. Fantastic creatures were a recurring theme in medieval tapestry and Lurçat created an entire bestiary in his main works. But he also enriched this medieval tradition by the addition of a surrealist twist, many of his tapestries presenting a disconcerting, oneiric, highly symbolical landscape. Continue reading

A collection of Spanish broadsides bequeathed by E.M. Wilson

Some 160 Spanish broadsides (known as “aleluyas” in Spanish) have been recently added to the Cambridge Libraries catalogue. They were bequeathed to Cambridge University Library by Edward Meryon Wilson, former professor of Spanish at the University of Cambridge. The collection contains a complete run of one of the longest series of aleluyas ever printed in Spain: the Marés-Minuesa-Hernando series, consisting of 125 numbers. According to Jean-François Botrel [1], the printer Hernando would have acquired this collection from the printers Marés-Minuesa in 1886 and would have started reprinting it shortly afterwards.

These aleluyas can be consulted in the Rare Books Room (classmark F180.bb.8.1). They were printed by Librería Hernando and by Sucesores de Hernando, respectively (the founder and his descendants) between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (Librería Hernando was founded in 1828; Sucesores de Hernando took over in 1902).

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The European University at St. Petersburg : the March 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

The last few weeks have seen the European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP) pushed ever closer to closing its doors since the university’s controversial investigation by the education ministry’s inspectorate began last summer, with its future now hanging in the balance in the Russian courts.  This blog post looks at recent books produced by EUSP’s excellent publishing arm.

EUSP, a private graduate university, has gained admiration since its foundation in 1994 for its work in the social sciences and humanities, as witnessed by the letters of support it has received in recent months within Russia and across the world (English versions can be seen  here: https://eu.spb.ru/en/news?filter_40=support_letters).  For the librarian, their izdatel’stvo (publishing house) is a great boon.  Their contributions to the fields of art and philology are important acquisitions, but their social science output is particularly valuable, filling gaps in the Russian academic market.  Three EUSP titles have been added to the catalogue this week, and they are our March 2017 items of the month.

L-R ‘Natsiia’, ‘Krest’ianskaia ssora’, ‘Vasilii Kamenskii’

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Youth Culture at the Liberation: Résistantes and Résistants in Cardboard Cut-Outs

We are grateful to the Managing Editor of the French History Network Blog for permission to reproduce the article by Southampton doctoral student Emily Hooke on a set of cardboard toy theatre scenes depicting the Liberation of Paris. The University Library has these in its Liberation Collection, and they featured prominently in the exhibition which we mounted in 2014.

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Roland Forgues, Le Général de Gaulle à l’Arc de Triomphe, 26 août 1944 (Paris: Edition de l’Office Central de l’Imagerie, 1944). See bibliographic record here. Click on the image to enlarge.

On a trip to Paris a few years ago, I was wandering along the Seine, glancing casually at the boquinistes when I spotted something interesting: three pieces of cardboard illustrated with scenes from the Liberation of Paris — 19-26 August 1944 — and dated later that year.[1] Looking closer, I could see these sheets were cardboard cut-outs, as the tabs under the figures show (fig. 1, fig. 2, fig. 3). They also contained the only information I have been able to find of them: They were illustrated by Roland Forgues and commissioned by l’Office central de l’imagerie, Paris.

Researching further, I found that these were far from the only representations of the Resistance aimed at youth during the Liberation. Indeed, there was a boom in children’s literature at the Liberation — despite the paper shortages. These sought to repair the damage done by children’s comic books under the Occupation such as Le Téméraire, which framed the Resistance as villains – ‘without morals and without courage’.[2]

The cardboard cut-outs sparked my interest in popular culture, and added a new dimension to my research: youth. Following the Liberation the Resistance became seen as ‘military, patriotic and essentially masculine’ despite evidence to the contrary, and I wanted to see how they fitted into the construction of this gendered narrative.[3] Continue reading

German prizewinners 2016

In previous posts we pointed out how literary prizes are useful for our collection development. By acquiring prizewinning works we document the evolving canon of German literature.  In this post I will present a selection of German literary prizes awarded recently.

Arguably the most prestigious prize for German language literature is the Georg-Büchner-Preis. The 2016 prize was awarded by the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung to Marcel Beyer for his rich work which ranges from the epic to the lyric and essayistic. The Akademie said that “his texts devote themselves to the representation of the German past with the same precise dedication with which they trace the sound of the present time. They pursue a poetic geography, which is always also an exploration of language”. The latest works acquired by the University Library are his poetry collection Graphit (C203.d.8391) published in 2014 and his collection of essays Sie nannten es Sprache (C204.d.7081) published in 2016. Continue reading