The Latin American and Iberian Collections team has recently acquired a small but utterly compelling collection of books published by Ediciones Vigía. These are beautiful and hugely imaginative hand-made artist books created in Matanzas, Cuba. Although in nature very different to the Cartonera collection we have built over the years, Vigía books also help us ask questions about the possibilities of creating and disseminating art and literature in a context of material scarcity.
Ediciones Vigía was founded by the poet Alfredo Zaldívar and the artist Rolando Estévez in 1985 but did not originally start as a publisher: it began as a cultural association organizing events for the local community to learn about Cuban and international authors. They would produce invitations for such events held in the then named Casa del Escritor (The Author’s House) in the Plaza de la Vigía square in Matanzas.
The idea for this blog post came to me in 2021 when I read a review of an engaging new book, Charlie English’s The gallery of miracles and madness (e-Legal Deposit) in which I first learnt of Hans Prinzhorn’s Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (S400:05.b.9.337). This groundbreaking book analysed the artwork of disturbed psychiatric patients, with just over half of it devoted to detailed descriptions of ten artists, given pseudonyms to protect the reputation of their families. The book was first published 100 years ago in 1922; the University Library copy is a reprint from 1923, demonstrating the book’s popularity. In his The Discovery of the art of the insane (9000.b.1564) John MacGregor describes Prinzhorn’s work as “an unequaled contribution to the study of the art of the mentally ill.”
Cover and title page of our 1923 edition (click on image to see enlarged): Prinzhorn demanded of his publisher that the cover be black with a runic font
Portrait of Escher from the Nationaal Archief NL via Wikimedia Commons
Back in 2019 an exhibition catalogue of M.C. Escher works inspired me to write about the Alhambra in Granada. Escher is in my thoughts again as we approach the 50th anniversary of his death on 27 March, and I am reminded of a happy visit with my family ten years ago to the Escher museum in The Hague, Escher in Het Paleis. 2022 is a significant date for other museums in The Hague as well, and so this gives me the excuse to look in more detail at the wealth of art and museums in the Dutch capital, relating it to books in the UL.
The Escher museum is housed in the 18th century Lange Voorhout Palace which belonged to members of the Dutch Royal family for almost 150 years. It is now owned by the city and has been home to the Escher exhibition since 2002. Continue reading →
The kiss of death (1912) by Bohumil Kubišta (1884-1918), Czech painter who died in the pandemic, via Wikimedia Commons
As the world continues to respond to the impact of COVID-19, commentators have inevitably looked back 100 years to the 1918 flu pandemic (commonly known as Spanish flu although it did not start in Spain) during which millions of people died – estimates range from 17 million to 50 million. Many articles have been written in recent months comparing the two pandemics. This blog post focuses on a few artists who died in or survived the 1918 pandemic, and gives us the opportunity to look at some works of art in a virtual gallery courtesy of our ebooks provision, without the need to book in advance or to wear a face mask. Continue reading →
This lovely item is still waiting for me to complete its catalogue record in the UL, but happily I captured many of its contents in photographs on a memory card I brought home on our last day in the Library.
Ugol’, chugun, stal’ (Coal, cast iron, steel) was bought with the help of Special Collections now some time ago. It is a loose-leaf album of 40 works by the artist Nikolaĭ Fedorovich Denisovskiĭ (often romanised as Denisovsky), 1901-1981, which was published in 1932. The subject of his work is heavy industry, and each of the 40 monochrome illustrations held within the album depict workers and industrial structures in striking and quite beautiful images. Below are 15 of the 40.