Prinzhorn’s influential book, 100 years on

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

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Art, art and more art: museums of Den Haag

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 art world and the 1918 flu pandemic 

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

Industry and art : the July 2020 Slavonic item of the month

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.

Images from the new acquisition.

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The Prado Museum, a 200-year story

640px-Vista_general_Museo_del_Prado

General view of the Museo del Prado, by Outisnn (via Wikipedia)

Last November 19, the museum celebrated the 200 year anniversary of its opening. The University Library regularly receives Spanish art catalogues – including the ones issued by the Prado – but this time we have also acquired a selection of recent books (listed below) commemorating this occasion. Among them we can highlight Museo del Prado, 1819-2019: un lugar de memoria (C202.b.3782), catalogue of an exhibition focused on the museum’s history, organised by the institution. Continue reading