Saturday, December 13, 2014
As a boy in my mid-teens I found myself in possession of an ex-library copy of Jean Cocteau's The White Book. I would like to think that by ex-library I mean a withdrawn surplus book but sadly I think I may have been a little less scrupulous in those days and its possible my fourteen year old fingers were light enough to remove it from the library's stock without giving them the option of deciding whether is was surplus. Both the texts and Cocteau's illustrations were among the most informative things a young man in search of his sexuality could have laid hands on and I kept that book for many years.
Consequently, I have something of a soft spot for Cocteau's drawings. His clearly distinctive style doesn't belie an extraordinary ability to draw. These I found recently in an old auction catalogue. The auction also included a copy of The White Book bound with a sketch and a finished original illustration for the book. But The White Book illustrations and a number of others with titles such as "Deux marins" and "Deux hommes nus" were clearly too much for the cataloguer and the bottommost image in this post shows how they were dealt with.
... for a while.
This is the last in a series of photos for my collection that I bought recently and which have been dropping on the mat under the postman's hand over the course of the last week or so. It's been scanned very large so worth viewing at full size.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Three rather nice photos for the collection arrived this morning. Two of them even properly qualify for the vintage the swimwear theme. Having said that though, the team photo at the bottom is rather fun, even if the Northwest Champions do appear to be wearing shorts made from the silky material of their grannies' slips!
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Eike Von Stuckenbrok - The Beauty of a Dyslexic Mind from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.
The Blessed Eike Von Stuckenbrok has featured a number of times on Front Free Endpaper and I make no apologies for that - who would want them! But every now and again some new imagery pops up although, in this instance I understand that it is 'new to me' so excuse me if you have seen these as I realise they have been around a while. The video above is a commercially sponsored one which is based around the Nietzsche quote: “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
The photos below are from a couple of years ago at least and are by the Swedish-born, London-based photographer Bertil Nilsson, most of whose work is with dancers and circus performers.
When I buy photos for my 'vintage swimwear' collection, I like them to be primarily of, you know, swimwear or to have some connection. But I'm not strict about this. Many are the photos that are in those albums that don't really qualify as swimwear photos at all but that I just happen to like. To my mind a photograph is often made more interesting by a bit if damage, or perhaps by being somewhat abstractly taken, of being out of focus a little. These are just a few of the non-vintage swimwear pics which have turned up on my doormat at the hands of the postman in the last week or so: they are all out of context and have nothing to elucidate them so they must stand as images in their own right.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
I've recently been helping sort through and catalogue a huge collection of books on glass and every now and again as you flick the pages things leap out at you. This might be the first time that glass has featured on Front Free Endpaper but these are things that caught my eye today. From top to bottom we have a classically inspired vase by Czech designer, Jaroslav Horejc from 1925, then a boy blowing bubbles by Otto Hofner, another Czech from just before the First World War; the rest were all produced by the American Steuben company who worked with some really big names in the art world to provide images to be engraved on their glass Jacob Epstein, Don Wier, Pavel Tchelitchew and Henri Matisse are the ones I have chosen to show here.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
About fifteen years ago I was living in South East London. On a swelteringly hot day in the summer I was coming home from walking a friend's dog in the park when, at the top of a dusty cul-de-sac, I came across a suitcase which had burst open and, scattered all over the road, a load of photographs. It appeared, although why this should be the case I have no idea, that the suitcase had been thrown to the ground, perhaps from a moving car, and the photographs which had been inside had scattered. As you might imagine from this sample, they caught my eye, and I retrieved as many as I could from the ground and took them home.
The photographs appear to be of an older couple and a young man, who may or may not be their son, on a boating holiday, around France. From the clothes that are worn in some of the other photos, and possibly also from the printed code on the back of some of them, I would guess they were taken in the early 1990s, that is, about eight to ten years before I found them. The young man in his sky-blue speedos may well be forty by now. At the time I did my civic duty and took them to the police station and handed them over as lost property but after a while, if unclaimed, you can claim them yourself: which I did. I really thought I might be able to track down the original owners but there are simply no identifying features in the photos. Even the boat, of which there are numerous very clear shots, conspired not to allow it's name to be seen in any of the photographs.
This isn't a call for help to find the people in the photographs, but if you should ever happen by this blog and see your younger self staring out at you, please do get in touch.
On Friday I posted the black and white illustrations by Albert Wainwright for this book by Hilda Brearley. Unfortunately, at the time I didn't have a copy of the dust jacket. I've since found this slightly tatty copy but still thought it worth reproducing here.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone have featured here before, twin sisters who lived together with their mother for the whole of their lives and worked as a team (their brother said they were like one and a half people when they were together not two) as illustrators of children's book throughout the middle of the twentieth century. I have a fondness for the lissome and lightly muscled, slightly over-extended figures they created: and what better setting for such than in this copy of Tales of the Greeks and Trojans by Roger Lancelyn Green (Purnell, London: 1963). It appears to be a scarce title but the illustrations throughout are delicious and have that all-important quality of being completely 'of their period'.
Monday, November 24, 2014
This is a lovely book which I have had before, but not for a while now, so I was delighted to acquire a copy again today. Song of a Boy by John Holland (Privately Printed, London: 1939) is a mother's tribute to her dead son. It is an anthology of John Holland's youthful poetry and painting, youthful because he died of Polio three years before this book was created at the age of eighteen. It is a beautifully crafted book printed on laid paper, with colour reproductions of John's paintings, each protected by a tissue guard with the title and size printed onto it and all bound in cream buckram with one of John's paintings rendered in gilt on the upper board and then slipcased. Truly a lovely thing. Also included are three likenesses of John (below). The pastel drawing is by P. Harland-Fisher made when the subject was 12 years old and the two photographs were taken with his dog at the age of 13 and on horseback at 17. John Holland was the only son of Phyllis and Rear-Admiral Lancelot Holland and, as you would expect and understand, the praise for John's youthful talent is high indeed in the short preface to the book. Nonetheless, in this instance, the high praise seems highly justified. Granted that these poems were written from the age of fourteen onwards and have moments of unevenness, it is clear that John stood every chance of being a formidable poet had he been given the chance to find his mature voice. Sadly, that was not to be and so we are left with just this beautiful book as a memory of his passing. Which is made all the more poignant by the opening lines of the strangely prescient opening poem from which the collection takes its title,
"Song of a Boy"
What have I done or left behind,
God, if I were to die this day
What thing of beauty could men find
To show that I had walked my way?
No good behind me and no sin,
No pearl of beauty fine and rare,
No simple song, not anything
For which another man might care,
Oh, what would future humans say
If in my youth I died this day?
Yet I have lived and seen and known
And yet if I did die this hour
My strength and knowledge would have flown
Before the bud could burst to flower,
Before the flower could turn to seed
To grow upon the barren ground.
I have not done one single deed
For which I then would be renowned
Oh, lost would be my gifts and power
If I were now to die this hour.
Some day perhaps some one will find,
One of my songs, swift time has left behind
And in that song, that man perhaps may see
A little corner of what once was me.
Perhaps a petty wish, a sudden fear,
A stroke of ink wet with a lover's tear.
Some simple thing that once my spirit saw
And find through it that men have lived before.
Clearly his obituary notice in The Wykehamist can't be far wrong when it said, "His single-hearted devotion to beauty in nature, art and literature, and still more his courageous independence of mind, will long be remembered by the many friends who had watched the development of his rare and ardent personality."
PS. A small bibliographical note for any who might find this post because they are researching to catalogue their own copy. There is a lithographed facsimile of John's signature in orange ink on the first page of the book. This is NOT as some internet sellers have it, a book which is "signed by the author" - clearly so, you would think. Nor is this signature drawn by a crayon by another hand as others have it. The signature is the same in all copy and is a printed facsimile.