Doc Martens Boots Adorned with Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”

As in cuisine, where peasant food can become trendy and expensive overnight, so it is in fashion: how else to explain the way a humble working-class boot went from the factory floor to stylistic statement.

The original 1960’s Dr. Martens boot, the one with the cushioned sole, fancy tread, and yellow stitching, was designed to be affordable. That’s why the punks loved it, that’s why the ska/Two Tone guys and gals loved it, and that’s why rich rockers like Pete Townshend showed his solidarity by wearing them along with his boiler suit.

But that was then, and this is...the Tate Gallery of London’s specially commissioned series of arty Docs. The “1460” boot above shows details from Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” (the hellish third panel), which you have to admit is pretty cool. For the lover not the fighter among us, you can also go for the more debauched second panel from "Garden" printed on a “1461” style shoe.

If Bosch isn’t your style, the Tate Gallery also commissioned ones featuring Giannicola Di PaoloWilliam Hogarth, and Biagio Di Antonio. Trouble is, all of these have already sold out, though you can still get versions sporting art by William Blake and JMW Turner. I guess you might want to bookmark Dr. Martens Artist Series’ page. We’re here to expand your cultural knowledge on Open Culture, not to provide daily deals!

So, yes, these limited edition boots are just slightly more than the original “smooth” style and not exactly cheap. But, on the other hand, this new phase of the company is a celebration of skirting complete obsolescence. While marketers love to say these brands “never go out of style,” they in fact did. According to their own website, Dr. Martens had such declining sales at the turn of the millennium that all but one factory closed. It was by commissioning artists to rebrand the boot in similar ways as the Tate Gallery that the company was able to turn things around and, best of all, keep manufacturing the boots in Britain.

Whether you should wear your high culture so low to the ground is for you to figure out once you get your hands on a pair. Again, there are still versions by William Blake and JMW Turner in steady supply.

Related Content:

Take a Virtual Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Bewildering Masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch Figurines: Collect Surreal Characters from Bosch’s Paintings & Put Them on Your Bookshelf
Hieronymus Bosch’s Medieval Painting, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Comes to Life in a Gigantic, Modern Animation

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Enter an Online Interactive Documentary on M.C. Escher’s Art & Life, Narrated By Peter Greenaway

Despite their enormous popularity, the enigmatic works of Dutch artist M.C. Escher have not, perhaps, received their due in the high art world. But he is beloved by college-dorm-room-decorators, Haight-Ashbury hippies, mathematicians, doctors, and dentists, who put his art on their walls, says Micky Pillar, former curator of the Escher Museum in The Hague, because “they think it’s a great way of getting people engaged and forgetting about reality.” Mathematical giants Roger Penrose and HSM Coxeter “were dazzled by Escher’s work as students in 1954,” notes The Guardian's Maev Kennedy. Mick Jagger was a huge fan, though Escher turned him down when asked to draw an album cover, annoyed at being addressed by his first name (Maurits).

Escher, says Ian Dejardin—director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London—“may have been the only person in the world who had never heard of the Rolling Stones.” It wasn’t that he ignored the world around him, but that he focused his career on inventing another one, taking inspiration first from the Italian countryside and cityscapes, after settling in Rome, and later turning to what he called “mental imagery”: the paradoxical portraits, fantastical shifting shapes, and mind-bending patterns, so absorbing that people in waiting rooms forget their discomfort and anxiety when looking at them.

One of the most famous of such works, 1939’s Metamorphosis II, owes its creation to the historical pressures of Italian fascism and the geometric fascinations of Islamic art. After leaving Rome in 1935 as political tensions rose, Escher found himself inspired by his second visit to The Alhambra in Spain. Its “lavish tile work,” as the National Gallery of Art writes, “suggested new directions in the use of color and the flattened patterning of interlocking forms.” So intricate and technically dazzling is the four-meter-long print that it merits an in-depth look at its context and composition.

That’s exactly what you’ll find at a new “interactive documentary” on Metamorphosis II, by the makers of a similar feature on Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. The online resource lets users scroll across the print, zooming in to an extraordinary level of detail, or zooming out to see how it transitions section by section, from the word “metamorphose,” to a checkerboard pattern, to lizards, honeycombs, bees, hummingbirds, fish, etc.. Along the way, you can click on little colored hexagons (that transform into cubes) and bring up short articles on Escher’s life and aspects of the work at hand. Each of these featurettes is narrated (in the English version) by British filmmaker and artist Peter Greenaway. Once you open one of these explanatory windows, a navigation tool (above) appears at the bottom of the screen.

We see how the various animals in Escher's “systematic tessellations,” as he called them, were chosen by virtue of their shape as well as Escher’s interest in their life cycles and methods of organization. “Nature was a source of wondrous beauty for Escher,” the documentary explains. “In his journals and letters, he often wrote about what surprised, amazed or moved him” in the natural world. Some of the Metamorphosis II sections appeared in later works like 1943’s Reptiles. Escher drew attention both to the natural world’s variety and its genius for repeated patterns. But the movement from one animal to the next has nothing to do with zoology.

Escher delighted in playing “mind association games.” We learn that as a child, “he would lie in bed and think of two subjects for which he had to create a logical connection.” In one example he gave, he would attempt to find his way from “a tram conductor to a kitchen chair.” Metamorphosis II gives us a visual representation of such games, mental leaps that challenge our sense of the order of things. The documentary situates this fascinating work in a historical and aesthetic context that allows us to make sense of it while adding to our appreciation for its strangeness, offering several different ways of approaching the work, as well as an invitation to make your own.

One feature, the “Metamorphosis Machine,” lets you choose from a selection of starting and ending patterns. Then it fills in the transformation in the middle. The results are hardly Escher-quality, but they are a fun and accessible way of understanding the work of an artist whose vision can seem forbidding, with its impossible spaces and disorienting transformations. Enter the Metamorphosis II interactive documentary here.

Related Content:

M.C. Escher Cover Art for Great Books by Italo Calvino, George Orwell & Jorge Luis Borges

Watch M.C. Escher Make His Final Artistic Creation in the 1971 Documentary Adventures in Perception

Take a Virtual Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Bewildering Masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Salvador Dalí Action Figure

First came the Frida Kahlo Action Figure, the Edvard Munch Scream Action Figure, and the Vincent Van Gogh Action Figure, Complete with Detachable Ear. And soon they can all pal around with the Salvador Dalí Action Figure.

With six days to go, 693 backers have pledged $15,676 to a Kickstarter campaign that's hoping to raise a total of $26,158. Should they reach that goal, a company called Today Is Art Day will put into production a charming Dali figure. Standing five inches tall, the figure "comes with 3 sets of wacky interchangeable mustaches" and "deluxe mustaches made of stainless steel." The Dalí figure "holds his signature melting clock," and there are five Dalí masterpieces to display on a miniature easel. Apparently endorsed by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, the figure should go into production this August. Help Kickstart things here.

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How the Iconic Eames Lounge Chair Is Made, From Start to Finish

In 1956, Charles and Ray Eames unveiled a lounge chair that did something special. It took modern design and made it comfortable. It placed “the sitter into a voluptuous luxury that few mortals since Nero have known.” Below, you can revisit the original unveiling of the Eames Lounge Chair, which took place on the Home Show, an American daytime TV program hosted by Arlene Francis. And above, you can watch the making of the Eames Lounge Chair, which remains very much in production and demand today. It's still a staple of the Herman Miller furniture collection. Some aspects of the production have gotten a bit more high tech, of course. And the original Brazilian rosewood has been replaced by a more sustainable Palisander rosewood. But the high-touch process remains otherwise largely the same. Originally priced at $310, the Eames Lounge Chair will now set you back $5,295.

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An Avalanche of Novels, Films and Other Works of Art Will Soon Enter the Public Domain: Virginia Woolf, Charlie Chaplin, William Carlos William, Buster Keaton & More

There may be no sweeter sound to the ears of Open Culture writers than the words “public domain”—you might even go so far as to call it our “cellar door.” The phrase may not be as musical, but the fact that many of the world’s cultural treasures cannot be copyrighted in perpetuity means that we can continue to do what we love: curating the best of those treasures for readers as they appear online. Public domain means companies can sell those works without incurring any costs, but it also means that anyone can give them away for free. “Anyone can re-publish” public domain works, notes Lifehacker, “or chop them up and use them in other projects.” And thereby emerges the remixing and repurposing of old artifacts into new ones, which will themselves enter the public domain of future generations.

Some of those future works of art may even become the next Great American Novel, if such a thing still exists as anything more than a hackneyed cliché. Of course, no one seriously goes around saying they’re writing the “Great American Novel,” unless they’re Philip Roth in the 70s or William Carlos Williams (top right) in the 20s, who both somehow pulled off using the phrase as a title (though Roth’s book doesn't quite live up to it.) Where Roth casually used the concept in a light novel about baseball, Williams’ The Great American Novel approached it with deep concern for the survival of the form itself. His modernist text “engages the techniques of what we would now call metafiction,” writes literary scholar April Boone, “to parody worn out formulas and content and, ironically, to create a new type of novel that anticipates postmodern fiction.”

We will all, as of January 1, 2019, have free, unfettered access to Williams’ metafictional shake-up of the formulaic status quo, when “hundreds of thousands of… books, musical scores, and films first published in the United States during 1923” enter the public domain, as Glenn Fleishman writes at The Atlantic. Because of the complicated history of U.S. copyright law—especially the 1998 “Sonny Bono Act” that successfully extended a copyright law from 50 to 70 years (for the sake, it's said, of Mickey Mouse)—it has been twenty years since such a massive trove of material has become available all at once. But now, and “for several decades from 2019 onward,” Fleishman points out, “each New Year’s Day will unleash a full year’s worth of works published 95 years earlier.”

In other words, it’ll be Christmas all over again in January every year, and while you can browse the publication dates of your favorite works yourself to see what’s coming available in coming years, you’ll find at The Atlantic a short list of literary works included in next-year’s mass-release, including books by Aldous Huxley, Winston Churchill, Carl Sandburg, Edith Wharton, and P.G. Wodehouse. Lifehacker has several more extensive lists, which we excerpt below:

Movies [see many more at Indiewire]

All these movies, including:

  • Cecil B. DeMille’s (first, less famous, silent version of) The Ten Commandments
  • Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!, including that scene where he dangles off a clock tower, and his Why Worry?
  • A long line-up of feature-length silent films, including Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitalityand Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim
  • Short films by Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and Our Gang (later Little Rascals)
  • Cartoons including Felix the Cat(the character first appeared in a 1919 cartoon)
  • Marlene Dietrich’s film debut, a bit part in the German silent comedy The Little Napoleon; also the debuts of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fay Wray


All this music, including these classics:

  • “King Porter Stomp”
  • “Who’s Sorry Now?”
  • “Tin Roof Blues”
  • “That Old Gang of Mine”
  • “Yes! We Have No Bananas”
  • “I Cried for You”
  • “The Charleston”—written to accompany, and a big factor in the popularity of, the Charleston dance
  • Igor Stravinsky’s “Octet for Wind Instruments”


All these booksand these books, including the classics:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Cane by Jean Toomer
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud
  • Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier
  • Whose Body?, the first Lord Peter Wimsey novel by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Two of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Murder on the Links
  • The Prisoner, volume 5 of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (note that English translations have their own copyrights)
  • The Complete Works of Anthony Trollope
  • George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan
  • Short stories by Christie, Virginia Woolf, H.P. Lovecraft, Katherine Mansfield, and Ernest Hemingway
  • Poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, E.E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Sukumar Ray, and Pablo Neruda
  • Works by Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Jean Cocteau, Italo Svevo, Aldous Huxley, Winston Churchill, G.K. Chesterton, Maria Montessori, Lu Xun, Joseph Conrad, Zane Grey, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs


These artworks, including:

  • Constantin Brâncuși’s Bird in Space
  • Henri Matisse’s Odalisque With Raised Arms
  • Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)
  • Yokoyama Taikan’s Metempsychosis
  • Work by M. C. Escher, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, and Man Ray

Again, these are only partial lists of highlights, and such highlights…. Speaking for myself, I cannot wait for free access to the very best (and even worst, and weirdest, and who-knows-what-else) of 1923. And of 1924 in 2020, and 1925 and 2021, and so on and so on….

via The Atlantic

Related Content:

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List of Great Public Domain Films 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Artists Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera Visit Leon Trotsky in Mexico: Vintage Footage from 1938

Here's some very rare footage of the great Mexican painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paying a visit to exiled Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, in Coyocoán, Mexico, in 1938.

The Trotskys had arrived the year before, after Rivera petitioned the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas to grant the controversial Marxist leader and theorist sanctuary in Mexico. When the Trotskys arrived on a Norwegian oil tanker at the port city of Tampico in January of 1937, Rivera was not well, but Kahlo boarded the ship to welcome the Trotskys and accompanied them on an armored train to Mexico City. She invited the Trotskys to stay at her family home, La Casa Azul (the Blue House) in Coyocoán, now a section of Mexico City. By the time this footage was taken by a visiting American named Ivan Heisler, Trotsky and Kahlo had either had, or were about to have, a brief affair, and the friendship between the two couples would soon fall apart. In early 1939 Trotsky moved to another house in the same neighborhood, where he was assassinated in August of 1940.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in July, 2012.

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1933 Article on Frida Kahlo: “Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art”

Attempting to Set the World Record for Most Frida Kahlo Lookalikes in One Place: It Happened in Dallas

Doc Martens Now Come Adorned with William Blake’s Art, Thanks to a Partnership with Tate Britain

On a recent trip to Portland, I found myself at the city’s flagship Pearl District Dr. Martens’ store and was instantly transported back to much younger days when I scrimped and saved to buy my first pair of “Docs” at the local DC punk boutique. Big and clunky, the boots and shoes have been associated with outsider and alternative culture for decades (and, sadly, through no fault of their own, with neo-Nazis, as a recent Portland controversy reminded). The brand has since applied its “AirWair” sole to styles much less evocative of leather-clad punks, but the originals--the eight-eye “1460” boot and three-eye “1461” shoe--will forever retain their iconic status, in the classic colors of black and “oxblood” red.

“Originally a modest work-boot that was even sold as a gardening shoe,” as the company’s history tells it, the nearly indestructible footwear first achieved cult status in working-class British subcultures in the early days of “glam, punk, Two Tone, and early goth.”

The flamboyance of the Dr. Martens’ clientele gave it license to experiment with unorthodox styles, like shiny patent leather in eye-popping colors, an animal print series and, most recently, an artist series, featuring 1460s and 1461s covered in leather reproductions of paintings by artists like Hieronymus Bosch, Giannicola Di Paolo, and William Hogarth (unfortunately all sold out on their website).

One of the recent additions to this pantheon seems like a perfect fit: the William Blake Docs, offering your “choice of gnostic kicks for a night out,” as Dangerous Minds quips. A partnership with Tate Britain, the boot version is wrapped in Blake’s Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils (c. 1826) and the shoe displays The House of Death (c. 1795). See both paintings below.

Like another new addition to the artist series—with artwork from J.M.W. Turner—the Blake Dr. Martens draw on the work of a violently original English artist with solidly working-class roots. Unlike his contemporary Turner, Blake spent most of his days in obscurity, creating a DIY visual and poetic mythology rich enough to counter the religious and philosophical hegemony of the day, which was a totally punk rock thing to do in the 18th century.

“I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s,” Blake wrote. Does the stamping of his iconoclastic artwork on a culturally iconic, commercially successful boot (and shoe, and leather satchel, and T-shirt) mean that he’s been absorbed into exactly the kind of system he spent his life opposing? Isn’t that just punk's eternal dilemma....

See a short film from Tate Britain celebrating their collaboration with Dr. Martens at the shoemaker’s website and see much more William Blake in the Related Content links below.

If you want to snag your own William Blake Dr. Martens, you can find the 3-Eye Oxfords and 1460 Boot on Amazon.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

William Blake’s Hallucinatory Illustrations of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

William Blake’s Masterpiece Illustrations of the Book of Job (1793-1827)

William Blake’s Last Work: Illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy (1827)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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