The First Museum Dedicated Exclusively to Poster Art Opens Its Doors in the U.S.: Enter the Poster House

How times have changed since our late 80s college days. Undergrads do research online, upload assignments to a server, stream music, download affirmative sexual consent contracts, and turn to Facebook when it's time to find a ride home for the holidays.

But one aspect of the collegiate lifestyle remains unchanged.

They still festoon their dorm rooms with posters—the actual paper article, affixed to the walls with blue putty, a carefully curated collection of taste and aspiration.




As Cait Munro writes in Refinery 29:

Freshman, already scrambling to find and loudly articulate an identity, can leave the poster sale with two or three plastic tubes housing scrolls that represent the very essence of their new, parent-free, on-campus selves. Posters become an affordable, demonstrable expression of who they are as a person — or, in the tradition of people eager to leave behind their hometown selves, who they want to be.

Legions of style blogs have decreed that these posters should be given the heave-ho along with the plastic milk crate shelving, come graduation.

Personally, I would rather gaze upon the tattered reproduction of the first painting that spoke to me at the Art Institute of Chicago than anything the design experts float as an acceptably grown up alternative.

Is Alphonse Mucha’s Byzantine 1896 ad for Job rolling papers somehow unworthy because legions of dewy eyed undergrads have given it a perennial place of unframed honor?

The driving forces behind the newly opened Poster House in New York City would say no. The first American museum dedicated exclusively to poster art, its curators cast a wide net through the form’s 160 year history, whether the end goal of the work was war bond sales, public health education, or straight-up box office sales. As the Poster House writes:

For a poster to succeed, it must communicate. By combining the power of images and words, posters speak to audiences quickly and persuasively. Blending design, advertising, and art, posters clearly reflect the place and time in which they were made.

What did the best-selling poster of actress Farrah Fawcett in a red tank suit say to—and about—teenage boys in 1976? What did it say about American values and gender norms in that Bicentennial year? Why no posters of Betsy Ross?

How does the official poster for Jurassic Park, above, compare to the hand-painted, presumably unauthorized image used to market it to audiences in Ghana?

(Endless gratitude to illustrator and monster movie fan Aeron Alfrey for bringing this and other Ghanian spins on American film releases to our attention.)

Some posters have remarkable staying power, reappearing in a number of guises. Witness Rosie the Riveter and James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam-themed WWI recruitment poster, to say nothing of the Barack Obama “Hope" poster by Shepard Fairey, the poster that launched a thousand parodies, mostly digital, but even so.

To learn more about visiting Poster House, its inaugural Alphonse Mucha exhibit and upcoming events such as Drink and Draw, click here.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

Leonardo da Vinci’s Huge Notebook Collections, the Codex Forster, Now Digitized in High-Resolution: Explore Them Online

It may seem like a bizarre question, but indulge me for a moment: could it be possible that the most famous artist of the Renaissance and maybe in all of art history, Leonardo da Vinci, is an underrated figure? Consider the fact that until relatively recently, a huge amount of his work—maybe a majority of his drawings, plans, sketches, notes, concepts, theories, etc.—has been unavailable to all but specialized scholars who could access (and read) his copious notebooks, spanning the most productive period of his career.

“Leonardo seems to have begun recording his thoughts in notebooks from the mid-1480s,” writes the Victoria & Albert Museum (the V&A), “when he worked as a military and naval engineer for the Duke of Milan. None of Leonardo’s predecessors, contemporaries or successors used paper quite like he did—a single sheet contains an unpredictable pattern of ideas and inventions.” He worked on loose sheets, which were later bound together in books, or codices, by the artists who inherited them. As we have been reporting, these notebook collections have been coming available online in open, high-resolution digital versions.




Now the V&A has announced that all three of its Leonardo codices, called the Forster Codices after the collector who bequeathed them to the museum, are available to view “in amazing detail.” Click here to see Codex Forster 1, Codex Forster 2, and Codex Forster 3. Here we see further evidence that Leonardo was a supreme draughtsman. As Claudio Giorgione, curator at the Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum in Milan, points out, “Leonardo was not the only one to draw machines and to do scientific drawings, many other engineers did that,” and many artists as well. “But what Leonardo did better than others is to make a revolution of the technical drawing,” almost defining the field with his meticulous attention to detail.

What’s more, notes University of Oxford Professor Martin Kemp, “while other artists might have been probing some aspects of anatomy—muscles, bones, tendons—Leonardo took the study to a new level.” Such a level, in fact, that he "can be regarded as the father of bioengineering,” argues John B. West in the American Journal of Physiology.

Little attention has been paid to [Leonardo] as a physiologist. But he was an outstanding engineer, and he was one of the first people to apply the principles of engineering to understand the function of animals including humans.

Giorgione warns against seeing Leonardo as a prophetic visionary for his innovations. He was not a man out of time; “the artist engineer is a known figure in Renaissance Italy.” But he perfected the tools and methods of this dual profession with such restless ingenuity and skill that we still find it astonishing over 500 years later. His lengthy explanations of these exceptional technical drawings are written, naturally, in his famous mirror writing.

Of Leonardo’s odd writing system, we may learn something new as well, though we may find this part, at least, a little disappointing. As the V&A points out, his idiosyncratic method might not have been so unique after all, or have been a sophisticated device for Leonardo to hide his ideas from competitors and future curious readers. It might have come about “because he was left-handed and may have found it easier to write from right to left…. Writing masters at the time would have made demonstrations of mirror writing, and his letter-shapes are in fact quite ordinary.”

Nothing else about the man seems to warrant that description. See all three Forster Codices the Victoria & Albert Museum site here: Codex Forster 1, Codex Forster 2, and Codex Forster 3. And see one codex from the collection, as the V&A announced on Twitter, live in person at the British Library’s Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion exhibit.

h/t AtzecLady

Related Content:

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Earliest Notebooks Now Digitized and Made Free Online: Explore His Ingenious Drawings, Diagrams, Mirror Writing & More

Why Did Leonardo da Vinci Write Backwards? A Look Into the Ultimate Renaissance Man’s “Mirror Writing”

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

A New Archive Transcribes and Puts Online the Diaries & Notebooks of Women Artists, Art Historians, Critics and Dealers

While one is still comparatively young, one has many more thoughts & certainly sentiments than one is able to make use of. It seems as if these might be stored up so that in old age or when one became less prolific one could find matter to use. Every thought or suggestion could be of use.

- Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitneysculptor, collector, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1906

There are very few moral defenses for rummaging inside another’s private diary or sketchbook, until that person shuffles off this mortal coil … and even then snoopers may get burned by what they read.

Or not.

Boredom is another strong possibility.

Best to stick with figures of historical import.

With all due respect to Frida Kahlo, I prefer those whom history hasn’t turned into mega-celebs.

It’s fun to discover a fascinating person via her own words and doodles, rather than seek them out as a bedazzled fan girl.

The Women’s History Project at the Archives of American Art is scanning a trove of handwritten papers as part of a year long mission to preserve and pass along the creative processes and daily doings of various women artists, art historians, critics, dealers, and gallery owners. Fascinating reading awaits those who can get past the enigmatic antique scrawl. More on that below.

A sample:

Portraitist Cecilia Beaux’s letters to her friend, frequent sitter, and possible lover, actress Dorothea Gilder. (See Beaux's painting of “Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and daughter Ethel" from 1902 up top.)

The notebook of sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd, stuffed with quotes, poems, research, definitions, and autobiographical musings, dated the same year that she founded the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks for severely disfigured WW1 vets.

The above mentioned Whitney’s 1914 travel diary, when she made several trips to France in the name of establishing and supporting a hospital in north-central France.

Ready to explore?

You can do more than that.

The project is a part of the Smithsonian Transcription Center, which depends upon the public to take a crack at deciphering the obscure cursive of these handwritten pages, strike-throughs, marginalia, and all.  You can try your hand at a single sentence or tackle an entire collection or diary. No worries if you have no transcription experience. The Center has easy to follow instructions here.

Your efforts will make the digitized documents keyword searchable, while preserving the original creators’ memories for future generations. New content will be added monthly through March 2020.

Begin your explorations of the Women’s History Project at the Archives of American Art here.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Free Coloring Books from 113 Museums

One can only color so many floral-trimmed affirmations before one begins to crave something slightly more perverse. An emaciated, naked, anthropomorphized mandrake root, say or…

Thy wish is our command, but be prepared to hustle, because today is the final day of Color Our Collections, a compellingly democratic initiative on the part of the New York Academy of Medicine.

Since 2016, the Academy has made an annual practice of inviting other libraries, archives, and cultural institutions around the world to upload PDF coloring pages based on their collections for the public's free download.

This year 113 institutions took the bait.

Our host, the New York Academy of Medicine kicks things off with the aforementioned mandrakes, and then some.




Medical subjects are a popular theme here. You’ll find plenty of organs and other relevant details to color, compliments of Boston’s Countway Library’s Center for the History of MedicineLondon’s Royal College of Physicians, and the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (aka the Mütter Museum).

The coloring book of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at the Davenport Public Library is a bit more all-ages. They certainly remind me of my childhood. The work of native son, Patrick J. Costello, above, figures heavily here. Either he deserves a lot of credit for developing the School House Rock aesthetic, or he was one of a number of hard working illustrators tapping into the cartoon-y, thick-nibbed zeitgeist

The Andover-Harvard Theological Library’s coloring book has some divine options for those who would use their coloring pages as DIY 16th-century bookplates or alphabet primers.

Those who need something more complex will appreciate the intricate maps of the Lithuanian Art Museum’s coloring book. Coloring Franz Hogenberg’s 1581 map of Vilnius is the emotional equivalent of walking the labyrinth for god knows how many hours.

As befits a content website-cum-digital-National-Library, the Memoria Chilena Coloring Book 2019 has something for every taste: flayed anatomical studies, 1940’s fashions, curious kitty cats, and a heaping helping of jesters.

Check out all your options here.

Once you've had your way with the Crayolas, please share your creations with the world, using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

Participating Institutions 2019

The New York Academy of Medicine Library

Royal College of Physicians, London

OHSU Historical Collections & Archives

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Special Collections

Swarthmore College Libraries

South Carolina State Library

Shenandoah County Library, Truban Archives

Biblioteca de la Universidad de Zaragoza

Christ's College Library, Cambridge

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

University of Waterloo Special Collections & Archives

Wageningen University & Research

Brunel University Special Collections

Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

Washington State Library

Saint Francis de Sales Parish United by the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish History Archives

Getty Research Institute

Auckland Museum

Loyola University Chicago Archives & Special Collections

Seton Hall University Libraries

Bibliotheque interuniversitaire de Sante, Paris

Digital Library at Villanova University

West Virginia and Regional History Center

Bass Library, Yale University Library

University of Kansas Libraries

Medical Heritage Library

The Ohio State University Health Sciences Library

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives

University of British Columbia Library

National Library of Medicine

Science History Institute

Ricker Library of Architecture and Art at the University of Illinois

Chautauqua Institution Archives

Bibliotheque et Archives nationales du Quebec

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden

Auburn University Special Collections and Archives

Open Museum, Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures

Les Champs Libres

Lithuanian Art Museum

Memoria Chilena

Barret Library, Rhodes College

Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF)

Royal Anthropological Institute

Delaware Museum of Natural History

James Madison University Libraries

Utah State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives

Stevens Institute of Technology / Archives & Special Collections

Waring Historical Library of the Medical University of South Carolina

Bernard Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis

University of Puget Sound

Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections

Queens' College Library, Cambridge

Stadtbibliothek Koeln

Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library at University of Barcelona

Newberry Library

Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Lambeth Palace Library

Folger Shakespeare Library

University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections

John J. Burns Library

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Digital Library

Tennessee State Museum

Center for the History of Medicine, Countway LIbrary

Russian State Library

South Carolina Historical Society

Library Company of Philadelphia

The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Pratt Institute Archives

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine, University of Minnesota Libraries

Washington University Libraries Julian Edison Department of Special Collections

Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary

Leonard H. Axe Library, Pittsburg State University

Susquehanna University, Blough-Weis Library

Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library

Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy

Findlay-Hancock County Public Library

Northern Illinois University

Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatan

Lake County Public Library

United Nations Library Geneva

Jeleniorskie Centrum Informacji i Edukacji Regionalnej Ksiaznica Karkonoska

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago

Grand Portage National Monument Archives Collection

Jagiellonian Library

Botanical Research Institute of Texas

University of North Texas Libraries

Lehigh University Libraries Special Collections

Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Massachusetts General Hospital Archives & Special Collections

Clark Special Collections, McDermott Library, USAFA

Bibliotheque nationale de France

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Archive & Library

Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design

British Library

Western University Archives and Special Collections

Europeana

Denver Botanic Gardens

MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society

Grinnell College Libraries

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

National Library of Russia

Eastern Kentucky University Special Collections & Archives

Numelyo

Louisiana State University Special Collections

New York State Library

North Carolina Pottery Center

Royal Horticultural Society Libraries

Library of Virginia

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this Monday as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Explore an Interactive Version of The Wall of Birds, a 2,500 Square-Foot Mural That Documents the Evolution of Birds Over 375 Million Years

Now, this avian Vatican also has its own Michelangelo.

Audubon Magazine

And the Class of Aves has its very own avian Pantone chart, created by science illustrator Jane Kim in service of her 2,500 square-foot Wall of Birds mural at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

The custom chart’s fifty-one colors comprise about 90 percent of the finished work. A palette of thirteen Golden Fluid Acrylics supplied the jewel-toned accents so thrilling to birdwatchers.

Along the way, Kim absorbed a tremendous amount of information about the how and why of bird feather coloration:

The iridescence on the neck and back of the Superb Starling comes not from pigment,

but from structural color. The starling’s outer feathers are constructed in a way

that refracts light like myriad prisms, making the bird appear to shimmer. The eponymous

coloring of the Lilac-breasted Roller results from a different kind of structural

color, created when woven microstructures in the feathers, called barbs and barbules,

reflect only the shorter wavelengths of light like blue and violet.

The primary colors that lend their name to the Red-and-yellow Barbet are

derived from a class of pigments called carotenoids that the bird absorbs in its diet.

These are the same compounds that turn flamingos’ feathers pink. As a member of

the family Musophagidae, the Hartlaub’s Turaco displays pigmentation unique in the

bird world. Birds have no green pigmentation; in most cases, verdant plumage is a

combination of yellow carotenoids and blue structural color. Turacos are an exception,

displaying a green, copper-based pigment called turacoverdin that they absorb

in their herbivorous diet. The flash of red on the Hartlaub’s underwings comes from

turacin, another copper-based pigment unique to the family.

 

Kim also boned up on her subjects’ mating rituals, dietary habits, song styles, and male/female differences prior to inscribing the 270 life-size, lifelike birds onto the lab’s largest wall.

She examined specimens from the center's collection and reviewed centuries’ worth of field observations.

(The seventeenth-century English naturalist John Ray dismissed the hornbill family as having a “foul look,” a colonialism that ruffled Kim’s own feathers somewhat. In retaliation, she dubbed the Great Hornbill, “the Cyrano of the Jungle” owing to his “tequila-sunrise-hued facial phallus,” and selected him as the cover boy for her book about the mural.)

Research and preliminary sketching consumed an entire year, after which it took 17 months to inscribe 270 life-size creatures—some long extinct—onto the lab’s main wall. The birds are set against a greyscale map of the world, and while many are depicted in flight, every one save the Wandering Albatross has a foot touching its continent of origin.

Those who can’t visit the Wall of Birds (official title: From So Simple a Beginning) in person, can log some digital birdwatching using a spectacular interactive web-based version of the mural that provides plenty of information about each specimen, some of it literary. (The aforementioned Albatross’ entry contains a passing reference to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.)

Explore the Wall of Birds’ interactive features here.

You can download a free chapter of The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years by subscribing to Kim’s mailing list here.

Via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City February 11 for Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Musical Instruments in Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights Get Brought to Life, and It Turns Out That They Sound “Painful” and “Horrible”

Welcome to The Garden of Earthly Delights.

You’ll find no angelic strings here.

Those are reserved for first class citizens whose virtuous lives earned them passage to the uppermost heights.

Down below, stringed instruments produce the most hellish sort of cacophony, a fitting accompaniment for the horn whose bell is befouled with the arm of a tortured soul.

How do we know that's what they sounded like?




A group of musicologists, craftspeople and academics from the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments at the University of Oxford, took it upon themselves to actually build the instruments depicted in Hieronymus Bosch’s action-packed triptych—the hell harp, the violated lute, the grossly oversized hurdy-gurdy

...And then they played them.

Let us hope they stopped shy of shoving flutes up their bums. (Such a placement might produce a sound, but not from the flute’s golden throat).

The Bosch experiment added ten more instruments to the museum’s already impressive, over-1000-strong collection of woodwinds, percussion, and brass, many from the studios of esteemed makers, some dating all the way back to the Renaissance.

Unfortunately, the new additions don’t sound very good. “Horrible” and “painful” are among the adjectives the Bate Collection manager Andrew Lamb uses to describe the aural fruits of his team’s months-long labors.

Might we assume Bosch would have wanted it that way?

Brandon McWilliams, the wag behind Bosch’s wildly enthusiastic, f-bomb-laced review of thrash metal band Slayer’s 1986 Reign in Blood album, would surely say yes, as would
Alden and Cali Hackmann, North American hurdy-gurdy makers, who note that Bosch’s painterly desecrations were not limited to their personal favorite instrument:

Bosch and his contemporaries viewed music as sinful, associating it with other sins of the flesh and spirit. A number of other instruments are also depicted: a harp, a drum, a shawm, a recorder, and the metal triangle being played by the woman (a nun, perhaps) who is apparently imprisoned in the keybox of the instrument. The hurdy-gurdy was also associated with beggars, who were often blind. The man turning the crank is holding a begging bowl in his other hand. Hanging from the bowl is a metal seal on a ribbon, called a "gaberlunzie." This was a license to beg in a particular town on a particular day, granted by the nobility. Soldiers who were blinded or maimed in their lord's service might be given a gaberlunzie in recompense.

To the best of our knowledge, no gaberfunzies were granted, nor any sinners eternally damned, in the Bate Collection’s caper. According to manager Lamb, expanding the boundaries of music education was recompense enough, well worth the temporary affront to tender ears.

via Metafilter

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

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City tonight as host of Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch the Painstaking and Nerve-Racking Process of Restoring a Drawing by Michelangelo

We live in a disposable culture, but certain things warrant the time and effort of mending—good shoes, hearts, Michelangelo drawings…

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s paper conservator Marjorie Shelley, above, had the nerve-wracking task of tackling the latter, in preparation for last year’s Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer exhibition.

The work in question, a two-sided sketch featuring designs for a monumental altar or facade, thought to be San Silvestro in Capite, Rome, arrived in sad condition.




The 16th-century linen and flax paper on which the precious renderings were made was stained with mold, and badly creased due to a poorly repaired tear and two long-ago attempts to mount it for easier viewing, one by the artist’s blind nephew and another by collector and biographer Filippo Baldinucci.

Like many restoration experts, Shelley exhibits extraordinary patience and nerves of steel. Identifying the damage and its cause is just the beginning. The hands-on portion of her work involves introducing solvents and moisture, both of which have the potential to further damage the delicate drawing. Even though she chooses the least invasive of tools—a tiny brush—to loosen the 500-year-old adhesive, one slip could spell disaster. It’s not just the drawing that’s of historical import. The well-intended mountings are also part of the narrative, and must be preserved as such.

As she explains above, a bedazzling Sistine Chapel-like makeover was neither possible nor preferable.

One wonders how many of the 702,516 visitors who attended the exhibition during its 3 month run noticed Shelley’s handiwork (or even the drawing itself, given the large number of other, sexier works on display).

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this January as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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