Patti Smith Reads Her Final Letter to Robert Mapplethorpe, Calling Him “the Most Beautiful Work of All”

If you go to hear Pat­ti Smith in con­cert, you expect her to sing “Beneath the South­ern Cross,” “Because the Night,” and almost cer­tain­ly “Peo­ple Have the Pow­er,” the hit sin­gle from Dream of Life. Like her 1975 debut Hors­es, that album had a cov­er pho­to by Robert Map­plethor­pe, whom Smith describes as “the artist of my life” in Just Kids, her mem­oir of their long and com­plex rela­tion­ship. A high­ly per­son­al work, that book also includes the text of the brief but pow­er­ful good­bye let­ter she wrote to Map­plethor­pe, who died of AIDS in 1989. If you go to hear Smith read a let­ter aloud, there’s a decent chance it’ll be that one.

“Often as I lie awake I won­der if you are also lying awake,” Smith wrote to Map­plethor­pe, then in his final hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and already unable to receive any fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “Are you in pain, or feel­ing alone? You drew me from the dark­est peri­od of my young life, shar­ing with me the sacred mys­tery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and nev­er com­pose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowl­edge I derived in our pre­cious time togeth­er. Your work, com­ing from a flu­id source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of hold­ing hands with God. Remem­ber, through every­thing, you have always held that hand. Grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let it go.”

Smith speaks these words in the Let­ters Live video at the top of the post, shot just a few weeks ago in The Town Hall in Man­hat­tan. “Of all your work, you are still your most beau­ti­ful,” she reads, “the most beau­ti­ful work of all,” and it’s clear that, 35 years after Map­plethor­pe’s death, she still believes it. That may come across even more clear­ly than in Smith’s ear­li­er read­ing of the let­ter fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture back in 2012. As the years pass, Robert Map­plethor­pe remains frozen in time as a cul­tur­al­ly trans­gres­sive young artist, but Pat­ti Smith lives on, still play­ing the rock songs that made her name in the sev­en­ties while in her sev­en­ties. And unlike many cul­tur­al fig­ures at her lev­el of fame, she’s remained whol­ly her­self all the while — no doubt thanks to inspi­ra­tion from her old friend.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith Remem­bers Robert Map­plethor­pe

Vin­tage Footage Shows a Young, Unknown Pat­ti Smith & Robert Map­plethor­pe Liv­ing at the Famed Chelsea Hotel (1970)

Pat­ti Smith’s Award-Win­ning Mem­oir Just Kids Now Avail­able in a New Illus­trat­ed Edi­tion

Pat­ti Smith Reads Oscar Wilde’s 1897 Love Let­ter De Pro­fundis: See the Full Three-Hour Per­for­mance

Pat­ti Smith Doc­u­men­tary Dream of Life Beau­ti­ful­ly Cap­tures the Author’s Life and Long Career (2008)

The Life and Con­tro­ver­sial Work of Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Robert Map­plethor­pe Pro­filed in 1988 Doc­u­men­tary

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Radical Artistic & Philosophical World of William Blake: A Short Introduction

Over the years, we’ve fea­tured the work of William Blake fair­ly often here on Open Cul­ture: his own illu­mi­nat­ed books; his illus­tra­tions for every­thing from the Divine Com­e­dy to Mary Woll­stonecraft’s Orig­i­nal Sto­ries from Real Life to the Book of Job; pairs of Doc Martens made out of his paint­ings Satan Smit­ing Job with Sore Boils and The House of Death. Blake con­tin­ues to cap­ture our imag­i­na­tions, despite hav­ing lived in the very dif­fer­ent world of the mid-eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry to the mid-nine­teenth — but then, he also lived in a world well apart from his con­tem­po­raries.

“Blake belonged to the Roman­tic age, but stands utter­ly alone in that age, both as an artist and as a poet,” says gal­lerist-Youtu­ber James Payne in his new Great Art Explained video above. “He is some­one who invent­ed his very own form of graph­ic art, which organ­i­cal­ly fused beau­ti­ful images with pow­er­ful poet­ry, while he also forged his own dis­tinc­tive philo­soph­i­cal world­view and cre­at­ed an orig­i­nal cos­mol­o­gy of gods and spir­its designed to express his ideas about love, free­dom, nature, and the divine.” It would­n’t be an exag­ger­a­tion to call him a vision­ary, not least since he expe­ri­enced actu­al visions through­out almost his entire life.

Not just a visu­al artist but “one of the great­est poets in the Eng­lish lan­guage,” Blake pro­duced a body of work in which word and image are insep­a­ra­ble. Though it “address­es con­tem­po­rary sub­jects like social inequal­i­ty and pover­ty, child exploita­tion, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, and reli­gious hypocrisy,” its world­li­ness is exceed­ed by its oth­er­world­li­ness. What com­pels us is as much the pow­er of art itself as the “vast and com­pli­cat­ed mythol­o­gy” under­ly­ing the project on which Blake worked until the very end of his life. His ide­al was “lib­er­ty from tyran­ny in all forms,” polit­i­cal, reli­gious, sci­en­tif­ic, and any oth­er kind besides; in pur­su­ing it, he could hard­ly have lim­it­ed him­self to just one plane of exis­tence.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Oth­er­world­ly Art of William Blake: An Intro­duc­tion to the Vision­ary Poet and Painter

William Blake: The Remark­able Print­ing Process of the Eng­lish Poet, Artist & Vision­ary

Enter an Archive of William Blake’s Fan­tas­ti­cal “Illu­mi­nat­ed Books”: The Images Are Sub­lime, and in High Res­o­lu­tion

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

Great Art Explained: Watch 15 Minute Intro­duc­tions to Great Works by Warhol, Rothko, Kahlo, Picas­so & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Hear the Song Written on a Sinner’s Buttock in Hieronymus Bosch’s Painting The Garden of Earthly Delights

There’s some­thing unusu­al­ly excit­ing about find­ing a hid­den or dis­creet­ly placed ele­ment in a well-known paint­ing. I can only imag­ine the thrill of the physi­cian who first noticed the curi­ous pres­ence of a human brain in Michelangelo’s The Cre­ation of Adam: God, his ret­inue of angels, and their cloak map neat­ly onto some of the main neur­al struc­tures, includ­ing the major sul­ci in the cere­bel­lum, the pitu­itary gland, the frontal lobe, and the optic chi­asm. It’s hard to gauge Michelangelo’s moti­va­tion for doing so, but con­sid­er­ing his doc­u­ment­ed inter­est in dis­sec­tion and phys­i­ol­o­gy, the find is not par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing.

adam

And then there’s anoth­er find. Sev­er­al years ago, the Inter­net became excit­ed when an enter­pris­ing blog­ger named Amelia tran­scribed, record­ed, and uploaded a musi­cal score straight out of Hierony­mus Bosch’s The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights, paint­ed between 1490 and 1510. The kick­er? Amelia found the score writ­ten on a suf­fer­ing sinner’s butt.

The poor, musi­cal­ly-brand­ed soul can be seen in the bot­tom left-hand cor­ner of the painting’s third and final pan­el (below), where­in Bosch depicts the var­i­ous tor­ture meth­ods of hell. The unfor­tu­nate hell-dweller lies pros­trate atop an open music book, crushed by a gigan­tic lute, while a toad-like demon stretch­es his tongue towards his tune­ful but­tocks. Anoth­er inhab­i­tant is strung up on a harp above the scene.

bosch-1

The piece, which Amelia tran­scribed and record­ed, can be heard in the video above. It is… unusu­al. Although we can’t ascer­tain why Bosch decid­ed to write out this par­tic­u­lar melody, since scant bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion about the painter sur­vives, it’s pos­si­ble that he decid­ed to include music in his depic­tion of the infer­no because it was viewed as a sign of sin­ful plea­sure. For those who haven’t yet had a chance to hear it, lis­ten to Medieval-era butt music here.

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman or at Google, or read more of his writ­ing at the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

The Mean­ing of Hierony­mus Bosch’s The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights Explained

Watch the Spec­tac­u­lar Hierony­mus Bosch Parade, Which Floats Through The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights Painter’s Home­town Every Year

Hierony­mus Bosch’s Medieval Paint­ing, “The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights,” Comes to Life in a Gigan­tic, Mod­ern Ani­ma­tion

 

 

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9‑Year-Old Edward Hopper Draws a Picture on the Back of His 3rd Grade Report Card

In a 2017 press release, the Edward Hop­per House announced that it would receive over 1,000 arti­facts and mem­o­ra­bil­ia doc­u­ment­ing Edward Hop­per’s fam­i­ly life and ear­ly years. The col­lec­tion “con­sists of juve­nil­ia and oth­er mate­ri­als from the for­ma­tive years of Hop­per’s life and includes orig­i­nal let­ters, draw­ings from his school years … pho­tographs, orig­i­nal news­pa­per arti­cles, and oth­er items that allow vis­i­tors to expe­ri­ence first­hand how Hop­per’s child­hood and home envi­ron­ment shaped his art.”

Above you can find Exhib­it A from the col­lec­tion. A pic­ture that young Hop­per, only 9 years old, drew on the back of his 3rd grade report card in 1891. A sure ear­ly sign of his tal­ents.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Makes Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks a Great Paint­ing?: A Video Essay

How Edward Hop­per “Sto­ry­board­ed” His Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks

Edward Hopper’s Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks Explained in a 7‑Minute Video Intro­duc­tion

How Cin­e­ma Inspired Edward Hopper’s Great Paint­ings, and How Edward Hop­per Inspired Great Film­mak­ers

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Monty Python’s Michael Palin Presents His Favorite Painting, J. M. W. Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed

Of all the Eng­lish come­di­ans to have attained world­wide fame over the past half-cen­tu­ry, Sir Michael Palin may be the most Eng­lish of them all. It thus comes as no sur­prise that the Nation­al Gallery would ring him up and invite him to make a video about his favorite paint­ing, nor that his favorite paint­ing would be by Joseph Mal­lord William Turn­er. “Most peo­ple aren’t inter­est­ed in rail­ways and the his­to­ry of rail­ways,” he explains, but Turn­er’s Rain, Steam and Speed has great sig­nif­i­cance to a train-lover such as him­self pre­cise­ly “because it is about the birth of the rail­way.”

Rain, Steam and Speed was paint­ed in 1844, when train trans­port “was still a new thing, and a thing that fright­ened so many peo­ple. They thought it was going to destroy the coun­try­side.” (Bear in mind that this was the time of Dick­ens, who did­n’t set so many of his nov­els before the arrival of the rail­way by acci­dent.) For all of Turn­er’s Roman­ti­cism, “he must’ve been excit­ed by it. Maybe a bit alarmed.” His paint­ing declares that “this is a new world that’s been opened up by the rail­ways, and it’s got enor­mous pos­si­bil­i­ties, and peo­ple are going to have to adapt to it.”

In this video, Palin intro­duces him­self as “a trav­el­er, an actor, and a gen­er­al hack.” His many and var­ied post-Mon­ty Python projects have also includ­ed sev­er­al tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­taries on artists like Anne Red­path, Artemisia, the Scot­tish Colourists, Hen­ri Matisse, Vil­helm Ham­mer­shøi, and Andrew Wyeth. In the video below, he appears at the Nation­al Gallery in 2017 to share a selec­tion of his favorite paint­ings, from Duc­cio’s The Annun­ci­a­tion and Geert­gen tot Sint Jans’ The Nativ­i­ty at Night to Bronzi­no’s An Alle­go­ry with Venus and Cupid (the source of Mon­ty Python’s sig­na­ture ani­mat­ed foot) and Turn­er’s The Fight­ing Temeraire, a repro­duc­tion of which hung in his child­hood home.

“It’s just about that peri­od where steam is begin­ning to come in, and the old sail­ing ship is no longer need­ed,” Palin says of The Fight­ing Temeraire. “On the hori­zon, there is a ship in full sail” — a “pow­er­ful, strong image” in itself — and in the front, the “noisy, belch­ing fumes of the mod­ern steam tug.” Thus Turn­er cap­tures “the changeover from sail to steam,” much as he would cap­ture the changeover from horse to train a few years lat­er. Like any good paint­ing, Palin explains, these images “make you feel dif­fer­ent­ly about the world from the way you did before you saw it” — and make you con­sid­er what eras are end­ing and begin­ning around you even now.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Mon­ty Python’s Michael Palin Is Also an Art Crit­ic: Watch Him Explore His Favorite Paint­ings by Andrew Wyeth & Oth­er Artists

Trains and the Brits Who Love Them: Mon­ty Python’s Michael Palin on Great Rail­way Jour­neys

Free: Read 9 Trav­el Books Online by Mon­ty Python’s Michael Palin

Down­load 35,000 Works of Art from the Nation­al Gallery, Includ­ing Mas­ter­pieces by Van Gogh, Gau­guin, Rem­brandt & More

Mark Twain Skew­ers Great Works of Art: The Mona Lisa (“a Smoked Had­dock!”), The Last Sup­per (“a Mourn­ful Wreck”) & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Artist Draws 9 Portraits on LSD During 1950s Research Experiment

Dur­ing the 1950s, a researcher gave an artist two 50-micro­gram dos­es of LSD (each dose sep­a­rat­ed by about an hour), and then the artist was encour­aged to draw pic­tures of the doc­tor who admin­is­tered the drugs. Nine por­traits were drawn over the space of eight hours. We still don’t know the iden­ti­ty of the artist. But it’s sur­mised that the researcher was Oscar Janiger, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Irvine psy­chi­a­trist known for his work on LSD.

The web site Live Sci­ence has Andrew Sewell, a Yale Psy­chi­a­try pro­fes­sor (until his recent death), on record say­ing: “I believe the pic­tures are from an exper­i­ment con­duct­ed by the psy­chi­a­trist Oscar Janiger start­ing in 1954 and con­tin­u­ing for sev­en years, dur­ing which time he gave LSD to over 100 pro­fes­sion­al artists and mea­sured its effects on their artis­tic out­put and cre­ative abil­i­ty. Over 250 draw­ings and paint­ings were pro­duced.” The goal, of course, was to inves­ti­gate what hap­pens to sub­jects under the influ­ence of psy­che­del­ic drugs. Dur­ing the exper­i­ment, the artist explained how he felt as he worked on each sketch. You can watch how things unfold­ed below (or above):

20 Min­utes After First Dose. Artist Claims to Feel Nor­mal

5IOEa - Imgur

85 Min­utes After First Dose: Artist Says “I can see you clear­ly. I’m hav­ing a lit­tle trou­ble con­trol­ling this pen­cil.”

dyR0C - Imgur

2 hours 30 min­utes after first dose. “I feel as if my con­scious­ness is sit­u­at­ed in the part of my body that’s now active — my hand, my elbow… my tongue.”

jyr3B - Imgur

2 hours 32 min­utes: ‘I’m try­ing anoth­er draw­ing… The out­line of my hand is going weird too. It’s not a very good draw­ing is it?”

MUu3y - Imgur

2 hours 35 min­utes: Patient fol­lows quick­ly with anoth­er draw­ing. ‘I’ll do a draw­ing in one flour­ish… with­out stop­ping… one line, no break!”

H0Uxo - Imgur

2 hours 45 min­utes: Agi­tat­ed patient says “I am… every­thing is… changed… they’re call­ing… your face… inter­wo­ven… who is…” He changes medi­um to Tem­pera.

wouQD

4 hours 25 min­utes: After tak­ing a break, the patient changes to pen and water col­or. “This will be the best draw­ing, like the first one, only bet­ter.”

eUdua - Imgur

5 hours 45 min­utes. “I think it’s start­ing to wear off. This pen­cil is mighty hard to hold.” (He is hold­ing a cray­on).

eUdua - Imgur

8 hours lat­er: The intox­i­ca­tion has worn off. Patient offers up a final draw­ing.

NGCEf - Imgur

Relat­ed Con­tent:

R. Crumb Describes How He Dropped LSD in the 60s & Instant­ly Dis­cov­ered His Artis­tic Style

The Pol­ish Artist Stanisław Witkiewicz Made Por­traits While On Dif­fer­ent Psy­choac­tive Drugs, and Not­ed the Drugs on Each Paint­ing

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

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André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto Turns 100 This Year

Peo­ple don’t seem to write a lot of man­i­festos these days. Or if they do write man­i­festos, they don’t make the impact that they would have a cen­tu­ry ago. In fact, this year marks the hun­dredth anniver­sary of the Man­i­feste du sur­réal­isme, or Sur­re­al­ist Man­i­festo, one of the most famous such doc­u­ments. Or rather, it was two of the most famous such doc­u­ments, each of them writ­ten by a dif­fer­ent poet. On Octo­ber 1, 1924, Yvan Goll pub­lished a man­i­festo in the name of the sur­re­al­ist artists who looked to him as a leader (includ­ing Dada Man­i­festo author Tris­tan Tzara). Two weeks lat­er, André Bre­ton pub­lished a man­i­festo — the first of three — rep­re­sent­ing his own, dis­tinct, group of sur­re­al­ists with the very same title.

Though Goll may have beat­en him to the punch, we can safe­ly say, at a dis­tance of one hun­dred years, that Bre­ton wrote the more endur­ing man­i­festo. You can read it online in the orig­i­nal French as well as in Eng­lish trans­la­tion, but before you do, con­sid­er watch­ing this short France 24 Eng­lish doc­u­men­tary on its impor­tance, as well as that of the sur­re­al­ist art move­ment that it set off.

“There’s day-to-day real­i­ty, and then there’s supe­ri­or real­i­ty,” says its nar­ra­tor. “That’s what André Bre­ton’s Sur­re­al­ist Man­i­festo was aim­ing for: an artis­tic and spir­i­tu­al rev­o­lu­tion” dri­ven by the rejec­tion of “rea­son, log­ic, and even lan­guage, all of which its acolytes believed obscured deep­er, more mys­ti­cal truths.”

“The real­is­tic atti­tude, inspired by pos­i­tivism, from Saint Thomas Aquinas to Ana­tole France, clear­ly seems to me to be hos­tile to any intel­lec­tu­al or moral advance­ment,” the trained doc­tor Bre­ton declares in the man­i­festo. “I loathe it, for it is made up of medi­oc­rity, hate, and dull con­ceit. It is this atti­tude which today gives birth to these ridicu­lous books, these insult­ing plays.” He might well have also seen it as giv­ing rise to events like the First World War, whose grind­ing sense­less­ness he wit­nessed work­ing in a neu­ro­log­i­cal ward and car­ry­ing stretch­ers off the bat­tle­field. It was these expe­ri­ences that direct­ly or indi­rect­ly inspired a wave of avant-garde twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry art, more than a few pieces of which star­tle us even today — which is say­ing some­thing, giv­en our dai­ly diet of absur­di­ties in twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry life.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Intro­duc­tion to Sur­re­al­ism: The Big Aes­thet­ic Ideas Pre­sent­ed in Three Videos

Europe After the Rain: Watch the Vin­tage Doc­u­men­tary on the Two Great Art Move­ments, Dada & Sur­re­al­ism (1978)

A Brief, Visu­al Intro­duc­tion to Sur­re­al­ism: A Primer by Doc­tor Who Star Peter Capal­di

The For­got­ten Women of Sur­re­al­ism: A Mag­i­cal, Short Ani­mat­ed Film

Read and Hear Tris­tan Tzara’s “Dada Man­i­festo,” the Avant-Garde Doc­u­ment Pub­lished 100 Years Ago (March 23, 1918)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Behold The Drawings of Franz Kafka (1907–1917)

Run­ner 1907–1908

Runner 1907-1908

UK-born, Chica­go-based artist Philip Har­ti­gan has post­ed a brief video piece about Franz Kaf­ka’s draw­ings. Kaf­ka, of course, wrote a body of work, most­ly nev­er pub­lished dur­ing his life­time, that cap­tured the absur­di­ty and the lone­li­ness of the new­ly emerg­ing mod­ern world: In The Meta­mor­pho­sis, Gre­gor trans­forms overnight into a giant cock­roach; in The Tri­al, Josef K. is charged with an unde­fined crime by a mad­den­ing­ly inac­ces­si­ble court. In sto­ry after sto­ry, Kaf­ka showed his pro­tag­o­nists get­ting crushed between the pin­cers of a face­less bureau­crat­ic author­i­ty on the one hand and a deep sense of shame and guilt on the oth­er.

On his deathbed, the famous­ly tor­tured writer implored his friend Max Brod to burn his unpub­lished work. Brod ignored his friend’s plea and instead pub­lished them – nov­els, short sto­ries and even his diaries. In those diaries, Kaf­ka doo­dled inces­sant­ly – stark, graph­ic draw­ings infused with the same angst as his writ­ing. In fact, many of these draw­ings have end­ed up grac­ing the cov­ers of Kafka’s books.

“Quick, min­i­mal move­ments that con­vey the typ­i­cal despair­ing mood of his fic­tion” says Har­ti­gan of Kafka’s art. “I am struck by how these sim­ple ges­tures, these zigza­gs of the wrist, con­tain an econ­o­my of mark mak­ing that even the most expe­ri­enced artist can learn some­thing from.”

In his book Con­ver­sa­tions with Kaf­ka, Gus­tav Janouch describes what hap­pened when he came upon Kaf­ka in mid-doo­dle: the writer imme­di­ate­ly ripped the draw­ing into lit­tle pieces rather than have it be seen by any­one. After this hap­pened a cou­ple times, Kaf­ka relent­ed and let him see his work. Janouch was aston­ished. “You real­ly didn’t need to hide them from me,” he com­plained. “They’re per­fect­ly harm­less sketch­es.”

Kaf­ka slow­ly wagged his head to and fro – ‘Oh no! They are not as harm­less as they look. These draw­ing are the remains of an old, deep-root­ed pas­sion. That’s why I tried to hide them from you…. It’s not on the paper. The pas­sion is in me. I always want­ed to be able to draw. I want­ed to see, and to hold fast to what was seen. That was my pas­sion.”

Check out some of Kafka’s draw­ings below. Or def­i­nite­ly see the recent­ly-pub­lished edi­tion, Franz Kaf­ka: The Draw­ings. It’s the “first book to pub­lish the entire­ty of Franz Kafka’s graph­ic out­put, includ­ing more than 100 new­ly dis­cov­ered draw­ings.”

Horse and Rid­er 1909–1910

Horse and Rider 1909-1910

Three Run­ners 1912–1913

Three Runners 1912-1913

The Thinker 1913

The Thinker 1913

Fenc­ing 1917

Fencing 1917

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Franz Kaf­ka Says the Insect in The Meta­mor­pho­sis Should Nev­er Be Drawn; and Vladimir Nabokov Draws It Any­way

Vladimir Nabokov’s Delight­ful But­ter­fly Draw­ings

The Art of William Faulkn­er: Draw­ings from 1916–1925

The Draw­ings of Jean-Paul Sartre

Flan­nery O’Connor’s Satir­i­cal Car­toons: 1942–1945

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.