A Guitarist Rocks Out on Guitars Made from Shovels, Cigar Boxes, Oil Cans & Whisky Barrels

When Keith Richards felt he’d gone as far as he could go with the six-string guitar, he took one string off and played five, a trick he learned from Ry Cooder. These days, the trend is to go in the opposite direction, up to seven or eight strings for highly technical progressive metal compositions and downtuned “djent.” Traditionalists may balk at this. A five-string, after all, is a modification easily accomplished with a pair of wire-cutters. But oddly shaped eight-string guitars seem like weirdly rococo extravagances next to your average Stratocaster, Tele, or Les Paul.

Ideas we have about what a guitar should be, however, come mostly from the marketing and public relations machinery around big brand guitars and big name guitarists. The truth is, there is no Platonic ideal of the guitar, since no one is quite sure where the guitar came from.




It’s most easily recognized ancestors are the oud and the lute, which themselves have ancient heritages that stretch into prehistory. The six-string arrived rather late on the scene. In the renaissance, guitars had eight strings, tuned in four “courses,” or pairs, like the modern 12-string, and baroque guitars had 10 strings in five courses.

Closer in time to us, “the jazz guitarist George Van Eps had a seven-string guitar built for him by Epiphone Guitars in the late 1930s,” notes one brief history, “and a signature Gretsch seven-string in the late 60s and early 70s…. Several others began using seven-string guitars after Van Eps.” Russian folk guitars had seven strings before the arrival of six-string Spanish classical instruments (two hundred years before the arrival of Korn).

Meanwhile, in the hills, hollars, and deltas of the U.S. south, folk and blues musicians built guitars out of whatever was at hand, and fit as many, or as few, strings as needed. From these instruments came the powerfully simple, timeless licks Keef spent his career emulating. Guitarist Justin Johnson has cultivated an online presence not only with his slick electric slide playing, but also with his tributes to odd, old-time, homemade guitars. At the top, he plays a three-string shovel guitar, doing Keith two better.

Further up, some “Porch Swing Slidin’” with a six-string cigar box-style guitar engraved with a portrait of Robert Johnson. Above, hear a stirring rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on an oil can and a slide solo on a whiskey barrel guitar. Finally, Johnson rocks out Ray Charles on a three string cigar box guitar, made mostly out of ordinary items you might find around the shed.

You might not be able to pluck out Renaissance airs or complicated, sweep-picked arpeggios on some of these instruments, but where would even the most complex progressive rock and metal be without the raw power of the blues driving the evolution of the guitar? Finally, below, see Johnson play a handmade one-string Diddley Bow (and see the making of the instrument as well). Originally a West African instrument, it may have been the very first guitar.

Related Content: 

Keith Richards Demonstrates His Famous 5-String Technique (Used on Classic Stones Songs Like “Start Me Up,” “Honky Tonk Women” & More)

Meet Brushy One String, the One String Guitar Player Who Will Blow Your Mind

The History of the Guitar: See the Evolution of the Guitar in 7 Instruments

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

Medieval Tennis: A Short History and Demonstration

British You Tuber Nikolas “Lindybiege” Lloyd is a man of many, many interests.

Wing Chun style kung fu…

Children’s television produced in the UK between 1965 and 1975…

Ancient weaponrychainmail, and historically accurate WWII model miniatures

Actress Celia Johnson, star of the 1945 romantic drama Brief Encounter

Evolutionary psychology

…and it would appear, tennis.




But not the sort you’ll find played on the grass courts of Wimbledon, or for that matter, the hard courts of the US Open.

Lloyd is one of a select few who gravitate toward the version of the game that was known as the sport of kings.

It was, according to a 1553 guide, created, “to keep our bodies healthy, to make our young men stronger and more robust, chasing idleness, virtue’s mortal enemy, far from them and thus making them of a stronger and more excellent nature.”

Henry VIII was a talented and enthusiastic player in his youth, causing the Venetian Ambassador to rhapsodize, “it was the prettiest thing in the world to see him play; his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture.”

Henry’s second wife, the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, was also a fan of the sport, with money riding on the match she was watching when she was summoned to the Privy Council “by order of the King,” the first stop on her very swift journey to the Tower of London.

The sport’s roots reach all the way to the 11th and 12th centuries when monks and villagers in southern France were mad for jeu de paume, a tennis-like game predating the use of racquets, whose popularity eventually spread to the royals and aristocrats of Paris.

The game Lloyd tries his hand at above is now known as Real Tennis, a term invented in the 19th-century to distinguish it from the then-new craze for lawn tennis.

Mention “the sport of kings” these days and most folks will assume you’re referring to fox hunting or horse-racing.

Mind you, real tennis is just as rarified. You won’t find it being played on any old (which is to say new) indoor court. It requires four irregularly sized walls, an asymmetrical layout, and a sloping penthouse roof. Behold the layout of a Real Tennis court by Atethnekos, compliments of  English Wikipedia:

Compared to that, the Tennis Department‘s diagram of the familiar modern set up seems like child’s play:

Other cognitive challenges for those whose version of tennis doesn’t extend back to medieval days:  a slack net; lopsided, tightly strung, small raquets; and a gallery of waist-high screened “hazards,” that are spiritually akin to pinball targets, especially the one with the bell.

The handmade balls may look similar to your average mass-produced Penn or Wilson, but expect that each will be “unique in its particular quirks”:

They are not perfectly spherical and these seams stick out a little bit more here and there, which means that the bounce can be rather unpredictable. Because these are heavier and harder, they don’t swerve when you spin them in the air very much, but when they hit a wall and get a decent grip, the swerve can send them zinging off along the wall to great effect.

Once Lloyd has oriented viewers and himself to the court and equipment, Real Tennis pro Zak Eadle walks him through serving, scoring, and strategy in the form of chases.

Quoth Shakespeare’s Henry V:

His present, and your pains, we thank you for:
When we have match’d our rackets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God’s grace play a set,
Shall strike his father’s crown into the Hazard:
Tell him, he made a match with such a wrangler, 
That all the Courts of France will be disturb’d with chases.

Even non-athletic types could find themselves fascinated by the historical context Lindybeige provides.

If you’re moved to take racquet in hand, there are a handful of Real Tennis courts in the USA, UK, Australia, and France where you might be able to try your luck.

The sport could use you. Estimates indicate that the number of players has dwindled to a mere 10,000. Surely someone is desperate for a partner.

Delve further into the world of Real Tennis on the International Real Tennis Professionals Association’s website.

Check out some of Lindybeige’s other interests on his YouTube channel.

Related Content: 

Watch Accurate Recreations of Medieval Italian Longsword Fighting Techniques, All Based on a Manuscript from 1404

What It’s Like to Actually Fight in Medieval Armor

The Rules of 100 Sports Clearly Explained in Short Videos: Baseball, Football, Jai Alai, Sumo Wrestling, Cricket, Pétanque & Much More

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

Andy Warhol’s Vibrant, Impractical, Illustrated Cookbook from 1959: A Feast for the Eyes


Gorgeously illustrated cookbooks featuring sumptuous images of fancy desserts and other special occasion food can be quite an intimidating proposition to self-doubting beginners.

The recipes themselves are daunting, and as every Great British Baking Show viewer learns, watching the top contestants squirm in advance of co-host Paul Hollywood‘s icy judgment, flavor can’t save an edible creation that fails as art.

Andy Warhol’s approach to cookery appears rather more blithe.

His 1959 cookbook, Wild Raspberries — the title is a play on Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries — displays little interest in its readers’ cooking ability… or, for that matter, its authors.




Fanciful representations of such delicacies as Gardoons a la Mousseline are pretty as a picture… and stress free given that no one is actually expected to make them.

Wild Raspberries is all about attitude… and ambition of a purely social nature.

Warhol’s co-author, interior decorator and society hostess Suzie Frankfurt, recalled hatching the idea for this collaboration, shortly after encountering the young artist at New York City’s fabled sweet spot, Serendipity: “We thought it would be a masterpiece and we’d sell thousands. I think we sold 20.”

It’s possible the endeavor was a few decades ahead of its time. We can imagine Wild Raspberries doing quite well as an impulsive lifestyle type buy at Urban Outfitters.

Secondhand copies of a 1997 reprint occasionally resurface, as do auction lots of the original 34 lithograph sets, hand-colored by four schoolboys who lived upstairs from Warhol, prior to hand-binding by rabbis on the Lower East Side.

After consigning a few copies to Doubleday and Rizzoli bookstores, Warhol and Frankfurt gave the bulk of the first edition away as Christmas presents to friends, who were no doubt well equipped to appreciate the tongue-in-cheek nature of its “recipes,” hand-lettered by Warhol’s mother, Julia — whose spelling boo-boos were purposefully allowed to stand.

The instructions eschew crass mention of measurements or cooking times… perfect for anyone with hired staff, standing reservations at Upper East Side hot spots, or a social X-Ray diet regimen.

Instead, readers are directed to send the Cadillac round to Trader Vic’s tiki bar for a suckling pig of sufficient size for a party of 15, or to gather morels should they find themselves holidaying in the vicinity of Normandy.

Salade de Alf Landon, a bombe of lobster tails named for FDR’s opponent in the 1936 Presidential election, crowned with asparagus tips and hardboiled plover eggs, seems like it could double as a fetching chapeau, especially when paired with one of Warhol’s whimsical fantasy  for footwear company I. Miller’s weekly ads in The New York Times.

In fact, nearly everything in this vibrantly hand colored “cookbook” makes for plausible mid-century millinery, from Torte a la Dobosch to an impractically vertical arrangement of Hard Boiled Eggs.

 

 

Wild Raspberries may have been a swipe at aspirational, hostess-oriented late-50s cookbooks, but Greengages a la Warhol’s reference to hyperlocal produce would fit right in with with Portlandia’s 21st century foodie spoofs.

High and low combine to great effect with winking references to Greta Garbo and gossip columnist Dorothy KilgallenLucky Whip dessert topping, a “Seared Roebuck,” and store-bought supermarket sponge cake (the latter in Wild Raspberries’ most legit-sounding recipe, something of an upgrade from the recipe for “cake” Warhol shared in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol — a chocolate bar served between slices of bread.

Related Content: 

MoMA’s Artists’ Cookbook (1978) Reveals the Meals of Salvador Dalí, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois & More

300 Rarely-Seen, Risqué Drawings by Andy Warhol Published in the New Book, Andy Warhol: Love, Sex, and Desire. Drawings (1950–1962)

130,000 Photographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Available Online, Courtesy of Stanford University

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

Vintage Public Health Posters That Helped People Take Smart Precautions During Past Crises


We subscribe to the theory that art saves lives even in the best of times.

In the midst of a major public health crisis, art takes a front line position, communicating best practices to citizens with eye catching, easy to understand graphics and a few well chosen words.

In March of 2020, less than 2 weeks after COVID-19 brought New York to its knees, Angelina Lippert, the Chief Curator of Poster House, one of the city’s newer museums shared a blog post, considering the ways in which the CDC’s basic hygiene recommendations for helping stop the spread had been touted to previous generations.




As she noted in a lecture on the history of the poster as Public Service Announcement the following month, “mass public health action… is how we stopped tuberculosis, polio, and other major diseases that we don’t even think of today:”

And a major part of eradicating them was educating the public. That’s really what PSAs are—a means of informing and teaching the public en masse. It goes back to that idea … of not having to seek out information, but just being presented with it. Keeping the barrier for entry low means more people will see and absorb the information.

The Office of War Information and the District of Columbia Society for the Prevention of Blindness used an approachable looking raccoon to convince the public to wash hands in WWII.

Artist Seymour Nydorf swapped the raccoon for a blonde waitress with glamorous red nails in a series of six posters for the U.S. Public Health Service of the Federal Security Agency

Coughing and sneezing took posters into somewhat grosser terrain.

The New Zealand Department of Health’s 50s era poster shamed careless sneezers into using a hankie, and might well have given those in their vicinity a persuasive reason to bypass the buffet table.

Great Britain’s Central Council for Health Education and Ministry of Health collaborated with

Her Majesty’s Stationery Office to teach the public some basic infection math in WWII.

Children’s wellbeing can be a very persuasive tool. The WPA Federal Art Project was not playing in 1941 when it paired an image of a cherubic tot with stern warnings to parents and other family members to curb their affectionate impulses, as well as the transmission of tuberculosis.

The arresting image packs more of a wallop than this earnest and far wordier, early 20s poster by the National Child Welfare Association and the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis.

Read Poster House Chief Curator Angelina Lippert’s Brief History of PSA Posters here.

Download the free anti-xenophobia PSAs Poster House commissioned from designer Rachel Gingrich early in the pandemic here.

Related Content: 

Download Beautiful Free Posters Celebrating the Achievements of Living Female STEM Leaders

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

Salvador Dalí Creates a Chilling Anti-Venereal Disease Poster During World War II

Download 2,000 Magnificent Turn-of-the-Century Art Posters, Courtesy of the New York Public Library

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

The Birth of Espresso: How the Coffee Shots The Fuel Our Modern Life Were Invented

Espresso is neither bean nor roast.

It is a method of pressurized coffee brewing that ensures speedy delivery, and it has birthed a whole culture.

Americans may be accustomed to camping out in cafes with their laptops for hours, but Italian coffee bars are fast-paced environments where customers buzz in for a quick pick me up, then right back out, no seat required.




It’s the sort of efficiency the Father of the Modern Advertising Poster, Leonetto Cappiello, alluded to in his famous 1922 image for the Victoria Arduino machine (below).

Let 21st-century coffee aficionados cultivate their Zenlike patience with slow pourovers. A hundred years ago, the goal was a quality product that the successful businessperson could enjoy without breaking stride.

As coffee expert James Hoffmann, author of The World Atlas of Coffee points out in the above video, the Steam Age was on the way out, but Cappiello’s image is “absolutely leveraging the idea that steam equals speed.”

That had been the goal since 1884, when inventor Angelo Moriondo patented the first espresso machine (see below).

The bulk brewer caused a stir at the Turin General Exposition. Speed wise, it was a great improvement over the old method, in which individual cups were brewed in the Turkish style, requiring five minutes per order.

This “new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage” featured a gas or wood burner at the bottom of an upright boiler, and two sight glasses that the operator could monitor to get a feel for when to open the various taps, to yield a large quantity of filtered coffee. It was fast, but demanded some skill on the part of its human operator.

As Jimmy Stamp explains in a Smithsonian article on the history of the espresso machine, there were  also a few bugs to work out.

Early machines’ hand-operated pressure valves posed a risk to workers, and the coffee itself had a burnt taste.

Milanese café owner Achille Gaggia cracked the code after WWII, with a small, steamless lever-driven machine that upped the pressure to produce the concentrated brew that is what we now think of as espresso.

Stamp describes how Gaggia’s machine also standardized the size of the espresso, giving rise to some now-familiar coffeehouse vocabulary:

The cylinder on lever groups could only hold an ounce of water, limiting the volume that could be used to prepare an espresso. With the lever machines also came some some new jargon: baristas operating Gaggia’s spring-loaded levers coined the term “pulling a shot” of espresso. But perhaps most importantly, with the invention of the high-pressure lever machine came the discovery of crema – the foam floating over the coffee liquid that is the defining characteristic of a quality espresso. A historical anecdote claims that early consumers were dubious of this “scum” floating over their coffee until Gaggia began referring to it as “caffe creme,“ suggesting that the coffee was of such quality that it produced its own creme.

Related Content:

Coffee Entrepreneur Renato Bialetti Gets Buried in the Espresso Maker He Made Famous

The Life & Death of an Espresso Shot in Super Slow Motion

How to Make the World’s Smallest Cup of Coffee, from Just One Coffee Bean

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

How West Magazine Created a Southern-California Pop-Culture Aesthetic with the Help of Milton Glaser, Gahan Wilson, and Others (1967-1972)


In the late 1960s, a counterculture-minded media professional could surely have imagined more appealing places to work than the Los Angeles Times. Widely derided as the official organ of the Southern California Babbitt, the paper also put out a bland Sunday supplement called West magazine. But West had the potential to evolve into something more vital — or so seemed to think its editor, Jim Bellows. The creator of “the original New York magazine in the early 1960s,” writes Design Observer’s Steven Heller, Bellows convinced a young adman named Mike Salisbury, “who worked for Carson Roberts Advertising in L.A. (where Ed Ruscha and Terry Gilliam worked), to accept the job as art director.”

Salisbury injected West “with such an abundance of pop culture visual richness that it was more like a miniature museum than weekly gazette.” Its weekly issues “covered a wide range of themes — mostly reflecting Salisbury’s insatiable curiosities — from a feature on basketball that illustrated the tremendous size of center forwards by showing a life-size photograph of Wilt Chamberlin’s Converse sneaker, to a pictorial history of movie star pinups with a bevy of gorgeous silhouettes fanning on the page, to an array of souped-up VW Beetles in all shapes and sizes.”




On any given Sunday, subscribers might find themselves treated to “the history of Mickey Mouse, Coca-Cola art (the first time it was published as ‘art’), the visual history of Levis, Hollywood garden apartments, Raymond Chandler locations, and Kustom Kars.”

“I was the writer on the Coca-Cola ‘art’ piece as well as the first ‘programmatic’ architecture article to see print,” says a commenter under the Design Observer retrospective named Larry Dietz. He also claims to have written the feature on Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles; much later, he adds, Chinatown screenwriter “Robert Towne said that he was inspired to learn about L.A. history from that piece, but that the writing was crappy.” But then, the main impact of Salisbury’s West was never meant to be textual. Heller quotes Salisbury as saying that “design was not my sole objective: cinema-graphic information is a better definition.” Of all the covers he designed, he remembers the one just above, promoting an exposé on heroin, as having been the most controversial: “Don’t give me too much reality over Sunday breakfast,” he heard readers grumbling.

 

Other memorable West covers include the magazine’s tribute to the just-canceled Ed Sullivan show in 1971, as well as contributions by artists and designers like Victor Moscoso, Gahan Wilson, John Van Hamersveld, and Milton Glaser, all figures who did a great deal to craft the American zeitgeist of the 1960s and 70s. The magazine as a whole consolidated the Southern Californian pop-cultural aesthetic of its period, as distinct from what Salisbury calls the “quasi-Victorian” look and feel of San Francisco to the north and the “Rococo or Baroque” New York to the east. Los Angeles, to his mind, was “streamline,” emblematized by the culture and industry of motorcycle customization and its “belief in Futurism.”

West was a product of the Los Angeles Times under Otis Chandler, publisher from 1960 to 1980, who dedicated his career to expanding the scope and ambition of the newspaper his great-grandfather had once run. His labors paid off in retrospect, especially from readers as astute as Joan Didion, who praised Chandler’s Times to the skies. But by 1972, West seemed to have become too much of an extravagance even for him. After the magazine’s cancellation, Salisbury moved on to Rolling Stone, then in the process of converting from a newspaper to a magazine format. No small part of that magazine’s pop-cultural power in the 70s must have owed to his art direction.

Later in the decade, both Salisbury and Glaser would bring their talents to the just-launched New West magazine. It had no direct connection with West or the Los Angeles Times, but was conceived as the sister publication of New York Magazine, which itself had been re-invented by Glaser and publisher Clay Felker in the mid-1960s. Its debut cover, just above, featured Glaser’s artwork; three years later, in 1979, Salisbury designed a cover on California’s water crisis that the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Steven Brower calls “prescient.” At that same time, he notes, Salisbury “worked with Francis Ford Coppola on the set design for Apocalypse Now; he designed Michael Jackson’s breakthrough album, Off the Wall,” and he even collaborated with George Harrison on his eponymous album.” But when “veteran magazine art directors” get together and “reminisce about the glory years,” writes Heller, it’s West they inevitably talk about.

Related Content:

Take a Digital Drive Along Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Boulevard, the Famous Strip That the Artist Photographed from 1965 to 2007

Milton Glaser’s Stylish Album Covers for The Band, Nina Simone, John Cage & Many More

Download the Complete Archive of Oz, “the Most Controversial Magazine of the 60s,” Featuring R. Crumb, Germaine Greer & More

A Complete Digitization of the 1960s Magazine Avant Garde: From John Lennon’s Erotic Lithographs to Marilyn Monroe’s Last Photos

Download 50+ Issues of Legendary West Coast Punk Music Zines from the 1970-80s: Damage, Slash & No Mag

Flair Magazine: The Short-Lived, Highly-Influential Magazine That Still Inspires Designers Today (1950)

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.

Discover the Stettheimer Dollhouse: The 12-Room Dollhouse Featuring Miniature, Original Modernist Art by Marcel Duchamp

The Stettheimer Dollhouse has been wowing young New Yorkers since it entered the Museum of the City of New York’s collection in 1944.

The luxuriously appointed, two-story, twelve-room house features tiny crystal chandeliers, trompe l’oeil panels, an itty bitty mah-jongg set, and a delicious-looking dessert assortment that would have driven Beatrix Potter’s Two Bad Mice wild.

Its most astonishing feature, however, tends to go over its youngest fans’ heads — an art gallery filled with original modernist paintings, drawings, and sculptures by the likes of Marcel DuchampGeorge BellowsGaston Lachaise, and Marguerite Zorach.




The house’s creator, Carrie Walter Stettheimer, drew on her family’s close personal ties to the avant-garde art world to secure these contributions.

The art dealer Paul Rosenberg described the affinity between these artists and the three wealthy Stettheimer sisters, one of whom, Florine, was herself a modernist painter:

Artists… went there and not at all merely because of the individualities of the trio of women and their tasteful hospitality. They went for the reason that they felt themselves entirely at home with the Stetties—so the trio was called—and the Stetties seemed to feel themselves entirely at home in their company. Art was an indispensable component of the modern, open intellectual life of the place. The sisters felt it as a living issue. Sincerely they lived it.

Art is definitely part of the dollhouse’s life.

Duchamp recreated Nude Descending a Staircase, inscribing the back “Pour la collection de la poupée de Carrie Stettheimer à l’occasion de sa fête en bon souvenir. Marcel Duchamp 23 juillet 1918 N.Y.”

Marguerite Thompson ZorachAlexander Archipenko, and Paul Thevenaz also felt no compunction about furnishing a dollhouse with nudes.

Louis Bouché — the “bad boy of American art” as per the Stettheimers’ friend, writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten, made a tiny version of his painting, Mama’s Boy.

Carrie wrote to Gaston Lachaise, to thank him for two miniature nude drawings and an alabaster Venus:

My dolls and I thank you most sincerely for the lovely drawings that are to grace their art gallery. I think that the dolls—after they are born, which they are not, yet—ought to be the happiest and proudest dolls in the world as owners of the drawings and the beautiful statue. I am now hoping that they will never be born, so that I can keep them [the art works] forever in custody, and enjoy them myself, while awaiting their arrival.

Carrie worked on the dollhouse from from 1916 to 1935. Her sister Ettie donated it to the museum and took it upon herself to arrange the artwork. As Johanna Fateman writes in 4Columns:

Twenty-eight of the artists’ gifts were stored separately; Ettie selected thirteen from the collection, and her graceful arrangement became permanent, though it’s likely that the pieces were meant to be shown in rotation.

The Museum of the City of New York’s current exhibition, The Stettheimer Dollhouse: Up Close, includes photos of the artworks that Ettie did not choose to install.

The works that have always been on view are Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, Alexander Archipenko’s Nude, Louis Bouche’s Mama’s Boy, Gaston Lachaise’s Venus and two nudesCarl Sprinchorn’s Dancers, Albert Gleizes’ Seated Figure and Bermuda Landscape, Paul Thevenaz’s L’Ombre and Nude with Flowing Hair, Marguerite Zorach’s Bather and Bathers, William Zorach’s Mother and Child, and a painting of a ship by an unknown artist.

Related Content:

The Gruesome Dollhouse Death Scenes That Reinvented Murder Investigations

A Record Store Designed for Mice in Sweden, Featuring Albums by Mouse Davis, Destiny’s Cheese, Dolly Parsley & More

An Art Gallery for Gerbils: Two Quarantined Londoners Create a Mini Museum Complete with Gerbil-Themed Art

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

Discover The Grammar of Ornament, One of the Great Color Books & Design Masterpieces of the 19th Century

In the mid-17th century, young Englishmen of means began to mark their coming of age with a “Grand Tour” across the Continent and even beyond. This allowed them to take in the elements of their civilizational heritage first-hand, especially the artifacts of classical antiquity and the Renaissance. After completing his architectural studies, a Londoner named Owen Jones embarked upon his own Grand Tour in 1832, rather late in the history of the tradition, but ideal timing for the research that inspired the project that would become his legacy.

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jones visited “Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey before arriving in Granada, in Spain to carry out studies of the Alhambra Palace that were to cement his reputation.”




He and French architect Jules Goury, “the first to study the Alhambra as a masterpiece of Islamic design,” produced “hundreds of drawings and plaster casts” of the historical, cultural, and aesthetic palimpsest of a building complex. The fruit of their labors was the book Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, “one of the most influential publications on Islamic architecture of all time.”

Published in the 1840s, the book pushed the printing technologies of the day to their limits. In search of a way to do justice to “the intricate and brightly colored decoration of the Alhambra Palace,” Jones had to put in more work researching “the then new technique of chromolithography — a method of producing multi-color prints using chemicals.” In the following decade, he would make even more ambitious use of chromolithography — and draw from a much wider swath of world culture — to create his printed magnum opus, The Grammar of Ornament.

With this book, Jones “set out to reacquaint his colleagues with the underlying principles that made art beautiful,” write Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Femke Speelberg and librarian Robyn Fleming. “Instead of writing an academic treatise on the subject, he chose to assemble a book of one hundred plates illustrating objects and patterns from around the world and across time, from which these principles could be distilled.” To accomplish this he drew on his own travel experiences as well as resources closer at hand, including “the museological and private collections that were available to him in England, and the objects that had been on display during the Universal Exhibitions held in London in 1851 and 1855.”

The Grammar of Ornament was published in 1856, emerging into a Britain “dominated by historical revivals such as Neoclassicism and the Gothic Revival,” says the V&A. “These design movements were riddled with religious and social connotations. Instead, Owen Jones sought a modern style with none of this cultural baggage. Setting out to identify the common principles behind the best examples of historical ornament, he formulated a design language that was suitable for the modern world, one which could be applied equally to wallpapers, textiles, furniture, metalwork and interiors.”

Indeed, the patterns so lavishly reproduced in the book soon became trends in real-world design. They weren’t always employed with the intellectual understanding Jones sought to instill, but since The Grammar of Ornament has never gone out of print (and can even be downloaded free from the Internet Archive), his principles remain available for all to learn — and his painstakingly artistic printing work remains available for all to admire — even in the corners of the world that lay beyond his imagination.

You can purchase a complete and unabridged color edition of The Grammar of Ornament online.

Related Content:

The Complex Geometry of Islamic Art & Design: A Short Introduction

Explore the Beautiful Pages of the 1902 Japanese Design Magazine Shin-Bijutsukai: European Modernism Meets Traditional Japanese Design

A Beautiful 1897 Illustrated Book Shows How Flowers Become Art Nouveau Designs

The Bauhaus Bookshelf: Download Original Bauhaus Books, Journals, Manifestos & Ads That Still Inspire Designers Worldwide

Every Page of Depero Futurista, the 1927 Futurist Masterpiece of Graphic Design & Bookmaking, Is Now Online

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.

More in this category... »
Quantcast
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.