Monday, May 22, 2017

Stig Blomberg. Sculptor

Well, the rather long absence from the blog has been occasioned by, among other things, a happy holiday on the North Yorkshire Moors. So, shall we just pretend like I've not been away and get back to it? The silver plated clip above was a very happy find the other day in an antiques market. The rather lithe figure sang out to me with his lyre and I was glad to see a name on the piece too which always adds a little interest. Sure enough, the name Stig Blomberg (1901-1970) took me on a little trip around the internet collecting images of his rather fine works. A Swedish sculptor, he holds the strange distinction of winning a bronze medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games for, well, sculpture. (It is only in recent years the Olympic Games have lost their art and literature competitions.) His career appears to have been quiet and uneventful but productive, he taught for many years at the same institute in which he was originally a pupil. His subject is often youth and often in pairs showing an interaction between figures which has a narrative underpinning. Also, he sculpted mythological subjects. His style was varied over his career and it seems he moved from a pared down naturalism into the somewhat more stylized forms of the 50s and 60s. 

The Swedish wiki page about him tells me that he also illustrated books under the name T Arvidsson, but I have yet to uncover any of those.

As for my little clip above... I cannot find other examples of miniature work like this, nor can I find the same image in larger form. I have to imagine that a nude classical-ish figure with a lyre is going to be either Apollo or Orpheus. We know that Apollo has featured in his work elsewhere and perhaps those are laurels in the background to clinch it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Jesters in Earnest: Czech Political Cartoons in WW2

In 1944, the Czechoslovak Institute in London, together with the Czech newspaper for exiles in Britain presented an exhibition of the work of Czech political cartoonists. They published this book with John Murray to commemorate the show. The exhibition and the book contain the work of five political cartoonists all in exile in either the UK or the US during the war and they are striking and powerful images. It is entirely accidental that the images I chose to scan here are from two artists only, simply a matter of what appealed to me: Adolf Hoffmeister and Antonin Pelc. The two were friends and were living and working in the US when the exhibition was put together. Both left Prage in the face of the Nazi occupation and Hoffmeister published a humorous and illustrated account of his wanderings between Prague and New York published in the US as The Animals are in Cages and in the UK by The Bodley Head as Unwilling Tourist. In 1937 both Hoffmeister and Pelc put together an exhibition of their cartoons in Prague but it was so vehemently anti-Nazi that the German minister in Prague complained on behalf of Hitler and the exhibition was closed. Once they reached the US, of course, it was easier to exhibit and together, the year before this British show, they held an exhibition at MOMA in New York which then went on a tour of the US. 

The cover of the book is very effectively decorated by another Hoffmeister cartoon from the book titled, 'The Red Death'.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Empire Youth Annual 1951

Regular readers will know that when I am in a bookshop, my 'oooh shiny!' response is often triggered by a bit of mid-20th-century artwork or illustration, even when that occasionally verges on the kitsch! So you won't be surprised to know that flicking through the Empire Youth Annual from 1951 I was tempted to part with a couple of pounds by these and some of the other illustrations.

This is a collection of images from a time when a boy or girl in the UK had geography lessons which consisted of learning the primary commodities produced and traded by various parts of the world. It is, after all, a rather important part of keeping the Empire running to know where one's sugar, rubber and wheat is coming from! Having said that, this is a rather tricky quiz even by the standards of the time. Twelve calendar based images signed "C. Haworth" give clues to various places in the Commonwealth by way of guessing the particular marine commodities that come from that part of the world. If you are feeling challenged by that then the answers are given at the bottom of the December page but along the way we are treated to some rather good 'period' illustrations I think! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More Films and Filming

Back where I found the first stash of Films and Filming magazines a few months ago I can't resist another bundle. So here are ten more covers from the gay magazine that wasn't a gay magazine of the 1970s... Other mentions on this blog can be found here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Heaven and Hell in Soho

At a flea market today this real photographic postcard leapt out at me. A Coffee Lounge in Soho, in Old Compton Street no less, called Heaven and Hell. A simple conceit, the upstairs was heaven and the downstairs hell, with the appropriate decor and a naked male devil complete with forked tail in the downstairs. I couldn't but wonder if I had stumbled on a photo of an early gay hang out. Sadly for that thesis at least, it turns out that it was a fairly mixed clientele. The place was open from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s and I don't need to bore you here because one of the founders Eric Lindsay has written a very interesting account of the place on his own blog. 

I have scanned the postcard fairly large so if you download it to your own computer you should be able to view it in some detail.
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