The fascinating still life portraits of Guiseppe Arcimboldo were largely forgotten in the centuries following his death – until his rediscovery in the 20th century by modernist and surrealist painters such as Picasso and Salvador Dali. How could it happen that such a brilliant and original artist almost vanished from the annals of art history? The Renaissance was marked by a fascination with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre, which is also evident in the art of his Arcimboldo’s contemporaries, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Bruegel. As the Renaissance faded into Baroque and Rococo this fascination was gradually replaced by esthetic indulgence and dramatic displays, plump women and lavish interiors. In the meantime Prague, where Archimboldo had spent most of his life as a painter for the Habsburg court, was sacked by the Swedish army in 1648, and his work spread across Europe. Arcimboldo’s assembled portraits are playful, but also scientific in their representation of nature. He was certainly an eccentric, but his absurd, yet analytical portraits still capture us almost five hundred years later. For those wanting to read more about Arcimboldo, there is a great article about him at rhetoricaldeivice.com
I scanned these images from a book found in Keith Fawkes Books in Hampstead, London. It’s the messiest and most chaotic bookshop I’ve ever been into, but those are the kind of places where strange treasures like “Visions of the Future” can be found. The subtitle reads: “An exciting and novel selction of science fiction art of today”. The book was a British publication, featuring at the time young British artists. Judging from a quick round on google, most of them seem to be active still. So there is plenty of inspiration out there! Here are five of my favourite artworks from the book, which stood out among all the weird and funky sci-fi kitsch.
Until very recently Felix the Cat had been just a pop culture icon to me, without actually having seen him in any cartoons. I love the black and white animations from the twenties and thirties, so I decided to have a look at the original Felix. And what a great surprise – here is one of the absolutely funniest cartoons I have ever watched. Felix the Cat was created by cartoonists Otto Messmer and Pat Sullivan in 1919. He was the first animated character reaching the popularity needed to draw significant movie audiences, and continued to do so throughout the 1920s. Felix was a silent movie character, so when sound cartoons entered the stage towards the end of the decade, he gradually lost his popularity. When Sullivan’s studios finally decided to move to sound in 1929, it was allready too late, by then Mickey Mouse had become the new superstar of the cartoon world. Production of the original Felix the Cat cartoons ended the following year, in 1930.
Betty Boop was created by animator and director Max Fleischer, who somehow came in the shadow of his contemporary Walt Disney. But he was no less important in shaping the animation history of the 20th century. In addition to creating Betty Boop and bringing Popeye and Superman to the movie screen, he was the inventor of the rotoscoping technique, where stills from live action movies are traced to create animation frames. It is still a widely used thechique. In this movie, Koko the Clown, Betty Boop and Bimbo come to town to sell magic medicine, causing wild exitement and havoc among the public.