The Fine Arts Library recently purchased a copy of one of the earliest Jean Tinguely exhibition catalogues, his show at the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany, September – October, 1960.
This small show came hard upon Tinguely’s earliest (and perhaps greatest) success, the debut of his “metamatic” or self-destructing machine Hommage to New York at the Museum of Modern Art that spring. The catalogue which accompanied the show in Krefeld consists of a black paper folder with the dates, credits, and colophon (our copy is numbered 230 in yellow crayon), with a quarto folded sheet of photographs of the artist at work and works in situ and two ‘metamatic’ paintings, each signed by Tinguely in ink.
A sample page spread from The Twelve Articles
The Fine Arts Library owns hundreds of artists’ books – works of art created as multiples in book form. There is no particular reason why the form should been more popular in any one part of the world than any other, so I found it interesting when we acquired a substantial number of them published by private presses in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
From Brian Borchardt’s Seven Hills Press, we have Two Saints, a meditation on martyrdom and same-sex marriage and The Intrepid Ones about a community of men in Mexico who dress and act like women. Jeff Morin likes to juxtapose religious texts with sexual imagery. From his SailorBOY Press, we have Sacred Space, The Twelve Articles, and The Sacred Abecedarium.
The Fine Arts Library collects artists’ books in cooperation with other collections on campus such as the Houghton Library. All of our artists’ books are cataloged in the HOLLIS catalog. Patrons interested in consulting works from the collection are encouraged to visit the library in the Littauer Center building.
One of the singular, and most generous, book funds available to the Harvard College Library is the one created by Douglass A. Roby, Class of 1965. Although Mr. Roby spent a great part of his career working for the New York City Transit Authority, he was an accomplished scholar, receiving advanced degrees from Yale University and Hunter College and specializing in medieval history. Just before his death in 2001, Mr. Roby established a fund to support library resources that provide a positive portrait of the lives of gay men and women.
One of the purchases made using Roby funds was a periodical called The Male Figure. Bruce of Los Angeles (Bruce Bellas, 1909-1974) was one of the foremost photographers to emerge from the Southern California body-building mail-order catalogue scene of the mid-Fifties and early Sixties. This example of his work, a portrait of Rlee Brewer (not a typo), comes from the journal Bruce produced, published in three dozen tiny chapbooks from 1956 to 1965. In the era before Stonewall and Gay Liberation, when there was the very real chance that anyone purchasing photographs of nude men would be arrested, images of this sort had to be coded to pass as (somewhat) innocent depictions of musculature and exercise in a manner that would make them recognizable to (mostly closeted) gay men and invisible to everyone else.
La Tramblais, E. de. Les désastres de Paris en 1871. Paris : E. de La Tramblais, [1871?]
All of the scenes depicted in Les désastres come from the final, desperate ‘May Days’ of the Commune, when many of the great landmarks of Paris were burned to the ground. The printer Badoureau established himself on the rue Sainte-Isaure in the 18th arrondisement, conveniently located just north of the Seine and at the heart of the battle. The fact that the artist Edouard de La Tramblais chose to render the most famous buildings (the Palace of Justice, the Place de la Bastille, and the Place de la Concorde, for instance) and that the captions were given in both French and English suggest that this work was intended from the start as a war souvenir.
The most well-known image to come out of the Siege of Paris is the destruction and subsequent collapse of the Vendome Column. As a symbol of the hated Second Republic the column was one of the first targets of the Commune. After the crushing of the revolt it was rebuilt and became a symbol of the folly of the Communards – a prototype of the way visual symbols change meaning in our own time.
Cigarette cards are among nearly four hundred images in the collection called “Portraits of boxers and other athletes” which in itself represents a tiny portion of the more than seventy thousand pieces to be found in the Portrait Collection of the Fine Arts Library. Evert Jansen Wendell (A.B. Harvard 1882) was an avid sportsman in his student days. In later life, he collected sporting images among thousands of other portrait images and donated them at his death to his alma mater.
This is an image of a very young blond boy with the relatively unoriginal appellation of ‘Knock-Out’ Brown. His name was Valentine Braunheim (hence ‘Brown’) and he was born and fought his entire career in New York City. At the time this card was issued (ca.1910), Brown was barely twenty years old and had only been fighting for approximately two years. That he was sufficiently well-known enough to justify this investment on the part of the Red Mill/Turkey tobacco conglomerate indicates that his record (something like four to one in favor of victories at this point of his career) overrode his size (he was 5’3” and a lightweight) as a draw.