Friday, February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Edwin Austin Abbey

Portrait of Abbey (ca 1889)
by John Singer Sargent

There are SIX Abbey pictures (5 in color) in the third issue of
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS
There's an unpublished Abbey pencil drawing in

Born in 1852, Edwin Austin Abbey was on staff at Harpers by the time he was 19 and, despite success, recognition and raises, he left to pursue a free-lance career at the age of 22. He returned to Harpers in 1876, at the ripe old age of 24, a wily veteran at the princely sum of $50 a week (more than three times his 1871 initial salary). 1876 was also the American Centennial and one of the many celebratory events was the Centennial Exhibition which brought a wide selection of European paintings to Philadelphia. Abbey was inspired by the English contingent: Leighton, Watt, Boughton, and others. Already a proponent of drawing from life, the work of the Pre-Raphaelites inspired him further. This led to a journey to England in 1878 in the cause of accuracy in his drawings for Herrick's Poems. He remained there for most of his life.

His pen work, though always excellent, took on a new dimension. The sketching "rambles" he experienced in England with Alfred Parsons and George Boughton reinforced his belief in the value of drawing from the source. His ink drawings were still being engraved on wood, so some of the spontaneity is lost. Like Daniel Vierge, Abbey was quick to see the advantage of "process" reproduction of his pen drawings ("process" being any of several photographic processes that eliminated the engraver's reinterpretation). While in England he produced illustrations for many Harpers serials including "She Stoops to Conquer" (collected as a sumptuous book in 1887), "Old Songs" (right, above), and "Judith Shakespeare" (the first two were also published in book form with Abbey's illustrations). While in Europe, he met and was inspired by the great French and English artists of the day. His friendship with Sargent is evidenced by the portrait at the top of this page. Abbey often lived at his studio in Broadway and they painted together often. He was also friends with Alma-Tadema, DuMaurier, Whistler, and others. And though he was painting throughout, he still was using the pen as his primary artistic tool. This prowess with the pen led Harpers to assign him a series of illustrations for Shakespeare's comedies in 1887.

After a short trip back to New York in 1889, he immediately returned to England, where the lure of authentic costumes could not be denied. On the trip, he convinced himself that his future should be in oil painting. The Shakespeare illustrations, which would continue until 1909, were executed in many media: pen, oil, watercolor and pencil. These were some of his first published oil paintings and his European experience continued to pay dividends. At left/above is The Play Scene in Hamlet from 1897. Though not part of the Harpers series (this being a submission to the Royal Academy of that year), the composition, staging and power of his work from this period is stunning. And the access to the costumes and stage props so readily available in England lends a sense of reality often missing elsewhere. He also traveled to Italy for more research.

In 1890 he received the commission for the Holy Grail murals at the Boston Public Library. The first half were completed and installed in 1895, the remainder in 1901. That year Abbey was elected President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. He lived in London until his death in 1911.

Another easel painting was The Crusaders Sighting Jerusalem from 1901, at left. Again, his insistence on accuracy provides a most dynamic image. Always a popular artist, in 1902, he illustrated an edition of Oliver Goldsmith's The Deserted Village (Goldsmith also wrote She Stoops to Conquer, one of his earliest successes). The illustration at right demonstrates the continued development with the pen, especially is the sense of spontaneity of line.

That year, Abbey also accepted his second great mural commission: the new state capitol at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The images for these murals show him working from the nude model and the resultant figure studies, like Men at an Anvil at right, leave absolutely no doubt as to his prowess and talent. It's just an oil sketch, circa 1904-08, but the intensity and strength is amazing. Abbey died before completing the murals. They were finished by J.S. Sargent. A most excellent biography by E.V. Lucas, with two hundred b&w, mostly photogravure, illustrations, was published in 1921 titled: Life and Work of Edwin Austin Abbey, R.A. It is highly recommended. A limited edition with an original Abbey drawing exists.

The research Abbey did for the Harpers Shakespeare Comedies and Tragedies series was put to excellent use in his many award-winning easel paintings. The wrap-around fold-out cover of the 1974 Yale University Exhibition Catalog (at left) is from Richard III, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne, from 1896. (Richard, in red, is proposing to the widow of the man he has just murdered in the midst of the funeral procession.) This catalog is an excellent source of information on and images by Abbey. It provides some of the few color reproductions I've seen (though The Illustrator in America has two - including Richard...). The many illustrations done for the turn-of-the-century magazines were all reproduced in b&w and were most likely executed in tones rather than color.

Abbey can lay claim to being America's first great illustrator. His work was inspirational and influential during his life and remains so today. He's one of our most demanded artists.

Here's a wonderful image I just discovered in the 1924 Penrose's Annual. It's titled, "O, Mistress Mine where are you roaming?"



Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Andrew Loomis

Loomis self-portrait

Andrew Loomis - signature

Andrew Loomis - Figure Drawing Figure Drawing For All It's Worth in abridged form from Walter T. Foster Art Books, it's still in print today - 55 years after publication. That's a pretty ringing endorsement for his teaching skills.

Loomis was born in 1892 in Syracuse, New York. Walt and Roger Reed in The Illustrator in America say that "it was a visit to the nearby studio of Howard Chandler Christy that made him decide to seek for himself an artist's career." He studied in New York at the Art Students League under George Bridgman and F.V. du Mond when he was 19 and went back to the Midwest (he grew up in Zanesville, Ohio) in 1915 to Chicago to work in an art studio there. He continued his education at the Chicago Art Institute.

Andrew Loomis - flapper portraitAfter military service in World War I, Loomis worked for a couple of advertising agencies before opening his own studio at 360 North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago where he listed his "subjects" as "Character Studies, Figures, Historical Subjects, Interiors, Covers, Posters, Portraits, Still Life, Landscapes" and his "mediums" as "Black and white, Charcoal, Color, Dry Brush, Oil, Watercolor, Pastel, Wash." At left is a sample of his work from 1928.

Andrew Loomis - Post coverAt right is his only cover for The Saturday Evening Post, from 1935. (Image from The Illustrator in America: 1880-1980) He produced commercial art his entire career, but in researching my collection to find images to include here, his work remained maddeningly elusive. Check our page for a link to Illustration House which has featured many Loomis pieces in their auctions. It was as a teacher, more than as an illustrator, that he made a very lasting impression upon the artists that came after him.

Andrew Loomis - Fun With A PencilHe taught at the American Academy of Art, in Chicago, during the 1930s and that it was there he perfected the teaching techniques that he codified in his first book, Fun With a Pencil, in 1939. The self-portrait/caricature at the top of this page is the final illustration in that book. It's 120 pages in b&w and blue and the focus is cartooning, though there are lots of very solid illustration tips as well. And it really is fun! The tone is light-hearted, but the information is carefully and skillfully presented. It's no surprise that it was popular.

And it was very popular! By 1943 it had gone through six printings. This response was sufficient to induce Loomis to write another instructional book that year, the ever-popular Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, mentioned above. I use the phrase "ever-popular" advisedly as by 1973 the book was in its 25th printing, and the fact that I sold so many copies is due to the continued demand from artists, young and old, who want to take advantage of the seminal content. It's an amazing book that actually lives up to its reputation. It's 204 pages of solid anatomy for illustrators, profusely illustrated, primarily with pencil drawings. By 1946 it was in its 12th printing.

Andrew Loomis - Creative Illustration - 2The next book would be his masterpiece. The 1947 Creative Illustration was aimed at the professional illustrator. It was 300 pages divided into seven sections: Line, Tone and Color were the three introductory parts. Then came the four sections that make this book still relevant today - Telling the Story, Creating Ideas, Fields of Illustration, and Experimenting and Studies.

Andrew Loomis - Creative Illustration - 1The Color section was in color - definitely not a common practice at that time. The page at right shows a variety of tonal studies from palettes based on color schemes. The book is filled with instructions, tips, insider experiences, and incredible illustrations.

Telling the Story leads off with the powerful image at left, a story in itself. Every chapter, every page, every picture is prime information for the artist and Loomis manages to convey it clearly and concisely. Creative Illustration is a dynamite book!

In 1951 he released Successful Drawing with more advanced fundamentals. This title was re-released in a slightly altered form in 1961 as Three-Dimensional Drawing.

Andrew Loomis - Head and HandsDrawing the Head and Hands was next, in 1956. It took the information presented in Fun With a Pencil and Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, expanded it, clarified it, and presented it in 155 pages of new text and art. The importance of this title in the Loomis canon can't be emphasized enough, and students are still clamoring for copies, with prices over $100 on even the most available titles.

Which leads us inevitably into the question of why aren't these books being reprinted? All I can say is "I don't know." I've heard all kinds of rumors and speculations, but the purpose of these pages is not to deal with anything other than facts, so it's still as much a mystery to me as it is to you. The Walter T. Foster company seems to have some access to the material from some of the books and Bud Plant Comic Art has a few titles available. Maybe the W.T. Foster people know something they could share with us?

The elusive and intriguingly titled Eye of the Painter and Elements of Beauty is Loomis' last book, published posthumously in 1961, two years after his death. It's his treatise on how an artist perceives beauty and harmony. It's an interesting book, but it's not for casual perusal and doesn't have all that much Loomis art. It's mainly illustrated with samples of the work of fine artists..

Winsor McCay(1871-1934)

Winsor McCay + Little Nemo = fame and fortune. The End.

Not quite that easy. For starters, McCay was born in 1867 (the same year as Frank Brangwyn, Arthur Rackham and Sidney Sime) and had an eccentric and checkered career behind him when he moved to New York in 1903. It still wasn't until two years later, at the age of 38, that he started the Little Nemo Sunday comic strip in October of 1905. In his very excellent Winsor McCay - His Life and Art, John Canemaker chronicles his prolific, inventive, strange and often heart-breaking career. I summerize below.

Winsor McCay Photo - 1906

Winsor McCay c.1906
(collection of Ray Winsor Moniz)

Winsor McCay was born Zenas Winsor McKay in 1867, probably in Canada. He was named after his father's employer and he quickly dropped Zenas in favor of Winsor. He was raised in Michigan, where he commenced drawing at a prodigiously early age. And never stopped. At the age of 13 he drew a picture of shipwreck on the school blackboard and it was photographed and copies sold. His attention to (and memory of) detail was amazing. Winsor McCay, the boy, loved to draw and was very good at it.

So how come some families embrace their artistic children and others go out of their way to suppress them? McCay's father (who by now had dropped the "K" in favor of the "C") belonged to the latter group. At the age of 19, he enrolled Winsor in a business school in order to learn a real trade (just like Arthur Rackham's family tried to turn him into a clerk). Young Winsor chaffed at the lessons (when he attended) but reveled in being 100 miles distant from his family and that much closer to Detroit.

One of the normal forms of entertainment of the day was the Dime Museum. These establishments were designed to separate people from their money. Part circus, part amusement park and part vaudeville, they featured both transient and permanent acts and exhibits. McCay's first job that earned him money from his art was at Wonderland in Detroit where he was hired to draw portraits of the customers for 25¢ each. His facility for observation and his amazingly ability to draw quickly made him a popular 'attraction.' It also brought out his intense desire to please with his art. He really needed to draw, but even more he needed the approbation. He got some from the customers, but more importantly, he took some extracurricular drawing lessons from a local instructor who thought highly of his work. The teacher's forte was perspective and McCay had to have been the star pupil judging from the good use to which he put the lessons later in life.

Winsor McCay - perspective

But I'm getting ahead of myself. McCay left Michigan for Chicago in 1889 where he worked for a printer and roomed with Jules Guerin. In 1891 he moved to Cincinnati. There he settled into the only type of work he knew - he went to work as a staff artists for a local dime museum. He married, had two children, and took on extra work painting signs and, eventually, making drawings for a local newspaper. It was there that he first developed his skill with a pen - everything up to that point had been crafted with pencil and brush. He also supplemented his income by submitting drawings to the humor magazine, Life, beginning in 1899.

Winsor McCay - Life magazine

One of Canemaker's favorites from Life, and mine as well (and Harvey Kurtzman liked it enough to reprint it in an issue of Help, too), is a six-panel masterpiece that anticipates cinemascope, camera tracks and pans, and even special effects. This was 1903 and McCay was obviously ready for the big time. As Canemaker points out, his accurate renditions of galloping horses indicate a familiarity with Eadweard Muybridge's photographic motion studies of 1887. Few cartoonists had mastered the cartoon pacing and motion better than McCay at this time, and his one foray into the Sunday comic strip, Tale of the Jungle Imps was equally advanced. He was just a small-town, hard-working artist from Cincinatti. What could he do in New York?

Winsor McCay - Little Sammy SneezeAn invitation to take a job at the New York Herald prompted McCay to find out. In late 1903, he relocated and began the most prolific chapter of his cartooning life. From 1904-1911, McCay produced a string of comic strips that have overridden many of his other accomplishments. While I would never minimize the value of his comic strip work, you have to understand that McCay was driven to draw. Whatever those inner demons were, he was compelled by them to draw and draw and draw. His output during these eight years surpasses the lifetime work of some equally famous cartoonists.

In early 1904, there were three abortive attempts at newspaper strips: Mr. Goodenough, Sister's Little Sister's Beau, and The Phurious Phinish of Phoolish Philipe Phunny Phrolics. The real explosion of effort began, appropriately enough, with Little Sammy Sneeze.

Winsor McCay - Rarebit FiendLittle Sammy sneezed every Sunday from July 24, 1904 to December 9, 1906. Since everyone knew what was going to happen in each strip, it was the build-up that mattered. Each strip was exactly six panels with the last reserved for Sammy's comeuppance, so pacing was everything. And it worked for 2½ years.

Not content to do just one strip, he began Dream of the Rarebit Fiend on September 10, 1904. His most successful strip, this ran until June 25, 1911. It was for a different paper and signed "Silas". Dream was a thoroughly adult strip devoted to adult nightmares and phobias - all caused by overindulging in Welsh rarebit (or cheese pie) just before bed. At right, it's the size of the new hat and the husband's imagined reaction that disrupts the wife's sleep.

For all the sophistication of McCay's drawings, the other aspects of his strips were never very polished. The word balloons and lettering were always merely adequate and the writing seemed to be an afterthought, hurriedly composed to carry a visual joke.

Still not drawing enough, McCay created The Story of Hungry Henrietta from January 8 through July 16, 1905. In a very modern take on child-rearing, this was the story of a young girl raised by a loud and self-absorbed family that continues to proffer food in place of love. Henrietta is happiest in the last panel when she's given a treat instead of a hug.

In search of salve for the drawing demon, McCay began A Pilgrim's Progress on June 26, 1905. It ran for more than five years, ending on December 18, 1910.

All of these strips were formula based, requiring only a new setting for Sammy to sneeze at, a new nightmare to exaggerate, another situation for the parents to ignore Henrietta's real needs, and another attempt by Mr. Bunion to rid himself of the valise of 'Dull Care'. This formulaic approach allowed McCay to invest all of his creativity in the drawing. Even the panel shapes and sizes of each strip were fairly stable (with Rarebit Fiend being the most experimental). So with three strips running each week in two different newspapers, as well as other daily cartoons and drawings for the Herald, McCay was finally ready to create his masterpiece. And on October 15, 1905, Little Nemo in Slumberland debuted.

Winsor McCay - Little Nemo

Simply put, Little Nemo revolutionized the comic strip. At 38, McCay was at the very peak of his talent and the New York Herald had the most talented and creative color printing staff in the business. Together they crafted a weekly fantasy that week by week revealed Slumberland to be more magical than even L. Frank Baum's Oz (created in 1899) and more wonderful than Lewis Carroll's Wonderland (1865). Books and websites abound praising Nemo far more than I could possibly do in this short bio. Nemo was published in the New York Herald until July 23, 1911. The strips have been reprinted many times. Find them and lose yourself in this masterpiece. It wasn't syndicated, so the fame of the strip is based on the readers of just one paper.

Well, not entirely. 1905 was heyday of vaudeville and a frequent feature was the chalk-talk artist - an artist who could stand in front of an audience and draw on a chalk board. Nemo was an immediate hit and McCay, who liked nothing better than to draw (and never seemed to have enough money, no matter how much he made), took to the boards on June 11, 1906. He was a hit, there, too. As his bookings along the east coast increased, so did the logistical difficulties of producing three weekly comic strips and other drawings for the papers. Many strips from this period were drawn in backstage dressing rooms and in hotels as he toured with his act. When Little Nemo made it to Broadway in 1908, McCay was performing his chalk-talk across the street and had to miss a portion of opening night. The approbation of the live audience was just as crucial to him as the regard of those watching the musical based on his work.

Winsor McCay -  Gertie the DinosaurWithin five years of arriving in New York, McCay had become one of the top artists and performers in the city. Both his comic strips and his vaudeville act were based on pacing and movement. He was about to combine all of these elements into one new art - the animated cartoon.

While he wasn't the first person to make an animated cartoon, he was the man who defined the industry. The quality of his cartoons would not be matched for another 25 years. His pacing and understanding of the medium was far ahead of his time. And he drew all of the 4,000 cels of his first film, Little Nemo, (natch!) himself! This while he was still drawing his three strips and performing his vaudeville act. The Little Nemo film was released to theater and used in his act, as was his second. How a Mosquito Operates - this 6,000 drawings long. When these films were released into wider distribution, McCay's fame spread, especially to the fledgling animation community.

When the Herald rejected his request to take some time off to go perform in Europe, McCay waited until his contract was up and jumped over to the Hearst paper, The American, in July of 1911. The Herald lost its star of three strips, and McCay lost his freedom.

All McCay wanted to do was draw. All Hearst wanted was someone who did as he was told. Drawing meant performing to McCay and it meant expanding his knowledge of animation. Nemo was published in the Hearst papers under the title In the Land of Wonderful Dreams, since the Herald owned the Nemo name. The coloring was less than what he was used to and he was devoting most of his energy to his next animated film, Gertie the Dinosaur. The lack of attention showed, especially in blandness of the 27 daily strips he created for Hearst from 1911 to 1913. His editorial cartoons were masterpieces of pen work, and that's where Hearst decided to relegate his talents.

On December 13, 1913, he was told by his employer that he was to give up his comic strips and do "serious" editorial work. In February of 1914, Gertie debuted to stunning reviews. McCay projected the film on his white sketch pad and in a carefully choreographed sequence interacted with the animated dinosaur and actually joins her on screen for the finale. A filmed opening was attached to the animation for theater distribution. (See above for one drawing from the thousands he made to create the film.)

Winsor McCay - pre-war editorial cartoon

McCay's east coast vaudeville bookings began to dry up as Hearst made it known to the proprietors that he would 'prefer' that they not engage McCay. In 1914, McCay signed a contract with Hearst not to appear outside of New York City. Now all McCay had to look forward to each day was a compulsory appearance at the newspaper office and making pen & ink editorial cartoons that stretched across all eight columns of the editorial page. These large drawings needed lots of visual interest since most of the editorial stances they illustrated were fairly simplistic. A world war was coming and Hearst was agin it.

Winsor McCay - 1923 editorial drawingMcCay's personal beliefs are often considered to be reflected by these editorial drawings. While I don't claim special knowledge of his mindset, I do know that his last major animated film was a recreation of the sinking of the Lusitania and amounted to a call to arms. Hearst and his editor Arthur Brisbane actually lobbied in the paper for understanding of Germany's position on the matter. I can't imagine a more repressive occupation than being forced to put forth a public face that was the opposite of your own. And the lack of humor in all of these drawings must have been depressing, too. But the drawings, themselves, were magnificent. Click the image above for a sad sample of a great talent in the service of a small idea.

In 1924 he left Hearst and returned to the now Herald Tribune and tried to revive Little Nemo. It lasted for two years, but proved to be out of touch with the public. McCay was allowed to purchase all rights to the character for $1 - a magnanimous gesture that doubled as a sad evaluation of his efforts.

He died in 1934 after spending his last eight years back at the American drawing editorial cartoons for Arthur Brisbane. McCay was a light-hearted man who just wanted to make beautiful pictures. He wanted animation to be an art. He wanted newspaper strips to appeal to the eye and the soul. He wanted to draw. No matter how many barriers stood in his way, he managed to accomplish that. Still, he's best remembered for one strip he drew for only six years. That alone would have been a magnificent legacy. Thankfully, there is so much more.

Monday, January 22, 2007

CHUCK JONES (1912 - 2002)

Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones.

A legend of the golden age of animation, Charles Martin ("Chuck") Jones was born on September 21, 1912, in Spokane, Washington. He grew up in Hollywood, where he observed the talents of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton while working occasionally as a child extra in Mack Sennett comedies. After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now California Institute of the Arts), he drew pencil portraits for a dollar apiece on Olvera Street. Then, in 1932, he got his first job in the fledgling animation industry as a cel washer for former Disney animator Ubbe Iwerks.

In 1936, he became an animator for the Leon Schlesinger Studio (later sold to Warner Bros.). There, he was assigned to Tex Avery's animation unit, joining the Warner Bros. team that made LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES in a back-lot building that he and other Warner animators and directors nicknamed "Termite Terrace." It was there that the personalities and characteristics of Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck were developed and produced.

At the early age of 25, Chuck Jones directed his first animated film, THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, which was released in 1938. Up to 5,000 animation drawings were used for the six-minute cartoon. As director, he timed the picture, finalized all of the writing, produced more than 300 layouts, and directed the art design, music, sound effects, and animation.

During World War II, he directed Army training films with a popular 1940s character, Private SNAFU, as well as a re-election film for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Heading his own unit, he remained at Warner Bros. Animation until it closed in 1962, though he had a brief stint with Disney Studios in 1955 during a hiatus at Warner Bros. He then moved to MGM Studios, where he created new episodes for the Tom & Jerry cartoon series. While there, he also produced, co-directed, and co-wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed full-length feature THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, and directed the Academy Award-winning film THE DOT AND THE LINE.

The Grinch


In 1966, he directed one of the most memorable holiday television specials ever produced -- Dr. Seuss' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS. First aired in December 1966, the half-hour special was met with glowing reviews from newspapers across the country and has since become one of the most popular holiday programs on television. He won a Peabody Award for Television Program Excellence for his work on Dr. Seuss' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS as well as Dr. Seuss' HORTON HEARS A WHO. For a year, he worked as vice president of the American Broadcasting Company to improve children's programming in 1972. There, he made many animated specials for television.

Chuck Jones has become a true icon of creativity by directing such mini-epics as WHAT'S OPERA, DOC? (1957), which featured a Wagnerian Elmer Fudd invoking the great elements against a cunning Bugs Bunny. In December 1992, WHAT'S OPERA, DOC? was inducted into the National Film Registry for being "among the most culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films of our time." And last December, he became the only director to have two animated shorts among the Registry's 275 films when DUCK AMUCK was added.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, he has made more than 300 animated films and has earned four Academy Awards, including an Honorary Oscar in 1996. He has been awarded three Honorary Doctorates, most recently by the American Film Institute in June 1997, and has received countless awards and distinctions from throughout the world, including the Directors Guild of America's Honorary Life Membership Award.

Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones at his gallery.

He is the most widely collected animation artist in the world. His work has been exhibited at more than 250 galleries and museums, including a one-man film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His 1989 autobiography, CHUCK AMUCK, is in its fifth printing and was published in paperback in 1990, both in the U.S. and abroad. CHUCK REDUCKS, his follow-up to CHUCK AMUCK, was published in 1996.

The eternally youthful octogenarian recently created a new character, Timber Wolf, for a series of cartoons on the internet for Warner Bros. Online and Entertaindom. He also revisited one facet of his creativity by dedicating himself to the creation of fine arts drawings and limited editions, which can be collected through the family-owned Chuck Jones Studio Galleries in Laguna Beach and San Diego, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. In order to recognize, reward, support, and inspire continued excellence in the art of animation, he created The Chuck Jones Foundation in the spring of 2000.

Chuck Jones died at his home in California on Friday, February 22, 2002 at the age of 89.

The Surreal World: Which Super Hero Are You?

The Surreal World: Which Super Hero Are You?

The Art of Liz Schultz

The Art of Liz Schultz

The Drawing Club

The Drawing Club

Art by Shano

Art by Shano

Vector's thingies

Vector's thingies

Bearuh Blogger

Bearuh Blogger



art esprit: Two crows

art esprit: Two crows

Alexeieff: Itinerary of a Master

Considered one of the "masters" of experimental animation, Alexeieff began making animated films at age 30, when he invented the pinscreen, a board with thousands of tiny holes in it, each one with a metal pin inside. When a light is shone on the screen at an angle, the protruding pins cast shadows of varying length onto the board, which when viewed from a distance (and photographed) create varying shades of gray. By making subtle movements of the pins in between photographing frames, he was able to create animated films resembling the etching techniques he had mastered earlier in his career. Published in French and English by Dreamland, a European publisher specializing in comics and animation, Alexeieff: Itinerary of a Master is a compendium of 15 essays by Bendazzi's colleagues: animator Yuri Norstein, composer Michele Reverdy, filmmakers Dominique Willoughby and Claudine Eizykman, scholars Robin Allan, Guy Fihman, Marco Fragonara, Nikolai Izvolov, Oleg Kovalov, Georges Nivat, Anne Saint-Dreux and Cecile Starr, as well as Alexeieff's daughter, Svetlana Alexeieff-Rockwell and grandson, Alexandre Rockwell. Bendazzi's introduction seems to have been written by him in English, and reads much like a conversation with a non-native speaker. I wonder if it would be more coherent if he had written the book in his native Italian and had it translated by a professional. The following essays vary greatly in style, from fawning praise to intellectual analysis, often overlapping in subject matter. It doesn't seem like Bendazzi "assigned" the topics to the writers, and as such the book lacks overall coherence. I found the most interesting reading to be those chapters that offered facts, anecdotes and quotes from the artist rather than just pure analysis. For me, the primary value of the book lies in its 200-plus crisp illustrations in color and black-and-white; reproduced etchings, beautiful still frames from films, photographs of the artist, his studios and equipment, friends and family. Many of the images are quite large -- half-page or filling two-page spreads -- offering an incredible amount of detail. Many of Alexeieff's book illustrations for novels by Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Poe and Pushkin are reproduced in the book. The meaning of these illustrations are explored in Nirat's essay, while Fragonara's goes into great detail about the techniques he used, such as xylography, etching and aquatinting. The toxic chemicals he used for these methods caused him severe illness early in life, as recalled by his daughter in her chapter of personal memoirs. Svetlana Alexeieff-Rockwell's essay also details the emergence of Claire Parker into her family's life, first as a protégé and later as "the other woman" who became Alexeieff's wife and creative partner. It was around the time that "talkies" or sync sound films were becoming mainstream that he decided to illustrate music through films, rather than literature through books. Izvolov's essay explores Alexeieff's identity as a mystic and prolific inventor, noting that his idea for the pinscreen actually struck him during a crisis where he felt that his inspiration had deserted him after years of book illustration. He notes that later, Alexeieff and Parker invented a technique called "totalization," which was a way of creating "illusory solids" with long exposures of moving lights on pendulums, that looked very much like the images produced on an oscilloscope. The technique was used to great effect in commercials, which took most of the couple's creative energy following their return to France after WWII. In fact it is their commercial work that places them in the context of their animation contemporaries John and James Whitney, Mary Ellen Bute and Norman McLaren who were experimenting with similar animation concepts. Saint-Dreux's essay looks at Alexeieff and Parker's commercial work, revealing that Alexeieff saw little difference between his artistic and commercial endeavors. He said, "The important thing in life is to create. That's the only thing that interests me. If L'Oreal wants to sell a bar of soap, I don't think about the product but the invention I could achieve." Willoughby's chapter, "Cinematic Synthesis," compares the pinscreen technique to the pointillist painting style perfected by Seurat. It is described in Eizykman's essay as "engraving the film screen," a concept that Alexeieff shared with other filmmakers such as Berthold Bartosch, who subtitled his 1929 film, The Idea: animated engraving, and Herman Warm, the set designer for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, who said "the screen must become an engraving." It is revealed in other chapters that Alexeieff was also influenced by the films of Emile Cohl, Fernand Leger and Man Ray. Robin Allan compares Alexeieff's first pinscreen film, Night on Bald Mountain (1933), with the same sequence in Disney's Fantasia, made seven years afterward. Although Allan says there is no "direct evidence" that Disney artists [or Disney himself] saw Alexeieff's animated version of the Mussorgsky musical composition, he provides a convincing argument that Disney was influenced by European artists, and that being inspired by Alexeieff is a distinct possibility. Composer Michele Reverdy's essay contains enlightening reflections on film's relationship with music, comparing meanings of form, rhythm and counterpoint in musical, visual and temporal composition. Russian animator Yuri Norstein, whose work has a similar aesthetic and narrative style to Alexeieff's, includes in his essay an illustration detail comparing an ox character from his film Tale of Tales to Alexeieff's Three Moods, both made in 1979. That the two share cultural mythologies is common of artists from Russia. Although he spent most of his life in France, Alexeieff's identity as a Russian native plays strongly in his work. But describing Alexeieff's identity solely as an individual is the grave oversight of many of the essays in this book. In her essay, Cecile Starr writes, "The tendency has give all credit (or blame) to one participant in the filmmaking process and neglect the contribution of the team." This has certainly happened with Alexeieff and Parker, as evidenced even in the very title of this book. For instance, Bendazzi writes in his introduction "her true country was Alexandre Alexeieff" and describes their relationship almost as one of worship. Starr, who was friends with "Claire and Alosha" provides insight into the life of "the other half," from her origins as a wealthy American art student to her role as Alexeieff's patron, wife and creative partner. The two are described as "an inseparable team" in a letter written to Starr by Norman McLaren (published in the book), who invited them to make En Passant (1944) at the National Film Board of Canada. Later, Jacques Drouin (who created the cover illustration for this book) made films with the small pinscreen they left there, and became like the son they never had, says Starr, noting the sacrifices Parker made for their art, including not having children. Alexeieff once said that without Claire, he never would have made films. He couldn't live without her either, and took his own life a year after Claire died in 1981. Alexeieff's legacy continues in the work of his grandson, Alexandre Rockwell, an independent filmmaker who created films such as Lenz and Four Rooms. His memoir at the end of the book reveals the influence his grandfather had on him. He writes: "I can safely say there has been no greater influence in my life, and in that I know I am not alone."
Source : Wendy Jackson HallWendy Jackson Hall is a U.S.-based freelance writer, animator and educator. Her bibliography and other details are online

Sunday, January 21, 2007

History Of Animation : The Early Years Before Disney

A forerunner of today's comic strip can be found in an Egyptian wall decoration circa 2000 B.C. In successive panels it depicts the actions of two wrestlers in a variety of holds. In one of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous illustrations, he shows how the limbs would look in various positions. Giotto's angels seem to take flight in their repetitive motions. The Japanese used scrolls to tell continuous stories.

Since the beginnings of time, human beings have tried to capture a sense of motion in their art. From the eight-legged boar in the Altamira caves of Northern Spain to paintings alongside the remains of long-dead pharoahs, this quest for capturing motion has been a common theme throughout many of mankind's artistic endeavors.

True animation cannot be achieved without first understanding a fundamental principle of the human eye: the persistance of vison. This was first demonstrated in 1828 by Frenchman, Paul Roget, who invented the thaumatrope (left, click to stop). It was a disc with a string or peg attahced to both sides. One side of the disc showed a bird, the other an empty cage. When the disc was twirled, the bird appeared in the cage. This proved that the eye retains images when it is exposed to a series of pictures, one at a time.

Two other inventions helped to further the cause of animation. The phenakistoscope, invented by Joseph Plateau in 1826, was a circular card with slits around the edge. The viewer held the card up to a mirror and peered through the slits as the card whirled. Through a series of drawings around the circumference of the card, the viewer saw a progression of images resulting in a moving object. The same technique applied to the zeotrope. In 1860, Pierre Desvignes, inserted a strip of paper containing drawings on the inside of a drumlike cylinder. The drum twirled on a spindle, and the viewer gazed through slots ot the top of the drum. The figures on the inside magically came to life, endlessly looping in an acrobatic feat.

The development of the motion camera and projector by Thomas A. Edison and others provided the first real practical means of making animation. Even still, the animation was done in the simplest of means. Stuart Blackton, issued a short film in 1906 entitled Humourous Phases of Funny Faces where he drew comical faces on a blackboard, photographed them, and the erased it to draw another stage of the facial expression. This "stop-motion" effect astonished audiences by making drawings comes to life.

In the early twenties, the popularity of the animated cartoon was on the decline, and movie exhibitors were looking elswhere for alternative entertainment media. The public was tired of the old formula of stringing sight gags together without including a story line or any character development. What the art of animation could accomplish was not yet evident in this period, except for in the works of Winsor McCay such as Gertie the Dinosaur, 1914. Mccay's major accomplishment was the fact that he had developed a character in his dinosaur, something that had previously only been seen in Otto Messmer's, Felix the Cat. McCay's piece had a galvanizing effect on audiences. The notion of a dinosaur coming to life on the screen was astonishing. Of all the early animations, Felix the Cat developed the strongest screen personality, but failed to develop any further, relying on crude visual tricks to entertain the audience as opposed to developing a stronger screen persona.

"Plots? We never bothered with plots. They were just a series of gags strung together. And not very funny, I'm afraid." - Dick Huemer, 1957

At this time, many of the animations were based on primitive gags and violence, which is still true of cartoons today. One character would beat another mercilessly, only to have his victim instantly recover and return the favor. Perhaps the hero would swing his sword and reduce the villian to baloney slices, only to have him reappear as if magically rejoined.

A big change came over the industry in the mid twenties: commercialization. Big studios took over the smaller cottage industries and set standards for animation. Animators were given quotas on the number of drawings they had to produce a day. Cartoons now had to manufactured in quantity and cheaply.

The same gags were worked and reworked. Audiences became apathetic as the novelty of seeing drawings come to life wore off. This caused a depression in the animation business that coincided with the depression in the economy of the United States.

Source:Patrick James

Friday, January 19, 2007

yuri norstein

battle of kerjenets
Image: Heron and Crane
Yuri Norstein is widely regarded as one of the most innovative animators of all time. Born in Russia in 1941, his family were evacuated during WWII and taken to Moscow in 1943. Having studied at art school, Norstein initially found employment in a furniture factory before embarking on a two-year course attached to the state animation studio, Soyuzmultfilm, where he took up full time employment in 1961. Norstein had little interest in the type of cartoons being produced there, but during his time at the studio, he discovered the films and writings of Sergei Eisenstein, which had a profound influence on him and inspired his own directorial ambitions. While at the studio, he also met his future wife and creative partner, Francesca Yarbusova, with whom he collaborated on many of his films.

Norstein worked as an animation artist on some 50 films before directing his first film in 1967, the little seen 25th, the First Day, which referenced his other passion, early twentieth century avant-garde painting. 'The painters of that period [1910-1920] enabled me to see the immense artistic potential of animation', he explains. To sense the graphic aesthetic. Through this project I discovered that animation is plastic time. This influenced all my subsequent work and I learned another lesson from this film: never make a concession if it goes against your conscience'.

Norstein certainly held fast to his word, running foul of the authorities on numerous occasions throughout his working life. His next film, Heron and Crane (1974), was based on a Russian fairytale. Together with Yarbusova and Norstein's other regular collaborator, cameraman Alexander Zhokovsky, the three invented a machine which allowed them to animate on layers of glass. The film was originally banned by the censors, but was eventually released after much lobbying from veteran animator Fedor Khitruk. Norstein's next film, Hedgehog in the Fog (1975) also ran into strife when he fell horribly behind schedule. On the day he was supposed to submit the completed film, only 20 per cent of it was finished. Norstein showed what he had to the Communist Party representatives gathered and they were impressed enough to allow him to continue working and complete his film.

tale of tales
Image: Hedgehog in the Fog
Tale of Tales (1979) is widely regarded as Norstein's masterpiece and is the result of his third collaboration with Yarbusova and Zhokovsky, who photographed houses and old cars in the Moscow neighbourhood where Norstein had grown up. Again, the film was originally rejected by nervous censors, who forced him to rename the film he had originally entitled There Will Come a Little Grey Wolf. The new title came from a phrase in a Turkish poem written by Nazim Hikmet that Norstein happened to like and which he proposed to the censors on the spur of the moment. In 1984, an international panel of animation experts proclaimed Tale of Tales the best animated film of all time. In 1995 Norstein was awarded the Russian Independent Triumph Award, which acknowledges 'the highest achievements in art and literature'.

Jan Svankmajer: The Prodigious Animator from Prague

THE Czech animated-film director, visual artist, and surrealist Jan Švankmajer(*) is one of the most remarkable filmmakers of the last three decades. The influential French film journal Positif considers him, together with the famous Russian animator Yuri Norstein (Tale of Tales), "a giant of contemporary film."(1) The British film critic Julian Petley calls him, along with the Polish directors Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk, " of the key animators to have emerged in Eastern Europe since the war."(2) Born in 1934, the sixty-years-old director embarked on his filmmaking career in 1964; since then, he has made more than twenty films, mostly shorts.(3) His works are regularly featured at major international competitions, including Annecy, Berlin, Cannes, Mannheim, Toronto, and Oberhausen.(4) For his films, Švankmajer has received over thirty festival prizes and honours.

Unfortunately, Švankmajer's philosophically profound, visually rich and stylistically innovative work is little known beyond the relatively narrow circle of well-informed or specialized audience. In his native Czech Republic, the distribution of most of his films was suspended shortly after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia(5) and for the rest of the 1968-1989 period, it was severely restricted; Švankmajer's bizarre, often grotesque style and his surrealist perspective were politically undesirable in the post-invasion atmosphere of cultural repression.

Although the director was never officially banned in his country, his opportunities to shoot in Czech studios (all of them state-run and state-controlled) were minimal and consequently, he worked with considerable difficulties;(6) several of his scripts could not be realized.(7) As well, little if any critical writing on his work was published in Czechoslovakia between 1971-1989.(8) For example, in one of the rare references to his work, the Czech national film monthly Film a doba (October 1988) granted the filmmaker a total of 33 words.(9)

Curiously, the outside world treated Švankmajer with equal oblivion. Only after repeated triumphs in the international festival circuit, especially after 1983 when he was awarded several major prizes for his Possibilities of a Dialogue (1982), did some doors open for the filmmaker in Great Britain, France, and other European countries.(10) His films were exhibited, and occasionally shown on television; a documentary on the artist was produced in Great Britain in 1984.(11)

Possibilities of a Dialogue
Dimensions of Dialogue

Despite Švankmajer's West European successes, his work remains practically unknown in North America. Even to well informed film audiences and most professional film historians and critics, Švankmajer's name means little. Only his animation-live action feature Alice (1988), found its way onto the screens of a few large American and Canadian cities.(12) This was, however, a hesitant release. In Toronto, for example, the film was shown only a few times; the newspaper advertisements offered no useful references indicating the nature of this work or information about its author and his work. As could be expected after such neglect, the film did not do well at the box office and quickly disappeared from the theatres.(13) Švankmajer's other shorts have not been distributed in North America at all, neither theatrically nor by the television networks, including the American PBS, Canadian CBC, and the non-commercial TV Ontario. Indeed, the restricted marketing of Švankmajer's films in the West has been very similar to their ostracism by the Czechoslovak Communist authorities, however different the reasons for it may have been.

Such coincidence should not surprise. Švankmajer is an artist who never conformed to stylistic nor political fashions. His films do not placate but question, examine, and provoke; often, they conjure haunting images of a bewildering, absurd and violent universe.

The artist addresses his viewers mainly through the aesthetic impact of his images -- their composition, colour, shapes, texture and naturally, their contextuality. The narrative component in Švankmajer's works (if present at all) is usually subordinated to their visual element. For example, dialogue is absent in most of his films; among the few exceptions are Alice and The Garden (1968). Also, his use of accompanying music is unconventional, with frequent counterpoints. In more ways than one, it differs from the illustrative, dramatizing melodies of the traditional Disney-type cartoon. Švankmajer has always had close aesthetic ties with visual arts. Before he embarked upon a filmmaker's career, the artist mostly devoted himself to drawings, collages and the creation of a variety of objets d'art (1958-1964).

The range of Švankmajer's film techniques is wide. He uses object animation and live action; his preferred approach is the combination of these two techniques. "I don't like the cartoon and I prefer to place my imaginary world into reality," says the director.(14) Švankmajer often assembles clipped drawings into a collage (including film clips.)(15) One can say, he would animate almost anything: man-made objects, live and stuffed animals, plants, insects, bones, tools, all kinds of refuse, a variety of found objects, and others. Sometimes, he constructs almost the entire film in live action and complements it with a few short moments of animation. For instance, the animated "crawling potatoes" in his live-action picture Down to the Cellar (1983) endow this almost documentary-like short with a bizarre surreal twist.(16) In Leonardo's Diary (1972), Alice, Apartment (1968), and other films, an equally effective combination of animation with live action is used.

Švankmajer invariably approaches animation in a non-traditional way, preferring innovative three-dimensional techniques. Such is the case in Possibilities of a Dialogue.(17) In the first of this film's three episodes (or "dialogues"), the director transforms some of the most mundane and utilitarian manufactured objects and food items, including rulers, compasses, cutlery, paper, pencils, fruits and vegetables, into bizarre agents of metaphorical destruction.(18) In the second "Dialogue," he animates unbaked sculpting clay (formed into male and female upper torsos), achieving a stunningly realistic effect.(19)

One artistic domain is of special importance to Švankmajer: It is the puppet, the doll, the figurine, the primitive automaton. These are toys and other mechanical contraptions of the pre-industrial era which were not yet mass-produced; each of them is to a great degree a product of individual imagination and skill, indeed an objet d'art. The filmmaker is equally fascinated by the crude mechanical devices of the fairgrounds and mountebanks with their straightforward naiveté, and by the natural materials from which these gadgets were manufactured, especially wood.

Švankmajer is evidently extending the fertile traditions of Czech folk puppetry of the past two centuries.(20) He is also continuing the renowned legacy of the Czech puppet-film and experimental animation brought to mastery by Karel Zeman (The Fabulous Baron Munchhausen), and Jiří Trnka (A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Hand). Yet Švankmajer's definition of the film puppet is considerably broader than Zeman's or Trnka; unlike the traditionally poetic-lyrical approach of the two above-mentioned artists, this director often explores the bizarre, the dark and the absurd.

Švankmajer also expands the range of combinatory techniques (live action and animation) that connect him with Trnka and Zeman. Already in his early short The Last Trick of Mr. Schwarcewalld and Mr. Edgar (1964), the two main figurine-like characters are in fact live actors wearing large wooden masks covering their heads and shoulders; in The Coffin Shop (1966), hand-puppets share the stage with a live guinea-pig;(21) in Don Juan (1970), live actors are fitted with strings and special harnesses and trained to move mechanically so as to simulate life-size marionettes. And in Alice, the "live" little heroine inhabits a fantastic world of animated images.

Don Juan
Švankmajer directing Don Juan

Many of these techniques help to create a world of ambiguity, closing the gap between living creatures and inanimate objects. While people are often made to act like robots, the inanimate objects show a considerable degree of anthropomorphism. They get into mischief, fights, often savagery, including decapitation, infanticide, suicide, and cannibalism. One of the most subtle yet haunting scenes in this respect is the "jackknife table-dance" in Jabberwocky (1971). At the beginning it looks like an animated variation of the famous "oceana-roll dance" in Chaplin's Gold Rush -- but its haunting conclusion is unmistakably Švankmajer: The jackknife, jumping and twisting on a table covered with a white laced tablecloth suddenly stops its dance and falls flat, its switch-blade vehemently closing with an audible snap; a dark red trickle slowly pours out of the knife's "body." In another scene of the same film, a little "happy family" of innocent-looking children's dolls cutely dine at a small toy-table -- their meal consists of other cute dolls, who, have just been crushed in a (real) meat grinder.

The selection of objects and image composition are complemented by Švankmajer's considerable editorial imagination and skill. He often manipulates streams of images through rapidmontage, such as in Historia Naturae (1967), Leonardo's Diary, Quiet Week in a House (1969) and in other shorts, offering amazing and original associations, a kind of kinetic collage. Images are often combined with music, resulting in a sophisticated form of rhythmical montage. Švankmajer often uses an unusual montage technique which may well be considered his signature -- the use of big close-ups unexpectedly juxtaposed with the main action.

One of the most effective examples of this powerful technique can be found in the live-action absurdist short The Garden. In this film, the viewer is repeatedly assailed by disturbing big close-ups such as a detail of one of the two main character's Adam's apples. These images cause their otherwise innocuous conversation to appear mysterious and disquieting.(22)

Much about Švankmajer's aesthetics and philosophy can be explained by pointing to his adherence to surrealism. He has been an active member of the Prague Surrealist group since 1963. During the 1970s, he produced a series of collage art including tactile experimentations through which he examines links between the senses, specifically between sight and touch.(23) And, in the late 1980s, he edited an impressive surrealist anthology entitled Open Game (Otevřená hra) which appeared in the then Communist Czechoslovakia as an underground Samizdat publication.(24)

Švankmajer's surrealist orientation is an essential element in almost all his films. He draws from sources dear to many surrealists including Edgar A. Poe, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Lewis Carroll, Horace Walpole, Luis Buñuel, and Federico Fellini.(25) His symbolism and visual structures are also linked to surrealist imagery, particularly those used in the films The Apartment, Jabberwocky, and Alice. This includes some typical surrealist details like Buñuelesque insects. In the Last Trick..., for example, a beetle repeatedly crawls out of the heads of the main characters.(26)

Another significant source of Švankmajer's inspiration, (also tied to surrealism), has been the work of Franz Kafka. Says Švankmajer: "In our civilization, the dream, that natural wellspring of the imagination, is constantly blocked, and in its place we find absurdity which grants precedence to our 'scientific, rational system.'"(27) References to Kafkaesque absurdity abound in the Garden, produced in 1968, a fateful year for all Czechs and Slovaks.(28) The film's narrative is constructed around a subtle confrontation between two male characters. One of them is evidently a Novotný-era conformist who managed to build for himself a comfortable life in an agreeable country home.(29) The other man is apparently an old friend who did not do so well. Švankmajer reveals the manipulative nature as well as social status of the former in a most original way: The fence around his home and spacious garden is made of a human chain -- they stand there holding hands, quietly obeying their master's orders.(30)

In The Apartment, a series of absurd incidents follow one another (water rushes out of the stove, a chair collapses under the hapless hero, a hard-boiled egg breaks any object which is normally used to crack it, etc.) These unexpected events prevent the young man from enjoying his apartment in the usual way. It is in the conclusion of this film that Švankmajer offers another absurdist metaphor, and a direct homage to Kafka. After opening a window and finding behind it only a solid brick wall with scratched-on inscriptions and graffiti, the disillusioned and desperate hero adds his name: "Josef K."(31)

Švankmajer's manifest concern for the human condition and the questions of culture, his black humour and understanding of life's absurdities reflect the historical experience of his own country and that of Central Europe. Through his work, now stretching over three decades, Švankmajer has strived to expand the traditional definition of the animated film, beyond the limited concept of the Disney cartoon aesthetics. Without doubt he has succeeded, both philosophically, and through new stylistic and formal advances.


1. Editorial introduction to "Dossier Animation 1," Positif 345, p.36.

2. Julian Petley, Monthly Fi lm Bulletin 53, No. 629, p. 188.

3. The length of Švankmajer's shorts is traditionally 10-15 minutes; there are very few exceptions.

4. In 1985, the festival in Annecy (JICA) organized a Švankmajer retrospective. For this occasion, it also published a brochure edited by the Swiss surrealist Gilles Dunant, Jan Švankmajer l'animateur (Geneva, 1985).

5. After the 1989 "velvet revolution," all bans on films were lifted.

6. For example, the script for Down to the Cellar was rejected by the Prague Krátký film Studios; following a considerable struggle, the Bratislava Short Film Studios accepted the project. After its completion, the Czechoslovak authorities refused the initial request from the Oberhausen Festival organisers, to enter the film into competition, but they reluctantly gave up. Down to the Cellar won the Prize of the Critique.

7. Projects entitled Bleděmodrovous (Palebluebeard), Hmyz (Insects), Nikde Nikdo (Nobody Nowhere) belong to this category.

8. Some information on Švankmajer is also missing from issues of the Filmový přehled, a publication of the Czechoslovak Film Institute.

9. Veronika Kratochvílová, "Vytvarníci animované tvorby," Film a doba 34, (October 1988), 597.

10. This film was awarded Grand Prix, and Prix FIPRESCI at the prestigious festival in Annecy, the Golden Bear and Jury Award in the short film category at the Berlin Film Festival, Prize for Direction at Mannheim, and festival prizes in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.

11. The 14-minute film called The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer -- Prague's Alchemist of Film was directed by the Quay brothers and Keith Griffiths. Both Griffiths and the Quay deserve special credit for informing audiences about Švankmajer's films. Griffiths' London-based production company Koninck participated in other Švankmajer projects, such as the production of Alice.

12. It is very probable that the commercial release of this film was helped by the reputation of its literary model by Lewis Carroll.

13. It is now available on laserdisc.

14. Michel Ciment and Lorenzo Codelli, "Entretien avec Jan Švankmajer," Positif No. 345, p.45.

15. The influence of Jiří Kolář on some of his earlier films, such as Punch and Judy/The Coffin Shop (1966) and Leonardo's Diary (1972), is indisputable.

16. This film reveals the influence of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland; it is without doubt a prototype of Alice.

17. Traditional cartoon animation (the Disney school, for example) prefers drawings.

18. This episode also illustrates Švankmajer's affinity to the Mannerists, particularly to the flamboyant style of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th-century painter of the Emperor Rudolph II's cosmopolitan Prague. One of Švankmajer's earlier films, the Historia Naturae, was dedicated to Rudolph II.

19. The animator Vlasta Pospíšilová also deserves credit for her creative contribution.

20. Švankmajer studied puppetry at the AMU in Prague between 1954-1958. He also worked with the Semafor theatre, the Činoherní klub, and the famous Laterna Magika.

21. Often, Švankmajer includes a number of distancing techniques pointing to the medium; in The Coffin Shop, for example, the viewer sees the hands that operate the two puppets.

22. Only few directors use this technique. One of them is the Polish-born filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk who employed it in his film Blanche (1971).

23. Švankmajer regularly exhibits his artworks, often with his wife Eva Švankmajerová, a gifted surrealist painter. Similarly, his wife participates in his filmmaking; for example, she painted the playing cards and created the yellow book for his Alice.

24. The leading personality of the Surrealist group was, until 1986, Vratislav Effenberger (1923-1986); other members include Karol Baron, František Dryje, Jiří Koubek, Albert Marenčín, Emila Medková, Alena Nádvorníková, Martin Stejskal and Ludvík Šváb. The anthology, professionally printed and bound, was published clandestinely as a paperback of 210 pages with 89 monochrome illustrations. The print run was 100 copies.

25. He was inspired by Poe in his The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum; by Carroll in his Jabberwocky, Alice, and Down to the Cellar.

26. In the classic of surrealist cinema, Un Chien Andalou, made by Buñuel and Dalí (1928), a swarm of ants crawls out of the palm of a hand of a male character.

27. In Amos Vogel, "Hallo Berlin," Film Comment 24, No 3, May-June 1988, p. 63.

28. On April 20, five Soviet-led Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia, ending the short-lived liberal "Prague Spring" of the Alexander Dubček Government.

29. Antonín Novotný was the Communist President of Czechoslovakia of the pre-1968 era.

30. The two main characters from Švankmajer's The Garden, their mutual relationship, their social position and behaviour, in more ways than one foreshadow the characters in Václav Havel's Vaněk one-act plays.

31. A window hiding a solid wall behind it, appeared also in Pavel Juráček's acclaimed short Joseph Kilián (1963).


  • Adamec, Oldřich. "Animované filmy Jana Švankmajera." Film a doba 11 (Oct. 1966), 559- 60, 563-64.
  • Benayoun, Robert. "Jan Švankmajer et ses paliers (Alice)." Positif, N. 346, 46-47.
  • Ciment, Michel, and Lorenzo Codelli. "Entretien avec Jan Švankmajer." Positif No. 345, 45-47.
  • Codelli, Lorenzo. "Annecy 1985." Positif, No.297 (Nov. 1985), 32-37.
  • Dunant, Gilles, (ed.) Jan Švankmajer, l'animateur. Annecy: JICA, 1985. (Special publica tion for the Animated Film Festival.)
  • Effenberger, Vratislav. "Between Idea and Reality: Švankmajer's Castle of Otranto." Afterimage 13, Autumn 1987, 44-46.
  • _____. "Jabberwocky." Afterimage 13, Autumn 1987, 46-50.
  • _____. "Švankmajer on the Fall of the House of Usher." Afterimage 13, Autumn 1987, 33- 37.
  • Field, Simon. "Jabberwocky." Monthly Film Bulletin 53 (July 1986), 222.
  • Goulding, Daniel J. (ed.) Post New Wave Cinema in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1989.
  • Král, Petr. "Questions à Jan Švankmajer." Positif, No.297 (Nov. 1985), 38-44.
  • _____. "Two Interviews." Afterimage 13, Autumn 1987, 22-32.
  • Kratochvílová, Veronika. "Výtvarníci animované tvorby. Film a doba 34 (Oct. 1988), 595- 99.
  • Natus-Šalamounová, Eva. "Annecy 1989." Film a doba 35 (Dec. 1989), 715-19.
  • O'Pray, Michael. "A Švankmajer Inventory." Afterimage 13, Autumn 1987, 10-21.
  • _____. "Byt (The Flat)." Monthly Film Bulletin 53 (July 1986), 220.
  • _____. "Do pivnice (Down to the Cellar). Ibid., 220-21.
  • _____. "In the Capital of Magic." Ibid., 218-19.
  • _____. "Jan Švankmajer -- Militant Surrealist." Ibid., 224.
  • Paranagua, Paulo Antonio. "Hommage à Jan Švankmajer surrealiste tchèque." Positif, No.224 (Nov. 1979), 58-60.
  • Petit, Chris. "Picked-up Pieces." Monthly Film Bulletin 53 (June 1986), 164-65.
  • Petley, Julian. "Historia Naturae, Suita." Monthly Film Bulletin 53 (July 1986), 221-22.
  • _____. "Možnosti dialogu (Dimensions of a Dialogue)." Ibid., 222-23.
  • _____. "The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer -- Prague's Alchemist of Film." Monthly Film Bulletin 53 (June 1986), 188-89.

  • Pošová, Kateřina. "Byt: Nastavené zrcadlo Jana Švankmajera." Film a doba 12 (July 1968), 352-56.
  • _____. "Jan Švankmajer--Historia naturae." Ibid., 15 (Sept. 1969), 501-503.
  • _____. "Jan Švankmajer--Tichý týden v domě." Ibid., 504-505, 507.
  • _____. "Splacený dluh Jana Svankmajera--Don Šajn." Ibid., 16 (April 1970), 225-26.
  • "Possibilities of a Dialogue." Czechoslovak Film, No. 2 (1983), 12-13.
  • Reveaux, Tony. "A Dark Looking Glass." Artweek, April 1988, 6.
  • Roudevitch, Michel. "La voix publique et le manteau d'Alice." Positif No. 345, 42-44.
  • Strick, Philip. "Poslední trik Pana Schwarcewalldea a Pana Edgara." Monthly Film Bulletin 53 (July 1986), 223.
  • S., L. "Jan Švankmajer o svém novém filmu Zánik domu Usherů. Film a doba 28 (May 1982), 293-95.
  • Šváb, Ludvík. "Vídeňská menu Jana Švankmajera." Film a doba 39, No. 2 (Summer 1993), 91-93.
  • Švankmajer, Jan. "Three Scenarios." Afterimage 13, Autumn 1987, 38-43.
  • _____. "Něco z Alenky." (Excerpts from the script.) Film a doba 35 (Sept. 1989), 492-99.
  • Švankmajer, Jan (ed.) Otevřená hra. (Anthology of the Prague Surrealist Group Activities 1969-79). Czechoslovakia: (Samizdat, 1985?).
  • Ulver, Stanislav. "C-Fd.: 1993." Film a doba 39, No. 1 (Spring 1993), 39-40.
  • Vogel, Amos. "Hallo Berlin." Film Comment 24, No. 3, (May-June 1988), 62-67.


  • Poslední trik pana Schwarcewalldea a pana Edgara (The Last Trick of Mr. Schwarcewalld and Mr. Edgar) ; 10:45 min; live action with animation. Awards: Diplôme spécial, Bergamo 1964; Filmdukaten, Mannheim 1964; Prix de la première oeuvre, Tours, 1964; Premio Dirección General de la Cultura, Buenos Aires, 1964.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Fantasia g-moll; 8 min; animated with live action. Awards: Oesterreichischer Kulturfilmpreis, 1966.
  • Rakvičkárna (Punch and Judy); 10 min; puppets with animation and live action. Awards: Filmdukaten Mannheim, 1966; Josef von Sternberg Preis, Mannheim, 1968.
  • Et cetera; 8 min; animated. Awards: Grand Prize, Short Film Festival, Karlovy Vary (CZ), 1967; Hauptpreis, Oberhausen, 1967; Trilobit 1967 (Prize of CSFU).


  • Historia naturae (suita); 9 min; animated. Awards: Main Prize, Experimental film category, Kroměříž (CZ), 1967; Max Ernst Prize, Oberhausen, 1968.


  • Zahrada (The Garden); 19 min; live action. Awards: Lion of St. Marco, Venice Short Film Festival, 1968.
  • Byt (The Flat/The Apartment); 13 min. Live action with animation. Awards: Grand Prize, Oberhausen, 1969. Grand Prize, Ars-Film Kroměříž (CZ), 1968. Trilobit (Prize of CSFU), 1968.
  • Picknick mit Weissmann (A Picnic with Weissmann); 13 min. Animated cartoon.


  • Tichý týden v domě (A Quiet Week in the House); 13 min. Live action with animation. Awards: Prize in Oberhausen, 1971. Prize for Best Experimental Film, Tampere, Finland, 1971.


  • Don Šajn (Don Juan); 30 min. Live action. Awards: Grand Prize, ARS-Film, Kroměříž (CZ), 1970. Prize of the Czechoslovak Ministry of Culture.
  • Kostnice (The Ossuary); 10 min. A documentary. This film exists in two versions: 1. With the commentary of the Sedlec Ossuary Guide. 2. With a musical soundtrack and the poem by Jacques Prévert, "Comment dessiner le portrait d'un oiseau."


  • Jabberwocky; 14 min. Live action with animation. Awards: Grand Prize in Animated Film category, Oberhausen, 1974. Silver Phoenix, Atlanta, 1974.


  • Leonardův deník (Leonardo's Diary); 10 min.


  • Otrantský zámek (The Castle of Otranto); 15 min.
  • Zánik domu Usherů (The Fall of the House of Ushers); 15 min. Live photography with animation. Awards: Golden Dragon, Short Film Festival, Cracow, 1982. Prize FICC. Prize of the Public, Festival of Fantasy Films, Porto, 1982.
  • Možnosti dialogu (Possibilities of a Dialogue/Dimensions of a Dialogue); 12 min. Animated (3-D animation). Awards: Golden Bear, Short Film Category, Berlin FF, 1983. Jury Award, Short Film Category, Berlin FF, 1983. Grand Prix, Annecy 1983. Prix FIPRESCI, Annecy 1983. Prize for Direction, Melbourne 1983. Prize for Animated Film, Melbourne 1983. P. Stuyvesant Prize, Melbourne 1983. Main Prize, Short Film category, Sydney 1983.
  • Do pivnice (Do sklepa/Down to the Cellar); 15 min. Live action with animation. Awards: Critique Award, Oberhausen, 1983.
  • Kyvadlo, jáma a naděje (The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope); 15 min.
  • Alice; 86 min. Live action with animation. Awards: Best Film (Animated Feature Category), Annecy.
  • Mužné hry (Virile Games); 17 min. Live action with animation.
  • Tma světlo tma (Darkness, Light, Darkness); 7 min.
  • Smrt stalinismu v Cechách (The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia); 10 min.
  • Jídlo (Food); 14 min.
  • Faust; Animation with live action. Starring Petr Čepek. 92 min.
  • Conspirators of Pleasure (Spiklenci slasti) UK/Germany/Switzerland/Czech Republic, colour, 85 min. Live action with animation.
  • Greedy Guts (aka Little Otik; Otesánek) Czech Republic/Great Britain/Japan, colour 127 min. Live action with animation.

Unrealized scripts:

  • Bleděmodrovous (Palebluebeard)
  • Hmyz (Insects)
  • Nikde nikdo (Nobody Nowhere)
  • Útěk z deprese (The Flight from Depression)
The unrealized works were conceived mostly between 1970-1978. Švankmajer wrote a number of other manuscripts.