Ursus Rare Books has issued a catalogue of Avant-Garde Application & Illustration. The great majority of works herein, not surprisingly, come from the early to mid-twentieth century. That was a time when artistic norms were being turned on their heads. Dada, surrealism, cubism – accuracy of portrayal was no longer the point. Even photography became more artistic than factual presentation of reality. These artists were the “advance guard” of new art forms and nothing would ever be quite the same again. Here are a few selections from this latest Ursus catalogue.
In the early twentieth century, even late nineteenth, a movement began to appear known as Expressionism. Rather than using art to depict objective reality, the artist would use his art to express emotions. An example everyone knows is Edward Munch's The Scream. Art does not get more expressive and emotional than that. Item 3 is Die Traumenden Knaben (the dreaming youths) consisting of ten lithographs by Oskar Kokoschaka. At the time this was published (1908), Kokoschaka was an unknown young artist, whose images reflected the story of his youth. It was controversial in the feelings expressed and few copies were sold until many years later. The experience moved him into the avant-garde movement in Vienna as it developed shortly before and during the Great War. Priced at $50,000.
Next is La Carte Surréaliste, a set of 21 surrealist postcards from 1937 produced by Georges Hugnet. It is in rare, still uncut condition. Hugnet was a French graphic artist, writer, poet, publisher, book collector, and several other things. He was closely associated with the surrealist movement in the 1930s. Hugnet developed friendships with numerous artists in Paris, which undoubtedly made it possible to publish this set of postcards, as they feature the artwork of many of the great names of the 1930s. The mostly unpublished artwork includes the work of Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Oscar Dominguez, Dora Maar, Roland Penrose, Joan Miró, Hans Arp, Salvador Dali, Marcel Jean, René Magritte, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Jacqueline Breton and Hugnet himself. Item 56. $3,500.
Item 63 will be of great interest to those who appreciate the work of Andy Warhol, a creative artist of a somewhat later time than most others in this catalogue. It is a “nearly complete collection” of Warhol's early work as an illustrator of magazine covers and book dust jackets. Ursus notes that “This aspect of Warhol's creative output is little known, little collected, and the material has largely been ignored.” The items in this collection mostly date from after Warhol arrived in New York from Pittsburgh in 1949. There are ten magazine covers, including five from Time, Esquire, Vogue, Playboy and Opera News. There are all but one dust jacket cover from the 1950s and 1960s excluding the seven limited editions Warhol published himself. Ursus describes these as “extremely rare and are now virtually impossible to find on the market.” $49,500.
When one thinks of Soviet architecture the image that likely comes to mind is some dull, gray, box-shaped apartment building. That's not surprising since that's what it was. But, occasionally, something would break through, although it may have been more in the imagination. Item 45 is Arkhitekturniie Fantazii (architectural fictions) from Iakov Chernykov, published in 1933. This is filled with illustrations - cities, factories, monumental buildings and more. There are 101 amazing inventions, in “one of the most exciting books on architecture issued in the twentieth century.” Of course, they weren't building things anything like Chernykov's designs in the Soviet Union, nor anywhere else for that matter, but it “provides a pattern book for modernist architecture, rather than a repertoire of viable designs.” This was printed in 3,000 copies but few exist today. $9,750.
This is an unusual alphabet book, not likely for children. Its title is ABECEDA, published in 1926. The verses were written by Vitezslav Nezval while the photographs were taken by Karel Paspa. The alphabet is portrayed by Czech dancer Milca Mayerova. That is accurate – Mayerova has posed in the form of the letters for Paspa's camera. However, she was a dancer and choreographer, and danced the alphabet in the theater as well as posing it for the camera. Item 26. $5,850.