Archive for the 'journal' Category
Copenhagen Comics this past weekend was a blast. Thanks for the memories. More soon.
Apparently the picture above was sold at auction in Switzerland last week. It went for €460,000 at hammer, which is a hell of a lot for a picture described as copied after Titian in the sales catalogue. Clearly several bidders suspected it might be the real thing.
Brendor Grosvenor of Philip Mould informs us that the picture is extremely dirty, which makes fair judgement difficult, as does the inferior digital reproduction. My immediate reaction was that it looks like the so-called Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione in Dublin, a picture which is usually dated 1523, because we know that Castiglione (1478-1529) visited Venice that year. The identification of the sitter in the picture, however relies mostly on what is clearly a later annotation at top right. The likeness, if compared to confirmed portraits of Castiglione such as the famous one by Raphael, is slight, and stylistically the Dublin picture looks to me to be from around 1530 or even somewhat later.
Returning to the picture at hand, it shows the same conception of figure: not only is the sitter posed very similarly, with an opening toward a landscape at left, but the device of him looking into space, as if in thought, with a proud, slightly elevated demeanor seems to me to be something Titian developed around this time, and would later take to great heights in his humanist portraits of the following decades.
That being said, the picture does not immediately strike me as by the master himself. The handling of colour in the face especially seems to me a little to dry and overbaked, with none of the vibrancy of Titian. The hand looks better though and the rest of the picture is impossible to judge.
I may of course be entirely wrong: working from a reproduction is unreliable at the best of times and this particular image is exceptionally muddled, as apparently is the painting itself. Also, Titian’s quality of finish did vary, as is evident from the recently upgraded Portrait of Gerolamo Fracastoro at the National Gallery — an attribution that I’m coming around to, even if the picture is discouraging in terms of its quality. Lastly, the painting may have been retouched by a later hands, as often happens — especially with damaged pictures.
I do not know who Gabriel Solitus of Ferrara was and have not had the time to look him up. Obviously, any serious investigation of the painting would have to take into account this identification, which was presumably added to the painting by somebody other than the artist in a cartouche at upper right, reproduced separately at the auctioneer’s entry for the painting. Incidentally, the Dublin portrait carries its annotation in the same area.
Tomorrow, I travel to Rendsburg in Schleswig, Northern Germany, to participate in the Baltic Comic seminar and workshop held at Nordkolleg cultural center. I am to give the keynote along with comics critic and historian Klaus Schikowski and it promises to be a fun event. I hope to see some of you there and will write more about it upon my return.
Baltic Comic is a recently founded network for comics in the Baltic region, comprising of course the Nordic and Baltic countries, along with Poland, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands. There’s a lot happening here up North!
Som tidligere nævnt sad jeg i juryen for Politikens tegneseriekonkurrence. Tidligere i dag annonceredes vinderen, såvel som anden- og tredjepladsen. Maren Uthaug tog førstepladsen med Ting, jeg gjorde — en version af hendes vidt læste blog. Nummer to blev Christoffer Zieler med Arbejdstitler, mens tredjepladsen gik til Johan F. Krarups Uoplyst optimisme. En fornem vinderakkompagneret af to fornemme runners-up.
Denmark has a new museum for comics! Well, sort of, and as good as. As of today it is official: the collections of the long dormant Danish Comics Museum have now found a permanent home at the Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen. This means that the latter, a long-standing and well-respected museum dedicated to the greatest Danish cartoonist (1882-1949), now expands its scope to encompass comics as a medium and art form, with ambitions to maintain, expand and conduct research.
The man of the hour is Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen, whom one might call the Bill Blackbeard of Danish comics. Educated as a librarian, he was inspired early on in his career systematically to collect Danish comics publications, eventually amassing an expansive collection covering the century-long history of Danish comics, with a nearly complete collection of all comics published in Denmark since 1950. This collection formed the basis of the Danish Comics Museum, which Hjorth-Jørgensen opened in Gørlev, in Western Sealand, in 1993. The museum however closed its doors in 2001, living on in different makeshift incarnations, first at the nearby library, since at Kalundborg Museum, as well as a rich online resource on Danish comics.
As of now, the museum is no more. The collection has been transferred to the Storm P. Museum within which it will be titled the Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen Collection. The Storm P. Museum, under the leadership of director Iben Overgaard, has agreed to maintain and continue to build the collection, as well as make it available to scholars and the public at large. This is a major event in Danish comics, securing for posteriority this important piece of Danish cultural history, while further consolidating the Storm P. Museum as a central institution for Danish comics and cartooning.
The idea to thus secure the Hjorth-Jørgensen collection originated with the Danish Comics Council, with art historian Louise C. Larsen, journalist Søren Vinterberg, and yours truly midwifing the negotiations between the director of the Storm P. Museum and Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen. We are overjoyed with the agreement they reached. A great day for comics in Denmark.
Oh right, here I am talking about the news on Danish radio. And if you’re in town, do show up at the museum on 7 February at 5pm for the official reception, featuring live cartooning and much more.
So, Cool Comics — the exhibition I co-curated at Gammel Holtegaard (greater Copenhagen) — is over. For a show running just a month on a modest budget and with very little prep time, I was impressed with what they pulled off at the gallery and it seems it was a success, with a good number of visitors and lots of media coverage through its run.
The director Mads Damsbo is really dedicated to showcasing the intersection between popular culture and high art and is planning to continue to do so in the coming years with new iterations of the Cool Comics idea. Color me excited that we have a gallery that devotes its energy simultaneously to such forms as comics, animation and digital media and to once popular, now enshrined high art such as the drawings of François Boucher — the object of a world class selection of drawings displayed beautifully at Gammel Holtegaard just prior to Cool Comics.
Click on over to the Bunker’s photo page to experience our virtual walk-through of the exhibition courtesy of our ailing Canon Ixus camera. Enjoy, and keep an eye on future shows at Gammel Holtegaard!
The week in review
This holiday week, I thought I’d share a couple of insightful nuggets pertaining to particular corners of the hip hop and comics worlds that are dear to me. Little gifts of extemporal criticism, if you will. First up is cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert on the genius of André Franquin, creator of Gaston Lagaffe, from this interview on the former’s latest — great! — book L’Enfance d’Alan:
I recently gave a talk on Franquin at a library seminar. I kind of went on a tirade to express my great appreciation I have for certain people, and especially him. This was a guy who, to me, lived his entire life, without filter. He endured perpetual and tremendous nervous stress because of his great sensitivity. Everything resonated with him: people, plants, animals, architecture… everything that surrounded him clearly affected him, haunted him, obsessed him… Naturally, this resulted in episodes of great melancholy, but this is how it had to be. When you have this human quality, which to me borders on the martyrological, there is inevitably an aspect of sacrifice. To capture the world, making the effort to do so when you’re possessed of a nervous temperament such as his, is restorative.
Franquin’s nervousness is something singular. When you read Gaston Lagaffe or Spirou with an understanding of its aspect of frustration, of repetition, of the wear and tear of daily life (that one never succeeds in signing a contract, for example [a reference to a running gag in Gaston])… all this explains the grinding of teeth, the difficulties his characters have with fitting in… and at the centre of all this, it felt natural for Franquin to place the character Gaston, who — in contrast to himself — remained entirely unaffected. I think it would be worthwhile to write about all this. Perhaps I’ll do so one day, but it’s amazing how far it goes. And I think this explains the intensity of the passion some people have for comics.
(The imperfect translation is mine). Next up is drummer and anchorman of the hip hop band The Roots, Questlove, ostensibly on Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s classic “It Takes Two”, from his enjoyable list of fifty favourite hip hop cuts from the beginnings to his own professional debut in 1995. What an occasion to talk about James Brown’s drummers?
For all of the James Brown/Clyde Stubblefield “Funky Drummer” sample folklore talk out there, I rarely hear conversation about the James Brown drummer who actually got sampled more than my idol Clyde did. John “Jabo” Starks was the Beatles to Clyde’s Stones. A clean shuffle drummer to Clyde’s free-jazz left hand. Clyde fit more with Public Enemy’s pop-art-rock sporadic vision. Emphasis on everything surrounding the one beat, thus making other parts of your body shake in order to keep up with his rhythm – see “Mother Popcorn,” “It’s A New Day” and “Give It Up or Turn It Loose.” Jabo’s sparse, all-on-the-one funk was more at home with conservative soul lovers – see “Hot Pants,” “Escapism” and “The Payback” – which is why it makes total sense that Clyde’s panic style was the anchor to drum and bass music and other experimental styles, while Jabo was the anchor of the New Jack Swing movement. He was always reliably on the one and never, ever in the way. Jabo’s go-to magnum opus was on the five-break-filled JB-produced “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins. James’ holy ghost yelp almost threatens to upstage Starks’ show, but it’s Starks’ steady glide that gave R&B music its blueprint some 15 years after its release.
It’s been several years coming, it has taken a lot of hard work, but now it is here: the first professional educational track for comics creators in Denmark. Today, The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark, announced their new four-year bachelor in graphic storytelling. And thus, a new chapter in Danish comics history seems to begin.
I believe this may well be a watershed for comics in Denmark. In our neighbouring country, Sweden, they have had two such programmes for over a decade and it has made a huge difference to local comics production, both in terms of quality and quantity. Although other factors have contributed, people in the know attribute the relative health of Swedish comics in large part to the schools in Stockholm and Malmö. So the potential here in Denmark seems evident.
For more than a decade, the Animation Workshop has been educating animators at a high level. It is an institution that enjoys great respect internationally, not the least because of its excellent guest lecturer/master class system. It is a primarily craft-oriented school, but the comics track is expressly defined as both market-oriented and auteur-driven. The idea is to educate cartoonists to develop their vision in comics form for application across as variety of media and platforms.
Director Morten Thorning and his team has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to have the programme approved by all the relevant instances. And we in the Danish Comics Council — particularly chairman Thomas Thorhauge along with Allan Haverholm, Lars Horneman, Kim Hagen, and Cav Bøgelund — have been along for the ride as consultants, instigators, and fellow advocates. Fruit of our labours and all that.
To read more about the new programme, please visit the website of The Animation Workshop. Non-Danes are more than welcome! And if you’re not already a member of The Danish Comics Council, please consider joining. Your membership makes a big difference to our work.
Illustration by Thomas Thorhauge.