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Carel Blazer (1911-1980)

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A great dutch photographer who is known for his Fifties and Sixties photography , but also for his active part in the resistance during WWII.

Some interesting periods during the life of Blazer made him a true international photographer.

After been educated at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich, he soon after travelled Spain to photograph the Civil war. After that period he travelled Italy and visited Rome to photograph this city which photographs were published in a book by Contact. Later there were travels to Asia and Sicily. On both occasions series of photographs were taken and published.

Willem Sandberg took an interest in these photographs and presented a selection at an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum which catalogue is available at www.ftnbooks.com

There are many titles which have these breathtaking Blazer photographs in them, so beside the ones that i have in my shop please locate 50’s and 60’s books at bookmarkets and look into the colofon to discover if photographs by Blazer are included.

 
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Henri Laurens (1885-1954)

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A long time i thought Laurens was not that important for Modern Art, but since i have seen his exhibition at the Museum Beelden aan Zee  ( catalogue available at www.ftn-books.com), I changed my ideas about his work. At first i thought him to be heavily inspired by Picasso, but in this show i discovered he really has a personal approach to art and a “signature” of his own.

left Picasso and right Laurens

He was a French sculptor best known for his Cubist collages, sculptures of nudes, and busts. The curving forms and simplified features of his oeuvre are reminiscent of ancient greek sculptures, though he also drew influence from his friendships with contemporary artists Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigiliani, Juan Gris, and Pablo Picasso. Born on February 18, 1885 in Paris, France, Laurens first worked as a stonemason before taking drawings classes and developing a strong interest in the works of Auguste Rodin. From 1914–1915 and extending until after the First World War, Laurens experimented with still lives and various new media, using wood and iron and eventually graduating to terracotta and bronze. He then went on to participate in the Venice Biennales of 1948 and 1950, and had a retrospective at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1951.

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Ben Shahn (1898-1969)

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Ben Shahn  is one of the older Modern Painters emerging in the 40’s and 50’s from the American art scene. Jewish background and born in Russia. After his marriage to mrs Goldstein he travelled North Africa and the great museums in Europe and this shows, because from that date the influence of Klee and Picasso can be recognized in his works. Later he developed a style of his own in which color was an important aspect in his paintings.

Shahn mixed different genres of art. His body of art is distinctive for its lack of traditional landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. Shahn used both expressive and precise visual languages, which he united through the consistency of his authoritative line. His background in lithography contributed to his devotion to detail Shahn is also noted for his use of unique symbolism, which is often compared to the imagery in Paul Klee’s drawings. While Shahn’s “love for exactitude” is apparent in his graphics, so too is his creativity. In fact, many of his paintings are inventive adaptations of his photography and that is an aspect i did not know before. The Ben Shahn catalogue designed by Willem Sandberg for the Stedelijk Museum and available at www.ftn-books.com shows exactly why i think Shahn is one of the more important painters from last century.

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Ivan Puni / Jean Pougny (1892-1956)

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I had never known this before, but now that i searched for Ivan Puni i found out that Jean Pougny and Puni are one and the same person. I knew that he stayed for most of his life in France and was succesful in France  and that must have been the reason that Puni became Pougny. the catalogue i have in my inventory is one of the best ones Willem Sandberg designed in the Fifties . It is a typical Sandberg designed catalogue and one of the first with tipped in color plates.

Puni received his formal training in Paris in 1910-11 at the Académie Julien and other schools, where he painted in a derivative fauvistestyle. Upon his return to Russia in 1912, he met, and exhibited with, members of the St Petersburg avant-garde, including Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin. He made a second trip to Paris in 1914, returning to St. Petersburg in 1915. At this point, he began painting in a Cubist style reminiscent of Juan Gris. In 1915, Puni, (Aleksandra Ekster, Liubov Popova, Ivan Kliun, Ksenia Boguslavskaya, Olga Rozanova, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Nina Genke and others) formed Supremus, a group of artists dedicated to the promulgation of Suprematism, the abstract art movement founded by Malevich. Malevich and Puni co-authored the Suprematist Manifesto, published in 1916, which proclaimed a new, abstract art for a new historical era. Puni also organized the exhibitions Tramway 5 and 0.10, both held in St Petersburg in 1915, in which Malevich, Tatlin, Popova and others participated, and to which Puni contributed constructions and paintings. In 1915-1916 Puni, together with other Suprematist artists, worked at Verbovka Village Folk Centre. In 1919, he taught at the Vitebsk Art School under Marc Chagall.

Puni and his wife, Kseniya Boguslavskaya, emigrated from Russia in 1919, first to Finland, then in 1920 to Berlin, where the first exhibition consisting entirely of his work was held at the Galerie der Sturm. While in Berlin, Puni also designed costumes and sets for theatrical productions. Puni and Boguslavskaya relocated to Paris in 1924, where his style changed once again to a variant of Impressionism. In France, he signed his work Jean Pougny in an effort to distance his new art practice from his previous one in Russia. In 1946, Puni/Pougny became a French citizen. He died in Paris in 1956.

www.ftn-books.com has Puni/Pougny titles available.

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Willem Sandberg… Experimenta Typographica 1943 – 68.

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As you can read in the title , Willem Sandberg experimented with typography and designs.

During the occupation by the Germans he published experimental books with his own typography. Mostly a combination of very original and personal lay-out and torn out letters, making these publications unique. Unique because of their chosen size, material, printing ,their design and the very limited numbers in which they were produced.

Sandberg produced nineteen pamphlets between December 1943 and April 1945, making a couple of copies of each one, all done by hand. They consisted of twenty to sixty pages of drawings, collages, and texts, which were either written by Sandberg himself or quoted from Confucius, Proudhon, Stendhal, and other favorite writers on themes like love, death, education, architecture, and typography. As Sandberg had no money and materials were scarce in wartime, he improvised by using whatever he could find: scraps of wallpaper, cardboard packaging, tissue paper, and wrapping paper together with photographs, drawings, and symbols torn from magazines for his collages.

The originals are very very rare and exceptionally hard to find. Luckily some of the dutch publishers decided to make some reprints and make them in this way available for other admirers. These reprints are getting more scarce every year now, but www.ftn-books.com still has some available.

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KD at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1963

 

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Willem Sandberg was a visionary designer and director for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He was one of the first who recognized the importance of designs by artists for daily used items and so he decided to invite 4 artist to design special curtains and tissues for a ” KD” exhibition/ Kunstenaars Dessins.

The artists? …Karel Appel, Jef Diederen, Ger Lataster and Dick Elffers. These four made some wonderful designs which were presented in the KD exhibition. With the exhibition a catalogue was published in 1963 which has become one of the rarest of Stedelijk Museum catalogues of all time. Three reasons why this has become rare. Less than 500 copies were made. The paper used was fragile and it was a thin catalogue of only 12 pages and folded and last but not least…. the photography was done by Ed van der Elsken which made the remaining copies desirable and collectable. Still at least one copy is still on the market and available at www.ftn-books.com

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Wim Crouwel….SM Gedrukt in Japan / 1967

Wim Crouwel is a regular name appearing in my blog. This is not only because i have many titles available at www.ftn-books.com, but mainly because i consider Wim Crouwel the most important graphic designer from last century. There are some that are important too and i think of Gerstner and Sandberg, but Wim Crouwel is in my opnion the absolute best. Wim Crouwel made some 200+ designs between 1960 and 1980 for the Stedelijk Museum, Among them posters, catalogues an folders and many have become iconic for graphic design in the Sixties. There was of course the VORMGEVERS catalogue which is in high demand and extremely hard to find, but the one i would like to discuss now is the GEDRUKT IN JAPAN catalogue, which has become rare and expensive too. It is of great graphici quality and although it is only 20 pages, for me it is the summit in design from the sixties. A simple but highly effective lay out. The use of Magenta on the front . The SM logo and underneath a very very fine line with below it one of the logo’s for the Osaka Art Festival . Published in 1967 with no. 407……it is perfection on the 20 pages.

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Jackson Pollock and the Stedelijk Museum.

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Willem Sandberg was the fan and admirer who initiated the first presentations of Jackson Pollock in Europe. The Stedelijk Museum presented on several occasions his art and during these exhibitions made acquisitions resulting in some of the most iconic and important paintings in their collection. Among them is REFLECTIONS OF THE BIG DIPPER from 1947.

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Reflection of the Big Dipper consists of built up layers of paint with dripped enamel as the final touch, concluding the composition. It was around 1947 that Jackson Pollock traded in his brushes for sticks, trowels and knives and began adding foreign matter, such as sand, broken glass, nails, coins, paint-tube tops and bottle caps to his canvases. From this point on, Pollock’s application of paint became his main theme, which he tried to radicalize. With the body of work he thus created, Pollock found a unique position within the concurrent Abstract-Expressionist movement. Reflection of the Big Dipper was exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1948, along with sixteen other paintings by Jackson Pollock. The show received positive reviews. Pollock’s works from this time are a transitional step between a more traditional handling of paint and his revolutionary technique of dripping paint on canvases off a large scale.

www.ftn-books.com has a nice selection of Stedelijk Museum  publications on Jackson Pollock available.

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“Negerkunst uit Centraal Afrika”

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Yesterday morning there was an article in the Volkskrant about the way art in museums by colored people and minorities must be described . The reason why the dutch museums are also looking for a desirable idiom is that also in dutch history there is a part of their history which is very doubtful. The catalogue which is in the title is the example which was given in the article ( available at www.ftn-books.com ). The exhibition was in those days, (which is very recent history) announced by the journalists and museum as “primitive art by natives inspired by western civilization a way of announcement as if we in Western Europe were civilized and others not.” A complete wrong way of describing the art from these artists. On the positive side…Sandberg was the one who thought these artists deserved a museum platform in the Stedelijk Museum as early as 1957. which was the place for these artists where they could, for the first time, present and show their art , side by side with Malevich and Mondrian. I can really understand why some words and expressions can not be used any longer, however …where a museum decides to remove an object from an exhibited collection and with this action denying some of the history from a country, should not be done…. in my opinion a better way would be to keep it within the collection and add an explanation why the museum thinks different nowadays about an object . This way explaining and not judging. Let the public judge for itself if the object is still beautiful or not.

negerkunst

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Centraal Museum Utrecht and book design

Every decade in Dutch design and typography has its own specialties. In the Interbellum there was the photomontage, Isotype and typography by Zwart, Schuitema and Arntz. After WWII , the Stedelijk MUseum was a source of inspiration for its director Willem Sandberg who made beautiful catalogues for his exhibitions in the Stedelijk. In the late fifties and early sixties Benno Wissing and Wim Crouwel lead the way in design, followed by the Total Design agency who had a leading role in dutch design in the seventies and eighties, which brings us to the Nineties. Here it becomes interesting. The large museums in the Netherlands practically all had their contracts with dutch “house” designers. Walter Nikkels for the van Abbemuseum, Swip Stolk for the Groninger Museum and Gracia Lebbink for the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag were such designers. And then there is the Centraal Museum. They had a very consistent publication program in which design , specially sized/formatted books and bindings were very important. www.ftn-books.com has some excellent examples of these publications for sale . I knew of course of these publications, but when i rearranged some of my inventory, it struck me that these publications are and will become more important in the world of book design every year from now. These publications are still available at reasonable prices , but it will not be long before others will recognize the importance of these books too.