June 9, 2017

Venice in Relief (II)

        Here’s the second half of the relief block prints of Venice, Italy, showing some recurring themes, and some additional variety.  We begin from a distance, with an iconic gondola looking back at the iconic skyline.  I especially like the silhouette of the architecture looking like cut paper in this piece by Posterity Press.
        Moving closer, we approach the Piazza San Marco from the Grand Canal in a funny little piece that is the oldest view of Venice I have for you, by an anonymous artist from 1486.  If you notice, this is a mirror image of Venice’s
actual orientation, with the Palazzo Ducale and the winged lion pillar on the left instead of the right.  This may be evidence that the picture was copied from another; if a direct copy is used to carve a block, the whole image gets flipped when printed.  But despite its age, I think this is really quite a modern-looking piece: the elevated view, the almost Cubist flattening of the buildings and their perspective, and the gondoliers simplified into hieroglyphics.
        Moving in just a little closer, we see the same view in photographic accuracy and detail.  This is an enormous print - I count fourteen blocks on fourteen sheets of paper joined together.  It represents a procession of the doge, and you can see all kinds of people, and quite a few dogs, busy with their myriad activities.  The perspective is precise, the architecture shows every brick and flourish, and the water looks quite alarmingly choppy.  As if all that weren’t spectacular enough, Amman has also shown the heavens opening and some sort of divine apparition lending its countenance to the proceedings.
        Flying right on into the Piazza San Marco to focus on the Basilica, Frasconi’s portrait of the church is more symbolic than photographic.  He’s used intense colors and even gold ink to highlight the magnificence of the building.  The pattern on the ground is representative rather than strictly accurate, and if you didn’t know better, you’d get the impression that this building stands on its own, rather than being part of an enclosing courtyard.
        Focussing closer yet in this piece by Mietta, here’s a glimpse of just a section of paving, bridge, and walls.  It’s one little snapshot of the city, not a grand vista, and an anonymous corner rather than one of the famous postcard locations.  When I make block prints of famous places, I too usually try to figure out a less common view, or a way to show it that will somehow be different from the way everyone else has shown it.
        And the final piece I have for you today is an altogether different approach to capturing Venice.  Instead of a single view or scene, it’s a montage of greatest hits.  All different famous architectural elements are combined, collaged together, into a grand impression of Venice-ness.  It becomes a celebration of pattern, and I like all the different patterns of arches and windows.
        (For a final bonus, you can revisit Fritz Eichenberg's gorgeous yet menacing view of a Venetian canal in this previous post, and Yoshijiro Urishibara's Ponte Santa Paternina here.)
        So why all the sudden interest in Venice?  After years and years of dreaming, I will be visiting Venice this summer.  As you can imagine, I’m really looking forward to it, and hoping to come home with some photos, sketches, and inspiration for block prints of my own.

[Pictures: Death in Venice, linocut by Matt (Image from Etsy shop PosterityPress);
Wood block illustration from Supplementum chronicarum by Giacomo Filippo Foresti da Bergamo, 1486 (Image from Internet Archive);
Procession of the Doge to the Bucintoro on Ascension Day, with a View of Venice, woodcut by Jost Amman, c 1565 (Image from The Met);
Basilica San Marco, color woodcut by Antonio Frasconi from Veduti di Venezia, 1969 (Image from The Veatchs);
Venice, Italy, linocut print by Miette, 2013 (Image from Etsy shop MietteGoesPlaces);
Helena’s Italy, lino print by Emma Pinnock (Image from Etsy shop Studio Pinnock).]

2 comments:

  1. Really enjoy your blog. Unusual and well-written, thanks for sharing your interests and knowledge in this way.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoy it! Thanks for commenting. =)

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