June 22, 2012

The Fantastic J.J. Grandville

        Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard (1803-1847), known by his pseudonym J.J. Grandville, was a French caricaturist who first became famous for his illustrations of people with human bodies and the heads of animals.  He was acclaimed for his satire, and also for his proto-Surrealist visions, especially in the illustrations of Un Autre Monde (1844).
        You can see how these illustrations were inspirational to the Surrealists, and then later to many writers and artists of science fiction and fantasy, and now the steampunk movement.  Some of Grandville's work is grotesque and disturbing, some sly and cynical, some delightfully inventive, nutty, and beautiful.  I include here a few that I find especially appealing, but a web search will yield a lot more of his pictures.
        A note on his printing: I believe that most of Grandville's prints,
including those from Un Autre Monde, are lithographs.  Lithography is a method of printmaking where the image to be printed is drawn with an oil-based crayon onto a flat stone plate.  The process uses the fact that oil and water repel each other.  (For a detailed description, you can read up on the Wikipedia article.)  But for my purposes, what it really means is that there is no carving involved.  The final image looks just like the drawing it really is, not like a carving.  My prejudice, of course, is that this makes lithography merely a method of reproduction, rather than a medium of interest  and beauty in its own right.
(I would be happy to be convinced otherwise by any lithography artists out there!)  Still, they do count as printmaking, and at the very least, I count them as cool drawings!

[Pictures: Footbridge between worlds;
Beetle riding a frog-bird [Chimeras anyone?];
Mlle Tender et M. Tunnel, concert of steam cornet and soprano;
La Fosse aux Doublivores, all pictures are lithographs by J.J. Grandville from Un Autre Monde, 1844.
(Thanks to blacque_jacques's Flickr set of images.)]

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