The Stone Roses

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Music has for close to fifty years been a key component of the jigsaw of my life. I have loved music since I was a child captured by the exotica associated with some fine recording artists including Three Bob’s, Dylan – see my earlier post here – Bob Dylan  – Marley and Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles, The Doors, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and Tom Waits.

In later years, and for the best part of quarter of a century, I earned my living in the Law, specifically Music Law representing some fascinating entrepreneurs, vagabonds and minstrels. It paid the bills and kept my music opiates topped up. I met some truly extraordinary people, who often lived complicated but wonderful lives devoted to engaging and entertaining others. Equally, I have met a fair proportion of consummate egoists, disinterested in those who don’t pander to them.

Simply put, music talks to my soul. It evokes memories. It causes the recall of sights, sounds and emotions.

Asked for my favourite song – that’s easy – U2’s “One”. I can rarely listen that complete wonder of a composition without tears in my eyes.

My favourite – what we used to call “Album” – being a collection of several songs that the artist (or their record company) has deliberately chosen to join together in some overall theme, concept or message. Honestly, again, that’s an easy one, the 1989 iconic debut album of the Manchester band “The Stone Roses” is simply one of the most complete and luxuriously beautiful bodies of work ever collected onto a 12” vinyl record, 4” digital CD or stream.

Depending on the format and country of release, “The Stone Roses” comprises a minimum of 12 recording that lasso a time, a mood and a vibe of the UK pre-BritPop explosion of the early 1990’s. Along with fellow Manc, The Happy Mondays, this album defined an era and is the soundtrack to the lives of me and many of my contemporaries.

Ian Brown (vocals) and John Squire (guitars) who had known each other from Altrincham Grammar School For Boys – somewhere I often played rugby on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s – formed and disbanded several bands prior to being joined by Gary “Mani” Mounfield (bass) and Alan John “Reni” Wren (drums) to form The Stone Roses (Squire’s name), a guitar indi-rock band that sprung from the vibrant Madchester scene of the UK’s second city.

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Having composed and recorded songs for a demo, the band sent out 100 demo cassettes that featured the artwork of Squire, a very talented fine artist. This was followed by touring, further production and the release of some tracks to little commercial effect.

In August 1988 the band played Dingwalls in London in the presence of A&R representatives from South African owned label, Zomba and Geoff Travis one of the founders of the seminal indie, Rough Trade.

Rough Trade paid for some studio time and suggested Peter Hook bassist with New Order as a potential producer, when Hook was unavailable, Geoff suggested John Leckie a former Abbey Road award winning producer with an amazing production pedigree including Pink Floyd, XTC and Radiohead. The Stone Rose were signed to Zomba by Roddy McKenna and appeared on Andrew Lauder and Andy Richmond’s  Silvertone inprint. Rough Trade sold their tapes of “Elephant Stone” to Zomba.

Singles from the eponymous album were released in early 1989 and drew the attention of the all important Radio One. The Album, with John Squire/Jackson Pollock inspired artwork, was released on 2nd May 1989, went on to win the NME Reader’s Poll for Best Album of the Year. The Album is certified in the UK as triple platinum, notching sales in excess of 900,000 units.

To add a copy of The Stone Roses to your collection – click the link below the image:

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The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)

Images used with grateful thanks – Sony Music and Ian Tilton/NME

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Man Ray

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Like most people with an interest in the popular cultures and arts of the last hundred or so years the name Man Ray is well known to me. His body of photography, particularly that featured in the galleries of London and Paris, seems very familiar but I know little of the artist behind these iconic photos aside from his key roles in Dadaism and Surrealism and his frienship with those including Salvador Dali – see Dominic Baker’s earlier post on Dali’s work here – Salvador Dali by Dominic Baker

Born Emmanuel “Manny” Rudnitzky on 27th August 1890 in Philadelphia, the eldest of four children of Jewish tailor and his wife, Max and Minnie Rudinitzky, who had emigrated from Russia. During Manny’s childhood the family moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The family changed their surname to “Ray” in 1912.

Man Ray’s artistic ability was evident early on. In 1908, following Brooklyn Boys High School, he pursued his art studies at the free thinking and socialist Ferrer School/Modern School and with Alfred Stieglitz – an influential photographer – who owned gallery “291” that featured European Modernists.

The Armoury Show in New York in 1913 featured works by Picasso and Kandinsky that greatly inspired Ray. In 1915 he met French artist Marcel Duchamp – who later described his use of a camera “as a paint brush “ – and together with Francis Picabia they comprised an informal grouping of New York Dada artists. From this era, Ray’s 1921 sculpture “The Gift” was created featuring a tailoring iron with tacks welded to its surface – thus rendering the iron’s true function, useless. Our image below shows his version from 1958 that, like many of his earlier work, were re-created by Man Ray – following his return from the US.

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Europe called and in 1921 Ray moved to Paris where he associated with the Dada and Surrelists artists in the French capital – along with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. In Paris he pursued a lucrative career as a portrait photographer – taking photos of James Joyce amongst many others – and as fashion photographer for titles such as “Vogue”. His commercial work provided resources to developed his own style of photography called “rayographs”. These involved Ray placing and manipulating objects on pieces of photosensitive paper.

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In 1924 Ray composed and shot the iconic “Violin d’Ingres” featuring his muse and lover Kiki. Kiki also featured again in “Noire et Blanche”.

By the late 1920’s Ray had a new muse, the fashion model, Lee Miller. In 1929 he produced the stunning “Solarised’ work featuring her profile headshot.

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Our featured image “Glass Tears” dates from 1932.

Man Ray left for California in 1940 where he concentrated on his painting but returned to Paris in 1951 to continue to paint – really his preferred media – to write and sculpt. Aged 86 Ray died in Paris on 18th November 1976.

A friend from the art world once told me that often the most collectible pieces were “self portraits” – because simply it depicts how the artist sees themselves. This mischievous half bearded self portrait of Man Ray comes from 1943

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Photo credits with grateful thanks Man Ray Trust and the Lee Miller Estate

Bob Dylan

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I wasn’t early to the party. It was about 1975 when my sister introduced me to Bob Dylan’s astonishingly iconic performances on music-cassette. It was a Greatest Hits Album with Dylan shot in blue in profile on the inlay card and I am forever grateful.

My sister had a small Sony Music-cassette compact system featuring a cassette deck and radio with two detachable speakers – mid-seventies cool for sure. Remember this?

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She was training as a Nurse in the City of London at one of the UK finest teaching hospitals, paving the way for my arrival in the Smoke within eighteen months. She is two years older, had tried Gitanes before me and she had discovered Bob Dylan before me.

The Greatest Hits album – was in fact it was the Greatest Hits Volume 2 – from 1971 and was released in view of the dirth of new material from Dylan at the behest of Columbia Record’s label boss, Clive Davis. He became of some influence over my later career in music and some time later he left under a cloud. Initially reticent, Dylan had then agreed to compile it himself adding unreleased material from the Basment Tapes era but I am getting ahead here….

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volmne 2 – click the link below the image

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Vol. 2-Greatest Hits

I simply don’t believe anyone who says they don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs. I love almost all. That’s like saying I don’t really like Spring or Tulips. I get that his singing may sometimes be a challenge. His voice varies hugely from the sonous and walnut to a croak but his words, his rhymes and his use of language are simply sublime. Weaving morality tales and fables with the support of a simple folk riff, a country slide-guitar, a brassy pomp or a more complicated cajun orchestration.

Dylan – together with able foot-soldiers Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen – is the Voice of several generations. From the early 1960’s and the era of the Protest Song and the Civil Rights movement, to Woodstock and to the Summer of Love – see here our previous post – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love – to later “difficult albums” that explore love, loss and religion to more recent masterpieces that dwell on death and legacy.

In 2016, Dylan became the first songwriter ever  to win Nobel Prize For Literature.

Dylan has sold more than 100m copies of more than sixty albums. He has written, prolifically, broadcasted and podcasted for years and has nurtured a diverse and talented family.

I have seen Dylan perform live on several occasions including at Harvey Goldsmith’s promoted “The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome” show in 1978. I still have the poster!

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Despite at times ill-health, his commitment to endless touring – since the late 1990’s – has become an enduring legacy allowing the faithful to flock to see his performances. In the earlier years shows performances were loyal to familiar songs, more recently Dylan’s treatment of his standards, deconstructing them to within an inch of their lives, has not always been well received. I guess the master artist needs stimulation and revising original orchestrations must be a way to keep things interesting. After all they are his songs!

I was in Los Angeles in 1980 and visiting the celebrated and iconic Polo Lounge at Beverley Hills Hotel. Arriving in a city taxi we pulled towards the entrance of the hotel and there, getting into a cherry red compact car, was the diminutive and slightly stooped stature of our hero. Something very domestic, almost deliberately improverished and above all not really giving a f**k about expectation, perception or pretense. The very anthesis of the image of Californian life.

Every filmed interview of Dylan – and there really aren’t many – from 1965 in San Francisco, to D A Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back” – 1967 traipse around Europe – to the media coverage of the his investigature as a Nobel Prizewinner is punctuated by his well intentioned and sincere confusion by all the fuss. The younger Dylan explaining to an overly fawning interviewer, who was clearly irritating, that he had nothing of interest to share and shouldn’t presume to be able to. His reluctant assumption of the role as “Spokesman of his Generation” is just ours for the invention. His “I just set up my stall, played a few tunes and the rest is down to you” appears to be his honest belief. No master manipulator, no synical plan.

Like many have before you – can you help understand a little more about Dylan’s work by reading his own writing from the autobiographical “Chronicles Part One”? – Click the link below the image 

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Chronicles: Volume One

Don’t tell me you haven’t tried! We’d all love to be able to master the riffs that make the songs sing – some will, some inevitably wont! I am one…..

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Bob Dylan Made Easy for the Guitar: 1

The Music – there are sixty albums to chose from but can I suggest a couple of starting places. I’d also suggest that you don’t stream – please enjoy the packaging as well as the songs – please click the link below the image 

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

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The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home

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Bringing It All Back Home (2010 Mono Version)

Blood on The Tracks – for me probably the Best…..

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Blood On The Tracks

Desire

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Desire

Time Out Of Mind

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Time Out Of Mind

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Images courtesy of Milton Glaser, Sony, CBS and Columbia Record.

Hergé’s “Adventures of Tintin”

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Should you find yourself in London’s South Kensington next to the Underground station on the pedestrian-only Thurloe Street there’s is a small remnant of a larger art gallery chain called “The Medici Gallery”. There used to be a larger sister gallery over several floors in Cork Street (Mayfair) but with the pressure on property and the need to accommodate the Hedge Fund community, the business model of The Gallery was sadly unsustainable. The streets of Mayfair W1 are the sadder for its loss but SW7 still counts the Gallery as a treasured neighbour.

The Gallery is a throve of entirely appropriate greetings cards, thoughtful gifts and at Christmas it has a wall in the rear of the gallery space devoted to fine German advent calendars with small pictures concealed behind perforated and numbered squares – no wrapped chocolate surprise needed. The balance of gallery space is taken up with prints from fine artists, some local and the framed covers of the books depicting the iconic “The Adventures of Tintin”.

Many UK homes have basements, attics, snugs and Man Caves where the walls are decked with a combination of painted adverts for motor races, rail travel, skiing or beach scenes from a bygone era intended to entice Edwardian tourists to visit. In similar locations the framed posters of Tintin’s adventures featuring the brightly coloured graphics and highly engaging and recognisable characters have found a home.

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Many will be familiar with the imagery of the characters, Tintin – a young Belgian reporter, Snowy, his terrier – called “Milou” in the earlier French language versions – the cynical Captain Haddock, the brilliant and partially deaf Physicist, Professor Calculus and the bumbling detectives Thomson & Thomson. Despite more recent accusation of racism, these charming storybooks were first published against a background of the rise of the Nazis and latterly their occupation of much of Europe.

George Remi – known by the pen name “Hergé” – was born in Belgium in 1907 and between 1929 and his death in 1983 wrote 23 Tintin books. He was completing a 24th entitled “Tintin and the Alp-Art” at the time of his death that was posthumously published in 1986.

It is said that sales of the books exceeded 250m copies and the books were translated into more than 75 languages.

Tintin first appeared on 10th January 1929 in a children’s supplement to the Brussels’ newspaper “Le Vingtième Siècle” for whom Remi worked as an illustrator. The Nazi occupation of Belgium forced the closure of his employer and Le Soir started to serialise the cartoon strip. In 1950 frustrated by the demands of employment Hergé established “Studios Hergé” which was disbanded on his death.

Great characterisation, expressive drawing, adventure and simple humour combined with a more sophisticated satire and socio-political critique has ensured that the “Adventures of Tintin” have charmed readers for many years. The primary coloured graphics, elaborately researched stories and instantly recognisable layout and text has ensured continuity across the stories and has preserved an enduring affection for the cast amongst old and young reader.

The intellectual property in Hergé’s work passed to his foundation on his death and the underlying copyrights and associated merchandising rights have continued to be of great value. Plays, TV series, films and video games have been made based on Tintin’s exploits. Magazine and retail outlets have bolstered the Foundations earning to great success.

The Foundation has received many awards for Tintin. In 2006, the Dalai Lama presented Tibet’s Light of Truth Award to the Foundation in memory of Tintin and the impact of “Tintin in Tibet”.

If you’d like to buy a collection of the 23 Tintin story books published during Hergé’s life please click the following AMAZON link The Tintin Collection (The Adventures of Tintin – Compact Editions)

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If you’d like to buy the final Tintin story “Tintin and the Alph-Art” – as started by Hergé please click the following AMAZON link Tintin and Alph-Art (The Adventures of Tintin)

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Having read the books you may want to add to your poster collection with the following three iconic posters – click the Amazon link that follows to buy them

Tintin poster – Objectif lune

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Tintin poster – Le Crabe au Pinces d’Or

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Tintin poster – Les Cigars de Pharaoh

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Rather than the expense of using a framing service why not select the following perfect frames to display your posters by clicking the AMAZON link

GB eye Eton Frame, Black, 50 x 70 cm

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Image Credits with thanks: The Hergé Foundation

Tennis Girl and Friends

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It was the love child of Blu-Tack – the removable putty that could stick pretty much anything – provided it wasn’t too heavy – to a wall and UK art and poster shop, Athena founded in Hampstead (London, UK) in 1964 by Ole Christensen.

In 1969 Blu-Tack was the accidental by-product of research into creating a new sealant combining chalk powder, rubber and oil. Originally white in colour a blue dye was added to avoid any confusion with chewing gum. Around 100 tonnes a week are now produced by “Bostik” at its Leicester (UK) factory.

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Combining these two brands in the 1970’s resulted in the walls of many thousands of teenager bedrooms and student digs being graced by some of the most iconic posters ever produced.

Tennis Girl” – Taken by Martin Elliott in September 1976 at Birmingham University’s tennis courts and features an 18-year-old, Fiona Butler, Elliott’s then girlfriend.  First published by Athena as part of a calendar for the 1977 Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, then distributed as a poster, launching in 1978 and selling over two million posters at £2.00 each.

Get your own A3 framed “Tennis Girl” poster from AMAZON by clicking the following link Pyramid International Tennis Girl A3 Framed Print

God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols 1977. Taken from the “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s is The Sex Pistols” was the Punk “celebration” of the Silver Jubilee. It was banned by the BBC and commercial radio in the UK yet still achieved a No 2 slot in the Official UK Singles Chart.

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Get your own “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols poster by clicking the following AMAZON link Classic Sex Pistols God Save The Queen Poster British Flag Punk 24 x 36

Farrah” – selling a staggering 12 million copies. The original photo was shot in 1976, featuring the then relatively unknown Farrah Fawcett at her Bel Air (California, USA) home by Bruce McBroom of Pro Arts Inc. It was first published in Life magazine in September 1976.

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Che Guevara Red” by Jim Fitzpatrick’s based on Alberto Korda’s original 1960 photograph.

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Jaws” Stephen Spielberg’s 1975 telling of Peter Benchley’s story. The Highest Grossing Film of All Time – prior to the relates of Star Wars. The artist responsible for the original painting – which to this day is said to be missing – was Roger Kastel.

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Shaft” – Richard Roundtree starred – with a stunning Isaac Hayes soundtrack – in this  third blaxploitation movie released by a major studio. It is said to be the most popular of the genre and certainly was a commercial success costing $500,000 to make and earning $13m.

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper” was taken on 20th September 1932 by Charles Clyde Ebbets and depicts eleven men eating lunch on a girder during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (Manhattan, NYC, USA). It was taken on the 69th Floor.

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The Doors – featuring Jim Morrison – “American Poet” – who died aged 27 in 1971. It was photographed by Joel Brodsky.

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The Rolling Stone Lips – Mick Jagger liked the work of 24-year-old art school student, John Pasche, who accepted £50 to draw this world famous logo.

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Marilyn Monroe – a still from the Billy Wilder directed “Seven Year Itch” in 1955

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Beer – self deprecating humour was always part of growing up!

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Star Wars – released in May 1977, the George Lucas written and directed first outing for this amazingly successful franchise. Originals of the poster in good condition, designed by Tom Jung, are today worth $2500-$3000.

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Fly United” – United Airlines spoof, 1970’s vintage, just for the laugh!

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Athena was sold by Ole to E&O who grew the chain to sixty stores nationwide. In 1977 it was sold to the Pentos Group and floundered in 1995. It is now has a strong on-line offering.

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Images courtesy of Martin Elliott, Life/Pro Arts, The Rolling Stones, Virgin Records, LucasFilms, Elektra Records, Zanuck/Brown Productions, Fitzpatrick/Korda, 20th Century Fox.

DC Comic Book Superheroes

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In the world of Film Franchises there are several recent examples “Harry Potter”, “Jason Bourne” and “Star Wars” that generally benefit from wonderful storytelling. They have flourished over the recent decades thrilling audience young and old. The Grandparents of these comparative youngsters, have transcented formats and generations.

Two competing comic book publishers have wrestled for audiences attention and have, in recent years, flourished thanks to the explosion in the capabilities of the special effects departments telling their timeless morality plays of Good conquering Evil. Now owned by competing media giants, Time Warner and Disney the duel continues. Contemporaries founded 83 years and 78 years ago respectively, they are DC and Marvel.

For me, DC Comics (“DC” deriving from a popular early series “Detective Comics”) is the clear winner. The home of iconic heroes including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League and Suicide Squad and equally nasty villains The Joker and Lex Luther. The value of these heroic characters has been carefully realised over the years in print, on film, via gaming and merchandising.

DC Comics was founded in Manhattan (432 Fourth Street, New York City) as “National Allied Publications” by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson in 1934. His mother was a journalist who hosted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling at the family’s home. A known writer on military matters Wheeler-Nicholson saw a gap in the comic market and published a tabloid format “New Fun – The Big Comic Magazine” in February 1935 that become the first comic book containing all-original material and advertising.

By March 1937 the first Detective Comic was published and become very popular. Batman was introduced in issue 27 in May 1939.

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Cash flow problem saw Major Wheeler-Nicholson leave having been compelled to hand the business over to his creditor and fellow publisher, Harry Donenfeld and his accountant Jack Leibowitz.

DC’s fourth title “Action Comics” Issue 1, which introduced “Superman”, was published in June 1938 – in 2010 a copy of this publication achieve $1m at auction.

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The late 1940’s saw a waning in the popularity of DC’s Comic Book Superheros but with some re-imagining in the mid-1950’s The Green Lantern and Justice League of America were launched.

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In 1966, the now iconic Batman TV show first aired on ABC in the US, driving comic book sales and appealing to a new generation of young teens – and fans of the Lincoln Futura used as the platform for his “Batmobile”.

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1953 saw DC launch the satirical, excellent and still published “Mad” magazine. In 1967, then owner National Periodical Publications was purchased by Kinney National Company an early incarnation of Warner Communications.

In late 1976 Jeanette Kahn, DC’s newly appointed Publisher commissioned graphic designer Milton Glaser – I ❤️ NY – to design a new logo. Known as the “DC bullet”, the logo premiered in February 1977 and was used until 2005.

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1978 saw the release of the first Superman movie – culminating in “Superman Returns” in 2006. Batman has had seven outings in his own right between 1989 and 2012. In 2016, Batman was pitted against Superman in “Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice”. “Wonder Woman” was released in the US on 2nd June 2017.

Images courtesy of DC Comics and Time Warner

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El Greco by Spike Ress

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Yesterday, Spike Ress, Aestheticons friend, Watercolorist and source of much History of Art, gave us a fascinating glimpse into the work of El Greco (1541 – 1614) on what is thought to have been his birthday. With Spike’s kind permission I repost his piece here.

Today is believed to the birthday of El Greco, birth name Doménikos Theotokópoulos. El Greco was born in 1541, exact date unknown, he lived until April 7, 1614.

El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. “El Greco” (“The Greek”) was a nickname, a reference to his Greek origin, given to him by the Spanish; however, he normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters.

El Greco was born in Crete, which was at that time part of the Republic of Venice and the center of Post-Byzantine art. He trained and became a master within that tradition before traveling at age 26 to Venice, as other Greek artists had done. In 1570 he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works. During his stay in Italy El Greco enriched his style with elements of Mannerism and of the Venetian Renaissance.

In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.

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El Greco’s dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries but found appreciation in the 20th century some 300 years after his death.

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El Greco is regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism. His personality and works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Nikos Kazantzakis. El Greco has been characterized by modern scholars as an artist so individual that he belongs to no conventional school.

He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagorical pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

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In 1577 El Greco moved to Madrid, then to Toledo. At the time Toledo was the religious capital of Spain and a populous city with “an illustrious past, a prosperous present and an uncertain future”. El Greco did not plan to settle permanently in Toledo, since his final aim was to win the favor of Philip and make his mark in his court. Indeed, he did manage to secure two important commissions from the monarch: Allegory of the Holy League and Martyrdom of St. Maurice. However, the king did not like these works and placed the St Maurice altarpiece in the chapter-house rather than the intended chapel. He gave no further commissions to El Greco. The exact reasons for the king’s dissatisfaction remain unclear. Some scholars have suggested that Philip did not like the inclusion of living persons in a religious scene.

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Lacking the favor of the King, El Greco was obliged to remain in Toledo, where he had been received in 1577 as a great painter. He continued to secure other important commissions. According to Hortensio Félix Paravicino, a 17th-century Spanish preacher and poet, “Crete gave him life and the painter’s craft, Toledo a better homeland, where through Death he began to achieve eternal life.”

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El Greco made Toledo his home. Surviving contracts mention him as the tenant from 1585 onwards of a complex consisting of three apartments and twenty-four rooms which belonged to the Marquis de Villena. It was in these apartments, which also served as his workshop, that he passed the rest of his life painting and studying. He lived in considerable style, sometimes employing musicians to play whilst he dined.

It is not confirmed whether he lived with his Spanish female companion, Jerónima de Las Cuevas, whom he probably never married. She was the mother of his only son, Jorge Manuel, born in 1578, who also became a painter.