Adolf Wölfli. From the Cradle to the Grave. Bedlam=Walking Wheel, Provisional Map of Both the Kingdom of Spain and Portugal, Dromedary Indian and Vosel Stubborn Donkey Mask, Lea Tantaria, Condor Eggs, Hall of Blacks, London South, Map of the Two Principalities Sonoricije and the West Bzimbzabazaru, Helvetic Cathedral in Northern Amazonian Hall, Atlantic Ocean Waves and Přístaf Cradle Lisbon (top to bottom). 1912.
Adolf Wölfli’s first epic From the Cradle to the Grave contains over 2,970 pages of text and 752 illustrations that he tied into nine books. It’s written in the form of a travelogue, the main character a boy named Ada (a domesticated form of the name Adolf) who travels the world with his family in the name of progress and exploration. The work transforms Wölfli’s unhappy childhood into an amazing story full of great adventure, discovery and incredible adversity—always gloriously overcome. The text mixes poetry with prose and extensive enumerations, and is accompanied by color maps, portraits and illustrations depicting battles, crashes and other disasters. In these drawings we first encounter a motif in Wölfli’s work called the “Vögeli”, a bird character that can be seen as the protector of the ubiquitous Wölfli alter ego.
Hiram E. Butler. The Seven Vital, or Creative Principles, The Sun’s Zodiac, The Solar System, The Earth’s Zodiac, The Future Temple as Seen by John | Diagrams 1,2,4,5,7. Solar Biology. 1887.
James Ensor (Belgian, 1860–1949)
Tribulations of Saint Anthony, 1887
a possible influence from Gustave Moreau, Preliminary sketch, c. 1890 (previous post)
One of Ensor’s earliest fantastical paintings, this work recreates the familiar story of Saint Anthony battling a world of temptations (embodied by the woman at the far left). Ensor described his version of the narrative as one in which “the bizarre prevails” as Hell expels menacing sea creatures and grotesque monsters haphazardly joined together within a colorful, loosely rendered landscape.
Inspired by earlier renditions of the story by Flemish artists Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlandish, 1453–1516) and Pieter Brueghel (Flemish, 1525–1569), Ensor brought a fresh interpretation to a familiar subject by combining invented figures with wild brushstrokes and audacious color choices. On the basis of this painting, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, described Ensor as possibly “the boldest living painter” in 1887. - x