The Bard

This is about M. C. Eschers’s and Henry Holiday’s different ways of “borrowing” from John Martin’s painting The Bard.


 

  • [left] Maurits Cornelis Escher: Cimino Barbarano, 1929 (in Escher’s “Italian” period). This reproduction (strongly shrinked in order to make it unusable for commercial purposes, but large enough for research) of the original print has been horizontally compressed and segments on the right side and of the left side of the image have been removed.
  • [right] John Martin: The Bard, ca. 1817. The colors of the original painting have been completely desaturated and segments on the top and the bottom of the image have been removed.

A landscape by M. C. Escher, inspired by John Martin during Escher’s “Italian” period? Actually, even though John Martin’s landscape is related to events in Wales under the rule of Edward I, Martin took inspiration from real alpine landscapes. So Escher’s choice was not that bad.

This is not a comparison between Escher’s print and a Snark illustration by Henry Holiday. But it belongs to the bycatch from my Snark hunt. Escher and Holiday borrowed in different way’s. Escher took the concept of John Martin’s painting. Holiday played with elements of Martin’s painting.

I prefer Holiday’s borrowing. Whereas the composition and the aesthetics of Escher’s illustration is based on John Martin’s work, Holiday’s illustrations don’t gain impact on the beholder by borrowing from the works of other artists. I prefer Holiday’s conundrum building. It doesn’t even get close to plagiarism, when after Holiday’s borrowing from John Martin, a little monstrance-like simulacrum in Martin’s painting became a quite dominant element in one of Holiday’s Snark illustrations. And an even tinier structure turned into one of Holiday’s monsters.

Monstrances:

  • [left] Henry Holiday: Illustration to chapter The Vanishing in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, detail
  • [right] John Martin: The Bard, mirror view of a horizontally compressed and vectorized detail.


Monsters:

  • [main image] John Martin: The Bard
  • [inlay] Detail from Henry Holiday’s illustration to the chapter The Beaver’s Lesson in The Hunting of the Snark
  • [inlay in inlay] Detail from The Bard

Horses can turn into playful weeds:

  • [left] Henry Holiday: Illustration to chapter The Vanishing in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, detail
  • [right] John Martin: The Bard, reproduction of a detail.

Yes, it’s cheeky.

  • [main image]: John Martin: The Bard (ca. 1817), by GIMP: contrast enhanced in the rock area & light areas delated & (most of) color removed & Retinex filtering applied
  • [upper inset]: Detail from preperatory draft for Henry Holiday’s illustration (1876) to chapter The Beaver’s Lesson in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark
  • [lower inset]: Henry Holiday: Illustration (1876) to chapter The Beaver’s Lesson in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, detail

 

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