History

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Art History

Learn the Shadow Puppetry of Japan's Edo Period with Hiroshige's Delightful Woodblock Prints

June 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

Master the playful art of shadow puppetry with a little help from Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). The prolific ukiyo-e artist, who is best known for his poetic woodblock prints of the Tōkaidō and views of Edo, also created an instructive series of omocha-e, or toy pictures intended for kids, that demonstrates how to twist your hands into a snail or rabbit or grasp a mat to mimic a bird perched on a branch. Appearing behind a translucent shoji screen, the clever figures range in difficulty from simple animals to sparring warriors and are complete with prop suggestions, written instructions for making the creatures move— “open your fingers within your sleeve to move the owl’s wings” or “draw up your knee for the fox’s back”—and guides for full-body contortions.

Prints of the eight-figure chart shown above, which Hiroshige released in 1842, are available from Flashbak, and you can explore a massive archive containing thousands of his works on The Minneapolis Institute of Art’s site. (via Present & Correct)

 

 

 



Design History

A Trio of Visual Catalogs Celebrates the Innovative Figures Who Pioneered Modern Information Graphics

May 18, 2021

Grace Ebert

Emma Willard, Temple of Time. Courtesy of Information Graphic Visionaries and David Rumsey Map Collection

A new book set honors the lives and legacies of three figures who fundamentally altered the way we communicate and organize data still today. Information Graphic Visionaries is a catalog trio dedicated to educator and entrepreneur Emma Willard, statistician and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who all brought insight and clarity to the modern world by conveying complex information in visually compelling and convincing manners. Edited by RJ Andrews of Info We Trust with art direction by Lorenzo Fanton, the series unveils these previously overlooked histories through newly discovered graphics and prominent works paired with contextual essays and annotations.

Through a combination of atlases, wall hangings, and textbook woodcut graphics, Emma Willard: Maps of History explores how Willard invented new conceptions of time and ultimately defined chronology in the United States. Florence Nightingale: Mortality & Health Diagrams contains the nurses’ persuasive designs that ultimately sparked vital reforms to the English health care system. And the Étienne-Jules Marey volume is the first English translation of the French scientist’s seminal text on data visualization, The Graphic Method, La Méthode Graphique, which was first published in 1885.

After launching May 11, Information Graphic Visionaries is already nearing its goal on Kickstarter, but you still have time to back the project.

 

Emma Willard, detail of Map of 1620. Courtesy of Information Graphic Visionaries and David Rumsey Map Collection

Emma Willard, Perspective Sketch. Courtesy of Information Graphic Visionaries and David Rumsey Map Collection

Florence Nightingale, Cholera Diagram by William Farr. Courtesy of Information Graphic Visionaries and the Wellcome Collection

Florence Nightingale, The Mortality in the Hospitals. Courtesy of Information Graphic Visionaries and the Wellcome Collection

 

 



Art History

The Gaze: Barry Jenkins Directs a Stunning Non-Narrative Film that Preserves the Legacy of Black Ancestors

May 18, 2021

Grace Ebert

At the heart of Barry Jenkins’s extraordinarily moving new film is “the Black gaze; or the gaze distilled.” The Oscar-winning director shot the standalone project while filming the TV adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which premiered on May 14. Notably titled The Gaze, the parallel project isn’t an episode of the series but rather a compelling collection of non-narrative portraits captured spontaneously alongside the show.

Early on in production, Jenkins says in a statement, “I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.”

 

Presented in the same order as the series which moves from Georgia to Indiana, the vignettes spotlight both principal and background actors who wear striking period costumes by Caroline Eselin—the designer also collaborated with Jenkins on his lauded films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Each shot is an intimate and evocative portrayal of imagined kin. “We halted our filming many times for moments like these. Moments where… standing in the spaces our ancestors stood, we had the feeling of seeing them, truly seeing them and thus, we sought to capture and share that seeing with you,” the director says.

Jenkins writes that he was inspired by Kerry James Marshall’s “Scipio Moorhead, Portrait of Himself, 1776,” which is an earnest rendering of the African American artist who actively painted throughout the 1770s while he was enslaved. Marshall’s homage secures Moorhead’s legacy in an urgent and necessary act of visual documentation that Jenkins replicates:

We have sought to give embodiment to the souls of our ancestors frozen in the tactful but inadequate descriptor “enslaved,” a phrase that speaks only to what was done to them, not to who they were nor what they did… This is an act of seeing. Of seeing them. And maybe, in a soft-headed way, of opening a portal where THEY may see US, the benefactors of their efforts, of the lives they LIVED.

Jenkins notes that The Gaze contains only abstracted scenes so it won’t spoil The Underground Railroad. Watch the entire film above, and read the director’s essay describing the project on Vimeo. (via Kottke)

 

 

 



History Photography

Striking Photos Frame the Half-Renovated Houses of a Former Mining Region in Germany

May 6, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Wolfgang Fröhling, shared with permission

When the once burgeoning coal industry in Ruhrgebiet, Germany, began to decline, many of the workers’ apartments were sold off. Oftentimes, new owners only purchased half of the building—miners maintained a lifelong right of residence to their quarters—creating a stark split between the left and right sides of the structure. Photographer Wolfgang Fröhling captures this visually striking divide in a series of images framing the renovated and original designs juxtaposed in a single structure. See the full collection of half-painted facades and disparate landscaping on Pixel Project, and find more of the Bottrop-based photographer’s work on his site. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

 

 



Design History

A Rare Toshiba Typewriter from the 1950s Operates with a Trilingual Index of Thousands of Characters

April 29, 2021

Grace Ebert

In the 1940s, Toshiba began producing index typewriters with massive, horizontal cylinders containing thousands of symbols. One edition, the BW-2112—watch the demonstration by the New Orleans-based Typewriter Collector above to see how the redesign utilizes manual rotation and a metal pointer to print the characters—was a particularly advanced model with keys in three languages: Japanese, Chinese, and English.

The trilingual device ordered the characters in a manner similar to what you’d find in a Japanese dictionary, which is explained on the Typewriter Collector’s page as follows:

They’re arranged phonetically by most common “on-yomi” (or kun-yomi in some cases) according to the kana syllabary (many homophones, of course)… Red characters help parse the readings. Last character to left of equal sign can be pronounced “kin” (exert) and the first character in next row “gin” (silver), then “ku” (suffer) in red followed by “kuu” (sky, empty), “kuma” (bear), “kun” (teachings, meaning [also the kun in kun-yomi]), “gun” (group), then “kei” (system) in red followed many, homophones of “kei”.

Unfortunately, Toshiba stopped producing the model when it switched to a Western-style keyboard in the mid-1950s that instead had 48 Japanese Kana characters, making devices like this one exceedingly rare. (via Twisted Sifter)

 

 

 



Art Design History

Download and 3D-Print 18,000 Artifacts from Art History through Scan the World

April 28, 2021

Grace Ebert

Scan the World might be one of the only institutions where visitors are encouraged to handle the most-valued sculptures and artifacts from art history. The open-source museum hosts an impressive archive of 18,000 digital scans—the eclectic collection spans artworks like the “Bust of Nefertiti,” the “Fourth Gate of Vaubam Fortress,” Rodin’s “The Thinker,” and Michelangelo’s “David” in addition to other items like chimpanzee skulls—that are available for download and 3D printing in a matter of hours.

Searchable by collection, artist, and location, Scan the World recently teamed up with Google Arts and Culture, which partners with more than 2,000 institutions, to add thousands of additional pieces to the platform. Each page shares information about an artifact’s history and location, in addition to technical details like dimensions, complexity, and time to print—scroll down on to view images of finished pieces uploaded by the community, too. While much of the collection focuses on Western art, it’s currently bolstering two sections that explore works from India and China.

Scan the World is part of My Mini Factory, which is the largest platform for 3D-printed objects. If you’re new to the process, check out the site’s wide range of tutorials, including tips for beginnershow to scan with your phone, and techniques for using drones to capture hard-to-reach works. (via Open Culture)

 

Left: “Mars and Venus.” Right: “Marble Head from a Herm