Neo-Decadent

The Art and Opinions of Heidi Celeghin, Aesthete

Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower

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I recently visited the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art exhibit at the MFAH.  The show was spectacular.  However, this post is not about the exhibit, it is about books.

Cover

When I was browsing the books at the museum store, I happened upon Les Trente-six Vues de la Tour Eiffel by Henri Rivière.  The book was published in its original format – which is what made it completely irresistible.  It is in the traditional Decadent, Art Nouveau style that was initially pioneered by Whistler.  The combination of text and image on the page is pervasive.

title

Prologue

The prints, however, are large and therefore, allow for close inspection.  They are inspired by Japanese wood-block prints (see Hiroshige), something that Decadent book designers were drawn to.

image

 

In order to fully appreciate the wonderful find that was this book, one has to explore Decadent book-making and design practice.  The theoretical desire to meld text and image, combined with technological advancements, resulted in the creation of the adult illustrated book.  Whistler pioneered the aestheticized book in his objet d’art publications such as The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.  Whistler’s combination of text and image in a compositionally balanced design inscribed the book within aesthetic discourse.  Subsequent publications of “little magazines” such as The Chameleon, The Yellow Book, and The Savoy continued the trend begun by Whistler.  These publications elevated images, traditionally relegated to a secondary position, to the level of text.

The creators of the little magazines tried to unite visual and written art in order to highlight their belief in the possibility of combining diverse arts and paving the way for a new form of art.[1] These magazines were the ultimate mode of Decadent expression and, due to their careful attention to composition, their target audience was the aesthete.

I also ordered painter Odd Nerdrum’s book How We Cheat Each Other and it just arrived in the mail.  Nerdrum is a fantastic artist and I cannot wait to delve into his writing – after all, we are both representational artists who write!  Below is a photograph of the book on the table my grandfather made.

Nerdrum


[1].  Murray G.H. Pittock, Spectrum of Decadence: The Literature of the 1890s (London: Routledge, 1993), 57.

 

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Author: Heidi Celeghin

ARTIST’S STATEMENT The theories guiding my art practice are largely defined by my academic background in Decadence and Aestheticism. I am concerned with the status of the image: seductive, unknowable, dangerous, and immortal. The image exists in a liminal space between illusion and reality, lies and truths, life and death. As such, the image represents the sublime. Once created, the image exists beyond the artist – it grows independently from the artist and is constantly being recreated. On the one hand, it captures a single, exquisite moment in time and therefore holds the valence of stasis and death. On the other hand, the image’s perpetual recreation means that it captures the myriad of experiences Walter Pater discusses in the conclusion to The Renaissance and therefore, it holds the valence of metamorphosis and life. It is particularly fascinating when the distinction between Art and reality begin to fall apart. Is it Art that imitates life or life that imitates Art? Major Events and Public Projects: Houston Zoo, painting-for-conservation initiative (June 2011-present) Barcelona World Race, Team Neutrogena artist (December 2010-May 2011) Select Exhibitions: Singapore via INSTINC artist residency, solo exhibition (June 2012) Limb Design, Houston, Texas, group exhibition (April 2012) Jack Hanna Gala, Houston Zoo, solo exhibit (October 2011) Watson Gallery, Houston, Texas, group exhibit (October 2011) Norma R. Ory Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, group exhibit (2011) Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Houston, Texas, Awty International Gala (2011) Willard Straight Art Gallery, group exhibit for Forword Literary Magazine (2009) Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, group exhibit (2009) Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, group exhibit (2008) Hayloft Gallery, Reliant Center, Houston, Texas, group exhibit (2006) Hayloft Gallery, Reliant Center, Houston, Texas, group exhibit (2005) Art Fairs: Affordable Art Fair, Hong Kong (2013) Affordable Art Fair, Singapore (2012) Affordable Art Fair, New York (2012)

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