October 15, 2010
Poetry Leaving Certificate Anthology, WJ Steele, Fallons (1969). Cover design: Cor Klaasen
Introducing English, Augustine Martin, Gill & Macmillan (1970). Cover design: Cor Klaasen
Léamh Só, Proinsias MacSuibhne, Fallons (1972). Cover design: Cor Klaasen
Thank you to everyone who came along to the Culture Night exhibition in Mary’s Abbey. It was a very enjoyable night in a wonderful historic setting. I was delighted to be asked by Ruth Kelly to take part in the event and it was great to share the evening with Donny Keane, whose ‘Life thru my Mobile Phone’ proved to be a personal and witty view of Dublin and beyond, and my brother Barry McCormack who finished the proceedings perfectly with song.
Since then I have been working through Cor Klaasen’s amazing archive of work and selecting pieces for the upcoming exhibition. Above are two examples of his abstract geometric work and also a beautiful two colour overlay illustration for the cover of Léamh Só. The image on the poster for the exhibition is adapted from an illustration on the cover of another book from the same period – When the Saints…
The opening is on Wednesday 3 November from 6-8pm and all are welcome. Brian Lalor, printmaker and editor of The Encyclopedia of Ireland will open the exhibition.
The exhibition will run from Thurs 4 – Wed 10 November inclusive and will be open daily from 11–5.
Cor Klaasen: Jackets, Covers & Sleeves
Venue: Adifferentkettleoffishaltogether, 18 Ormond Quay Upper
Times: Daily 11 – 5pm. Thurs 4 – Wed 10 November inclusive
Opening: Wednesday 3 November, 2010, 6 – 8 pm. Guest Speaker: Brian Lalor
Sponsors: The Netherlands Embassy, Gill & Macmillan and Hudson Killeen.
September 20, 2010
Ceo Meala Lá Seaca, Micheál MacLiammóir, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1952). Jacket design by Micheál MacLiammóir.
Aisteoirí Faoi Dhá Sholas, Micheál MacLiammóir, Sáirséal 7 Dill (1956). Cover design Micheál MacLiammóir.
As a designer Micheál MacLiammóir (1899-1978) is best known for his stage sets and costume designs for the Gate Theatre, which he founded in 1928 with Hilton Edwards. He also worked as an illustrator providing designs for magazines and books. Above are examples of three jackets which he designed for his own books.
The jacket of Lá agus Oidhche from 1929 is masterful and as good an example of book cover design as you are likely to find from the 1920s. The playful illustration of the title (Day and Night) shows the influence of Aubrey Beardsley albeit with cruder rendering. In fact, it is this rougher line which makes it much less of a period piece.
The other two examples are from the 1950s and don’t have the same inpact as Lá agus Oidhche. Indeed, it is hard to believe that the cover of Aisteoirí Faoi Dhá Sholas is from the same hand.
Culture Night 2010 – Mary’s Abbey
As part of Culture Night this Friday, I am putting together an exhibition of Irish book cover design from the late 20s up until the 1970s. It will include a lot of covers which I have yet to feature on the blog. It will take place in Mary’s Abbey, Meetinghouse Lane, off Capel Street from 6-9pm. If you are in the Capel Street area on friday night please drop in. There will also be a projection of photographs entitled “Life thru my mobile phone” and music by Barry McCormack from 8.30.
August 30, 2010
Walking in Wicklow, J.B. Malone, Helicon (1964). Cover design by Cor Klaasen.
The unfortunate Fursey, Mervyn Wall, Helicon (1965). Cover design by Cor Klaasen.
Meeting Christ, Brian Kelly, Educational Company of Ireland (1971). Cover design by Cor Klaasen.
I included a single cover by Cor Klaasen in a previous post and commented that I hadn’t managed to track down many examples of his work despite knowing that he was both talented and prolific. Since then I’ve been contacted by Cor’s widow, Tineke, who has been generous enough to show me the comprehensive archive of his work which is in the family’s possession.
Cor Klaasen is a significant figure in the history of Irish graphic design and it is indicative of the lack of importance attached to visual culture in Ireland that such a rich body of work has faded from view. In order to begin to rectify this situation Vintage Irish Book Covers, along with the Klaasen family, are organising an exhibition of Cor’s work from the sixties and seventies which will coincide with Design Week 2010. The exhibition will consist of book cover designs for Gill & Macmillan, Fallons, Helicon, Torc and the Talbot Press, amongst others, as well as a series of striking record sleeves designed for the Mercier Press. You can see more of Cor’s work and updates on the exhibition here: www.corklaasen.com.
Cor was a natural illustrator whose style developed over his career as he experimented with different media and techniques. In the fifties he favoured pen and ink. His artist’s notebook Het is Niet Waar (1954) captures the essence of his style from this period – a wonderful mix of George Grosz grotesque and Jim Flora’s exuberant fun. I hope to add some pages from this marvelous book to the corklaasen.com site soon.
By the sixties Cor is using cut-outs and collage to achieve his lively designs. Most of the examples above use this method. The exception is The Unfortunate Fursey which is a mix of pen and ink and colour overlay in three colours. All of the rest are just two colour jobs but achieve maximum effect by imaginative use of colour mixing.
Walking in Wicklow was one of the first of Cor’s covers that I became aware of and it is still one of my favourites. The couple have been cut from black card using a swivel blade. No mean feat considering the original cutouts are reproduced same size on the book cover.
August 16, 2010
Lá Dá Bhfaca Thú, Críostóir Ó Floinn, Cló Morainn, 1955. Design: Mícheál Ó Nualláin
Ag Baint Fraochán, Séamus Ó Néill, Cló Morainn, n.d. (1956). Design: Mícheál Ó Nualláin
John Devoy, Séan Ó Lúing, Cló Morainn, 1961. Design: uncredited
I believe that Cló Morainn started publishing in 1955. It is mentioned as a new venture in a review of Críostóir Ó Floinn’s Glaotar na Ridiri in The Irish Times of April 26, 1955. Sharing the page with the book reviews is Cruiskeen Lawn by Myles na Gopaleen (Brian Ó Nualláin) which seems appropriate as two of the Cló Morainn covers above were designed by Ó Nualláin’s brother – Mícheál Ó Nualláin.
These covers have a very modern feel and eschew illustration, relying instead on typography and bold blocks of colour. Lá Dá Bhfaca Thú is particularly effective. Mícheál Ó Nualláin is an accomplished painter yet I hadn’t realise that he had also designed book covers until I stumbled on these examples.
August 8, 2010
Faoi Rún Go hÉirinn, Seán Ó Ciardhuáin, FNT, 1972. Design: Karl Uhlemann
Sléibhte Mhaigh Eo, Mícheál Ó hOdhráin, FNT, 1964. Design: Karl Uhlemann
Crumbling Castle, Patricia Lavelle, Clonmore & Reynolds, 1949. Design: Karl Uhlemann
Old Celtic Romances, P.W. Joyce, Talbot Press, 1963. Design: Karl Uhlemann
An Doras Grianlasta, Lorcán Ó Treasaigh, FNT, 1983. Design: Karl Uhlemann
Since I last posted on the work of Karl Uhlemann I’ve managed to dig up some more nice examples of his work but more importantly I’m now able to fill in some biographical detail. Theo Snoddy’s very informative Dictionary of Irish Artists: 20th Century tells us that Karl Uhlemann Jnr was born in 1912. His father Karl Snr was a landscape painter born near Leipzig. I still can’t say for definite if he was born in Ireland but we do know that his father was resident in Dublin from 1915 when he first exhibited at the R.H.A. Karl Snr obviously had an influence on his son’s choice of career and the creative streak in the family continued with Karl Jnr’s son Rai. I will feature some of Rai’s work in a future post.
These examples of Karl Uhlemann’s work are from dates between the late forties and the early eighties – almost 35 years. Crumbling Castle is the earliest example and although it is uncredited, the KU in the lower left hand side and the similarity to other covers by him leave us in no doubt.
My favourite of these covers is Faoi Rún Go hÉirinn. The moonlit illustration, which raps around to the back cover, is beautifully rendered and doesn’t suffer a bit from the rough print job. An Doras Grianlasta is the least successful. The typography feels like an after thought and there has been no attempt to tie it in with the illustration. It is a good example of how design quality suffered as a result of technological ‘advances’ in the late seventies and into the eighties.
July 28, 2010
Ireland Sea Angling Guide, The Inland Fisheries Trust/Bord Fáilte Éireann(1962). Cover design: uncredited
Ireland Salmon and Sea Trout Fishing, The Inland Fisheries Trust/Bord Fáilte Éireann(1962). Cover design: uncredited
Ireland Coarse Fishing, The Inland Fisheries Trust/Bord Fáilte Éireann (n.d.). Cover design: uncredited
These three fishing guides from the early sixties are aimed at international visitors rather than the home market. The illustrations of the fish have been handled quite differently on each yet they still have the feel of a set, helped by the single colour limitation and the repetition of ‘Ireland’ in Perpetua bold italics.
July 11, 2010
While I normally like to post a number of similar or related covers together, I’ve been struggling to find anything that I could group with the above design. It’s a beautiful three colour illustration, for a mid-sixties collection of poetry in Irish by Séamus Ó hAodha, but no artist is credited. The textured paper wraps directly onto the hardback boards and feels like a children’s book, an impression that the illustration accentuates. This is a great example of mid-century ‘naïve‘ design that is currently enjoying a revival. The use of the term ‘naïve’ to describe this style is rather inappropriate, while the designs have a childlike quality the artists behind them are invariably well skilled and knowing.