In his Buffon des enfants, Félix Lorioux followed in Buffon’s footpath. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, (1707-1788) was a scientist. He classified his animals, and so did Lorioux. However, our second image shows a winged creature. It is a rooster and it may well be the emblematic coq gaulois (as in Gallic), the rooster of France. In 1870, France, under the French Second Empire, attacked Prussia. Self-proclaimed French Emperor Napoléon III was taken prisoner at the Battle of Sedan. The Franco-Prussian War was a bitter defeat for France. When it signed the Treaty of Frankfurt, in 1871, France gave Germany billions of francs in war indemnity, as well as most of Alsace and parts of Lorraine. (See Franco-Prussian War, Wikipedia.) I suspect, therefore, a soupçon of nationalism in Lorioux’s Les Oiseaux de chez nous (Our Birds) and Les Insectes de chez nous (Our Insects). France was again declared a republic, the French Third Republic, which lasted until 1940.
Lorioux’s insects are not only French; they are also anthropomorphic, or humans in disguise. Our insect musician, just above, has a dressed insect audience. Also, look at the image below this paragraph. It also has an audience. If they are dressed like human beings, animals are closer to children. Taming his animals reflects Lorioux’s insight into the nature of children. Here, Lorioux exemplifies a child’s need to identify with the animals of illustrations. One also senses that Lorioux was influenced by the very talented and numerous English illustrators of his age or nearly so.
The Internet has a limited number of illustrations by Loriaux. I will have to purchase books Lorioux published. Le Buffon des enfants was Lorioux’ finest achievement. Consequently, Le Buffon des enfants is a good example of Lorioux’s immense talent. The main, if not the only, source of Loriaux’s pictures featuring birds and insects is: https://animationresources.org/illustration-felix-loriouxs-fantastic-worlds/ It is an admirable site. Lorioux’s use of pink is most fortunate. What insects are seeking in blushing flowers is their nectar.
The sites listed below may be very useful. Posts about a particular fable may contain classification or cataloging information, but not necessarily. The Project Gutenberg has published very fine collections of Æsop’s Fables, including illustrations. La Fontaine is also online, most successfully. These collections are old, but they are the classics.
For the moment, however, we will glimpse the art of British artists, some of whom had been or were members of the Arts and Crafts movement (1890 – 1920) or had benefited from the broadening of objects and styles considered artistic introduced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood conferred acceptability to areas of the visual arts that had seemed marginal in earlier years, such as history painting and the illustration of books, children’s literature especially, and artwork that was reproduced, or prints.
Such movements broke with the constraints of academic painting and introduced a democratization of art. The “beautiful” could be found in a piece of textile or wallpaper, the decoration of a room, or to put it in a nutshell: design. Given the breadth of this subject, I will show art by Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tenniel. This particular post is an illustrated introduction.
Tenniel, White Rabbit, dresses as herald, blowing trumpet (37)
Town mouse and country mouse by Arthur Rackham (Photo credit: Google Images)
Centuries of Childhood
acceptance of childhood
As it flourished, the illustration of children’s literature reflected a major transformation. Childhood was not born until recently, which can be explained, at least in part, by the high mortality rate among children. Too few reached adulthood. Besides, children’s literature had been put into the service of education. It was didactic and moralistic, or so people thought. (See Philippe Ariès and Centuries of Childhood, Wikipedia.) It was as though children were born tainted with the original sin, a condition baptism did not correct fully.
In literature, Æsopic fables flourished long before Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit). There are several illustrators of Æsopic fables who are also, to a large extent, illustrators of Jean de La Fontaine. Jean de La Fontaine retold a large number of Æsopic fables that had been taken away from the realm of oral tradition beginning with Latin author Phædrus (1st century CE) and Greek author Babrius (2nd century CE). (See Phædrus [fabulist], Wikipedia.) These were supposedly didactic, but the Horatian ideal, to inform and to delight, was not always served. Children were delighted and did not necessarily identify with the careless behaviour of a mere grasshopper. The tale was not about the behaviour of children; it was about the behaviour of a grasshopper. Children knew the difference.
Illustrations have solid roots in Western culture. Jean de France, duc de Berry paid a fortune for his illustrated Très Riches Heures. But it could well be that Japonism triggered the British Golden Age of illustration and its large European counterpart. Japan had isolated itself in the 17th century (1633–39). No one could enter or leave Japan under penalty of death. That period of Japan’s history is called the Sakoku period, which ended in 1853 with the forcible entry of the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry.
However, as of 1860, Europe was flooded with Japanese prints. As prints, these were not the unique works of art Europeans created (beginning with the 8th-century Book of Kells). After the invention the printing press, certain books were still illuminated by hand. But, as of 1501, printers no longer left room on a page for an illustrator to illuminate a printed text. The hand-painted printed books produced during the period that spans the invention of printing and the demise of hand-painted books are called incunabula(les incunables).
Contrary to Europeans, the Japanese printed their artwork and these were considered by Europeans to be genuine artwork, despite duplication. Even Vincent van Gogh could afford a Japanese print of which he liked both the style and the subject matter. He did not learn a printing technique, but Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Mary Cassatt did. Art had become affordable and it spread to design, to use a broad term. Moreover, certain artists’ Japonism consisted in including the objects of the Orient in their paintings: white and blue porcelain, fans, screens… Many artists also liked the beau idéal Japan proposed.
Ironically, appreciation of Japan’s beau idéal contributed to the emergence of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and, eventually, modernism. Art Nouveau flourished during the golden years of illustration. However, the most significant element Japonism brought to European art was an acceptance of art reproduced: prints.
Japanese artists reproduced their art, called ukiyo-e, using wood block printing. Consequently, they did not adhere to the notion that a work of art should be unique and original. Apprenticeship consisted in attempting to master the art of one’s master. For Japanese artists, beauty was not a matter of taste. They supported the concept of a beau idéal, which meant that, in their eyes, beauty was one of a kind, but not the artwork.
As it happens, a poster by Toulouse-Lautrec may cost millions. Several copies were made, but few are available and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec is considered beautiful by a large number of art lovers. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is a significant degree of unanimity with respect to the beauty of certain works of art.
Jean de La Fontaine‘s Fables were illustrated from the moment they proved successful. As well, given that many were rewritings of Æsopic fables, the stories they told had the merit of being familiar. La Fontaine had several illustrators, the most famous of whom is Gustave Doré. But Doré’s illustrations are monochrome. Wood engravings and etchings, an intaglio technique, may be coloured, but prints are often monochrome art. (See Wood engravingand Etching, Wikipedia.)
However, we are beginning with John Tenniel, Arthur Rackham, and Walter Crane. Walter Crane illustrated The Baby’s own Æsop. (See Gutenberg [EBook #25433] and Laura Gibbs’ mythfolklore.net.aesopica). Early illustrations were not coloured. Gustave Doré‘s, illustration of La Fontaine are monochrome pieces. Prints, such as the oriental prints that flooded Europe after the Sakoku period, could be coloured, in which they differed substantially from monochrome prints. Both Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tennielproduced monochrome as well as coloured illustrations and both illustrated Lewis Carroll‘sAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
They and Walter Crane are our artists, as space and the nature of weblogs do not allow me to feature Beatrix Potter—who illustrated the books she wrote, the Peter Rabbit stories, Kate Greenaway, and others. All are listed at the foot of this post. Pictures can be found by clicking on the name of the artist. Their work may also be seen at Wikimedia.org. Write the name of the artist and specify Wikimedia.org. However, the art of other illustrators may be shown in future posts.
Sir John Tenniel engaged in nonsense art and Lewis Carroll, in literary nonsense, but Carroll did not write limericks. Nonsense is an umbrella term and, although limericks can be used in children’s literature, they may be not suitable for children. Unlike Walter Crane’s The Baby’s own Æsop, “Hercules and the Waggoner” a fable by Æsop and La Fontaine, and Rudyard Kipling’s “Small boy of Quebec,” which is witty and delightfully naïve, limericks may be crude. But Walter Crane produced Toy Books inspired by Japanese art.
The Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])
I must close this very incomplete post, but we have seen a significant expansion of the areas that could be considered legitimate art, from illustrations to design. Japonism played a role in this expansion and it also played a role in the democratization of art as did the Arts and Crafts movement.
The word ‘limerick’ was first used in St John, New Brunswick There was a young rustic named Mallory, (A)
who drew but a very small salary. (A)
When he went to the show, (B)
his purse made him go (B)
to a seat in the uppermost gallery. (A)
Tune: Won’t you come to Limerick.
The First Limerick: Vice and Virtue
The oldest attested limerick is a Latin prayer by Thomas Aquinas dating back to the 13th century.
Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio Concupiscentae et libidinis exterminatio, Caritatis et patientiae, Humilitatis et obedientiae, Omniumque virtutum augmentatio.
For a list of authors who use or have used literary nonsense, click on literary nonsense (Wikipedia).
Nonsense Device: The Twist
A clever twist makes for a spirited limerick. But never would I have suspected that the great Rudyard Kiplingwould have used a “small boy of Quebec” to give one of his limericks its rather naïve, but charming twist.
There was a small boy of Quebec,
Who was buried in snow to his neck;
When they said. “Are you friz?”
He replied, “Yes, I is— But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”
The next step in our examination of regionalism in Quebec literature is Maria Chapdelaine. I have published a short post on Maria Chapdelaine, a novel written by Louis Hémon (12 October 1880 – 8 July 1913), a Frenchman born in Brest. After studying law and oriental languages at the Sorbonne, Hémon moved to London and, in 1911, to Quebec, Canada. In 1912, he spent several months working with cultivateurs, or farmers, in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area, up the beautiful Saguenay River. He lived in a community called Péribonka and spent the winter of 1912-1913 in that community, writing his novel.
Having completed his manuscript, Hémon sent it to France and started travelling west, probably to Edmonton, where French citizens had settled at that time. Hémon was killed in a train accident on 8th July 1913, at Chapleau, Ontario. He did not live to see Maria Chapdelaine become a bestseller. It has been translated into more than 20 languages in 23 countries and it has been made into three movies.[i]
The plot is simple. But, although Maria Chapdelaine is a roman du terroir, it differs substantially from Patrice Lacombe’s La Terre paternelle and from Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau’sCharles Guérin. Louis Hémon did not feel dispossessed of his ancestral land and betrayed. And he had not transformed the insurrections of 1837-1838 into an ethnic conflict, which they were not, at least initially.
The artwork featured in this post are illustrations for Maria Chapdelaine, executed by Clarence Gagnon and housed at the McMichael Museum, in Kleinburg, Ontario.
However, Hémon worked with men like Maria Chapdelaine’s father, Samuel Chapdelaine a name not coincidentally resembling that of the Father of New France, Samuel de Champlain. These otherwise unemployed men were trying to transform rebellious soil into arable land. They had gone north, as the colourful curé Labelle (24 November 1833 – 4 January 1891) advocated, and were “making land” (faire de la terre).[ii] Father Labelle preached “colonisation.” That was the “patriotic” alternative to leaving for the New England states.
Maria’s ‘Choices:’ F. Paradis, L. Surprenant & E. Gagnon
As indicated in my post, Hémon gives Maria Chapdelaine three suitors: François Paradis, Lorenzo Surprenant and Eutrope Gagnon. François dies in a snow storm, which was to be expected. In traditional Quebec society, happiness was viewed not only as impossible, but as dangerous.Lorenzo Surprenant has come north to find a wife and take her down to the United States, but Maria turns him down. She will marry a neighbour, Eutrope Gagnon, and live as her mother lived. The names of the suitors are revealing: Paradis is paradise, Surprenant, surprizing, and Gagnon, close to the verb gagner: to win. Hémon’s novel is somewhat stylised.
Maria Chapdelaine also differs from La Terre paternelle and Charles Guérin in that, unlike Chauveau’s Charles Guérin, it does not feature an ‘ugly’ Englishman: Mr Wagnaër. As for La Terre paternelle, although the novel does not feature an explicit ‘ugly’ Englishman, Jean Chauvin fails where an Englishman would have succeeded. I believe this is the reason why Lacombe views cities as unhealthy.
Our next regionalistic novel is Father Félix-Antoine Savard‘s (August 31, 1896 – August 24, 1982) Menaud maître-draveur, 1937 (translated as Boss of the River, or Master of the River by Alan Sullivan (1947). It earned Savard a Medal from the French Academy.
[ii]Curé Labelle, a legendary figure, is featured in Claude-Henri Grignon’s (Sainte-Adèle, 8 July 1894 – Québec, 3 April 1976) novel Un homme et son péché (1933). Grignon’s novel was transformed into a very popular serialized radio and television drama. A film adaptation, entitled Séraphin: Un homme et son péché, Séraphin: Heart of Stone, was released in 2003, but it had been filmed in 1949. Séraphin is a miser and he is cruel to his wife Donalda.
The Fox and the Crane, by Walter Crane (1845–1915)
Photo credit: Gutenberg [eBook #25433]), p. 19
Perry Index 426
Aarne-Thompson Classification Systems 60 (now ATU [Uther])
You have heard how Sir Fox treated Crane:
With soup in a plate. When again
They dined, a long bottle
Just suited Crane’s throttle:
And Sir Fox licked the outside in vain.
THERE ARE GAMES THAT TWO CAN PLAY ATCover Page: Baby’s Own Æsop
Photo credit: Gutenberg [eBook #25433]
(Please click on the image to enlarge it.)
Walter Crane: a Limerick
We are still in the “‘Golden Age’ of British illustration”[i] (see Arthur Rackham, Wikipedia). Walter Crane (1845–1915) created illustrations for Baby’s Own Æsop (1887), Æsop‘s Fables adapted for children. The above illustrations are examples of Art Nouveau (curves…). Famed engraver W. J. Linton (7 December 1812 – 29 December 1897) provided Walter Crane with the limericks, which does not mean he is their author. To the best of my knowledge, the limericks are anonymous. In Æsop and Jean de La Fontaine, the crane is a stork. Consequently, these are functions.
As for the text, it is a limerick version of the Æsopic fable “The Fox and the Stork” and Jean de La Fontaine’s retelling. Limericks are five-line poems and, typically, nonsensical, which is not the case with “The Fox and Crane.” The fable has simply been adapted for children. Limericks can be learned easily and then recited. Their rhyme scheme is AABBA and their meter, the tri-syllabic anapest: two short and a long. Interestingly, the shortened text is inserted in the illustration, suggesting the growing importance of illustrations. Therefore, the limericks have a dual purpose. They suit children and allow for large illustrations.
“The Fox and the Stork,” by Æsop
In Æsop’s fable, the crane (la grue) is a stork (la cigogne) and the limerick, a genuine fable. It is number 426 in the Perry Index and type 60 and AT type 60. The following is V. S. Vernon Jones’ translation of Æsop’s “The Fox and Stork.” [eBook #11339]
A Fox invited a Stork to dinner, at which the only fare provided was a large flat dish of soup. The Fox lapped it up with great relish, but the Stork with her long bill tried in vain to partake of the savoury broth. Her evident distress caused the sly Fox much amusement. But not long after the Stork invited him in turn, and set before him a pitcher with a long and narrow neck, into which she could get her bill with ease. Thus, while she enjoyed her dinner, the Fox sat by hungry and helpless, for it was impossible for him to reach the tempting contents of the vessel.
« Le Renard et la Cigogne » (I.18)
“The Fox and the Stork” (I.18)
Old Mister Fox was at expense, one day,
To dine old Mistress Stork.
The fare was light, was nothing, sooth to say,
Requiring knife and fork.
That sly old gentleman, the dinner-giver,
Was, you must understand, a frugal liver.
This once, at least, the total matter
Was thinnish soup served on a platter,
For madam’s slender beak a fruitless puzzle,
Till all had passed the fox’s lapping muzzle.
But, little relishing his laughter,
Old gossip Stork, some few days after,
Returned his Foxship’s invitation.
Without a moment’s hesitation,
He said he’d go, for he must own he
Never stood with friends for ceremony.
And so, precisely at the hour,
He hied him to the lady’s bower;
Where, praising her politeness,
He finds her dinner right nice.
Its punctuality and plenty,
Its viands, cut in mouthfuls dainty,
Its fragrant smell, were powerful to excite,
Had there been need, his foxish appetite.
But now the dame, to torture him,
Such wit was in her,
Served up her dinner
In vases made so tall and slim,
They let their owner’s beak pass in and out,
But not, by any means, the fox’s snout!
All arts without avail,
With drooping head and tail,
As ought a fox a fowl had cheated,
The hungry guest at last retreated.
You knaves, for you is this recital,
You’ll often meet Dame Stork’s requital.
Jean de La Fontaine
(Photo credit: La Fontaine, ancien site officiel)
(Photo credit: La Fontaine, ancien site officiel)
The Deceiver Deceived or “le trompeur trompé ”
The structure of this fable is that of the “deceiver deceived” or “trompeur trompé.” The fox, as host, serves the crane (la grue) her meal on a flat plate. So the crane, as hostess, serves the fox (le renard) his meal in an urn. Molière used this structure in shorter plays (one to three acts) known as farces, as opposed to grandes comédies (five acts). These shorter plays resemble French medieval farces and facéties as well as comedies belonging to the Italian commedia dell’arte, an improvised comic form where the characters were stock-characters or archetypes, i.e. they always played the same role in plays following the same formula, or plot, as in “Harlequin” Romances.
In short, “The Fox and the Crane” is a farce; a trick played on one character is played on the trickster. It is as though “The Fox and the Stork” were reversed into “The Stork and the Fox,” a mirror image æsthetics.
The Moral of “The Fox and the Stork”
At its simplest level, the moral of this fable is that what harm we do unto others can be done to us. The trickster may expect retaliation (lex talionis),[i]but not of a military nature. So this fable is a cautionary tale. The stork having been fooled by the fox, the fox can expect anything, and it is fooled the stork.
Yet, what this fable has to teach is an all-encompassing rule. It is the “do not do unto others what you do not wish others to do unto you.” According to Wikipedia,
“[t]he moral drawn is that the trickster must expect trickery in return and that the golden rule of conduct is for one to do to others what one would wish for oneself.”
Wikipedia emphasizes the universality of this rule (see Golden Rule). Let’s scroll down to the Sanskrit tradition.
“In Mahābhārata, the ancient epic of India, comes a discourse where the wise minister Vidura advises the King Yuddhiśhṭhira thus, ‘Listening to wise scriptures, austerity, sacrifice, respectful faith, social welfare, forgiveness, purity of intent, compassion, truth and self-control – are the ten wealth of character (self). O King aim for these, may you be steadfast in these qualities. These are the basis of prosperity and rightful living. These are highest attainable things. All worlds are balanced on dharma, dharma encompasses ways to prosperity as well. O King, dharma is the best quality to have, wealth the medium and desire (kāma) the lowest. Hence, (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.’”
“In the best of all possible worlds” (Candide [Leibniz], Voltaire), would the stork or crane have tricked the trickster?
Maria Chapdelaine is the next step in examining regionalism in Quebec literature. I have published a short post on Maria Chapdelaine, a novel by Louis Hémon (October 12, 1880 – July 8, 1913), a Frenchman born in Brest. After studying law and oriental languages at the Sorbonne, Hémon moved to London and, in 1911, to Quebec. In 1912, he spent several months working with cultivateurs, or farmers in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area, up the beautiful Saguenay River. He lived in a community called Péribonka and spent the winter of 1913 in that community, writing his novel.
Having completed his manuscript, Hémon sent it to France and started travelling west, probably to Edmonton, where French citizens had settled. He was killed in a train accident on July 8, 1913, in Chapleau, Ontario. He did not live to see Maria Chapdelaine become a bestseller. It has been translated into more than 20 languages in 23 countries, and it has been made into four movies.
The plot is simple, but although Maria Chapdelaine is a roman du terroir, it differs substantiallyfrom Patrice Lacombe’s Terre paternelle and Pierre-Joseph-OlivierChauveau’s Charles Guérin. Louis Hémon’s Samuel Chapdelaine does not feel dispossessed of his ancestral land and betrayed. Moreover, Louis Hémon’s novel, Maria Chapdelaine, does not feature an ethnic conflict.
The artwork featured in this post is illustrations for Maria Chapdelaine, executed by Clarence Gagnon and housed at the McMichael Museum, in Kleinburg, Ontario.
However, Hémon worked with men like Maria Chapdelaine’s father, Samuel Chapdelaine, a name not coincidentally resembling that of the Father of New France, Samuel de Champlain. These otherwise unemployed men were trying to transform rebellious soil into arable land. They had gone north, as the colourful curé Labelle (November 24, 1833 – January 4, 1891) advocated, and were “making land” (faire de la terre).[i] Father Labelle preached “colonisation,” which was the “patriotic” choice. Leaving for the United States wasn’t.
Maria’s ‘Choices:’ F. Paradis, L. Surprenant & E. Gagnon
As indicated in my post, Hémon gives Maria Chapdelaine three suitors: François Paradis, Lorenzo Surprenant and Eutrope Gagnon. In traditional Quebec society, happiness was viewed not only as impossible but as dangerous. François dies in a snowstorm, which was to be expected. Lorenzo Surprenant has come north to find a wife and take her to the United States, but Maria turns him down. She will marry a neighbour, Eutrope Gagnon, and live as her mother lived. The names of the suitors are revealing: Paradis is paradise; Surprenant is surprising, and Gagnon’s name is close to the French verb gagner: to win.
Maria Chapdelaine also differs from Patrice Lacombe’s La Terre paternelle and Chauveau’s Charles Guérin in that, unlike Chauveau’s Charles Guérin, it does not feature an “ugly” Englishman: Mr Wagnaër. As for La Terre paternelle, although the novel does not feature an explicit “ugly” Englishman, Jean Chauvin fails where an Englishman would succeed. I believe this is the reason why Lacombe views cities as unhealthy.
Our next regionalist novel is Father Félix-Antoine Savard‘s (August 31, 1896 – August 24, 1982) Menaud maître-draveur, 1937 (translated as Boss of the River, or Master of the River by Alan Sullivan (1947). It earned Savard a Medal from the French Academy.
[i]Curé Labelle, a legendary figure, is featured in Claude-Henri Grignon’s (Sainte-Adèle, 8 July 1894 – Québec, 3 April 1976) novel Un homme et son péché(1933). Grignon’s novel was transformed into a popular serialised radio and television drama and made into a movie three times. The second movie is entitled Séraphin:Heart of Stone (2003). Séraphin is a miser, and he is cruel to his wife Donalda.
Yesterday, I decorated an appreciation post by inserting a picture of one tile, William Morris‘s Columbine Tile.
So let me now honour its creator: William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896). I found a picture of this tile on a website you can access by clicking on William Morris. Moreover, the tile is on the market.
William Morris is remembered mainly as a textile designer. I became acquainted with his work when I visited the Metropolitan Music of Art, in New York. But my interest grew when I realized that he was the illustrator of the 1896 Kelmscott Press edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400).
Morris’s illustrations are reminiscent of illuminated medieval books, books enhanced by enluminures or illuminations are now prized chiefly because of their fine calligraphy and their enluminures. As I noted a few days ago, we remember John Amos Comenius because he published the first illustrated textbook.
However, let us return to William Morris to tell that he was also a writer. Among other works, he wrote News from Nowhere (1890), a book considered as utopian. He was also a predecessor to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling, in that he published a fantasy novel entitled The Well at the World’s End (1896).
In the world of fine arts, Morris is associated with two Movements:
Pre-Raphaelites championed the art of Michelangelo and, particularly, the paintings of Raphael, or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (6 April or 28 March 1483 – 6 April 1529), not to mention Leonardo da Vinci. So here we are once again at the Renaissance court of Urbino, the court where Castiglione observed courtly behaviour. Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), published in Venice in 1528, is a description of courtly life as Castiglione knew it from his long stay at the court of Urbino. The Louvre houses Raphael’s portrait of Castiglione.
The Arts and Crafts Movement
As for the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris founded the Movement. He had been inspired by the writings of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the foremost art critic of his time. Members of the Movement were traditionalists and advocates of fine design and decoration, values often belittled by artists whose works require a neutral background in order to be best shown. Beauty is everywhere, including in the manner one sets food on a plate.
Design for Trellis wallpaper by William Morris, 1862 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
William Morris is also associated with Sir Edward Burne-Jones (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898), a friend and a business partner. Sir Edward Burne-Jones’s paintings can be mistaken for medieval works.
The tile I have shown is a classic on the art of gradation. The design is dark at the very bottom, which sits it, so to speak, and then, as we near the top, the blues mutate progressively to lighter and nuanced shades of blue.
One of the key moments in the history of education is the publication, in 1658, of Johann Comenius’s (28 March 1592 – 4 November 1670) Orbis Sensualium Pictus.
Johann Amos Comenius (Latin for John Ámos Komenský) was born in what is now the Czech Republic. He is often referred to as the “father” of education. It could also be argued that he “discovered” the child. However, his fames rests mainly in the publication of the first illustrated textbook, the above-mentioned Orbis Pictus. Comenius knew that
[a] picture is worth a thousand words.
There is so much truth to this old adage that, since the publication of the Orbis Sensualium Pictus, writers and publishers of textbooks, fables, fairy tales, and various other books have made a point of inserting pictures.
Touching the senses: music and pictures
The concept underlying the importance of illustrations resembles the notion of Affektenlehre (doctrine of the affections) in music, a doctrine of which Johann Mattheson was the chief proponent. In compliance with this doctrine, composers attempted to touch the Affeckte or senses, claiming that music would thereby be morally uplifting. For instance, Haydn used contrast to touch the Affeckte.
Here, the operative word is senses. Note that the very title of Comenius’s epochal book, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, indicates that the senses play a role in teaching and learning. However, unlike Johann Mattheson, Comenius’s advocacy of the use of illustrations was not an explicit attempt to make the subject matter morally uplifting. Comenius’s goal was simply to make the subject matter more accessible and the subject matter was mainly Latin. As the title indicates, his Janua LinguarumReserata (The Gate of Tongues Unlocked, 1632) was a textbook used to teach Latin in a simplified and more effective manner. Comenius wanted to teach “about things and not about grammar.” He described “useful facts” in both Latin and Czech, side by side.[i]
The Great Didactic
Comenius’s Janua Linguarum Reserata was an extremely popular textbook. However, Comenius’s first concern was the reform of the educational system, which he described in his Didactica Magna (The Great Didactic). He also advocated universal education.
By and large, the reforms he introduced have endured. The path is mostly unchanged. Children still begin their schooling by attending a kindergarten. Pupils then attend elementary and secondary school and, upon successful completion of secondary school, young adults may enter college or a university. Moreover, the path starts with the education of infants. Comenius wrote a book for mothers entitled The School of Infancy. It is because of his books that I have stated that Comenius discovered children or childhood.
However, what I want to praise above all is his introduction of illustrations in textbooks and other books. Comenius realized that explaining a subject using words only was ineffective. He therefore stressed the importance of illustrations, or pictures. For instance, in the case of an illustrated fable, it is easier to remember the morality because it is exemplified in two ways: by a text, called exemplum, and by a picture.
Simplicity and the picture “worth a thousand words”
Other than his Great Didactic, i.e. the system, Comenius’s contribution to education is therefore twofold.
With respect to the teaching of a second language, he advocated simplicity and usefulness. He realized that one taught a language by teaching the language and not about the language.
As for teaching in general, he advocated the support of illustrations.
Drawings, paintings, prints and photographs can be an end in themselves. But illustrations are both an end in themselves and a means to an end. Most of us will gladly accept an unwrapped present, but there is so much pleasure in the traditional unwrapping of a gift.
The same is true of illustrations. Just imagine learning about Cupid and Psychewithout seeing at least one of the beautiful illustrations inspired by that lovely story.
Illustrations existed long before the publication of Orbis Pictus. In fact, they existed long before the invention of the printing-press (c. 1440). They were the illuminations of illuminated manuscripts and very expensive. However, even after the invention of the printing-press, publishing an illustrated book was a long and costly process. Distribution was limited. Only the few had access to books.
Before the invention of printing, books were copied by hand and then decorated with illuminations. Illuminations were just what the word says: illuminations. They enlightened the text.
Comenius’s books could not possibly be as beautiful as an illustrated Bestiary or Book of Hours, but many copies could be made and they could be made quickly, which means that universal education was a realistic goal.
So let us praise Comenius, the senses, and our illustrators.