This month’s blog post on the Library’s Livres d’Artistes is written by Tom Cullimore, a previous trainee and recent Assistant Librarian at St John’s College Library. The Library has a collection of livres d’artistes – you can find out more about these texts by reading Tom’s previous blog post. This collection includes two visual interpretations of literary works by James Joyce.
Ein Hamburger Ulysses (2002) is a livre d’artiste by Caroline Saltzwedel, the German painter and graphic artist. It consists of eighteen leaves of plates – colour engravings which depict scenes from Ulysses, the novel by Joyce, as though they were in contemporary Hamburg – and two supplementary sheets bearing working notes by the artist. The St John’s book is one of the ten copies for which linen-covered boxes were made by Ingeborg Hartman, in Hamburg.
The dead: from Dubliners (1982) is a copy of a limited edition which presents ‘The Dead’, a short story collected in Dubliners, alongside four etchings by Pietro Annigoni, the Italian painter. The book was printed on hand-made Magnani paper at the Officina Bodoni in Verona and bound in quarter green morocco with gold tooling and a gilt top edge.
In The dead: from Dubliners, each of the four engravings has been printed on a leaf which has then been inserted between pages of text to represent a scene described at the relevant stage of the story. The first illustration depicts the heads and shoulders of two characters at “the dark, gaunt house on Usher’s Island”, where a dance is being hosted by Kate and Julia Morkan, two sisters, and their niece, Mary Jane, who has lived with them since “the death of their brother Pat”. The foreground figure is Freddy Malins, “a young man of about forty”; in the background is Gabriel Conroy, a school teacher from whose point of view most of the story is written. Gabriel is escorting Freddy, who is drunk as he enters the room where the dance is taking place. Kate and Julia have been “dreadfully afraid that Freddy Malins might turn up screwed”, and they bear witness to the scene represented in the etching.
The last illustration visualises an image from the day-dream Gabriel Conroy has at the end of the story. The image is “the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree”. Gretta Conroy, Gabriel’s wife, has evoked this in the previous part of the story; the “young man” is Michael Furey, a “delicate boy” who Gretta knew in Galway when she lived with her grandmother. Gretta has told Gabriel the story of Michael Furey’s death: although she has said that he worked “in the gasworks”, which demanded hard, physical labour, she has also said that she thinks “he died for” her. Gabriel has internalised and extended the comparison – which Gretta has been making “in her mind” – between “another”, Michael Furey, and himself, and has become aware of his mortality. This has stimulated the image in his day-dream, which prefigures his death.
Although Ein Hamburger Ulysses does not include the text of Ulysses, each of its plates represents a chapter of the novel. Saltzwedel has printed each at one pass on hand-made BFK Rives paper, using ‘simultaneous multi-colour printing’, a technique whereby she has applied numerous inks to a single plate. That technique, otherwise known as ‘simultaneous polychrome printing’, was developed in the 1940s by Stanley William Hayter, the English painter and engraver. It is likely that Saltzwedel learned it from Jean Lodge, the American engraver, who taught her at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford – between 1965 and 1969, Lodge worked at Atelier 17, the studio which Hayter had set up and opened to artists in Paris in 1933, and which he had reopened in 1950.
The etchings adapt Ulysses to contemporary Hamburg visually. Their titles approximate those of the chapters of the novel, and each print interprets a chapter, but the illustrations picture the episodes of the novel as though they were scenes of everyday life in contemporary Hamburg, rather than those of life in Dublin on 16th June 1904. The fourth print, for example, represents ‘Calypso’, the fourth chapter of the novel, as though it were set near Planten un Blomen, a park in the inner-city of Hamburg. The woman is an equivalent of Molly Bloom, a concert singer who, in the fourth chapter of the novel, stays in bed while Leopold Bloom, her husband, shops for and prepares breakfast. She is sitting on the balcony of a house or flat, leaning on the railing and looking at the street below her. A cat is walking along the railing – the Blooms’ cat accompanies Leopold Bloom in ‘Calypso’. The sky is suggestive of a bright morning in June, and the yellow which is there is also in the woman, in the cat, and in the Heinrich Hertz Tower, the structure in the top-left hand corner of the etching. The tower, which includes a two-storey observation platform, was built in the 1960s for Deutsche Bundespost, the German Federal Post and Telecommunications Agency, and it continues to be used for radio telecommunications. The depiction of it alludes to the themes of observation, mass media and postal communication in ‘Calypso’. Leopold Bloom brings the post to his wife in the chapter. This includes a letter from Blazes Boylan, Molly Bloom’s concert manager, who is having an affair with her under the anguished observation of Molly’s husband. It also includes a letter from Milly Bloom, Leopold and Molly’s daughter, who relates her progress in a photography business in Mullingar. At the end of the chapter, Leopold Bloom reads a story in a popular magazine.
Between 1950 and his death in 1988, Annigoni lived and worked six months a year in Florence and six months a year in London. In the 1950s, he earnt his reputation as a painter of official and society portraits; he acquired international fame with his Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which was completed in 1954 and became popular the next year, when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts and widely discussed. In later years he tended to concentrate on religious subjects, executing commissions and receiving assistance from his pupils. Saltzwedel was born in England; she studied German language and literature at the University of Durham and printmaking at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. She has lived in Hamburg since 1995, and in 1998, she founded Hirundo Press, a publisher of artists’ books.
The fact that Ein Hamburger Ulysses and The dead: from Dubliners have been produced outside Ireland yet within Europe is fitting: although the subject of the Joyce works is Dublin, ‘The Dead’ was finished in Rome or Trieste and published as a story in Dubliners in London in 1914, and most of Ulysses was written in Zurich before the novel was published in Paris in 1922. It is also fitting that a non-Irish yet European artist has interpreted Ulysses, which alludes to Homer’s Odyssey systematically.
Core, P. (2003). Annigoni, Pietro. Retrieved February 21st, 2018 from http://www.oxfordartonline.com/
Hacker, P.M.S. (2004). Hayter, Stanley William. Retrieved February 21st, 2018 from http://www.oxforddnb.com/
Head, D. (2006). The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. (3rd edition). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Hirundo Press. (2014). Vita. Retrieved February 21st, 2018 from https://hirundo.eu/atelier/vita
Joyce, J. (1965). Dubliners. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.
Joyce, J. (1982). The dead: from Dubliners. Frenich, Foss, Pitlochry [Perthshire]: Kulgin D. Duval and Colin H. Hamilton.
Joyce, J. (1998). Ulysses. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Oxford Art Online. (2018). Annigoni, Pietro. Retrieved February 21st, 2018 from http://www.oxfordartonline.com/
Oxford Art Online. (2018). Lodge, Jean. Retrieved February 21st, 2018 from http://www.oxfordartonline.com/
Saltzwedel, C. (2002). Ein Hamburger Ulysses. Hamburg, Germany: Hirundo Press.