Monday, August 20, 2012

Unabashed romanticism

There are times when I hate cutting a particular image. But there are few times when I'd like to save an entire book - this is one of those.

A stop at my favorite neighborhood used bookstore - Significant Books - turned up a copy of a luxurious 1888 edition of Keats poems. The book was no longer a book, it was a pile of papers that were badly foxed. I flipped through them quickly and decided that at $5 it was a steal, because the central images were salvageable.

I didn't really know what I had until it was whisked off to the studio. Snip. Snip. Snip. The worst parts of the large, velvety pages hit the floor. As I got deeper into it, I couldn't help but begin to read the poems and to look more closely at Low's classic Beaux-Arts illustrations.

Low began his artistic life in his teens as a sculptor and illustrator. When he was 20, he headed to Europe to study with Jean-Léon Gérôme and Carolus-Duran. He also spent summers with the Barbizon artists, whose focus was on nature and realism. 

After five years, Low returned to America, and began working as a muralist, illustrator, and decorative painter. He achieved some fame after illustrating an equally lavish edition of Keats' "Lamia" for Lippincott in 1885. That brought the publisher back to him three years later for "Odes."

I'm smitten and now on the lookout for good copies of each, to add to my library this time - not to my stash!  

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