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Music of the Squares: David Ramsay Hay and the Reinvention of Pythagorean Aesthetics

- May 16, 2019 in aesthetics, architecture, Art & Illustrations, David Ramsay Hay, Music, parthenon, Philosophy

Understanding the same laws to apply to both visual and aural beauty, David Ramsay Hay thought it possible not only to analyse such visual wonders as the Parthenon in terms of music theory, but also to identify their corresponding musical harmonies and melodies. Carmel Raz on the Scottish artist's original, idiosyncratic, and at times bewildering aesthetics.

The Khan’s Drinking Fountain

- April 4, 2019 in airag, alcohol, Art & Illustrations, ayrag, Culture & History, drinking, empire, fermented mare's milk, fountain, kumis, Möngke khan, mongol empire

Of all the things described in William of Rubruck’s account of his travels through 13th-century Asia, perhaps none is so striking as the remarkably ornate fountain he encountered in the Mongol capital which — complete with silver fruit and an angelic automaton — flowed with various alcoholic drinks for the grandson of Genghis Khan and guests. Devon Field explores how this so-called Silver Tree of Karakoum became a potent symbol, not only of the Mongol Empire’s imperial might, but also its downfall.

Audubon’s Haiti

- March 6, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, birds of america, Haiti, John James Audubon, where was audubon from

An entrepreneur, hunter, woodsman, scientist, and artist — John James Audubon, famous for his epic The Birds of America, is a figure intimately associated with a certain idea of what it means to be American. And like many of the country's icons, he was also an immigrant. Christoph Irmscher reflects on Audubon's complex relationship to his Haitian roots.

Progress in Play: Board Games and the Meaning of History

- February 20, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, board games, colonialism, Culture & History, Featured Articles, french revolution, games, history of board games, nationalism, progress, soviet union

Players moving pieces along a track to be first to reach a goal was the archetypal board game format of the 18th and 19th century. Alex Andriesse looks at one popular incarnation in which these pieces progress chronologically through history itself, usually with some not-so-subtle ideological, moral, or national ideal as the object of the game.

Progress in Play: Board Games and the Meaning of History

- February 20, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, board games, colonialism, Culture & History, Featured Articles, french revolution, gameboards, games, history of board games, nationalism, progress, soviet union

Players moving pieces along a track to be first to reach a goal was the archetypal board game format of the 18th and 19th century. Alex Andriesse looks at one popular incarnation in which these pieces progress chronologically through history itself, usually with some not-so-subtle ideological, moral, or national ideal as the object of the game.

Filling in the Blanks: A Prehistory of the Adult Coloring Craze

- February 6, 2019 in adult coloring books, Art & Illustrations, Books, botanical art, hisory of coloring in, kate greenaway, Painting, robert sayer, walter crane

Its dizzy heights may have passed, but the fad for adult coloring books is far from over. Many trace the origins of such publications to a wave of satirical colouring books published in the 1960s, but as Melissa N. Morris and Zach Carmichael explore, the existence of such books, and the urge to colour the printed image, goes back centuries.

“O Uommibatto”: How the Pre-Raphaelites Became Obsessed with the Wombat

- January 10, 2019 in Art & Illustrations, australia, Cheyne Walk, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Featured Articles, Jane Morris, poetry, Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti's wombat, Top the wombat, william morris, wombats

Angus Trumble on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and co's curious but longstanding fixation with the furry oddity that is the wombat — that "most beautiful of God's creatures" which found its way into their poems, their art, and even, for a brief while, their homes.

Elephants, Horses, and the Proportions of Paradise

- November 5, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, geometry, how to draw, ideal elephant, ideal horse, noah's ark, paradise, perfect elephant, perfect horse, proportion

Does each species have an optimal form? An ideal beauty that existed prior to the Fall? And if so could this be recreated on both paper and in life? These were questions that concerned both artists and breeders alike in the 17th-century. Dániel Margócsy on the search for a menagerie of perfect prelapsarian geometry.

Grandville, Visions, and Dreams

- September 26, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, Books, caricature, Featured Articles, grandville, illustration, J.J. Grandville, satire, surrealism

With its dreamlike inversions and kaleidoscopic cast of anthropomorphic objects, animals, and plants, the world of French artist J. J. Grandville is at once both delightful and disquieting. Patricia Mainardi explores the unique work of this 19th-century illustrator now recognised as a major precursor and inspiration to the Surrealist movement.

Bringing the Ocean Home

- June 21, 2018 in anemones, aquariums, Art & Illustrations, Books, fish, inventor of the aquarium, philip henry gosse, Religion, Myth & Legend, Science & Medicine

Bernd Brunner on the English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse and how his 1854 book The Aquarium, complete with spectacular illustrations and a dizzy dose of religious zeal, sparked a craze for the "ocean garden" that gripped Victorian Britain.