Posts tagged: art

Book review: Priceless

By , June 9, 2015

By Robert K. Wittman

3 nights at a 4 star hotel in a warm climate: approximately $1000

Car rental to get you to the beach: $100

Reading a good book at said beach while you dig your toes into the warm sand: Priceless.

Oh wait. No, I’m sorry. The name of the book is Priceless. You don’t have to read it at the beach. You can read it anywhere you want.

As we gear up for summer reading fun, folks always ask for the latest, greatest beach read. And if you’re tired of all the old standbys (Grisham, King, Evanovich), I think I’ve got a great sleeper hit for you.

Recently I’ve returned to watching White Collar, which is a USA show about a known forger working with the New York FBI office to solve art crimes. (If you’re not watching it you should be – but that’s a blog for a different time.) In an act of library serendipity, I came across this book that was written by the founder of the real FBI Art Crime Team. Robert K. Wittman spent his FBI career working undercover to retrieve stolen works of art around the globe.

The Art Crime Team is small – sometimes consisting of only Wittman himself. But the stories he weaves are amazing and read like a crime novel. He recovered many different stolen pieces of art, an original copy of the Bill of Rights, and even an stolen manuscript of Pearl Buck.

I thought the most interesting part of the book was the ongoing investigation of The Gardner Museum Heist. Anyone who is anyone knows that the Garnder Museum is the biggest unsolved art theft in history. (If you didn’t know that, I just told you so now you know. Welcome to the club.)  25 years after the disappearance of three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, among others, empty frames still hang on the wall. According to Wittman, he worked this case for several years, but…EDITED FOR SPOILERS.

Sorry, you’re going to have to read it to see what happened. The library has this in book book form, audio book form, and ebook. Pick your poison for  a summer of fun reading.

And this counts towards your Summer Reading Challenge. Let’s get going people!

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


Book review: The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio

By , April 19, 2015

The Art of the Simon and Kirby StudioThe Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio
by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; selected and edited by Mark Evanier ; afterword by Jim Simon

The impact and influence of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on comics cannot be overstated. If they’d stopped working in the ‘40s after creating Captain America that would have been enough, but these two men pivoted as their industry changed post-World War II. Kirby produced art at furious clip, filling pages and pages and even more pages while other artists were still sharpening their pencils.

Kirby, of course, became the King, the co-creator of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, and countless other characters. That work tends to obscure his early collaborations with Simon, but this book goes a long way toward changing that. It contains stories published in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s by the Simon and Kirby studio

Simon, no slouch at the art desk himself, had a head for business, and helped the studio become one of the premiere producers of content for America’s comic book industry. In addition to their own work, the Simon and Kirby studio produced work by some of comics’ most famous names: Mort Meskin, Steve Ditko, Al Williamson, and Jack Davis.

Instead of reading finished comic pages, this book is filled with beautiful scans of original art. The pages are gray and yellow and speckled with age, but the art remains as sharp as ever. There are half-finished covers, scribbled text acting as placeholders for copy, and rivers of correction fluid winding through the panels.

Reading this book is like entering the offices of Simon and Kirby and rifling through their files, scouring the slush pile, even breathing in the smoke from one of Kirby’s cigars. It’s a museum in miniature, and like so much else these two artists touched, it’s a wonder to behold.


William Eichbaum’s Sketchbook of Nashville

By , October 13, 2014

Photograph of William Eichbaum, circa 1868

He has a grim appearance. Sunken cheeks, deep eyes, prominent nostrils, and a firm, thin mouth. A bit like Phantom of the Opera. William Eichbaum doesn’t look like someone you’d enjoy meeting. In fact, I would probably cross the street to avoid him. But it would be my loss if I chose to do so.

Eichbaum was the son of German parents, but was born in Ireland in 1787. He immigrated to the United States around 1820, and soon thereafter settled in Nashville, marrying Catherine Stearns in 1825. In the 1830s, he opened the Nashville Bookstore on College Street (now Third Avenue N.), and built the first brick house on what is now Seventh Avenue. He was very involved in various civic activities and organizations, was a charter member of the Tennessee Historical Society, served as treasurer of the Mt. Olivet Cemetery Company, and was an active member of the Christian Church. His obituary in January 1873 declared: “he was seldom seen at home without a book in his hand.”

Turns out, he’s my kind of guy.

Buildings of Nashville

First Presbyterian Church pen and ink drawing by William Eichbaum

First Presbyterian Church

I’m even more certain of this fact when I look at the pen and ink wash drawings he did of various buildings around Nashville in the 1850s.

Some are still easily recognizable, like the downtown First Presbyterian Church, designed in the Egyptian revival style by William Strickland.  Now known as Downtown Presbyterian, the building can still be seen at the corner of Fifth Avenue North and Church Street.

Pen and ink drawing of Davidson County, Tenn. Court House circa 1856

Davidson County Court House, Public Square




Others are of buildings long gone, including a few that were lost to fire in Eichbaum’s lifetime, such as the Davidson County Court House (1830-1856).



Pen and ink map of Nashville in 1804 by William Eichbaum

Nashville in 1804


Some of the more fascinating materials include hand-drawn maps of Nashville – one from 1804 based upon “notes of an intelligent resident at the time” and a contrasting map from 1854, showing the growth of the city in the course of fifty years.

Eichbaum’s sketchbook contains a total of twenty-seven highly detailed drawings. In a time when photography had not yet entered the mainstream, this resource provides an incomparable view of Nashville in the 1850s. Some images may be the only ones that exist of some of these buildings.

Viewing the Sketchbook

View online: Eichbaum’s entire sketchbook is available online as part of the Library’s Digital Collections, with the capability to zoom in for detailed close study. View the sketchbook.

View color copies in person: Due to the extreme fragility of the original, only color copies of the sketchbook are available for research use in person at the Special Collections Division.

The Special Collections Division is open during regular library hours on the second floor of the Main Library downtown, or call us at 615-862-5782 for more information on our holdings.

(Photograph: William Eichbaum, circa 1868 from Nashville Room Historic Photo Collection, P-2129)

– Linda

Book review: Don’t Pigeonhole Me!

By , March 8, 2014

Don’t Pigeonhole Me!: Two Decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook
By Mo Willems

If I let the Pigeon stay up late and drive the bus and have a hot dog – do you think I could keep him?

Did you know the Pigeon has all sorts of crazy brothers and sisters to enjoy – beside just Piggie and Gerald?

Do you want me to keep asking you silly questions instead of telling you why this book is so awesome?

Good. Me neither.

All I know is that I think the Pigeon is the best young children’s book character to emerge since Dr. Seuss. He’s hilarious. He’s snarky. And sometimes he needs a spanking. But you still have to love the Pigeon.

Mo Willems has just published a large collection of his sketchbooks – which include Pigeon ponderings, as well as other doodles here and there. Not everything is a winner, but it’s interesting to see what made the cut and what didn’t. The super best part of the book is where the Pigeon retells “The Little Engine that Could” but with an explosive new ending. I also enjoyed the first draft of “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.” This one’s not quite as good as the final product, but it’s fun to see the genesis of the project.

Mo Willems might be known for being a children’s author, but this book is definitely not for the minors among us. Especially not the Belligerent Bunny (shhh…he’s a little shloshed.)

I almost hate to check my copy back in, but since I want to share it with all of you, I’ll make the sacrifice. If you’ve enjoyed any books by Mo Willems, you have to READ THIS ONE! (Sorry, that was the Pigeon talking. Told you he gets rowdy.)

Happy reading…

:) Amanda (aka #1 Pigeon fan)


New Year’s Images of Old

By , December 27, 2013

While digging for some articles about New Year’s Day in the Main library’s periodicals collection, I came across some wonderful New Year’s Saturday Evening Post covers by American illustrator J.C. Leyendecker.

Baby New Year and Crystal Ball
January 4, 1936

Baby New Year Celebrates
January 2, 1937













Leyendecker’s work pre-dated and was a major influence on the art of Norman Rockwell; he actually created over 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post in addition to covers for other popular magazines, advertisements for well-known products (like Arrow shirts, Ivory soap, and Kellogg’s), and military recruitment posters supporting our country’s war efforts.

Baby New Year at Forge
January 1, 1938

New Year and Warring Fist
January 4, 1941













Leyendecker has been credited with creating the iconic images we now associate with many of our holidays including the New Year’s baby, designed for a series of Saturday Evening Post covers beginning in the 1920s.  His final New Year’s baby cover (pictured below) – from the January 2, 1943 issue –  was also his last cover for the Saturday Evening Post, ending many years of association with the magazine.  You can learn more about J.C. Leyendecker and see a gallery of his Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations here.

No Trespassing
January 3, 1942

Baby New Year at War
January 2, 1943













Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this look back at some images from New Years of old.  Check out these books for more information on The Saturday Evening Post and its illustrators, like J.C. Leyendecker:

When you’re finished with the old New Year, check out this list of Non-Fiction titles that may interest you in the coming New Year of 2014:

Book list: Punk x 3

By , July 22, 2013

Punk: Chaos to Couture
by Andrew Bolton

Instant flame war: punk was a fashion movement that originated in the 1970s – discuss. If you need evidence to support one side of that argument  may I present Punk: Chaos to Couture, the accompanying volume to a recent Metropolitan Museum of Art show documenting the links between 1970s punk fashion and, well, all fashion. The gutter to the penthouse, the Sex Pistols were dressed by Vivienne Westwood. Puke stained carpet to red carpet, The Clash were dressed by Alex Michon. Introductions by Johnny Rotten and Richard Hell. So much for social justice.


Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine
by John Holmstrom & Bridget Hurd

It’s hard to argue that punk’s primary focus was social justice when flipping through the pages of Punk: The Best of Punk MagazinePunk was the seminal New York music zine. This coffee table sized, deluxe reprint proves definitely that punk music and punk fashion started in NYC, but also that punk was about beers and cars and casual misogyny in early days. Perhaps The Clash were good for something? The boneheadedness of Punk’s editors didn’t stop free thinking goddesses like Patti Smith and Debbie Harry from participating. Anyone who was anyone of the early days are interviewed: The Ramones, Television, Iggy, Suicide, etc, all with illustrious hand lettering. Who remembers was hand lettering was street and not boutique? This is the hard bound edition of the best magazine about the best thing that ever happened to rock-n-roll.


We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews
by Daniel Sinker (Ed.)

Punk was far more focused on social issues by the time Punk Planet was launched in 1994. Known for its lengthy and insightful interviews with musicians, artists, and social activists, it published for eighty issues before biting the dust. We Owe You Nothing is the best of those interviews. The library owns the 2001 edition which I read in 2010 and it still blew my mind. It’s chicken soup for the DIY soul. It was published by always stellar Akashic Books.

If you clicked to read this you’ll probably also be interested in Zines 101: A History of and How To Zine Workshop at the Main Library in the Teen Center, Saturday, July 27th, 1-3pm. It is in the Teen Center but open to all.

- Bryan

Survey Graphic Magazine and the Harlem Renaissance

By , February 10, 2013


While helping some high school students research the Harlem Renaissance, I discovered that Nashville Public
Library owns the March 1925 “Graphic Number” of
The Survey magazine.  This volume was a showcase that quickly made the rest of the country aware of the burgeoning cultural movement happening in Harlem, especially the literary achievements.

 The “Graphic Number” was a special issue printed yearly of The Survey, a magazine about social issues in America.  The 1925 Survey Graphic issue was devoted entirely to Harlem and to the “New Negro Movement” that later became known as the Harlem Renaissance. 

African American scholars Charles S. Johnson (who eventually became the first black president of Fisk University) and Alain Locke were the guest editors for this special issue.  Locke later turned the magazine into a book anthology titled The New Negro: An Interpretation.

The magazine includes articles by Locke, Johnson, and other scholars as well as stories by W.E.B. Dubois and Rudolph Fisher.  Most of the art pieces are black and white drawings by Winold Reiss, a German immigrant. They include portraits of Harlem residents and other notable figures of the Harlem Renaissance movement. The significant poets of the Harlem Renaissance are also represented in this issue:
              • Claude McKay
              • Anne Spencer
              • Jean Toomer
              • Countee Cullen
              • Langston Hughes

You can see this influential magazine by visiting the Periodicals desk on the 3rd floor at the Main library.  To learn more about the Harlem Renaissance and some of the figures showcased in the March, 1925 Survey Graphic, check out these materials from Nashville Public Library:

The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest

By , January 20, 2013

Philistine Cover

The Philistine explodes bomb-bombs to fire the bum-bums and the should-be dumb-dumbs . . . The good stuph is gathered every month by Elbert Hubbard, plucked sizzling from the fiery furnace, and put in palatable, picturesque, and piquant form for the delectation of the faithful . . . The Philistine is never dull.  It makes many glad, some sad, and a few mad.  It says things that make you think.  Thus it does more than merely entertain.

The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest is one of the little-known gems of the Periodicals collection, held at the Main library (ask for it at Periodicals desk – 3rd floor).  Elbert Hubbard, a famous and somewhat controversial figure of the time, wrote and published this title from 1895-1915.  Main Library holds the issues from 1901-1915.

The volumes are very small – about 6” tall and 4” wide. They include essays and epigrams penned by Hubbard as well as ads for the Essay by Elbert Hubbardproducts made by the Roycroft community.  Roycroft was a community of artisans that Hubbard founded – they spearheaded the Arts and Crafts movement in America.

Hubbard printed the magazine himself with a press he installed at Roycroft.  The Roycrofters also produced special editions of Hubbard’s books, other popular titles, and handmade furniture, leather and metal goods.

Hubbard was a larger than life character full of contradictions, espousing ideas like socialism and the free market at the same time. He wrote about philosophy, religion, politics, literature, business, self-improvement and more.  His style was humorous, irreverent, often arrogant and (in my opinion) a little bit kooky.  Hubbard toured America giving lectures in addition to publishing pamphlets, magazines and books.

In 1915 Hubbard and his wife died aboard the Lusitania.  This ended The Philistine’s run, but his son continued to run the Roycroft community for about 20 more years.

What’s Special About The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest?

W.W. Denslow, an artist at the Roycroft Community who went on to illustrate the L. Frank Baum Wizard of Oz books, designed the “Seahorse” logo used in the magazine.

Epigram by Elbert Hubbard in The PhilistineEvery issue included epigrams written by Hubbard and printed in a decorative font with intricate borders.

Hubbard’s essays often skewered the leading literary figures of the day, attacking George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, William Dean Howells, and others with somewhat exaggerated criticism.

In March 1899, Hubbard published in The Philistine an inspirational 1500-word essay called “A Message to Garcia” that became extremely popular, eventually being reprinted over 9 million times.

Philistine War NumberThe January 1915 issue of The Philistine was about World War I (called “The War Number”), in which Hubbard strongly     opposed American involvement.

Tribute to Elbert HubbardThe final issue is a tribute to Elbert Hubbard and his wife, who died aboard the Lusitania.

To learn more about Elbert Hubbard, you can check out these items from Nashville Public Library:

Graphic novel pick: Drawn Together and other Crumby stuff

By , December 10, 2012

Drawn Together by Aline and Robert CrumbDrawn Together
by Aline Kominsky-Crumb & R. Crumb

Drawn Together is the collected collaborative work of underground comics superstar team Aline and Robert Crumb. Married for over thirty-five years, they have shared their personal relationship through uncensored autobiographical comics. Covering 1974 to 2010, it charts their critical and financial rise from (literally) a trailer in California to a chateau in France. Individual vignettes are hit or miss, but overall we are given a portrait of a successful, long term, non-traditional relationship. They have an open marriage. The entire volume is evidence that the strongest couples are those in which the constituent personalities are complementary, as opposed to clones, of one another.

Need More Love by Aline Kominsky-CrumbWhat’s lacking is the narrative arc of Aline’s underrated mixed media biography Need More Love.  That book is a life affirming exploration of being damaged and the journey we are all on to fix it. It is an antidote to the negative portrayal of Aline found in Terry Zwigoff’s biopic of her neurotic husband, simply titled Crumb. If Need More Love is about the ability of people to change, Crumb is about one artist’s psychodynamics trapping their owner in an obsessional loop. Its vision may not be hopeful, but is it shockingly honest and simultaneously enlightening like turning a light on in a darkened room. The room being Robert Crumb’s bizarre childhood.


Crumb DVDThough Crumb ranks as of the best films of the 1990s, Robert’s actual comics have never spoken much to me. I don’t possess his self-loathing nor his sexual obsessions. In this regard, Robert’s influence on other comics auteurs has been negative. Artists like Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Chester Brown share his technical excellence but also his misanthropy and confessional self-indulgence. The library owns numerous examples of Crumb’s work in this, for him, classic mode, but if you wanted an alternative you could check out his illustrated version of The Book of Genesis. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than Robert Crumb illustrating the Bible but it was a bonafide event when it was published a few years back.

I would be remiss not to mention the Crumbs’ daughter Sophie’s recently published notebooks Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist. The aesthetic relevance vs. cash cow status of that particular artifact is up to the reader. I would call out the haters who say the same thing about Need More Love. My opinions deserve the same scrutiny.

CrumbNeed More Love, and Drawn Together intimately document one couple’s decades long artistic and romantic life. It’s one for the history books. I feel privileged to have been witness. It has filled me with fascination and joy.

- Bryan

Book review: The Art book 2nd edition

By , October 21, 2012

The Art Book 

Deceptively simple in structure and weighing in at 8 pounds 8 ounces, the new edition of The Art Book  offers a comprehensive A to Z art appreciation course in one single volume.

Arranged alphabetically by artist, each page contains a single piece of representative art work. With this arrangement the reader will come across works of art on facing pages that have nothing in common besides the first letters in the surname of the artist. This allows for cross page displays of unlikely works. The black and white photograph of Nobuyashi Araki’s wife, Yoko (1971) shares the page spread with an Alexander Archipenko bronze sculpture, Walking (1912). Another “spread” finds a Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with a sacrifice to Apollo (1662) on page left and Franceso Clemente’s Self portrait: the first (1979) page right. The book is full of surprise pairings. The pairings are masterfully selected to enhance the work of each. Compare and contrast studies rarely gets this interesting.

Artists added to this edition include, Marina Abramivic, Tomma Abts, Ai Weiwei, Brice Marden, Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Ed Ruscha, Robert Smithson and Kara Walker. One current artist not included is John Currin. That means no topless Bea Arthur painting and no bulbous representation of females inspired by Rachel Feinstein. See Tomma Abts’ 2011 painting Uphe.  This work in teal blue and green is a mesmerizing study of the popular pallette of this Fall’s fashion and decorating season.

Occasionally the artists whose work was represented in the earlier edition, has been revised as in the case of John Singer Sargent. His updated entry  is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. The Salvador Dali entry is now Lobster Telephone. Jan Vermeer now represented with Woman in blue reading a letter. New artists plus new selections equal new pairings.

Above each work few paragraphs describe the work, the artist and the works place in art history. A tiny pointing hand symbol directs the reader to related artists, a sort of “see also” note for continued investigation.

Beneath each work is the artist’s name, dob /dod, place of birth, place of death, date of production , materials, dimensions and holding gallery or collection. For example: Georgia O’Keefe b. Sun Prairie, WI, 1887. D. Santa Fe, NM, 1986. Radiator Building. 1927.  Oil on canvas. h.121.9 x w76.2 cm. h48 x w30 in. Fisk University, Nashville, Tn.  There’s always a Nashville connection.

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