Friday, September 30, 2016

Who's Afraid of Leonard Woolf?

Pencil portrait of Renoir © Craig Ede (c1974)
Above Pencil drawing by former student Craig Ede (when he was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, we even team-taught foundations design one semester—I got paid, he didn't), based on a portrait photograph of the French painter Auguste Renoir.


Leonard Woolf [British writer, husband of Virginia Woolf] in Sowing: An Autobiography of the Years 1880 to 1904. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960, pp. 137-138—

Thoby [Julian Thoby Stephen, Virginia Woolf's brother] was an intellectual…But he also, though rather scornful of games and athletics, loved the open air—watching birds, walking, following the beagles. In these occupations, particularly in walking, I often joined him. Walking with him was by no means a tame business, for it was almost a Stephen principle in walking to avoid all roads and ignore the rights of property owners and the law of trespass…In our walks up the river towards Trumpington, we had several times noticed a clump of magnificent hawthorn trees in which vast numbers of starlings came nightly to roost. I have never seen such enormous numbers of birds in so small a space; there must have been thousands upon thousands and the trees were in the evening literally black with them. We several times tried to put them all up into the air at the same time, for, if we succeeded, it would have been a marvelous sight to see the sky darkened and the setting sun obscured by the immense cloud of birds. But we failed because every time we approached the trees, the birds went up into the sky spasmodically in gusts, and not altogether. So we bought a rocket and late one evening fired it from a distance into the trees. The experiment succeeded and we had the pleasure of seeing the sun completely blotted out by starlings.

Thoby Stephen, PicSketch image from G.C. Beresford photograph

Thursday, September 29, 2016

CD Portfolio Package | Bailey Higgins

© Bailey Higgins (2015)
Above Design for a CD portfolio package (covers and interior spread), designed by Bailey Higgins, graphic design student at the University of Northern Iowa.


Leonard Woolf [British writer, husband of Virginia Woolf] in Sowing: An Autobiography of the Years 1880 to 1904. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960, pp. 145-146—

[Cambridge University philosopher J.M.E.] McTaggart was one of the strangest men, an eccentric with a powerful mind which, when I knew him, seemed to have entirely left the earth for the inextricably complicated cobwebs and O altidudos of Hegelianism. He had the most astonishing capacity for profound silence that I have ever known. He lived out of college, but he had an "evening" once a week on Thursdays when, if invited or taken by an invitee, you could go and see him in his rooms in Great Court. The chosen were very few, and Lytton [Strachey], Saxon and I, who were among them, every now and again nerved ourselves to the ordeal. McTaggart always seemed glad to see us, but, having said good evening, he lay back on his sofa, his eyes fixed on the ceiling, in profound silence. Every five minutes he would roll his head from side to side, to stare with his rather protuberant, rolling eyes round the circle of visitors, and then relapse into immobility. One of us would occasionally manage to think of something banal and halting to say, but I doubt whether I ever heard McTaggart initiate a conversation, and when he did say something it was usually calculated to bring to a sudden end any conversation initiated by one of us. Yet he did not seem to wish us not to be there; indeed, he appeared to be quite content that we should come and see him and sit for an hour in silence.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When Frank Lloyd Wright Met Gertrude Stein

© Roy R. Behrens
Above Nuanced double portrait of American expatriate writers Gertrude Stein (left) and Alice B. Toklas, a digital montage that was published originally in Roy R. Behrens, COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier (Dysart IA: Bobolink Books, 2005, p. 86). Copyright © Roy R. Behrens.


It goes without saying that American architect Frank Lloyd Wright could be outspoken now and then. He was blunt, to put it mildly. Today we would scold him for political incorrectness, rudeness, maybe even bigotry.

See for example the behind-the-scenes descriptions of his two meetings with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, one of which took place in Paris and the other in Madison WI. His memories of those encounters were recorded in the diary of one of his Taliesin East students: Priscilla J. Henken, Taliesin Diary: A Year with Frank Lloyd Wright (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012). Here are two excerpts—

Entry dated Saturday, November 7, 1942 (p. 50):
As for Paris, FLW met Gertrude Stein there. Spoke of her influence on Picasso & the other "moderns," strange because she was the most unattractive, uninteresting & dull person he had ever spoken to. At a lecture she gave, she wore a man's jacket, an ankle-length skirt cut like men's trousers, and he strongly suspects a wig to cover—yes, he really thinks she was bald. Told the derivation of name Alice B. Toklas—Gertie wanted to do all the talking, so she said "Alice, be talkless."

Entry dated Saturday, January 29, 1943 (p. 109):
[FLW] Described meeting Gertrude Stein in Madison [c1933] on lecture tour—they were invited to her hotel room—she said Wright was familiar to her but she couldn't tell why. Alice B. Toklas sat behind her like a kind of guardian angel, and when they [the Wrights] invited her to the Fellowship, she hesitated, & said, "But we like to fly. We want to fly to Milwaukee." And they nudged and pinched each other, and Alice said, "yes, we like to fly."


Roland Penrose (note about a conversation with Pablo Picasso), quoted in Elizabeth Cowling, Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Diaries of Roland Penrose (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006, p. 96)—

Talked of G. Stein—[Picasso] has very low opinion of her and her "talents."

See also: Roy R. Behrens, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

CD-ROM Portfolio Package | Hastings Walsh

Portfolio Package © Hastings Walsh (2016)
Above CD-ROM portfolio package by Hastings Walsh, graphic design student at the University of Northern Iowa (2016).


Juliet M. Soskice (granddaughter of British Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown), Chapters From Childhood: Reminiscences of an Artist's Granddaughter. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1922, p. 14—

I felt sorry for Mary [her seven-year-old cousin, whose father was British writer and critic William Michael Rossetti, brother of  Dante Gabriel Rossetti]… She often used to get anxious about things. She liked digging up remains in the back garden and wondering what they were. Once she dug up some bones and was certain they belonged to a victim who had been buried by a murderer, as you read about in the paper. She was very frightened, but Helen [Mary's older sister] said no, they were some chicken bones abandoned by the cat; and so they were. And she dug up a scrap of paper, and was sure she could see traces of a mysterious message written in it, but we couldn't see anything. We put it under the microscope, and there was nothing written on it at all. But she said she could see it, so she kept it. When she dug up an old piece of glass or tin she used to believe they were Roman remains, because she said she was sure it was the Romans who had begun to build the waterworks at the foot of Primrose Hill. She didn't believe it really, but she wanted to so much that she almost did. She wasn't very brave, and she used to cry a good deal because she was always frightened by the grave things Helen talked about.

Game, Stamps and Cash | Jake Manternach

Game parody © Jake Manternach (2016)
Above Hypothetical redesign of Mastermind code-breaking game, with the addition of a narrative theme, by Jake Manternach (2016), graphic design student at the University of Northern Iowa.


Roland Penrose (British artist and Picasso biographer), quoted in Elizabeth Cowling, Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose. London: Thames and Hudson, 2006—

Autumn 1956
Don José [Picasso's father, artist and professor of art] became almost blind before he died. When shown a blank sheet of paper at art school he said to the pupil, "You should make your drawing stronger." He retired from post at school because of blindness. (p. 175)

12 May 1964
[While visiting Picasso in France] Before leaving we watched all-in wrestling on T.V. He makes a point of watching this program twice a week. J[acqueline, Picasso's wife] cannot stand it. So he usually watches alone. Affectionate goodbyes and inquiries about our next visit. (p. 264)


Below Design for a block of postage stamps and the paper currency for an imagined country named Qualm (2016), by Jake Manternach.

Stamps and currency © Jake Manternach

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CD Portfolio Package | Heidi Schmidt

© Heidi Schmidt 2015
Above CD portfolio package design by graphic design student Heidi Schmidt (2015) at the University of Northern Iowa.


Lady Isabella Gregory, in Lennox Robinson, ed., Lady Gregory's Journals 1916-1930. New York: MacMillan, 1947, p. 205—

He [Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw] talked afterwards of what [Victorian poet] Wilfrid Blunt had written of [Arts and Crafts designer] William Morris and of his being without love for anyone (except his invalid daughter), and said it is so often with men immersed in their work, they have no room for another strong affection. The first time he saw Mrs. Morris [Jane Burden Morris] it was a shock. She was lying full length on a sofa, her long limbs covered, and looked death-like—like clay. He was trying the other day if he could remember anything she had ever said and could not, except that one day when he had taken a second helping of some pudding, she said, "You seem to like that pudding," and when he answered "Yes," she said, "There is suet in it." That word, aimed at his vegetarianism, is all he can remember.

Game Design and Poster | Sawyer Phillips

Poster © Sawyer Phillips 2015
Above Poster by graphic design student Sawyer Phillips. Its purpose was to advertise the annual Rod Library Comic Conference (RodCon), which took place in April 2016 on the University of Northern Iowa campus. In the judging, it was not selected for actual use. At the bottom of this page is another design by the same student for the hypothetical redesign of the game Mastermind, with the addition of a narrative theme.


Juliet M. Soskice (granddaughter of British Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown), Chapters From Childhood: Reminiscences of an Artist's Granddaughter. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1922, pp. 100-101—

[As a young girl, while living in a convent, some of her sins] were bad ones, such as being unbelieving. That's one of the worst sins. I didn't believe about the devil's climbing over the fence into the Garden of Eden, and disguising himself as a serpent and making all the trouble about the apple. I thought it more likely that Eve wanted the apple from the very beginning and invented the story about the serpent in order to put the blame on the devil. He had such a bad character already that anything would have been believed against him. I didn't believe either about the whale's being seasick and casting up Jonah on to dry land all tidily dressed as though nothing had happened as he appears in Bible pictures. I didn't believe that all the animals walked into the ark two and two, and behaved properly when Noah explained to them about the flood. I was sure some of them would have quarreled.
Game Design © Sawyer Phillips

The Pleasures of Teaching Design History

© Roy R. Behrens
Above Few things are more enjoyable than to teach the history of design. But more satisfying than the actual teaching is the process of building the lectures, as in this slide from a recent lecture about the Gothic Revival, John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites.


Stephen Leacock, quoted in David M. Legate, Stephen Leacock: A Biography. Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1970, p. 94—

It appears that the right time to begin gardening is last year. For many things it is well to begin the year before last. For good results one must begin even sooner. Here, for example, are the directions, as I interpret them, for growing asparagus. Having secured a suitable piece of ground, preferably a deep friable loam rich in nitrogen, go out three years ago and plow or dig deeply. Remain a year inactive, thinking. Two years ago pulverize the soil thoroughly. Wait a year. As soon as last year comes set out the young shoots. Then spend a quiet winter doing nothing. The asparagus will then be ready to work at this year.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Mason City Bank / Hotel by Frank Lloyd Wright

Above Page from Frank Lloyd Wright and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016) with digital diagrams of the City National Bank and Park Inn in Mason City, Iowa, an important tandem building design by Frank Lloyd Wright (1910).

Its exterior fully restored, and the interior restored or appropriately reconstructed, it opened again as a hotel, restaurant and events facility in September 2011. Below is a postcard view of the original structure, c1910.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Grant Wood: What Did He Do and …

Above Poster for free upcoming public event, GRANT WOOD: What Did He Do and How Did He Do It?, at the North Side Library, 3516 Fifth Avenue, Des Moines IA, September 17, 2016, 2:00-3:30 pm. Limited space. Pre-register here. Sponsored by Humanities Iowa.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Constitution and Equal Protection for All

Poster © Roy R. Behrens
Above Poster for Constitution Day event, titled The Constitution and Equal Protection: Black Lives Matter, sponsored by the American Democracy Project and Office of the Provost at the University of Northern Iowa. Poster designed by Roy R. Behrens © 2016.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Mason City Architecture

ISBN 978-1467118606
Above Cover of FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT AND MASON CITY: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016), a new book (out soon) about Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony Griffin, and others in relation to the extraordinary cluster of Prairie School architectural gems in Mason City, Iowa. Written by design historian Roy R. Behrens, with a preface by Australian art historian Ann Elias.

With the recent restorations of Wright's Stockman House, and his City National Bank and Park Inn (his only surviving hotel, now functioning again as an historic bed and breakfast site), Mason City has been cited by Condé Nast Traveler magazine as one of the top fourteen favorite cities among architectural enthusiasts. More…>>>


Alasdair McGregor, Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. Camberwell VIC: Penguin Books, 2009±

[The Rock Crest / Rock Glen neighborhood in Mason City] is the most successfully realized Prairie School development anywhere in America.

Rock Crest / Rock Glen area in Mason City IA