Monday, 8 December 2008

'The eye, like a strange balloon mounts toward infinity'

Or, as the original French title has it, "L'oeil, comme un ballon bizarre se dirage vers l'Infini". That's the title of this print by Odilon Redon (1840-1916) which crops up on a lot of book covers.



The first example is particularly appropriate, since the image in question was inspired by Poe's writings, specifically outer-space balloon adventure 'The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall', included in this collection.



It was widely seen on the original hardback and paperback editions of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love.



Then there's this foreign version of Jose Saramago's Seeing.



And then we have this philosophy book by Eugene Halton.



More Redon freakery on this NYRB reissue of the frankly batty Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars (about which more here).


UPDATE: Infinitely wise reader Marc points out in the comments that Redon also adorned the first English translation (Urizen, 1977) of Bataille's Story of the Eye. That image also appears on the cover of Penguin's sadly out-of-print collection of Poe's comic writing.

9 comments:

Will said...

Have you seen this show up on any covers? I want to use it!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lotusgreen/285127783/


I love Redon's eye balloon on Penguin's Poe book. Most US editions of his work are nondescript or outright ugly.

JRSM said...

Yes: much better than a stock photo of a raven or some blood spatters. The smiling spider only seems to have been used on one book cover, and that's Dover's collection of Redon's work (ISBN 048644659X).

http://store.doverpublications.com/048644659x.html

Looks as though the field is clear!

Juliet said...

I'm actually quite surprised that Redon isn't used far more often - his oeuvre offers a fantastic picture library of weird, creepy and vaguely nauseous images.

JRSM said...

His work is really compelling, isn't it? Actually, Dover has a sale on at the moment, and though I have no money, that book of his art is calling out to me...

Ian Brian Shimkoviak said...

I've always like this artists work and thought it would lend well for a cover or two, but I didn't even bother trying to call about rights because I think it would be rather expensive...

JRSM said...

I suspect so, although if Dover can reprint a whole bunch of his stuff at low cost, perhaps it's not so bad. Not actually sure who has the reproduction rights: I guess they're fairly scattered these days over a number of institutions, etc.

Marc said...

Dover tends to only publish public domain work, or at least did when that Redon book originally came out (in the 1960s, I think). You'd have to pay for a good file of the image depending on the institution that owns the original work, but a lot of those lithographs originally appeared in books. As far as books in English go, another notable use of Redon was on the cover of an early translated edition of Bataille's Story of the Eye. I agree with Juliet, but am also sort of secretly pleased that the charge of his work hasn't lessened much through overexposure on book jackets. The book on him by Larsen (?) from Penn State Press a couple of years ago is quite beautiful, with some substantive text to go along with the imagery.

JRSM said...

Thanks, Marc: I didn't know about the Bataille cover--I'll update the post to include it. Cheers!

Web Designer said...

story of the eyes's book cover is really nice.