Or Diligently Seeking Sidney Sime
Anyone recall Sidney H. Sime? I have to confess I didn’t, but his name came up, as the saying goes, the other day. In a book by H. P. Lovecraft.
Lovecraft was a great inventer of mythical (and generally long-lost, terribly distasteful and downright dangerous) books, the most famous being his Necronomicon by the mad (albeit fictional) Arab Abd Al’Azrad. But, curiously enough, while Lovecraft often refers to imagery in his work, the only invented pictures are those of his imaginary and macabre painter Richard Upton Pickman, formerly of Boston, who finally ends up as a rather sociable and helpful ghoul in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
However, Lovecraft often refers to the work of real painters and illustrators. In his fiction, he speaks of several, both contemporary and bygone. Gustave Doré, Aubrey Beardsley, Henry Fuseli, Francesco Goya, William Hogarth and John Martin make up his catalogue of names to drop of artists past; Anthony Angarola, Virgil Finlay, Nicholas Roerich, Sidney H. Sime and his friend and colleague Clark Ashton Smith the roster of his peers.
Naturally, this sent me off to find each and every reference to painters in his prose (how one longs for the luxury of an assistant for this kind of frivolous detour). I cannot claim to have found them all, (even finding the complete works of Lovecraft is already a chore, what with all the tales completed by others in the huge and unequal “mythos” of the Lovecraft genre) but I hope to have discovered the majority in his novels and stories, and at least a representative selection from his correspondance.
H. P. LOVECRAFT’S FAVOURITE ARTISTS
NOVELS & STORIES:
Gustave Doré, Sidney Sime & Anthony Angarola:
There’s something those fellows catch – beyond life – that they’re able to make us catch for a second. Doré had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it. And Pickman had it as no man ever had it before or – I hope to Heaven – ever will again.” (Pickman’s Model”, 1926)
“I have said that the unbroken monotony of the rolling plain was a source of vague horror to me; but I think my horror was greater when I gained the summit of the mound and looked down the other side into an immeasurable pit or canyon, whose black recesses the moon had not yet soared high enough to illumine. I felt myself on the edge of the world, peering over the rim into a fathomless chaos of eternal night. Through my terror ran curious reminiscences of Paradise Lost, and Satan’s hideous climb through the unfashioned realms of darkness.” (Dagon)
“It was the pictorial carving, however, that did most to hold me spellbound. Plainly visible across the intervening water on account of their enormous size was an array of bas-reliefs whose subjects would have excited the envy of a Doré. I think that these things were supposed to depict men—at least, a certain sort of men; though the creatures were shown disporting like fishes in the waters of some marine grotto, or paying homage at some monolithic shrine which appeared to be under the waves as well. Of their faces and forms I dare not speak in detail, for the mere remembrance makes me grow faint. Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer, they were damnably human in general outline despite webbed hands and feet, shockingly wide and flabby lips, glassy, bulging eyes, and other features less pleasant to recall.” (Dagon)
Aubrey Beardsley & Gustave Doré
“To Malone the sense of latent mystery in existence was always present. In youth he had felt the hidden beauty and ecstasy of things, and had been a poet; but poverty and sorrow and exile had turned his gaze in darker directions, and he had thrilled at the imputations of evil in the world around. Daily life had fur him come to be a phantasmagoria of macabre shadow-studies; now glittering and leering with concealed rottenness as in Beardsley’s best manner, now hinting terrors behind the commonest shapes and objects as in the subtler and less obvious work of Gustave Doré. He would often regard it as merciful that most persons of high Intelligence jeer at the inmost mysteries; for, he argued, if superior minds were ever placed in fullest contact with the secrets preserved by ancient and lowly cults, the resultant abnormalities would soon not only wreck the world, but threaten the very integrity of the universe. All this reflection was no doubt morbid, but keen logic and a deep sense of humour ably offset it. Malone was satisfied to let his notions remain as half-spied and forbidden visions to be lightly played with; and hysteria came only when duty flung him into a hell of revelation too sudden and insidious to escape.” (“The Horror at Red Hook”, 1925)
Johann Heinrich Füssli
“Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare or a Witches’ Sabbath or a portrait of the devil, but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true. That’s because only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear—the exact sorts of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness. I don’t have to tell you why a Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap ghost-story frontispiece merely makes us laugh.” (“Pickman’s Model”, 1926)
“Occasionally these things were shown leaping through windows at night, or squatting on the chests of sleepers, worrying at their throats.” (“Pickman’s Model”, written in 1926, published in October 1927)
“When they looked back toward the valley and the distant Gardner place at the bottom they saw a fearsome sight. At the farm was shining with the hideous unknown blend of colour; trees, buildings, and even such grass and herbage as had not been wholly changed to lethal grey brittleness. The boughs were all straining skyward, tipped with tongues of foul flame, and lambent tricklings of the same monstrous fire were creeping about the ridgepoles of the house, barn and sheds. It was a scene from a vision of Fuseli, and over all the rest reigned that riot of luminous amorphousness, that alien and undimensioned rainbow of cryptic poison from the well – seething, feeling, lapping, reaching, scintillating, straining, and malignly bubbling in its cosmic and unrecognizable chromaticism.” (“The Colour Out of Space”, written in March 1927, published in September 1927)
Francisco de Goya
“You recall that Pickman’s forte was faces. I don’t believe anybody since Goya could put so much of sheer hell into a set of features or a twist of expression. And before Goya you have to go back to the mediaeval chaps who did the gargoyles and chimaeras on Notre Dame and Mont Saint-Michel.” (“Pickman’s Model”, 1926)
“Statues and painting there were, all of fiendish subjects and some executed by St John and myself. A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumored Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge.” (“The Hound”, written in September 1922, published in February 1924)
(According to one story, the original manuscript read, “held the unknown and unnamable drawings of Clark Ashton Smith.” C. M. Eddy – a member of Lovecraft’s inner circle of friends and authors; he and Lovecraft edited each others works – read this text and insisted it be removed. He believed that since Lovecraft was pressing Weird tales to take Smith’s work, the editors would think it rather transparent attempt to promote Smith via the story. Lovecraft changed Smith’s name to Goya’s.)
Clark Ashton Smith & Sidney Sime:
“There’s no use in my trying to tell you what they were like, because the awful, the blasphemous horror, and the unbelievable loathsomeness and moral foetor came from simple touches quite beyond the power of words to classify. There was none of the exotic technique you see in Sidney Sime, none of the trans-Saturnian landscapes and lunar fungi that Clark Ashton Smith uses to freeze the blood. The backgrounds were mostly old churchyards, deep woods, cliffs by the sea, brick tunnels, ancient panelled rooms, or simple vaults of masonry. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which could not be many blocks away from this very house, was a favourite scene.” (“Pickman’s Model”, October 1927)
Sidney Sime & Anthony Angarola:
“In a natural glade of the swamp stood a grassy island of perhaps an acre’s extent, clear of trees and tolerably dry. On this now leaped and twisted a more indescribable horde of human abnormality than any but a Sime or an Angarola could paint. Void of clothing, this hybrid spawn were braying, bellowing, and writhing about a monstrous ring-shaped bonfire; in the centre of which, revealed by occasional rifts in the curtain of flame, stood a great granite monolith some eight feet in height; on top of which, incongruous in its diminutiveness, rested the noxious carven statuette. From a wide circle of ten scaffolds set up at regular intervals with the flame-girt monolith as a centre hung, head downward, the oddly marred bodies of the helpless squatters who had disappeared. It was inside this circle that the ring of worshippers jumped and roared, the general direction of the mass motion being from left to right in endless Bacchanal between the ring of bodies and the ring of fire.” (“The Call of Cthluthu”, 1926)
Clark Ashton Smith:
“Wilcox still lived alone in the Fleur-de-Lys Building in Thomas Street, a hideous Victorian imitation of seventeenth century Breton Architecture which flaunts its stuccoed front amidst the lovely colonial houses on the ancient hill, and under the very shadow of the finest Georgian steeple in America, I found him at work in his rooms, and at once conceded from the specimens scattered about that his genius is indeed profound and authentic. He will, I believe, some time be heard from as one of the great decadents; for he has crystallised in clay and will one day mirror in marble those nightmares and phantasies which Arthur Machen evokes in prose, and Clark Ashton Smith makes visible in verse and in painting.” (“The Call of Cthluthu”, 1926)
(All quotes are from “At the Mountains of Madness”, March 1931)
“The last lap of the voyage was vivid and fancy-stirring. Great barren peaks of mystery loomed up constantly against the west as the low northern sun of noon or the still lower horizon-grazing southern sun of midnight poured its hazy reddish rays over the white snow, bluish ice and water lanes, and black bits of exposed granite slope. Through the desolate summits swept ranging, intermittent gusts of the terrible antarctic wind; whose cadences sometimes held vague suggestions of a wild and half-sentient musical piping, with notes extending over a wide range, and which for some subconscious mnemonic reason seemed to me disquieting and even dimly terrible. Something about the scene reminded me of the strange and disturbing Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and of the still stranger and more disturbing descriptions of the evilly fabled plateau of Leng which occur in the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. I was rather sorry, later on, that I had ever looked into that monstrous book at the college library.”
“It was young Danforth who drew our notice to the curious regularities of the higher mountain skyline—regularities like clinging fragments of perfect cubes, which Lake had mentioned in his messages, and which indeed justified his comparison with the dreamlike suggestions of primordial temple ruins, on cloudy Asian mountaintops so subtly and strangely painted by Roerich. There was indeed something hauntingly Roerich-like about this whole unearthly continent of mountainous mystery. I had felt it in October when we first caught sight of Victoria Land, and I felt it afresh now. I felt, too, another wave of uneasy consciousness of Archaean mythical resemblances; of how disturbingly this lethal realm corresponded to the evilly famed plateau of Leng in the primal writings.
“On some of the peaks, though, the regular cube and rampart formations were bolder and plainer, having doubly fantastic similitudes to Roerich-painted Asian hill ruins. The distribution of cryptical cave mouths on the black snow-denuded summits seemed roughly even as far as the range could be traced.”
“As we drew near the forbidding peaks, dark and sinister above the line of crevasse-riven snow and interstitial glaciers, we noticed more and more the curiously regular formations clinging to the slopes; and thought again of the strange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich.”
“Yet long before we had passed the great star-shaped ruin and reached our plane, our fears had become transferred to the lesser but vast-enough range whose recrossing lay ahead of us. From these foothills the black, ruin-crusted slopes reared up starkly and hideously against the east, again reminding us of those strange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich; and when we thought of the frightful amorphous entities that might have pushed their fetidly squirming way even to the topmost hollow pinnacles, we could not face without panic the prospect of again sailing by those suggestive skyward cave mouths where the wind made sounds like an evil musical piping over a wide range.”
Symbolists & Pre-Raphaelites:
“May heaven forgive the folly and morbidity which led us both to so monstrous a fate! Wearied with the commonplaces of a prosaic world; where even the joys of romance and adventure soon grow stale, St John and I had followed enthusiastically every aesthetic and intellectual movement which promised respite from our devastating ennui. The enigmas of the Symbolists and the ecstasies of the Pre-Raphaelites all were ours in their time, but each new mood was drained too soon, of its diverting novelty and appeal.” (“The Hound”, 1924)
The French painter Ardois-Bonnot (fictional)
“The west of Ireland, too, is full of wild rumour and legendry, and a fantastic painter named Ardois-Bonnot hangs a blasphemous “Dream Landscape” in the Paris spring salon of 1926. And so numerous are the recorded troubles in insane asylums that only a miracle can have stopped the medical fraternity from noting strange parallelisms and drawing mystified conclusions. A weird bunch of cuttings, all told; and I can at this date scarcely envisage the callous rationalism with which I set them aside. But I was then convinced that young Wilcox had known of the older matters mentioned by the professor.” (“The Call of Cthluthu”, 1926)
“Sorry to hear that Angarola is dead. He almost illustrated my ‘Outsider’—that is, he read it & told Wright he’d like to illustrate it just after the present illustration had been made & purchased!” (Letter to Richard Ely Morse, 28 July 1932)
“I began to have nightmares of the most hideous description, peopled with things which I called ‘night-gaunts’—a compound word of my own coinage. I used to draw them after waking (perhaps the idea of these figures came from an edition de luxe of Paradise Lost with illustrations by Doré, which I discovered one day in the east parlour).” (Letter to Rheinhart Kleiner, 16 November 1916)
“I’ve recently come into touch with Finlay, & find him a most unusual & brilliant character. He’s only 22, & a resident of his native city of Rochester, N.Y. He is a poet of no mean attainments as well as an artist—though of course pictorial art is his primary medium. In future years I feel certain that he will become an artist of distinction, so that the WT group will feel very proud of having known him in his youth…. All of Finlay’s WT work is good—especially the designs for your Lost Paradise & Bloch’s Faceless God. Bloch tells me that Wright considers the latter the finest illustration ever drawn for WT, & that the original hangs framed in the office.” (to Catherine L. Moore, mid-October 1936)
“I liked the Finlay illustrations to my two tales—indeed, I believe Finlay is the best all-around artist Weird Tales has ever had. His drawing for the Doorstep was really an imaginative masterpiece. Wright has generously presented me with the originals of both Haunter and Doorstep pictures—and they far transcend the mechanical reproductions.” (to James F. Morton, March 1937)
“Another artist who went even farther than Hogarth in depicting human bestiality is the Spaniard, Goya.” (Letter to William Lumley, 21 December 1931)
“This antient and pestilential reticulation of crumbling cottages and decaying doorways was like nothing I had ever beheld save in a dream—it was the 18th century of Goya, not of the Georges; of Hogarth, not of Horace Walpole.” (Letter to Maurice W. Moe, 24 November 1923)
“Under Lovemanic guidance I looked up engravings of his work in the N.Y. Public Library, & was enthralled by the darkly thunderous, apocalyptically majestic, & cataclysmically unearthly power of one who, to me, seemed to hold the essence of cosmic mystery… He was, in a sense, a Milton among painters…. Night; great desolate pillared halls; unholy abysses & blasphemous torrents; terraced titan cities in far, half-celestial backgrounds whereon shines the light of no familiar sky of men’s knowing; shrieking mortal hordes borne downward over vast wastes & down cyclopean gulfs where Phlegethon & Archeron flow; these are the dominant impressions one (i.e., myself, at least!) carries away from the study of a set of Martin engravings.” (Letter to Vincent Starrett, 10 January 1928)
“Merritt has a wide acquaintance among mystical enthusiasts, and is a close friend of old Nicholas Roerich, the Russian painter whose weird Thibetan landscapes I have so long admired.” (to Robert H. Barlow, 13 January 1934)
“Better than the surrealists, though, is good old Nick Roerich, whose joint at Riverside Drive and 103rd Street is one of my shrines in the pest zone. There is something in his handling of perspective and atmosphere which to me suggests other dimensions and alien orders of being—or at least, the gateways leading to such. Those fantastic carven stones in lonely upland deserts—those ominous, almost sentient, lines of jagged pinnacles—and above all, those curious cubical edifices clinging to precipitous slopes and edging upward to forbidden needle-like peaks!” (to James F. Morton, March 1937)
“Surely Roerich is one of those rare fantastic souls who have glimpsed he grotesque, terrible secrets outside space & beyond time , & who who have retained some ability to hint at the marvels they have seen.” (Letter to Lillian D. Clarck, May 21-22, 1930)
“Yes—Sime does splendid teamwork with Dunsany, seeming to share his bizarre & individual vision as few could. He is an old man, largely retired from active work, & Dunsany has to prod him considerably to get the few illustrations he wants.” (Letter to Robert H. Barlow, 14 March 1933)
Howard Philips Lovecraft (born August 20, 1890 – died March 15, 1937) lived most of his short life in and around Boston. Any number of weighy tomes have been written by his detractors about his pettiness, his pathologically racist venom, his proud poverty, curious marriage and general psychological shortcomings, all equally vigourously defended and justified by his admirers. In the end, had be been a perfectly normal fellow, he would not likely have written much, so it is all rather beside the point (a similar conflict endures between apologists and critics of that other candidate for the most mixed-up modern fantasy writer: Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan). Lovecraft died at the Jane Brown Memorial Hospital in Providence, on March 15, 1937, of intestinal cancer.
Lovecraft invented many of the most famous mythical – and monstrous for the most part – deities and creatures of modern fantasy. His onomatopeic pantheon is second to none (with the occasional indulgence like “high priest Klarkash-Ton”, an avatar from his bantering and lengthy correspondance). The one thing that might have allowed him to write more stories would have the curtailing of his incredibly prodigious letter-writting. Literary critic and Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi estimates that Lovecraft wrote about 87,500 letters from 1912 until his death in 1937 (including one 70-page letter from November 9, 1929, to Woodburn Harris). L. Sprague de Camp places the number of letters at 100,000.
Lovecraft was not an avid traveller and never left the USA, the only notable exception being a visit to Quebec in September 1930, which impressed him with its archaic aspect. “A Description of the Town of Quebeck, in New France, Lately Added to His Britannick Majesty’s Dominions”, his most garrulous and superbly self-indulgent work at 75 000 words, called it “The atient wall’d city of Quebeck…”. Otherwise, all his references to history and geography are studiously bookish ones, occasionally painfully so, as he subscribed to a few unsavory ethnographical notions1 and his architectural and geographical hints are sketchy or commonplace at best. It’s a shame he could never have visited the hoary cornerstones of the Old World’s dim chthonian past (to trot out a lovecraftian turn of phrase) in person. He would certainly have appreciated them grandly and would have avoided mistakes like attributing Notre-Dame’s chimaeras to medieval craftsmen. (His pen pal Robert E. Howard, who created the proto-European world of Conan’s “Hyborean Age”, travelled even less, barely leaving Texas for this entire short life. Lovecraft affectionately called him “Two-Gun Bob. They corresponded at length – Howard was a member of “The Lovecraft Circle” – but never met in person.)
Whatever the case, and especially for an author so adept at provoking images in the minds of his readers, Lovecraft is very fond of artistic name-dropping. Of the names he evokes, a few are only mentioned in passing – the Symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites and Beardsley – and a few seem to fall short of their evocations – William Hogarth for example, who seems rather a tame representative of Lovecraftian horror, but he may only have served primarily as an alliterative foil for a stab at Horace Walpole. Anthony Angarola (1893-1929) seems to have Lovecraft’s affection and admiration because he illustrated his stories, so placing his name alongside those fo Doré and Sime may have been a simple nod, as is the case for Virgil Finlay (July 23, 1914–January 18, 1971), who illustrated Lovecraft’s (and others’) stories for Weird Tales magazine, and Clark Ashton Smith (January 13, 1893-August 14, 1961), whose drawing and painting is nowhere near as accomplished as his writing and whose “trans-Saturnian landscapes and lunar fungi” can hardly pretend to “freeze the blood.”
Illustrations by Anthony Angarola, Clark Ashton Smith, Virgil Finlay and a few other contemporary illustrators.
From left to right:
1. The Kingdom of Evil, Anthony Angarola, 1924
2. Plants, Clark Ashton Smith.
3. The Thing on the Doorstep by Virgil Finlay, 1933.
4. The Colour Out of Space, Virgil Finlay.
5. HP Lovecraft, Virgil Finlay, 1937. Consideredto be the best portrait of Lovecrat, done after his death.
6. Cover of Weird Tales featuring “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs, a story penned (albeit uncomfortably) by Lovecraft, along with the illusionist Houdini.
7. The Music of Erich Zann, Andrew Brosnatch, Weird Tales, 1925.
8. Pickman’s Model, Hugh Rankin, Weird Tales, October 1927.
9. Pickman’s Model, Hannes Bok, 1929.
10. Cover of Astounding, featuring At the Mountains of Madness, February, 1936. (The interior illustrations are no better than the cover; Lovecraft was mediocrely served by most of the artists who illustrated his tales during his lifetime.)
11. And, last but not least, and just for fun, the cover of the paperback I had of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (published May 1970) when I was in my teens. The cover is by Gervasio Gallardo.
Of the paintings of John Martin, Lovecraft saw only engravings, which of course have nowhere near the grace and power (and of course colour) of the paintings themselves. His reference to Martin as a Milton amongst painters suggests he might have seen copperplate reproductions of Martin’s work for Paradise Lost.
John Martin (19 July 1789, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland – 17 February 1854)
From left to right:
1. The Bard, ca. 1817. Oil on canvas, 127 x 102 cm, Yale Center for British Art.
2. Assuaging of the Waters, 1840.
3. The Celestial City and River of Bliss, 1841. ‘The Celestial City’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1841 with the following lines from Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 3, line 374:
“Thee, Author of all being,
Fountain of Light, thyself invisible.”
4. The Eve of the Deluge, 1840. Royal Collection, Windsor.
5. Macbeth, 1820.
6. Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion, 1812
7. Manfred on the Jungfrau, (1837). Watercolour, inspired by Lord Byron’s poem “Manfred”.
From left to right
1. Manfred and the Alpine Witch, 1837.
2. Seventh Plague of Egypt, 1823.
3. The Destruction of Pharaoh’s Host.
4. The Last Man, 1849.
5. Fallen Angels in Hell, c. 1841.
6. The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, 1852.
7. The Great Day of His Wrath, c. 1853.
8. Pandemonium, 1841. Oil on Canvas, 48 1/2 x 72 1/2 in., The Forbes Magazine Collection, New York.
In what form he saw the paintings of Swiss artist Johann Heinrich Füssli is something of a mystery, and which pieces he saw is hard to determine. Indubitably, a version of “The Nightmare” at very least, a clue being his mention of “things… squatting on the chests of sleepers…” from the pages of “Pickman’s Model”.
Johann Heinrich Füssli (February 7, 1741, Zurich – April 17, 1825, Putney Hill)
From left to right:
1. Thor Battling The Midgard Serpent, 1790. Fuseli presented this work to the Royal Academy in 1790, when he was elected a member.
2. Silence, 1801.
3. The Three Witches, 1783. Painting inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
4. Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrificing, 1780- 1785.
5. The Dream, 1793. Painting inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
6. The Nightmare, 1781.
7. The Nightmare, 1802.
Although he mentions no specific paintings by Goya, Lovecraft would undoubtedly have been familiar with the best-known of fhis works. His one reference to Goya happened by circumstance, when his proofreader chastised him for openly plugging Angarola. Did Lovecraft meditate on a new choice, or did he simply pull an opportune name out of the air?
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (March 30, 1746, Fuendetodos, Zaragoza Spain – April 15, 1828, Bordeaux, France)
From left to right:
1. Saturn Devouring His Son, 1819.
2. Sketch for Saturn Devouring his Children.
3. Giant, 1818. Burnished aquatint, 28.5 x 21.01 cm.
4. Fight With Cudgels, 1820-23.
Of the work of Gustave Doré, Lovecraft would undoubtedly have seen his illustrations for Milton and possibly Dante, indeed he writes that the idea for his unwholesome night-gaunts “came from an edition de luxe of Paradise Lost with illustrations by Doré, which I discovered one day in the east parlour.” His novel “Dagon” also refers to Doré‘s pictures from the same edition; where ” Satan’s hideous climb through the unfashioned realms of darkness” is so memorably rendered.
Paul Gustave Doré (January 6, 1832, Strasbourg – January 23, 1883)
From left to right:
1. An Alpine Scene, 1865. Oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago
2. The Circus of Gavarnie. Watercolour, 73 x 88 cm, Musée de Pau.
3. The Giant Antacus, c. 1868. Engraving from “The Divine Comedy” (Inferno) by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Canto XXXI, lines 133-35:
“Yet in the abyss,
That lucifer with Judas low engulfs,
Lightly he placed us.”
4. Dante and Virgil Cross the Styx, illustration from Dante’s Inferno.
5. Dantes Inferno, Canto V, line 4: “There Minos Stands.”.
6. Dante’s Inferno, Canto 1 Lines 1-2: “In the midway of this outr mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray.”
7. Dante’s Inferno, Canto V, lines 32-33: “The stormy blast of hell
With restless fury drives the spirit on.”,
8. Satan, from Milton’s Paradise Lost
9. Satan sets out Across Chaos, from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book II, lines 949-50: “With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way,
and swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.”
10. Virgil and Dante are beset by devils, illustration from Dante’s Inferno.
11. The Neophyte (First Experience of the Monastery), c. 1866-68
12. Illustration to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven: Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before…
13. The Enigma, 1871, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Nicholas Roerich is cited five times in “At the Mountains of Madness” and clearly played a determining role in Lovecraft’s vision of the cyclopean antidilivian and frankly creep city discovered by his heroes. It seems hard to believe that Lovecraft was being serious, though, when he wrote “Surely Roerich is one of those rare fantastic souls who have glimpsed the grotesque, terrible secrets outside space & beyond time, & who who have retained some ability to hint at the marvels they have seen.” It does seem a bit much, even for the melodramatic lyricism of HPL. (Lovecraft wasn’t always very careful with his citations; his passing reference to the “Book of Dzyan” has earned him something between a condescending nod and eternal esteem as fantasy poster boy with theosophist circles but elicits groans of dismay from most everyone else.)
Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh (October 9, 1874, Saint-Petersbourg – December 13, 1947, Punjab)
From left to right:
1. Battles in the Heavens, 1912.
2. Fire Blossom, from “His Country” series, 1924.
3. Hilltop Fortress.
4. Star Hero.
7. Star of the Morning, 1932.
8. Path to Shambhala, 1933.
9. Tent Mountain, from the “Holy Mountains” series, 1933.
10. White Stone.
11. Milarepa, the One Who Harkened.
From left to right:
1. White and Heavenly, from “His Country” series, 1924.
2. Pearl of Searching.
3. The Greatest and Holiest of Tangla, 1932.
4. Kanchenjunga, 1936.
5. Path to Kailas, 1932.
6. Tibet, Himalayas, 1933
7. Remember, from “His Country” series, 1924.
8. Tibetan Fortress, 1936
9. Moon People.
10. The Path, 1936.
11. Guru Guri Dhar, 1931.
Roerich was a man of distinction and man of the world; his paintings of the Himalayas are mystical and often sublime. A mix of old-world Russian Art Nouveau and easel propped up with stones on a sharp slope, it’s easy to see why Lovecraft was left a little out of breath (the altitude, undoubtedly) and greatly inspired. Not only do the paintings show Roerich’s mystical obsession with the Roof of the World, they convey an idealistic realism attention to detail rather than form and surface cannot ever capture. At any rate, “good old Nick Roerich, whose joint at Riverside Drive and 103rd Street is one of my shrines in the pest zone” certainly lent madness to Lovecraft’s mountains.
Actually, if you’ll pardon an aside, it seems strange that Lovecrat never mentioned the likes of Arnold Boecklin, Frantizek Kupka and Alfred Kubin, or perhaps Fernand Khnopff, Gustav-Adolf Mossa, Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, William Degouve de Nuncques or Jean Delville. A comprehensive collection of Lovecraft-inspired art would be a book worth having – I’d certainly buy it.2 Here is a little gallery of artists whose names Lovecraft might have profitably let drop (had he not wasted all that time writing letters).
Three galleries of artists Lovecraft might well have liked.
LEFT: Arnold Böcklin, Frantisek Kupka, Fernand Keller, Franz von Stuck.
From left to right:
1. The Isle of the Dead, Arnold Böcklin, circa 1886.
2. The Isle of the Dead, Arnold Böcklin.
3. The Sacred Wood, Arnold Böcklin, 1882.
4. The Storm, Arnold Böcklin.
5. The Chapel, Arnold Böcklin.
6. Avenue of Silence, Frantisek Kupka.
7. Avenue of Silence, Frantisek Kupka.
8. Resistance, or The Black Idol, Frantisek Kupka, 1903.
9. The Tomb of Böcklin, Fernand Keller, 1901-1902.
10. The Wild Hunt, Franz von Stuck.
11. Wild Chase, Franz von Stuck, circa 1889.
12. Medusa, Franz von Stuck.
13. Lucifer, Franz von Stuck, circa 1890.
CENTRE: Thomas Cole, Caspar David Friedrich.
From Left to right:
1. Explusion. Moon and Firelight, Thomas Cole, 1828.
2. The Titan’s Goblet, Thomas Cole.
3. A Tornado in the Wilderness, Thomas Cole, 1835.
4. Cross and Cathdral in the Wilderness, Caspar David Friedrich, 1812
5. Cloister Cemetery in the Snow, Caspar David Friedrich, 1817-19.
6. Winter Landscape with Church, Caspar David Friedrich, 1811.
7. Mönch am Meer, Caspar David Friedrich, circa 1808-1809.
8. The Sea of Ice or Polar Sea, (also known as The Wreck of Hope), Caspar David Friedrich, 1823-1824.
RIGHT: Edmund Dulac, Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, Jean Delville, Ferdinand Khnopff, George Frederick Watts, Franz von Stassen, Alfred Kubin.
From left to right:
1. Eldorado, illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells, Edmund Dulac
2. Alone, illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells, Edmund Dulac
3. The Conqueror Worm, illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells, Edmund Dulac
4. Dreamland, illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells, Edmund Dulac
5. Silence, Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, 1895
6. Orpheus, Jean Delville, 1893.
7. The Meeting of Animalism and an Angel, Fernand Khnopff, 1889.
8. Hope, George Frederick Watts, 1885
9. Wotan and Fricka Lie Sleeping While Fasholt and Fafner Build the Walls of Asgard, illustration for Richard Wagner’s Das Rhinegold, Franz Von Stassen, 1914.
10. The Past (Forgotten-Swallowed), Alfred Kubin, 1901.
11. Vision in Dalmatia, Alfred Kubin, 1902-1903.
And to pad things out, a few contemporary painters whose work he would certainly have appreciated. (All images are of course © respective artists.) Many more could be on such a list, and not necessarily those who have provided illustrations of his texts.
LEFT: Zdzislaw Beksinski
I wasn’t able to find titles to go with all of Beksinski’s work (or only in Polish); his sriking and uncomfortable paintings do quite well without if need be. (The first image is labelled, aptly enough, “Ocean” and the fifth image from the left is called either Nevermore or Wolf Walker, 1979.) Lovecrat would certainly have gotten a delicious shiver from them.
CENTRE: Jean-Marie Poumeyrol, Yves Thomas, Jean-Pierre Ugarte. Ugarte’s curious landscapes have a Lovecraftian disproportion, Thomas could be picturing the sunken lands that Lovecraft so loves to have emerge briefly from the ocean depths, and the abandoned cityscapes of Poumeyrol, while very modern, have an excruciating emptiness Lovecraft would certainly have relsihed.
From left to right:
1. The Well, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol.
2. The Well with Snow, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol.
3. Souvenir of Venice, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol.
4. Calm, Tumult, Yves Thomas.
5. Island, Yves Thomas.
6. Untitled, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, 2001.
7. The Gorge, Jean-Pierre Ugarte
8. Landscape, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, 2007
9. Prisoner, Jean-Pierre Ugarte
10. Landscape, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, 2001.
11. Sacred Place, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, 1998
12. Passage, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, 2002.
13. The Beach, Jean-Pierre Ugarte 2008.
RIGHT: Hans-Rüdi Giger, Christophe Vacher, Paul Rumsey, John Jude Palencar, Ian Miller.
From left to right:
1. Cataract, Hans-Rüdi Giger
2. Dune Worm VII, Hans-Rüdi Giger, 1979
3. Mount of the Immortals, Christophe Vacher.
4. Artemis of Ephesus, Paul Rumsey.
5. Sphinx, Paul Rumsey.
6. Shadow Over Innsmouth, John Jude Palencar.
7. The Tomb, John Jude Palencar.
8. Pencil study for Terror in the Year 1000, John Jude Palencar.
9. The Transition of H. P. Lovecraft: The Road to Madness, John Jude Palencar.
10. Mythos, John Jude Palencar.
11. Innsmouth Hill, Ian Miller.
But, of all Lovecraft’s “favourite artists”, I have to admit a personal preference for Sidney H. Sime, partly because his work is so extraordinarily singular, and principally because he is largely forgotten today.
FROM PIT BOY TO ARTIST
Sidney Herbert Sime was born in the district of Manchester, in either 1865 or 1867, second of six children of a poor Scottish couple, David and Helen Hime. He was born the same year as Arthur Rackham and Frank Bangwyn, but in rather less auspicious circumstances – his sent him to work in a Yorkshire colliery as a “scoop pusher”. That could have been the end of him; conditions in coal mines were still largely Dickensian. Sime spent five years undergound. In his own words: “You know that when coal has been taken out of the seam it is shovelled into what are called scoops, each contating about 5 hundredweight. My duty, as one of the boys emploaed for that work, was to push this scoop along the rails to an endless chain, by which it was carried to the pit’s mouth and pulled up to the surface…. The tunnel through which we had to pull our trolley was only 28 or 30 inches high, and so we had to run along with the body bent at right angles, and if you straightened yourself up at all, the consequencs were rather unpleasant.” Sime told the interviewer that “All I did during those five dreary years was to work, eat, and work again.”
But Sime survived, and found work in various places above ground, notably for a baker and a shoemaker, eventually being apprenticed to a sign maker. He enrolled in art classes at the Liverpool School of Art and went from there to London around 1895, where he found work in magazine illustration.
Magazines were thriving in a sort of publisher’s golden age in turn-of-the-century London. Improved photographic printing techniques had widened the scope of what could be faithfully reproduced and substantailly reduced printing costs. Many illustrators initially found work and became household names in periodicals (not much has changed today) with the desire to graduate to either art magazines like The Yellow Book or to book illustration. Pick-Me-Up, (1888-1909) a weekly publication dedicated to satire and humour, engaged Sime as an in-house illustrator and published a first series of his drawings, entitled “The Shades” in 1895. Other commissions followed, notably for more prestigious magazines, Pall Mall and The Idler amongst them. Sime was praised (sometimes guardedly, often with enthusiasm) by art critics, likened to Aubrey Beardsley and William Blake for his fin de siècle esthetics, and quickly became a well-known figure.
The following year, 1897, the Idler serialized Sime’s “From an Ultimate Dim Thule”, a series of bizarre drawings. (But did Sime really do any other kind?) From 1897 to 1898, Simes edited Eureka magazine. In 1898, he married Mary Susan Pickett and inherited money and property from a rich uncle, releasing him from the necessity of earning a living solely from his drawing and painting. The couple moved to Daldrishaig, in Perthshire, Scotland, where Sime dabbled in landscapes. He also illustrated a fantasy by Laurence Housman for Pall Mall magazine.
In 1899, Simes alotted a portion of his inheritance to purchase the The Idler, which he intended to co-edit. It stayed afloat barely a year. (Publications could – and did – sprout and wither very quickly. Sime finally disposed of the unsuccessful Idler in 1905, selling the goodwill for only £5.00.)
The Sime’s marriage seems to have been unhappy. Authors Simon Heneage and Henry Ford describe Mary Susan Sime in these terms: “His marriage apparently brought him no consolation. They had no children. Mary Sime, regarded as the local beauty, was shy and introverted. She shared many of her husband’s interests in art, music and the exploration of esoteric knowledge, but not his gregarious instincts. She was “highly strung, touchy and often in pain from arthritis..”. The home atmosphere was catastrophic, from which Sime found partial release at the pub.” Politically, Sime seems to have shared the common ideals and prejudices of his time. Frank Harris, in “Contemporary Portraits (New York, 1919) speaks of Sime: “He meets lord and ploughman in the same human way; he has had a dreadfully hard struggle… for he is a workman without ostentation; yet the moment he begins to speak you realize that he sees the master’s side too – a singular and powerful personailty.”
Then Simes encountered a man who was to change his (illustrative) life and for whom he would do his best work: Lord Dunsany.
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (24 July, 1878 – 25 October, 1957) was an eccentric Irish peer whose fantasy deserves a chapter of its own in any serious history of fantasy literature. From his study in Castle Dunsany, near Tara, he produced an extraordinary quantity of work – short stories, novellas, novels, plays and poetry. In all he published over 60 books. (He also found the time to be chess and pistol-shooting champion of Ireland.)
If likes attract, then the two eccentrics were fated to meet. Lord Dunsany, then a young man of 24 (Sime was in his mid-thirties at the time) had written a book, and had even made drawings for it, “but had the sense to realize that far better illustrations maight be found. Yet I could only think of two men that I felt should illustrate it, and one of them I knew was dead and I did not know whether the other still lived or not.” Dunsany was thinking of Gustave Doré and Sidney Sime. Doré had passed away, but Dunsany sought Sime out. “This remarkable man consented to do me eight illustrations, and I have never seen a black-and-white artist with a more stupendous imagination.” “The Gods of Pegana, by Lord Dunsany, with eight illustrations by S. H. Sime”, was published in 1905 by Matthew Elkins in 1905.
Writer and illustrator would go on to three decades of collaboration. In 1905 Sime made a trip to the USA, where he was placed on retainer by Randolf Hearst for £800 a year, but did not remain more than six months. Upon his return, he illustrated “Time and the Gods” (Heinemann, 1906), followed by collections of tales every two years – 1908, 1910, 1912, and six plates for the last, “Tales of Wonder”, in 1916.
Dunsany once said to Sime, who had complained that editors seldom supplied him with intersting themes, “Why not do any pictures you like, and I will write stories explaining them.” He asked that Sime promise not to tell him what the pictures were about. The result was “The Book of Wonder”, with Dunsany’s tales inspired by Simes’ pictures.
Finding decent images of Sime’s work on the net is very difficult, and all monographies are long out of print. I apologize for the mediocre quality and the small size, and hope you will understand my reluctance to cut up a book to scan images in. (I did manage to find a few larger files, but too late for this newsletter, so my apologies are tinged with regret. I’ll tack them on to a futurre newsletter.) It’s high time a new book of Sime’s work appeared.
Left: Illustrations from the Sword of Welleran (1908) by Lord Dunsany.
From left to right:
1. Welleran and the Sword of Welleran, from “The Sword of Welleran”:
“And Rold gripped upon the hilt of the great curved sword, and the sword seemed to lift a little. And a new thought came into the hearts of Merimna’s people as they gripped their grandsires’ swords. Nearer and nearer came the heedless armies of the four Kings, and old ancestral memories began to arise in the minds of Merimna’s people in the desert with their swords in their hands sitting behind Rold. And all the sentinels were awake holding their spears, for Rollory had put their dreams to flight, Rollory that once could put to flight armies and now was but a dream struggling with other dreams.
And now the armies had come very near. Suddenly Rold leaped up, crying: ‘Welleran! And the sword of Welleran!’”
2. The Highwayman, from “Tom o’ the Roads”:
“To and fro, to and fro in the winds swung the bones and the soul of Tom, for the sins that he had sinned on the King’s highway against the laws of the King; and with shadows and a lantern through the darkness, at the peril of their lives, came the three friends that his soul had won before it swung in chains. Thus the seeds of Tom’s own soul that he had sown all his life had grown into a Gallows Tree that bore in season iron chains in clusters; while the careless seeds that he had strewn here and there, a kindly jest and a few merry words, had grown into the tripple friendship that would not desert his bones.”
3. The Light of Ong Zwarba, from “The Fall of Babbulkund”:
“Such a stone is Ong Zwarba that there are none like it even in the turban of Nehemoth nor in all the sanctuaries of the sea. The same god that made Linderith made long ago Ong Zwarbaj; she and Ong Zwarba shine together with one light, and beside this marvellous stone gleam the three lesser ones of the sea.”
4. A Herd of Black Creatures, from “The Ghosts”:
“Suddenly a herd of black creatures larger tha bloodhounds came galloping in; they had large pendulous ears, their noses were to the ground sniffing, they went up to the lords and ladies of long ago, and fawned about them disgustingly. Their eyes were horribly bright, and ran down to great depths. When I looked into them, I suddenly knew what these creatures were, and I was afraid.”
5. Oneleigh, from “The Ghosts”:
“Now Oneleigh stands in wide isolation, in the midst of a dark gathering of old whispering cedars. They nod their heads together when the North Wind comes, and nod again and agree, and furtively grow still again, and say no more for a while.”
6. Goodbye, from “In the Twilight”:
“Drowning is a horrible death, notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary. My past life never occurred to my mind, but I thought of many trivial things that I might never do or see again if I were drowned.”
7. Even I too, Even I too, from “The Fall of Babbulkund”:
“Just now Nehemoth awakes, the slaves leap to their feet and bear the palanquin to the outer side of the great crescent palace between the south and the west, to behold the sun again… There he alights from his palanquin and goes up to a throne of ivory in the garden’s midst, facing full westwards, and sits there alone, long regarding the sunlight until it is quite gone.”
Right: Magazine and book illustrations.
From left to right:
1. Oasis in Hell. From The Sketch, November 1900:
“A wild uproar shook the huge vault with its ten thousand echoes, as the hag-ridden wastrels streamed upwards in a vehement fury against the door-that-is-better-shut; whilst the black guards, with astonishing dexterity, tossed them back into the putrid pool.”
2. Dreams, Idle Dreams. From The Sketch, May 12, 1897:
“Deep in the recesses of the lonely wood stands the sacrificial altar. Whether another crime was added to the Wazir’s list, or whether the Ordained One conquered the Event, I know not: for the darkness fell as a pall, and the night became dreamless.”
3. One House on the Pinnacle Overlooking the Edge of the World, from “The Long Porter’s Tale”. From “The Last Book of Wonder”, Lord Dunsany:
“Over these plains went Jones and over the Hills of Sneg, meeting at first unlikely things, and then incredible things, til he came to the long slope beyond the hills that leads up to the Edge of the World, and where, as all the guide-books tell, anything may happen.”
4. Beasts That Might Have Been: The Two-Tailed Sogg.
5. The Fortress, from “The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth”. From Dunsany’s “Tales of Three Hemispheres”:
“And in the wall stood doors like precipices of steel, all studded with boulders of iron, and above every window were terrible gargoyles of stone: and the name of the fortress shone on the wall, writ large in letters of brass: ‘The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save For Sacnoth.’”
6. Hunting the Moon. Frontispiece for “My Talks with Dean Spanley” by Lord Dunsany, 1936.
Sime also provided a frontispiece for “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” (1924). During that time he also provided frontispieces for Athur Machen’s “Hill of Dreams” (1907) and William Hope Hodgsens “The Ghost Pirates” (1909), as well as doing costume and set designs for theatre productions, notably Maeterlinck’s “The Blue Bird” in 1910 and Ibsen’s “The Pretenders” in 1913. Sime was also involved in the production of a trio of original operas by Howard de Walden based on The Mabinogion, providing additional artwork for the published score.
In 1914, he enlisted and, called up in July 1918, was stationed on the east coast of Britian with the Army Service Corps. Sime later said he “went off to war not in shining armour and with glittering sword, but with a slop pail and a tin of polishing paste”. He was invalidated out of the army, diagnosed with duodenal cancer, on Armisitice Day.
Sime held a solo exhibition in Saint George’s Gallery, George Street in 1924. Of the 78 pieces, 42 were on loan from other owners. Reviews were mixed, from eulogistic to dismissive. It appears to have been financially satisfactory, though a second exhibition in 1927 was less well received. It featured little new work, with the exception of caricatures of Simes’ drinking companions in Worplesdon. The Studio called it “a little disappointing”.
Left: Illustrations from Time & The Gods (1906) by Lord Dunsany
From left to right:
1. Inzana Invokes the Thunder, from “A Legend of the Dawn”:
2. Mung and the Beast of Mung, from “The Revolt of the Home Gods”:
“Then Mung went down into a waste of Africk, and came down upon the drought Umbool as he sat in the desert upon iron rocks, clawing with miserly grasp at the bones of men and breathing hot.
And Mung stood before him as his dry sides heaved, and ever as they sank his hot breath blasted dead sticks and bones.
Then Mung said: “Friend of Mung! Go thou and grin before the faces of Eimes, Zanes, and Segastrion till they see whether it be wise to rebel against the Gods of Pegana.”
And Umbool answered: “I am the Beast of Mung.”
And Umbool came and crouched upon a hill upon the other side of the waters and grinned across them at the rebellious home gods.”
3. We Are But Dreams, Let Us Go Among Dreams, from “The Sword of Welleran”:
“Our hands can hold swords no more, our voices cannot be heard, we are stalwart men no longer. We are but dreams, let us go among dreams.” (Apologies for mislabelling this one, it should be in the other gallery.)
4. Hish, Lord of Silence, from “Of Roon, the God of Going”:
“And when it is dark, all in the hour of the Triboogie, Hish creepeth from the forest, the lord of Silence, whose children are the bats, that have broken the command of their father, but in a voice that is ever low. He husheth the mouse and all the whispers in the night; he maketh all noises still. Only the cricket rebelleth. But Hish hath set against him such a spell that after he hath cried a thousand times his voice may be heard no more but becometh part of the silence. Ans when he hath slain all silence Hish boweth low to the ground.”
Right: Illustrations from The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany
1. The City of Never, from “How One Came, as Was Foretold, to the City of Never”:
“Even so he came, as foretold, to the city of Never, perched upon the Toldenarba, and saw late twighlight on those pinnacles that knew no other light. All the domes were of copper, but the spires on their summits were of gold… “
2. Zretazoola, from “The Bride of the Man-Horse”:
“He galloped with half-shut eyes up to the temple steps, and, only seeing dimly through his lashes, seized Solombelenë by the hair, undazzled as yet by her beauty, and so haled her away, and, leaping with her over the floorless chasm by which the waters of the lake fall unremembered away into a hole in the world, took her we know not where… Three blasts he gave, as he went, upon the silver horn that is the world-old treasure of the centur. These were his wedding bells.”
3. There the Gibbelins Lived and Discreditably Fed, from “The Hoard of the Gibbelins”:
“The Gibbelins eat, as is well known, nothing less good than man. Their evil tower is joined to Terra Cognita, to the lands we know, by a bridge. Their hoard is beyond reason; avarice has no use for it; they have a separate cellar for emeralds and a separate cellar for sapphires; they have filled a hole with gold and dig it up when they need it. And the only use that is known for their ridiculous wealth is to attract to their larder a continual supply of food. In times of famine they have even been known to scatter rubies abroad, a little trail of them to some city of Man, and sure enough their larders would soon be full again.”
4. The Ominous Cough, from “The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller”:
“The cough was too full of maning to be disregarded. Thangobrind turned round and saw at once what he had feared. The spider idol had not stayed at home. The jeweller put his diamond gently on the ground and drew his sword called Mouse. And then began the famous fight upon the narrow way.”
5. The Lean, High House of the Gnoles, from “How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art upon the Gnoles”:
Night fell, and they came by fitfull starlight… to that lean high house where the gnoles so secretly dwelt… Nuth… sent the likely lad, with the instruments of his trade, by means of the ladder, to the old green casement… Tonker… descended softly and beckoned to Nuth. But the gnoles had watched him through knavish holes that they bore in trunks of trees; and the unearthly silence gave way, as it were, with a grace, to the rapid screams of Tonker as they picked him up from behind… And where they took him is not good to ask and what they did to him I shall not say.”[/i]
In 1930, Sime published a collection of drawings called “Bogey Beasts”, based on a series originally called “The Sime Zoology: Beasts that might have been”, done for a 1905 publication in the Sketch, several of which he reworked, adding five new images. He handed in his last illustration for Dunsany, for “My Talks with Dean Spanley”, in 1936. Increasingly reclusive, as Lovecraft commented in 1933, “He is an old man, largely retired from active work, & Dunsany has to prod him considerably to get the few illustrations he wants”, the Simes retired to the cottage they owned in Worplesdon, Surrey. Beset by bouts of melancholy, Sime seems to have spent a good deal of time at the local pub, the New Inn, trading stories and opinions with the patrons. The owner’s daughter, Mrs. Wadey, recalled Sime drinking whiskey there every evening. Afterwards, he would go for long walks, or to his studio to paint. Sime also read voraciously (claiming a quota of 8 to 10 books a week) and dabbled in home-grown experiments with electricity and chemistry, apparently nearly blowing theroom off his house with an experiment gone awry. An afficionado of the races, he developed a “system” which he confided to his friends at the New Inn. It did not work. He died in nearby Guildford on May 22, 1941. A granite stone with the inscription “Sidnes Herbert Sime 1941” marks his grave in the Worplesdon churchyard.
Sime’s own attitude to his work is ambiguous. He aspired to recognition as a painter. All in all, he seems to share the ambivalence of those fragile creators who eagerly await the praise of peers and critics, but dismiss it for fear that if they come to believe it themselves, they may face bitter deception should it prove hollow. His garrulous aggressiveness may be a front in part, but like so many who have unfounded doubts as to the value of their own work, or more exactly, a pathological need for reassurance, it did little to endear him to a large and lasting public and estranged all but his most faithful colleagues and admirers.
Centre: Trade paperback edition of “The Last Book of Jorkens”, Night Shade Books, Portland, Oregon, 2002. One of the few examples of Sime’s colour work. The book is the first edition of a collection prepared during the author’s life but only published long after his Dunsany’s death.
Right: A Landscape Map of the Land of Dreams. From The Sketch, May 3rd, 1905.[/i]
Like the “dessinateur” Gustave Doré, who achieved world renown for his engravings, but yearned for recognition as a painter from the Paris establishment and critics, Sime devoted much time to painting later in his life. The best-known (everything is relative, I have had to content myself with a tiny black and white reproduction taken from Simon Heneage’s biography) of these is “Wild Beast Wood”, which first appeared in an article in Colour Magazine, “Masterpieces of Modern Art”, in 1926. A young artist named Robert Beach, who took to visiting with Sime is his studio in Worpelsdon, said that Sime habitually had 20 to 30 oils and watercolours en route at the same time. Why Sime did little commercial work in colour remains something of a mystery, as the popularity of artists like Rackham, Dulac, Bull and others grew with their use of colour as printing techniques improved during their lives. Perhaps by that time, Sime had bid adieu to publishing commissions. He referred to his paintings as “my oil stunts”.
His most faithful friends, Horace de Walden and Lord Dunsany, kept up a correspodance with his widow and hoped to organize a retrospective of Sime’s work at the Tate Gallery. There would be no exhibition. In 1949, Mary Sime died destitute and bequeathed her husband’s work to the local museum. The sale of the cottage served to endow the creation of the Sime Memorial Gallery.
Lord Dunsany, after Sime’s death in 1941, stated: “If I attempt to give any kind of description of the work he did, for those who may not know it, it must be borne in mind… that it was unlike anything that has ever been done before, anywhere else in the world. He was primarily a black-and-white artist… Lampblack was his principal medium, worked with a brush and a sponge, and very rarely, a speck of Chines white; he used india ink and a pen to draw his figures.”
Perhaps the last word is best left to Sime himself: “An enterprising bloke has asked me to make a large number of drawings for a costly and ornate volume of Edgar Allan Poe. I am philandering with the project not feeling quite equal to the author. You see, I am looking forward to meeting Poe in Hell and I am loth to do anything that would embarass the encounter.”
Where to see Sime’s work? Other than Lord Dunsany’s books, which, to my knowledge, have not been reprinted as they originally appeared, here is a selective bibliography:[b]BIBLIOGRAPHY[/b] [b]BOOKS:[/b] [b]”From an Ultimate Dim Thule – a review of the early works of Sidney Sime”[/b] George Locke, Ferret Fantasy, 1973 [b]”The Land of Dreams – S.H.Sime, 1905-1916″[/b] George Locke, Ferret Fantasy, 1975.
These are the two that I have:[b]”Sidney H. Sime: Master of Fantasy”[/b] Paul W. Skeeters, Ward Ritchie Press, 1978.
A good selection of Sime’s illustrations, well reproduced, with a handful of examples his colour work. The introductory text is unexceptional, but large excerpts, mostly from Dunsany, accompany the illustrations. [b]”Sidney Sime – Master of the Mysterious”[/b] Simon Heneage and Henry Ford, Thames and Hudson,1980
Of the two, the better text and presentation of Sime’s life and career; the illustrations, all black and white, are less well printed than in “Master of Fantasy”. [b]ARTICLES:[/b] [b]”People I Know: Sime, the Prophet in Line”[/b] Hannen Swaffer, Graphic, 25 Nov. 1922 [b]”From Pit Boy to Artist: Liverpool Man’s Romantic Rise to Fame”[/b] Liverpool Echo, 24 June, 1927 [b]”Sime”[/b] Lord Dunsany, Fortnightly (Dec. 1942) pp. 129-131 [b]”The Apotheosis of the Grotesque”[/b] Interview with Sime by Arthur Lawrence, Idler (Jan 1898) pp. 94-107 [b]”The Fantasy World of Sidney Sime”[/b] John Lewis, The Saturday Book 34 (1975) [b]WORPLESDON MEMORIAL HALL[/b]
A small memorial gallery of his paintings, drawings and caricatures can visited at [url=http://www.worplesdonmemorialhall.org.uk/]Worplesdon Memorial Hall[/url], Worplesdon.
On the first floor of the Hall there is a small gallery devoted to his work. The gallery was opened in 1956 and possesses 188 of Sime’s originals as well as sketchbooks. (The only colour work displayed in the Sime Memorial is unfinished, or has been worked over by Mary Sime after her husband’s death.) The hall web site provides contact details for visits.
[/i] [i]2. As it turns out, someone has! If you are searching for illustrations on the theme of Lovecraft’s writings, you can hardly do better than [url=http://www.centipedepress.com/hplart.html]A Lovecraft Retrospective: Artists Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft[/url], published by Centipede Press. It is huge, it weighs a ton, it has a slipcase and above all, the artwork inside is beautifully reproduced. If you don’t feel that the Leatherbound edition (in traycase, signed, with extra prints, at $2,495.00) fits your budget, you can always fall back on the more modest clothbound edition at $225.00.
Centipede Press can be reached at:
2565 Teller Court
Lakewood, Colorado 80214
Have just received the cover of the Chinese edition of FANTASY ART WORKSHOP. (Lucky for me, I was sitting down at the time – am more accustomed to seeing my artwork on covers than my face.) It’s being published very shortly by Jilin Fine Arts Publishing House, based in Changchun. I’ll post more information as I receive it.
The exhibition SWISS DESIGN IN HOLLYWOOD is going to Spain, augmented by a small show of originals. More information will follow at the end of the month, but in the meantime, here is some of the promotional material that is coming together.
Needless to say, I’m very proud to announce a new web site: [url=www.dana-howe.com]Dana HOWE[/url]. It’s a work-in-progress, and only a couple of weeks old, but coming along very nicely. Concerts and other musicals events in which we are involved, as specators at the very least, will be regularly announced.