Thursday, 23 March 2017

Magic scissors ..... & Smartiples

On 4 December 1972 Australian artist Martin Sharp and the London firm of Mathews Miller Dunbar published a small book of collaged artworks simply titled Art Book. Within its 38 pages were colour reproductions of works by Sharp which juxtaposed images by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Rene Magritte. Sharp took colour reproductions from store-bought art books and utilised a pair of sharp scissors to cut and paste the elements of the classic paintings into collages. Prior to this Sharp's art had been a mixture of black and white cartoons and multicoloured psychedelic graphic designs, as seen within the Sydney and London editions of OZ magazine, and posters such as his famous Bob Dylan Blowing in the Mind for Big O Posters of London. Elements of collage had existed in his work since his earliest days as an artist in the late 1950s, strongly influenced by his mother's work in that medium. The Art Book was also a reflection of Sharp's abiding interest in the history of art; of his primary artistic influences; and of his skill as a collagist. In a later 1977 article entitled 'Those Silver Scissors' by Australian artist and commentator Elwyn Lynn, a number of works from Art Book are referenced, as is the process of their creation and the context.

Sharp appears to have commenced production of this series of small collages around 1970, and featured them in a number of exhibitions, in both London and Sydney. The Art Book arose out of this. Works from the book are reproduced below, with a discussion of their origins where such information is known. Additional collages not included in Art Book but part of the series are also referenced.

In 2018 a copy of the book from the collection of Sharp's OZ magazine colleague Felix Denis was sold. It contained an inscription from the artist.

In association with the publication of the book on 4 December, an exhibition of framed works similar to those included in Art Book was held in London.

Art Book 1972

The following is a description of individual works featured in Art Book.

1. Front cover. Magritte / Vincent Van Gogh. Original works featured include the shoes from Rene Magritte's Philosophy in the Boudoir 1947. The Van Gogh landscape in the background is Wheat Field with Cypresses 1889.

2. Vincent Van Gogh. The simple juxtaposition of two copies of Van Gogh's Self-Portrait 1889

3. Giorgio de Chirico and Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh's Starry Night 1889 features in the upper background. The foreground is a version of de Chirico's Piazza d'Italia 1913.

4. Rene Magritte and Vincent Van Gogh.

5. Vincent Van Gogh The Road to Tarascon 1888 with the painter figure repeated in the right background. The original painting is now lost.

 6. Vincent Van Gogh Sunflowers 1888 and Pierre Bonnard.

7. Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. The centrepiece is from Cezanne's Vessels, Basket and Fruit, The Kitchen Table 1888-90 whilst the background is Van Gogh's The Road to Tarascon 1888.

8. Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh. The face of Marilyn Monroe is from Andy Warhol's Marilyn 1962 whilst the remainder is Van Gogh's Sunflowers 1888.

9. Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh. The dancing figure is from Degas' The Star 1878 whilst the landscape is Van Gogh's The Sower 1888.

10. Rene Magritte and Vincent Van Gogh. The sky comprises elements of Magritte's The Golden Legend 1958 whilst the general scene is Van Gogh's Langlois Bridge at Arles 1888.

11. Holbien and Giorgio de Chirico. This collage includes de Chirico's Enigma of the Hour 1911 in the background. The Holbien reference has not been identified.

12. Richard Hamilton and Enrico de Chirico. This collage features the central figure from Richard Hamilton's I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas 1967 and de Chirico's Turin Spring 1914 in the background.

13. Giorgio de Chirico and Rene Magritte.

14. Giorgio de Chirico and Rene Magritte.

15. Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Gaugin. de Chirico's The Conquest of the Philosopher 1914 forms the background.

16. Salvadore Dali and Giorgio de Chirico. A melting clock by Dali from his The Persistence of Memory 1937 is seen in the foreground, with de Chirico's The Conquest of the Philosopher 1914 as the main element of the work.

17. Hans Arp and Salvadore Dali.

18. Rene Magritte and Marcel Duchamp.

19. Rene Magritte and Vemeer.

20. Vemeer.

21. Ingres.

 22. Rene Magritte and Andy Warhol.

23. Boticelli and Pablo Picasso. The foreground features the central female figure from Boticelli's The Birth of Venus c.1486, whilst the background is of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907.

24. Pablo Picasso and Paul Signac. The foreground comprises figures form Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907, while the background is Signac's The Jetty, Cassis, Opus 198 1889. A later variant by Sharp in synthetic polymer paint was titled The Birth of Venus 1973.

It featured a background based on the Australian Charles Conder's painting A Holiday at Mentone 1888.

A variant of this image was used in the printing invitation to the publication party held on 6 December 1972.

25. Goya and Whistler.

26. Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh. The young female figure is taken from Edvard Munch's Puberty 1895 whist the scene is Van Gogh's The Night Cafe 1888.

27. Vincent Van Gogh and Francis Bacon. This work comprises a section of Van Gogh Self Portrait and Bacon's Portrait of George Dyer Talking 1966.

28. Edvard Munch and Man Ray.

29. Edvard Munch and Monet.

30. Piero Della Francesca and Mantegna.

 31. Henri Matisse and Rene Magritte. Juxtaposition of Henri Matisse's Large Red Interior 1948 and/ Rene Magritte's The Great Family 1963

 32. Giorgio de Chirico and Max Ernst. Extract from de Chirico's The Two Masks 1926 and Ernst's ....

33. Max Ernst and Georges Seurat.

34. Roy Lichtenstein and Mondrian.

35. Vincent Van Gogh and Roy Lichtenstein.

36. Roy Lichtenstein and Mondrian.

Back cover. Hokusai's The ghost of Kohada Koheij circa 1831 (extract) and Goya.


Other Works

Other collage works by Sharp from this period that are known but were not featured in Art Book, include:

* Van Gogh and Water Tower. Another of Van Gogh's many self portraits was used in the following collage, which features work by the artist and Australian Jeffrey Smart's The Water Tower 1968.

* Footloose Magritte in Van Gogh Territory. Reproduced in Elwyn Lynne (1977). Similar to the image on the cover of Art Book.

* Manet / Magritte, collage, 17 x 22 cm. Sold by the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, 1986. Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 6 December 2017. Combination of Edouard Manet's The Fifer and Rene Magritte's The Month of the Crowd. Possible also the work elsewhere titled Magritte's Metaphysical Piper.

* Van Gogh's Last Painting with Gaughin Dish.

* Rene Magritte London 2013, collage on paper, 47 x 62 cm.

* Baconian Billiards.

* Les Demoiselles de Mentone - refer description above in connection with item #24.

* Icarus.

* Blue Boy in Broken Hill. Exhibited in the Yellow House, Sydney, 1971. Combination of work by Australian artist Russell Drysdale and Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy.

* Tucker Magritte 1970, collage, 14 x 19 cm. Combination of art by Australian artist Albert Tucker and Rene Magritte.

* Van Gogh's Crucifixion 1970, collage on paper, signed and dated l.r.c. 'Sharp '70',  22.5 x 17 cm.
Proveance: The Collection of Janet and Graeme Webb, Wollogorang, NSW; Shapiro Auctions, Sydney, 5 April 2020.

A variant of the shoes motif also appeared in his The Red Model 1947. The original collage, or a variant thereof, was sold by the Roslyn Oxley Gallery, Sydney, in 1986.

Cover for Art Book 1972, collage, 16.5 x 20.5 cm. Source: Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, 1986, cat. no. 34. Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 6 December 2017.

A variation of this collage, in pen and ink, was produced by Sharp during the early 1970s.

This image was reproduced in black and white within the 1977 Elwyn Lynn article Those Silver Scissors. It was most likely a lithographic print or original ink drawing.

1. Vincent Van Gogh. Works include Van Gogh's Chair 1888 and a section of his Self-Portrait With Easel 1888 on the lower right corner. Sharp produced a number of variants featuring Van Gogh's chair. These include the following:

This work was titled My only inspiration is imagination / Vincent's chair in the Starry Night 1969 and was a multicoloured silkscreen print on perspex.

Another variant (above) was a 1971 collage entitled Vincent's chair in Magritte's imagination.



Lynn, Elwyn, Those Silver Scissors, Quadrant, February 1977, 45-47.

Sharp, Martin, Art Book, Mathews Miller Dunbar, London, 1972, 38p.

Last updated: 20 March 2020.
Michael Organ

Magic scissors ..... & Smartiples

On 4 December 1972 Australian artist Martin Sharp and the London firm of Mathews Miller Dunbar published a small book of collaged artworks ...