Welcome to Image Blog Appreciation Day! My favorites:
Will Schofield’s 50 Watts is the reconfiguration of the legendary Journey Round My Skull, a repository for the most penetrating, surprising, and perplexing images he can find, and he has a good eye. I could look - or, really, stare - at those 19th century Danish puppet theaters all day. The site has become an archive of book covers, textbook illustrations, children’s books, and miscellaneous weirdness that I now find overwhelming. He does have a Greatest Hits page. I want to emphasize, though, the literariness of the site, the sense that the images featured on 50 Watts are collaborating with the texts I wrestle with, that Victor Hugo’s paintings or Pataphysical artifacts or French sequels to Pinocchio are part of whatever story I am trying to tell, too, if I only understood them better.
50 Watts is my most frequent source for the images I steal for my internet avatar, including my current head of wheat. Although 50 Watts is significantly less bloggish than Journey Round My Skull, I still designate it the Greatest Blog Ever.
Jane Librizzi, proprietor of The Blue Lantern, is also a storyteller – all of these bloggers are. Librizzi is a master of pairing text and image, whether the text is a famous poem or her own essay. This piece on Mariana Griswold von Rensselaer is a good example. She also understands how literature and images interpenetrate – see this expert review of Theodor Fontane and this little biography of Djuna Barnes.
Neil Philips, of Adventures in the Print Trade, has contributed valuable comments to Wuthering Expectations now and then. His own blog would be dangerous if I lived in England, because it is part of his shop, and if he cannot sell you the image he features, I bet he can find something just as nice.
I have borrowed an amazing linocut by Norbertine Bresslern-Roth to showcase Neil, but I want to feature a recent post titled “Keeping Impressionism at bay” in which Neil uses an illustrated book of poems to deftly summarize and challenge the standard art history narrative. Now that is too big a subject, the useful and frustrating contrasts between literary history, art history, music history, and so on, the way the field’s tell their own stories. Some other time. Neil’s post is a sort of primer on the subject.
Philip Wilkinson’s English Buildings is not exactly an image blog, but in the end it functions similarly. He helps his readers see buildings carefully, to really look at them. Then, after looking, to learn something about the period and history of the building. Then to look again. Wilkinson is a widely published specialist on English architecture, and he uses the blog to explore some areas that the standard architectural histories do not emphasize.
Every blog I have listed has this in common: they know their field, and the story people in the field tell, how this movement led to that one, and this artist influenced the other, but they understand how inadequate and limiting that story is, and they push back against it in all sorts of fascinating ways.
I would feel bad if I omitted Steerforth and The Age of Uncertainty, another great scrounger of old images. Steerforth is opening a bookstore – best wishes!
I would feel worse if I did not mention that all of these bloggers are unusually good writers – clear in their arguments, thoughtful in their choices. When I visit their sites, what I mostly do is look, which is right. But I also read with real pleasure.