New Year's is traditionally a time to look forward, and also to reflect on the past. In the spirit of the holiday, we would like to highlight four calendars, from very different time periods: A 1969 wall calendar commemorating the African American Civil Rights Movement with bold prints, a calendar of color woodcut illustrations published by the leading art journal of the Vienna Secession in 1903, an ornate Renaissance-inspired Italian calendar from 1899 accompanied by the original pen and watercolor drawings, and a luxurious embroidered almanack from 1792 small enough to be tucked in one's pocket.
The German artist Hans Christoph Schmolck created this calendar as a tribute to the African American Civil Rights Movement, titled Black Power: 1969, in 1968. Each month is illustrated with two pages of signed prints celebrating the African-American Civil Rights Movement: one with the name of the month in English, and the other in German. The English pages bear black & white prints of shadowy figures reminiscent of collages, and the German pages have large, bold linoleum cuts accented with color. The powerful images express rage, fear, pain, and strength, and many reference specific events, including the Orangeburg Massacre in February, 1968 and the Newark Riots of 1967. Several important figures are also depicted: April's linoleum cut is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., with the date of his assassination. The calendars list the dates in a vertical format, so that it can be used in any year; the artist writes, "This calendar is perpetual as long as misanthropy and violence dominate the world."
Another calendar remarkable for its illustrations is the Ver Sacrum Kalender 1903, which has thirteen bright color woodcuts from various artists, including Karl Müller, Wilhelm List, and Max Kurzweil. The calendars and decorative borders were designed by Alfred Roller, whose lettering was a major influence on the psychedelic poster art of the 1960s.
Ver Sacrum was the major publication of the Vienna Secession movement, a group of artists who banded together in Vienna at the turn of the century to challenge what they saw as the conservative, academic bent of the city's art establishment. The magazine was published from 1898 to 1903 and produced a calendar each year. This is the last calendar in the series.
This pre-Raphaelite example, Calendario dell'Anno, 1899, provides insight into how the artwork for a calendar was created: the finished, printed calendar is accompanied by twenty-one of Giuseppe Cellini's original watercolor and ink drawings, of which three were not used, and one is a duplicate.
The printed calendar is illustrated with seventeen chromolithographed plates, which accompany a series of musical arrangements by Salvatore Saya, with lyrics by the Italian poet Ugo Fleres. In the original art, the panels for the months of the year have, in almost all cases, placeholder text handwritten by the artist that was replaced by type in the final version. These intricate calendar illustrations also clearly demonstrate the sway that the Renaissance aesthetic had on the Arts & Crafts movement, with elaborate floral and foliate designs, initials decorated with interlacing, and symbols for each sign of the zodiac, all in regal shades of red, blue, green, and gold.
This deluxe, near-miniature almanack from 1792, Cupidon Logicens ou les Pedagoges, a Cythere, is notable not only for its thirteen hand-colored engravings, but also for its richly embroidered binding.
In a time before iPhones and BlackBerrys, almanacks were used to keep track of dates and appointments. Not merely calendars, they also include tables of useful information such as holidays, currency exchange rates, and the phases of the moon. In addition to the usual contents of an almanac, this tome contains tales of love told in rhyming verse and an acrostic poem based on the name "Sophie." Its lovely white satin embroidered binding with floral motifs in gold thread with sequins and metal plaquettes was intended to convey the status and sophistication of the book's owner.
For more information and several other almanacks and calendars, please visit our website. Thank you for reading, and all of us at Bromer Booksellers wish you a very happy New Year.
Posted on Books@Bromer. The article is presented here by permission of the author. Pictures: Bromer Booksellers