Thursday, 20 November 2008

Boris Artzybasheff


Artzybasheff’s exotic and bizarre illustrations made frequent appearances in the mid-century pages of Life and Fortune and on the cover of Time. Airbrushed forms, masses of accumulated detail and bio-mechanical fantasy figures populate his images. He made a speciality of illustrating the unpleasant and unpalatable. Machines of warfare and the global spread of tropical diseases were typical subjects. Quality control was not always in evidence and some fairly feeble stuff found its way into print but at his best the scale and bravura of his magnificent cast of malevolent characters was irresistible. The visual vocabulary of medieval demonology was cheerfully combined with the Astounding Science Fiction genre.


Boris had a liking for vast, sprawling cosmologies but even by his standards this Hindu Pantheon was a tour de force. Life magazine published it as a three page gatefold in the issue dated March 7, 1955. It was a spectacular image that enabled Boris to deploy his full repertory of grotesqueries but the mood is lighter and more playful than usual despite the decapitations and disembowellings. This was a subject that surpassed even Boris’s wildest imaginings and the finished article has more than a hint of Bollywood about it. This could well have been Boris’s finest hour. For more examples of the strange workings of the Boris imagination, a visit to Chris Mullen’s Alphabet of Illustrators is essential.


5 comments:

R.Jain said...

Hi Phil:
Please confirm that this artwork is indeed from the March 7, 1955 issue of the LIFE magazine.
Thus far, I have been unable to trace an actual copy of that issue.
Thank you for highlighting this beautiful example. Your earliest response is requested. Much appreciate the links and resources on your excellent blog. Thank you very much. Regards

Phil Beard said...

I'm sorry but I can't really add anything more on this. My notes record the date but there's always room for error!

Anonymous said...

It is FEB 7, 1955 issue. World's greatest religions part I: Hinduism

Anonymous said...

It's not bizarre. He depicted the gods and goddesses of Hinduism in exactly the way they are visioned. In his own style, which is a little simplified, but after all, it's Time magazine we are talking about.

injamaven said...

I agree with Anonymous. He'd really done his homework. As a child, Ipoured over this fold out in coffee-table book. World's Greatest Religions publ. by TimeLife. Now that I know more about Hindu iconography I'm impressed by how accurately he depicted the many deities.