Monday, December 22, 2008

Robert H Hobart Cust

I'm rather pleased with these two volumes which I very nearly failed to get! The postman left them in the recycling bin, presumably as a safe-place, but neglected to put a card through the door to tell me! As a result they sat there for at least 24 hours and their packaging (fortunately not inside) was sodden, and they were found by our downstairs neighbour when she went to put out the recycling which is collected tomorrow!

Anyway... A while ago Callum James Books issued a booklet called The Nude in Photography which was a reprint of an article by Glesson White from 1893 and which contained photos by Corvo and, for the first time in print in the UK, by Baron Von Gloeden. Anyway, I only really reprinted it as a way of using up some card I had spare at the time and so it was in a stupidly limited edition of 25! I could have sold that number five times over by now, the number of times I've been asked if it's still available - it's not. Sold out in a month.

But the article was only the opening salvo in a whole series of articles in a number of different periodicals of the time discussing as 'high art' the various ways in which young guys could be convinced to get their kit off for photos. That might be slighty disingenuous I suppose but not far from the mark: under the guise of the artistic use of male models in photography, articles began springing up all over which were really little more than excuses to display these photographs in print and to advertise one's interest. Although Gleeson White wrote by far the longest of these, others also weighed in, and among them the art historian and critic, Robert H Hobart Cust. So, I had been thinking for a while - indeed working on - a follow up to The Nude in Photography, a longer text which would include a number of these articles and, of course, the photos that accompanied them.

And then I came across this the other day. It's not clear to me why, when John Addington Symonds had already produced a major translation of The Autobiography of Benvanuto Cellini which was still in print, in fact, still selling well, Cust thought there was a need for another but he did. And this copy of the two-volume first edition set is rather nice for having a warm inscription from the author to his cousin.

There's a good piece in the Dictionary of Art Historians about Cust from which it seems clear that his interest in sodomitical Renaissance artists was not confined to Cellini. It seems also that there may have been a fair bit of denial in his attitude towards homosexuality but the articles he wrote on photographing the nude do not take much deconstructing! When the photography text is available I will of course anounce it here but also on my mailing list.

If you would like to be on the mailing list for the appearance of new books from Callum James Books then please drop me a line.

No comments:

Who links to my website?