Archive for the Silent Cinema Category

From Horror to Ecstasy – Dave McKean Turns Silence into Expression

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Dave McKean, Silent Cinema, Transmission Atelier, Uncategorized with tags , , on 26 April, 2012 by SeanMChase

On February 26th, 2012, something rather extraordinary occurred:  The Artist, a contemporary silent film won the ‘Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year‘.  Almost coinciding with this momentous occasion is the fact that a few days later, March 4th marked the 90th anniversary of what is my favorite film of all time, Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by German silent filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.  On March 4th, the film had its gala preview showing back in 1922.  The film, for those who aren’t familiar with it, has become an iconic classic among the annals of horror films and is one of the most visually poetic of the films often collectively referred to as German Expressionist cinema.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok and Greta Schröder as Ellen.  In the starkly climactic scene of the 1922 film “Nosferatu”, the vampire Count Orlok is lured to his demise with an offering of blood by the virtuous and virginal heroine, Ellen Hutter.  As she sacrifices herself to his monstrous appetite, Count Orlok is diverted and unaware of the passing time, thus rendering him helpless to the lethal first rays of sunlight.

“Nosferatu” (2010, mixed media).  Dave McKean’s marvelously expressionistic interpretation of the same scene in the film.  One of the great examples of his ongoing “Nitrate” series of paintings which are a glorious homage to classic films of the early era.  The use of tortured angles, rich textures, and chiaroscuro effects would have met with great approval from the film’s director F.W. Murnau.

Many of these silent films possess a symbolic quality and a visual poetry that most modern films lack entirely.  The filmmakers of the Expressionist movement took advantage of the environment in which the story played out and used it to serve as a visual metaphor for the emotional state of the characters.  Cinematographers and cameramen employed new techniques in moving the camera around while shooting, in addition to placing an emphasis on the contrast between light and shadow.  Meanwhile editors experimented with cutting scenes so as to create the illusion of geographical and emotional continuity from one shot to the next.

It was a new era and because no one had ever laid out the rules or guidelines for what couldn’t be done in the cinema, many filmmakers approached their craft with an experimental curiosity, both in terms of the subject matter that they explored and the way in which they went about creating the haunting imagery being shown on screen.

The ominous figure of Mephisto, played by German character actor Emil Jannings, hovers over the town as his colossal wings fan a miasma of plague on the people.  This classic scene from F.W. Murnau’s 1926 film “Faust” was a showcase not only for special effects of the day, but also a wonderful opportunity to display the operatic scale of the battle between good and evil in the cinematic medium.

“Faust” (2007, mixed media).  Dave McKean’s impressive take on the memorable scene.  The way in which he has fabricated the effect of the wind and the cloud of plague blowing over the rooftops is extremely creepy and stylistically rivals the same effect achieved in the film.

Interestingly, there has been in the past few years a growing appreciation and understanding of why silent cinema is so special.  While film scholars and cineastes have long championed silent films for their artistic merits and their technical innovation, many modern film audiences have until recently dismissed them as relics of the past, but now with the this new recognition that silent films are receiving, many movie goers are reevaluating their initial stance on these classics.  No more are they being viewed as fading relics of redundant or obsolete technologies.  Finally, more people are beginning to see their artistic value and the important part that they played in the continuing evolution of the movie industry.

Without the films of Georges Méliès, Robert Wiene, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Sergei Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Victor Sjöström, Paul Leni, and others, we wouldn’t even have had the wonderful European art house films of the past 50 years.  And these are but just a few of the great filmmakers from Europe.  There were many wonderful silent film directors in America and throughout other parts of the world.  Taking that into consideration, the long lasting effect of these films cannot be understated;  they are an essential part of our culture and of cinematic history.
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Countdown to Nitrate + Kinogeists II

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Dave McKean, Gail Potocki, Silent Cinema on 19 March, 2011 by Thomas Negovan

It’s one week until our Silent Cinema Art Exhibition, and the hanging of the art is almost finished!  I thought that you might like a sneak peek at the exhibition…

(It does appear that there was more dog-cuddling than hanging.  This is not entirely untrue.)

See you soon!


Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

Lyta and Michaelanne // Chloe and Gail

Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

Pup support is important to art hanging: Dave McKean's Metropolis (2009) and Orsi's Raspoetin (1925)


Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

Nitrate + Kinogeists: underway

Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend! Dog tricks? Perhaps.

Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

1920s pottery + original silent film advertising lithographs: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1917), Whitechapel (1920), The Love of the Temple Dancer (1926), and Blonde Poison (1919).

Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

Michaelanne sweeps, and...

Nitrate + Kinogeists: next weekend

Lyta finishes making sure the floor is clean.

February recap: Nitrate and Kinogeists in Los Angeles, with DAVE MCKEAN

Posted in A Day in the Life, Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Dave McKean, Gail Potocki, Silent Cinema on 23 February, 2010 by Thomas Negovan

Thanks so much to Billy Shire for hosting us at his massive Billy Shire Fine Arts location in Culver City!  The show was amazing, and we all had a fantastic time.  Followers of Century Guild on Twitter got real-time updates, and here is the recap!  (It’s all photos, so please be patient…)

The view from my stairs as I left for the airport!!!

And- the view from our car hours later, in Los Angeles!

Among the many meth addicts we saw, he was the most peaceful.

The night before the show: Jack was severely disappointed by the tameness of above-promised goods.

Jack gets propositioned by prostitute in the hotel parking lot.

Jack gets propositioned by friendly and ambitious prostitute (aka Sioux Sinner) in the hotel parking lot.

Preparing for the show: Dave McKean examines The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Preparing to hang the show (photo by Dave McKean)

Before the show, with Kent Williams

Before the show, with Kent Williams

The crowds begin to gather...

The crowds begin to gather...

Silent film reel; and Barron Storey

Silent film reel; and Barron Storey

Brendan McCarthy

Brendan McCarthy

Dave McKean and the über-talented Stephanie Leonidas

Dave McKean and the über-talented Stephanie Leonidas (MirrorMask, BBC's Dracula)

Jason Louv, Grant and Kristan Morrison

Two of my favorite writers: Jason Louv and Grant Morrison, and the hypersexy Kristan Morrison (plus a ghostly Ryan Graff in the distance)

Kent Williams and Godfather #1: Allen Spiegel

Kent Williams and Godfather #1: Allen Spiegel

Grant Morrison and Dave McKean

Grant Morrison and Dave McKean

David Anderle and The Godfather #2: Billy Shire

David Anderle and The Godfather #2: Billy Shire

At the end of the night, a show well done.

At the end of the night, a show well done.

Gail Potocki, Jack Absinthe, Dave McKean, Thomas Negovan, Kristan Morrison, Grant Morrison, Adam Egypt Mortimer

The best part about travel is catching up with friends, and making new ones.  It was really great to meet Kitty Mihos and Drew Johnston, Brendan McCarthy, Barron’s better half Petra (!), and my all-time favorite people on Earth for the next millenium or two, Stephanie and HER better half, Robert Boulter…

But more about Stephanie and Robert in the NEXT post…


Posted in A Day in the Life, Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Comic Conventions, Dave McKean, Olympian Publishing, Silent Cinema, Uncategorized on 9 February, 2010 by Thomas Negovan

I have successfully entered the 21st century, and I am now wired in to post on Twitter and Facebook remotely!    Look for Century Guild on Facebook, and at as I’ll be posting updates from the Dave McKean signing and the Nitrate and Kinogeists exhibition in Los Angeles this weekend…!



I hate my spotty servce too much to promote the iphone.

DAVE McKEAN will not stop messing with my calm spiritual center.

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Dave McKean, Silent Cinema, Uncategorized on 29 January, 2010 by Thomas Negovan

Dave McKean

Los Angeles


FEB 13, 7pm

Ok, so it started with Jack in the outer office, and then the neighbors; everyone wondering, “Call 9-1-1?” or thinking “Oh, now he has finally lost it, and lost it good.”

I know that you are concerned, and I’ve stopped twitching enough that I can now share my tale.

Nosferatu - F. W. Murnau (1922) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)

I have to preface this by saying I was never a “huge” Dave McKean fan.  I appreciated him, to be sure, and was always aware of his work, but if someone said “fan” I don’t know how I would have responded, probably not so strong a word.  I found the worlds he explored with Neil Gaiman to be intriguing, but a little gentle and cerebral for my tastes.  Again: massive respect, but not as much passion as I had for, say, Walter Schnackenberg or George Grosz.

But of late, this man will not stop affecting me, and really REALLY deeply.

The Haunted Castle - F. W. Murnau (1921) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)

I thought that there was a chance that his Nitrate series would be his pinnacle, but looking at his paintings for The Coast Road blew that idea away; as a painter, as a storyteller, I genuinely believe now that McKean is an artist that will be in the history books. His style reveals his influences with grace, and shows that he has wrestled them into a hand that is completely his own. This is not decorative art, this feels to my senses- to my gut- the way the things that prove to be genuinely important do.

I’ll explain what that means, to me: This blog is very loose and vulgar, but a large part of my income comes from sharing my opinion with museum buyers.  “This Dalpayrat with a Colonna mount has a perfect form and glaze- plus the original paper label!” or “This Georges de Feure is indescribably rare, and a perfect example of his early Japonist period- you must have it!” leads to me visiting things in the Art Institute of Chicago that used to be on my dining room table.  Basically, I have to curb my commentary when I’m in social situations, because my generally opinionated demeanor keeps being reinforced by institutions, which as you can imagine is a dangerous place to be unless you want to come off as a fine art Simon Cowell.  Luckily, I was raised by Italians.  (Actually, now that I think about it, they’re even more loud and opinionated than I am.  So, I’m not sure what happened.)

Greed - Erich von Stroheim (1924) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)

I have no idea what I was talking about, because I’ve had two phone calls as I was trying to finish that last paragraph.  My point was something like: I’m an art snob at heart; I have exceptional taste, and you should believe me because large museums pay me to choose things for their collections; and I would without a second’s hesitation, or any reservations whatsoever, go to bat for Dave McKean with anyone, anytime.  I am deadly serious: in fifty years, these will be important representations of art in 2010.  Mark my words. Forget anything you ever thought you knew about McKean if you know him from The Sandman, and look at the painting for Greed: the horse bucking its rider is violent, bleeding with sacred geometry, and texturally challenging- it’s a perfect ten, not only graphically, but artistically. And, if you’ve never picked up a graphic novel, I bet you’ll see this even more clearly. This is a great artist. And we are lucky that he is alive, and creating, right now.

Want to see why my neighbors are convinced I’m finally ready to be locked up?  Come to Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City on February 13th and see for yourself:

Weird Tales - Richard Oswald (1919) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)


and original silent film posters 1890-1920:


presented at

Billy Shire Fine Arts

5790 Washington Blvd.

Culver City, CA 90232

opening reception FEB 13 2010, 7pm

Paintings, ink drawings, and edition prints are available.

If you want to make the step and own one for yourself, drop me a note at


Merchandise Mart Fall Antiques Fair: “Laugh, Clown, Laugh”

Posted in Antique Fairs, Century Guild Events, Opera artifacts, Silent Cinema on 30 October, 2009 by Thomas Negovan

First of all, I just read the title that Jack put on our new soon-to-be announced sister blog, and laughed so hard that if I were drinking milk it would have come out of my nose.

As in the confessional: “please forgive me; it’s been nearly eleven weeks since our last proper update.”

(1) The event at La Luz de Jesus was a wild success, thank you to everyone who showed up!

(2) We had a fantastic show at the Merchandise Mart which was an even bigger success… we tried something a little more “accessible to the masses” and it was a good move- the giant Pagliacci poster was a standout favorite of a number of celebrity designers, as was (of course) the legendary Verdi poster.

(3) COMING UP: Winnetka Modernism (Nov 6-8), yes; and GAIL POTOCKI at BILLY SHIRE FINE ARTS! November 14th opening, all new great works! Please tell your friends!

Here are photos from the Merchandise Mart, another update is imminent. Thanks for reading.


Laugh, Pagliacci, laugh... circa 1910. Gigantic, rare... and breathtaking.


Merchandise Mart Fall 2009: Art Nouveau, Opera, Gothic, and 1950s masters.


Thomas Negovan loves purple striped slacks from Savile Row.


1880-1920 now becomes 1880-1960...! Edmond Lachenal meets Invasion of the Star Creatures, Hermann August Kahler meets X, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes.


Guiseppi Palanti


The only time Stuart Tomc sat down the entire weekend.


Envy, an Italian silent film, 1911.


(Because purple striped slacks deserve an encore.)

This weekend: Sex, Murder, and Anarchy at La Luz de Jesus in Hollywood!

Posted in Antique Fairs, Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Silent Cinema, Transmission Atelier on 11 August, 2009 by Thomas Negovan

Still not sorted out from San Diego, we’re loading up the caravan again to head to Los Angeles for an exhibition of our most disturbing and sexy posters at the legendary La Luz de Jesus.

Billy Shire, founder of La Luz de Jesus, is Godfather of the whole LA art scene.  He was instrumental in the careers of Joe Coleman, Shag, The Clayton Brothers, Glenn Barr… his resumé reads like a “Who’s Who” of art legends.  Our favorite Gail Potocki shows at his elegant BSFA space, and he is one of the most gentle and inspired human beings I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting.  We’re holding our 2010 Dave McKean/ silent cinema exhibition at his BSFA space, but to properly appease the raunchy Gods of Victorian Sex and Murder, we need to be in- where else?- Hollywood…!

Syphilis, 1918

Syphilis, 1918

Voluptuaries & Vivisections:
A Celebration of Depravity

Guest Curator: Thomas Negovan

August 14 – 30
Opens Friday, August 14, 2009
8 – 11 PM

These are images that burned themselves into the minds and hearts of unwitting late 19th/early 20th century citizens, inciting unparalleled controversy all over Europe and beyond… and promise those same reactions in those who cross paths with them today. Decadence, dandyism, sex, and murder: more than mere posters, these are windows into the darkest corners of human compulsion.

In an event curated by Thomas Negovan and Century Guild, a Chicago gallery known for museum quality Art Nouveau and Symbolist Art, La Luz de Jesus invites you to be a part of an unprecedented event that explores the taboos that have titillated and tormented since the turn of the century. Masterpieces of lithographed poster art from 1880-1940 illustrating subjects ranging from seminal S&M literature to STD warnings to serial killers will be shown, all of which shall be sure to incite reactions of lust, terror, anger, nausea, and inspiration. NOT TO BE MISSED!

The Haunted Castle, 1924

The Haunted Castle, 1921

I would heartily agree with the “not to be missed” aspect… here are some of the other images that will be on display…  No excuses, get over to this show and say hello!!!

Carriage No. 13, 1921

Carriage No. 13, 1926

Mistresses of the Pope, seminal S&M literature from 1891

Mistresses of the Pope, seminal S&M literature from 1884

Grand Guignol, c 1920

Grand Guignol, c 1920

White Slavery, 1926

White Slavery, 1927