Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design by Alan Power

26/8 –  27/8/12: Alan Power presents Artistic Illustrations of the Skull

The other day I received several images via email of an art book that contained illustrative representations of the skull. The Images were extracted from a book also known as “Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design” by Alan Power. Some of the images do appear very art deco and the book may demonstrate the presence of the skull in contemporary art and popular culture.

Some of the works appear similar to advertisements or posters through the juxtaposition between image and text. Some of the images may relate to European Renaissance Art especially the ‘Moment Mori’ that reminded the viewer of their own existence. There are at least two works in particular that features a composition between the skull or the skeleton and the hour glass that is also symbolic of the Momento Mori.

William Sroyan, Inhale and Exhale, 1936

Robert Titler argues that the Momento Mori invited the spectator to consider the border between life and death. The Momento Mori confronted one with their own mortality and realisation that time is slowly running out. Titler quotes “Many other portraits of the era employ clocks, hourglass, wilted or withered foliage, skulls and even full skeletons to convey the same message”. Can the skull remind the living of their own mortality or existence?

In a way yes the skull may remind one of the person’s life or existence, on the other hand the appropriation of the skull may become another representation that no longer resonates a connection with death. One may say that an image all depends on the eye of the beholder.

Tittler, Robert, Portraits, Painters, and Publics in Provincial England, 1540-1640 (New York: Oxford University Press,2012) p.135


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