Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 19, 2013


Dance of Death by Jean Charlot (1951)

Jean Charlot (1898-1979) was a French-American painter and illustrator, winner of the 1954 Caldecott Medal for When Will the World Be Mine?  He spent a number of years in Mexico and was greatly influenced by that country's art.  Indeed, Mexican art and sensibility infuse the fifty drawings in this slim book.  The book itself is dedicated to Jose Guadalupe Posada, "Mexican Maste of the Theme."

The theme is Death, personified by a crude skeleton figure. aristocrat, a politician  Each drawing is accompanied by a sardonic comment by Death as he meets various doomed people.  (Actually, that's a canard; a few drawings have comments by the soon-to-die.)  And who does Death meet?  A wounded knight, an aristocrat, a politician, an invalid, a nudist, an x-ray doctor, a pugilist, a hermit, a prisoner, a strong man, Hamlet's Yorick, an executioner, a housewife, an undertaker, an atomic physicist, an artist, a fisherman, a pessimist, an optimist, a businessman, a coquette, a gravedigger, a thinker, a dentist, a swooning maiden, a schoolmaster, a miser, a dowager, a cynic, a traveler, an astronomer, a confirmed bachelor, a neglected spinster, a gigolo, a mathematician, a waiter, a fan dancer, a surgeon, a poet, a holy man, a cartoonist, a child, and -- inevitably -- himself.

Anthony Boucher, reviewing the book in the April 1952 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, found it to be "superlative macabre humor in a welcome modernization of a great ancient art-form."  Boucher, as usual, was spot-on.

As I said, this is a slim book.  It can be read in less than ten minutes.   Or, if you are wise, it could be studied for hours.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Jerry as I'd never heard of it before - I think DEATH AND THE HOUSEWIFE is my favourite.