Early 20th century surreal postcards

I came across a super exhibition of nuts early 20th century surreal postcards when I was in Helsinki, at the brilliant Finnish Museum of Photography.

Some of the cards below are from as early as 1905 so pre-dated the Surrealist era of the 1920’s – so interesting to see how people were receptive to oddball and obscure humour long before we imagine it was part of popular culture.

My favourites were the oldest ones that I thought were also the most out there:

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The curators did a great job to locate so many beautiful and odd examples from all over the world.  I liked these April Fool’s ones

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Women and small animals metamorphosing also seemed to be a theme

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A lot of unsettling babies too – see my earlier post about surreal ‘Baby Fishing’ postcards from 1905 too, weird infants were clearly popular back then.

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The one below also reminded me of the work of prolific ‘outsider’ artist Henry Darger who and his winged children in the Story of the Vivian Girls

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Helsinki & Kauniste

A few snapshots from Helsinki here, which I sailed into from Tallinn.  I was given a ‘traditional’ Estonian send off which meant I was rolled onto the ferry at 7am, after no sleep and surrounded by a curious scent of vodka so proceeded to snore through the entire glorious morning cruise through the Baltic.  When I stumbled off the boat at 10am with Scandinavian summertime rays already beating down, in a haze of trying to wake up and work out where I was I found scenes like this greeting me:

img_1715Yes moomins are actually everywhere in Finland, being created by phenomenal Finnish artist and illustrator Tove Jansson as early as the 1940’s.  Sweet packets, napkins, tea towels, soft drinks…their little faces are on all of them, which I was generally fine with as one of my earliest memories is watching the beautiful 1980’s moomin animations at a proximity of about 10cm from the screen in a state of complete wonder.  Hearing the old theme music now still instills a sense of real sense of safety and cosiness in me.  I think it was absolutely magical animation for a toddler to watch:

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I was lucky enough in my hungover stupour to have a safe place to seek respite.  My old Finnish friend Milla who I knew from living in Brighton years ago was living back in Helsinki and running her own brilliant design business Kauniste.  Dragging my suitcase across cobbles to locate her shop, I soaked up the Saturday markets en-route.  I was intrigued by the range of berries on display (Finns are big foragers)

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I was also quite thrilled to see some stunning vintage 1960’s Scandi ceramics winking in the sunlight, with quintessentially bold Finnish designs – the sort of thing beloved by stallholders at North London Vintage Market, the vintage homewares event I co-founded in London, I had to get some snaps for them:

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Finally arriving at Milla’s shop in the stylish design district of Punavuori, she amazingly had a hot chocolate and croissant waiting for me and gave me a tour of her gorgeous wee shop.

Kauniste work with a range of up and coming illustrators and designers to create textiles and homewares and now have their products stocked all over the world as well as in their busy concept store.  I absolutely loved the bold colour ways, Scandinavian imagery and vibrant patterns on their products.

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Estonian Abstract Art

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Another post here about my travels in Estonia, following on from my earlier interview in Tallinn with Estonian painter Jüri Arrak.  Lots of my images were stuck on a defunct hard drive until now so now I’ve finally unearthed them I’ll be continuing the thread for a wee while.  After my Estonian jaunt I also hopped on a boat for some frolics in Finland so expect a Baltic / Scandi flavour for the next few posts.

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One other thing I enjoyed in Tallinn alongside the Russian market and  my meeting with Jüri Arrak was the fantastic KUMU art museum where I discovered all sorts of exciting Estonian artists active at the height of Modernism between around 1910 and 1930 and producing some beautiful abstract works to rival their better known Cubist and Expressionist counterparts in Western Europe.

Here’s a selection of some of the folk I came across and a few of their striking works.

Kuno Veeber (1898-1928) was an Estonian painter and graphic artist. Originally studying medicine, he later travelled to Germany where he acquainted himself with Expressionism (which shows in this stunning technicolour windmill painting from 1918) He later relocated to Montparnasse in Paris, which was obviously a magnet for many artists and intellectuals from around the world at that time.  Here he spent his time studying French and examining old graphic techniques at the Paris National Library of prints, and later moved on to a scholarship at the Italian Foundation of Fine Arts.

"Windmill" Kuno Veeber, 1918

“Windmill” Kuno Veeber, 1918

The mellow pastelly light blues and pinks in this painting also really reminded me of one of my favourite paintings of the period, ‘Pavlova’ by Leeds based artist Bruce Turner , produced six years earlier in 1912.

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‘Pavlova’ Bruce Turner, 1912. Oil on canvas

Kuno exhibited all over Europe but very sadly ended his life at the age of 32, although I’m glad he seemed to have filled his short lifetime with a range of adventures and experiences that would have taken some courage back then, as well as well as some incredible creative accomplishments.

I also loved the work of Edgar Tomberg which I came across through looking up Kumo Veeber’s work, but can find next to no information about apart from that he studied alongside Kuno in the early 1920’s

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‘The Boats’ Edgar Tomberg, 1924, Oil on Cardboard.

I really enjoyed happening upon the more Cubist looking works by Henrik Olvi and Arnold Akberg too, and later found out they were actually part of a group of Estonian artists in the early 1920’s (called, appropriately, the ‘Group of Estonian Artists‘, or ‘EKR‘) who joined forces based on their shared interest in Avant Garde movements of the time, particularly Constructivism and Cubism and their mutual interest in ‘reshaping the every day environment.’

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1970’s Cook Book – Lots of Fun to Cook

I found this wee artifact of 1970’s insanity in a junk shop in Victoria Park, Hackney in London, many moons ago now.  It reminded me of a similarly nutty retro cookbook I actually had as a kid, with all sorts of inventive yet queasy experiments with foodstuffs, which I felt nostalgic for so I bought it.  On proper examination though, I found some real terrors lying within the pages.  Printed in 1972 by William Collins Sons & Company Ltd

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Some of the wacko ideas for kids start off being actually quite charming and innovative

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I do like some of the cute, whimsical and typically 70’s looking illustrations in the recipes

FullSizeRender-2And yes, this affable fella is made entirely out of cheese.  In case you were wondering, I can confirm that his head does consist of a whole Edam.

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1960’s bib

BibLove the nuts pattern on this 1960’s bib, especially the policeman with the gigantic hands – found in the back of a van at a car boot (default answer when I can’t remember)

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Romanian puppet postcard

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Love everything about this chap and what he’s up to, especially his hastily penned on facial hair.  Postcard found in Cluj Napoca, Romania probably dating back to the 1970’s / early 80’s

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Monkey postcard

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Monkey chillaxing in a tree whilst possibly sporting corduroy on this postcard dating back to before the 1920’s, an era when such scenes were considered pretty normal. Find by my Dad, my chief oddball postcard finding contact

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