Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The World of Donald Evans

My copy of The World of Donald Evans is one of my most cherished books. In addition to being a beautifully produced record of a short but luminous art career, it was also surprisingly hard to get. Used copies were not especially expensive when I looked for them online, but the first two or three times I ordered one, I was told the book wasn’t available after all. Maybe the book dealers decided they couldn’t part with them after all. Donald Evans was an American artist who lived in the Netherlands and died in a fire when he was in his early thirties. His specialty was the creation of postage stamps from imaginary countries, which he rendered in watercolors and often marked with custom-designed cancellations. Bruce Chatwin wrote a tribute to Evans that appears in the collection What Am I Doing Here:
His colour sense was as faultless as his draughtsmanship. A set of his stamps sits on a page like butterflies in a case. And, needless to say, he loved butterflies and came up with a country for them — Rups, which is the Dutch for ‘caterpillar’. He himself said he had no originality, and that he preferred to work from photographs or given images: yet one flat panorama of Achterdijk has the ‘breathed-on’ quality of a sepia-wash landscape by Rembrandt. His art was so disciplined that it was patient of receiving anything that happened to attract him — zeppelins, barnyard fowls, penguins, pasta, a passion for mushroom hunting, Sung ceramics, shells, dominoes; drinks at the Bar Centrum; windmills that were ‘abstract’ portraits of friends; the vegetable market at Cadaques, or a recipe for pesto from Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean Cooking: his way of recording the pleasures of food and drink reminds me, somehow, of Hemingway.

1 comment:

Susan Goforth said...

Hi Geoff!
I spent part of this evening with a girlfriend enjoying this very book! We are both stamp enthusiasts and, when my girlfriend was looking for stamp related art, the art department at the Seattle Public Library recommended Donald Evans' work. She checked out the book and shared it with me. I was blown away with the beauty and creativity of Evans' art. I could sit for hours with a magnifying glass just taking in his images. I found myself saying repeatedly aloud, "This is unbelievable," "This is amazing" and "Really? REALLY? This is the actual size ofthe painting?" Too many favorites to list, but definitely at the top are the flora and fauna, all the fruit stamps (unbelievable!), the portaits and the penquins. You are very fortunate to own this book! Hope you have a wonderful day.