The Carrot Blog

Carrot Creative is filled with colorful characters. Cultured Carrots is a series that shares the outside passions that inspire the very best work for our clients. This week, Senior Developer Ryan Farrell gives us a virtual tour of his personal art collection, which inlcudes satirical pieces that would make the creators of South Park blush.

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Carrot: How did you get into art collecting?

Ryan Farrell: I was doing these little psychedelic oil paintings on little steel plates in college and had a painting teacher who suggested I look at British satiric etchings from the Georgian period. I immediately fell in love with them. They were so funny and, formally, they just blew me away. I loved the line quality, all the little details, the imagination and I loved finding out about the subjects involved.

Some years later, I checked out the price of some of them on eBay and from various print shops and the price was not at all out of reach to start buying them. I was thinking the stock market was a bit unstable, so why not invest in something I know a thing or two about? I could fill my apartment with my favorite art for the low price of free or even negative money!

C: What genre of art do you primarily collect?

R: I collect primarily Georgian satirical etching; my favorite figures of the time were James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and George Cruikshank. I also love Islamic manuscript illumination and have a few Safavid Persian paintings.

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C: What fascinates you about this area in particular?

R: It’s part formal, part historical, really. There is interesting psychic distance from the work; the technique is dead, the genre is dead, I’d argue, and the subject matter is very much of its time. But there’s a timeless wit to it-- they’re legit still really funny-- and the drawing style is so beautiful. Etching, in general, has this lovely spidery quality to it, but Gillray in particular is one of the most significant draftsmen in history. It’s easy to see an almost direct line between Walt Disney, Dr. Suess, R. Crumb, etc.

C: From a historical perspective, how did this trend in art come about?

R: There’s a few elements at play here; caricature has its roots in medieval manuscript painting and stone carving, I suppose. Leonardo was a master at it, and had a big influence on the style. Etching was the state of the art for image reproduction in the 17th and 18th century, which was the height of the craft. William Hogarth was the major figure of the previous generation, whose Rake’s Progress and other sequential proto-comics about morality with lots of really funny details baked in were really important. Very crude etchings from the time depicting political and clerical figures in less than flattering ways were a feature in the tumultuous English political landscape. At the height of English satirical etching, there were print shops all around London which displayed printed and hand colored etchings in their shop windows and would have been sold to the middle class as well as aristocrats, who sometimes even commissioned work targeting their social enemies. I’m an enthusiast not an expert though, so please don’t look any of that up.

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C: What is your favorite piece that you own?

R: In 1848 a man named Henry Bohn got his hands on all of James Gillray’s plates and churned out 600 copies of collected works in a nice bound volume before selling the plates for copper. Almost all the books were cut up and the prints sold individually, but I managed to get a copy, of the so-called “Suppressed Prints” which Bohn published as a separate volume, as they would have been considered quasi-pornographic by Victorian standards. They contain some of his most famous etchings like “Fashionable Contrasts,” and “Madame Talian and the Empress Josephine dancing naked before Barrass in the winter of 1797. - a fact!” It needs some restoration, but the book is highly prized by museums and connoisseurs of fart jokes and sexual innuendo.

C: Do you have a "Great White Whale" of a piece that you've been trying to track down for some time?

R: Isn’t it better to have dozens of normally-colored whales than one white one? I don’t go chasing waterfalls.

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C: Do you create any art yourself?

R: Yes, but I’m not very good.

C: In your opinion, why is it important for people to collect and study art?

R: For centuries, inviting someone to your apartment to see your etchings was like a euphemistic way to invite them for a coital situation. My advice to the young is to start collecting etchings now. Otherwise, you will die alone in New Jersey, and it will be days before anyone finds you, during which time your many cats will have eaten your face.

C: Anything thing else you want to say?

R: Follow your dreams.

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