Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Do You Feel About...

Works of art being used as book covers. For example:



(which, if you don't know, is a painting by Van Gogh)

See, I'm kind of partial to this painting by Théodore Géricault (Head of a Drowned Man)


Not that I'm thinking about book covers or anything...

Is it "cheap" to use the work of a long-dead artist on a modern book? Copyright (at least the modern, legal version) isn't an issue, but is it unethical? Thoughts?

19 comments:

Cate Gardner said...

Now that's a toughie... I'd say as long as you don't use the Mona Lisa (without a moustache) then go for it.

Adam Blomquist said...

I, for one, quite like the practice of using established art.

I think that Penguin does this well all the time with its "classics" collection. The key is to use a piece that is not overly familiar, that way one has no previous strong association with it and can more easily link it with the book.

I really like the Gericault piece.

BTW...book covers? Do tell.

Adam Blomquist said...

Cate's too quick, there were 0 comments when I started my response, but somehow she beat me.

Tony Southcotte said...

I have never had a problem with people using art for book covers. Relevance to the painting or work would be my only concern.

Barry Napier said...

I personally don't agree with it. It can be used as a clever device to get people to buy a book based on art totally unrelated to the book. (However, "Head of a Drowned Man" would make an awesome book cover.

Jamie Eyberg said...

If it portrays what is inside, or is of relevance (does the art play a role in the story?) then I say go for it. the old masters certainly have a flair for the dramatic that is rarely captured with most of today's book covers.

Alan W. Davidson said...

I'm agreeing with Barry and Jamie. As long as the art has relevance to the subject matter of the book that it should be good to go. Are the publishers of said book not the ones to decide on such matters?

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I think it's totally fine. It's public domain, and really, isn't that the purpose of public domain art: to enjoy and to help create more art?

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - The Mona Lisa on a book cover...too Dan Brown for me.

Adam - Just a little project for which I'm stirring the courage pot.

Tony - So if the book has a story about a drowned man and the cover is a picture of a drowned man...

Barry - Which has been done all too often.

Jamie - Just don't hit me with more "virtual people", alright?

Alan - What if we lived in a world without publishers?

Jeremy - Art makes more art; what utopian ideals!

Brendan said...

The purpose of the cover is to get people to buy it. You want the most compelling cover you can, and of course preferably one that relates to the content if only not to disgruntle people.

So if you like that painting and believe it is compelling enough to get people to pick up your book and give it a look (and I believe it is, by the way) then that's the only thing that matters.

I can't imagine how or why "cheap" (in whatever context you meant it) would ever enter into it at all.

Robert said...

Not sure if I 100% agree with Jeremy's "the purpose of public domain art: to enjoy and to help create more art." PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES, anyone?

In terms of your question, Aaron, I guess there's not necessarily anything wrong with it per se ... but why not be original?

Aaron Polson said...

Brendan - Not cheap in the monetary sense, but cheap as in not original, as...

Robert mentions. Maybe one uses the orignal art as inspiration and takes the final product in a different direction?

P&P&Z is just stupid. End of line.

Danielle Ferries said...

Depends on the manner in which its portrayed. I don't really have a problem with it.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

OK, Robert got me on P&P&Z. Sometimes art can be used against us like a flaming, poo-covered club, too ;-)

katey said...

I absolutely agree with Jamie's answer. As someone inspired by regular trips to the National Gallery, I gotta say I think it's a fine idea. Obviously if it's misleading it's crap, but the odds are it's far LESS misleading than most other book covers these days.

Natalie L. Sin said...

If it fits the spirit of the book, and is done with respect, I think it works.

Andrea Allison said...

I think I'm a bit biased on this subject. I don't have a problem with writers using works of long dead artists on their book covers (that is if its related to the story). However, if more and more writers adapt this practice where does it leave artists like my brother? Who's going to choose artwork from a new artist over one that is well known?

Michael Stone said...

Like most of the fine folks above, I'm okay with it.

Rabid Fox said...

With the Sedaris book, it just fit so well. I'm all for it, myself, so long as the artwork bears some relevance to the book. Otherwise it's kind of like spam.