The cartoonist, painter, illustrator, and sculptor Herbert Crowley was an innovator at the dawn of comics, and a defining figure of the early 20th century New York City avant garde art scene.
He exhibited his work in dozens of venues, including the legendary Armory Show of 1913 alongside Picasso and van Gogh, and in a joint exhibition with Léon Bakst in 1914. He received countless glowing reviews, describing him as a visionary voice exploring a brand new form of art. His cartoons were featured in the now-storied New York Herald Sunday comics section, printed on the reverse side of of Winsor McCay's masterpiece LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND.
A 1915 article in The Bookman called Crowley an artist whose “star is very decidedly in the ascendant. New York City at large discovered Herbert Crowley only a few months ago; but, once having been discovered, he is not the sort of person easily to be forgotten.”
But then… he was.
In 1917, he disappeared from the New York City scene, and never showed his artwork again.
In Art Out of Time, Dan Nadel’s 2006 collection of comics by unknown cartoonists, several of Crowley’s strips are reproduced as examples of vital early newspaper cartooning that had been unjustly and completely forgotten. In a short piece at the end of the anthology, Nadel describes Crowley as representing the “single largest information gap in this book,” — a book about unremembered artists — and writes that that aside from the existence of these comic strips, “nothing else is known about Crowley or his work.”
Crowley’s art has not been exhibited in over fifty years.
Outside of two great comics collections reproducing a small handful of his Wigglemuch strips, none of his astonishing work — which includes oil paintings, pen & ink illustrations, bronze sculptures, set designs, children's books and more — has ever been collected or published. Over the course of a century, the memory of this uniquely brilliant artist has been erased.
Herbert Crowley has been completely forgotten.
The intention of this Kickstarter is to change that.
But we need your help.
We've uncovered hundreds of Herbert Crowley pieces which have never been published or exhibited anywhere, in any form.
Our six years of primary-source research have taken us from Texas to Toronto to Zurich. We've literally crawled into the ruins of Crowley's collapsed home in upstate New York, reclaiming incredible artwork from the raccoons and silverfish. Dan Nadel continued his research well beyond the publication of Art Out of Time, and eventually connected us with Crowley's niece Susi in Switzerland. We spent time with her in Zurich and New York City, digging up a huge amount of correspondence and ephemera, and slowly and painstakingly uncovered his long-forgotten story—a strange and incredible saga that arcs across the planet, from the Americas to Europe to the middle and far East, through the front line of the first World War, the early days of experimental theatre, and the inner circle of the visionary psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
We plan to collect this material in an oversized hardcover archival art book that contains the greatest works of his remarkable career.
At one hundred pages and 11" x 17”, this handsomely produced prestige edition will contain a wealth of his artwork, much of it at its original size—alongside a comprehensive 20,000 word biography recounting his unforgettable tale. What we’re publishing here is not just a collection of his work—it’s a definitive volume celebrating and contextualizing a unique creative force in the world.
This book is how history will remember Herbert Crowley.
Carl Jung himself, in a letter describing Crowley’s work, said that it explored “the multiple luminosities of the collective unconscious. He has been driven in to astounding depths—quite dangerous when consciousness is not up to it. Such things usually leave a peculiar void in the conscious world after they have passed."
There is a peculiar void in the world now, where Crowley’s artwork used to be. An artist of this caliber should never have been—and cannot remain—forgotten.
With your help, we hope to rescue him from the sands of time.
THE TEMPLE OF SILENCE: LOST WORKS AND WORLDS OF HERBERT CROWLEY will be a monument to one of the great forgotten geniuses of 20th century art.
We hope you’ll build it with us.
THANK YOU, you lovely people for funding this project! We're pleased to announce our first two stretch goals below. Watch this space!! There are more stretch goals to come.
$85,000 STRETCH GOAL:
RESIN WIGGLEMUCH SCULPTURES -- UNLOCKED!!!
We've been pleased to offer replicas of Herbert Crowley's grotesque sculptures as the rewards at the top end of our pledge structure. But we know that these glorious bronze & gold babies are prohibitively pricey for most folks. SO -- we have decided to produce resin versions of these beautiful things, available for half the price of the bronze pieces. For $1,000 (still pricey, I know -- beauty ain't cheap), backers will receive four inch tall, six inch wide resin sculptures, along with signed slipcase editions of the book, digital editions, TEMPLE OF DREAMS and TEMPLE OF SILENCE prints, and ALL ACCESS PASSES to our research. They will also be credited as ASSOCIATE PUBLISHERS of the book.
You can choose from the two designs featured above and below this paragraph!
“It’s just totally unique. There’s nothing else like it, and I think that the Wigglemuch is the greatest newspaper strip ever drawn. It’s just this weird infantile crazy comic with these heavy, heavy themes in it, that’s just amazing.” -Jim Woodring
"As someone interested in the weirdnesses and Roads Not Taken in the history of comix, Crowley is one of the most idiosyncratic and quirky artists in the cohort. I salute him, and you for doing the heavy-lifting archaeological dig of bringing him to the surface again." -Art Spiegelman
"[Crowley's characters] are complex icons, more akin to mandalas than any cartoon character. Crowley accomplished a vision in newsprint that could only have snuck into print under the guise of a comic strip, at a time when the medium was first finding its feet." -Dan Nadel
"Herbert Crowley's insanely detailed architectural renderings, hairy devils, and countless creepy creatures are mind-boggling, deeply mysterious, and long overdue for a collection. His work was psychedelic decades before that term came into use. I wish he had been around when I was publishing Dope Comix." -Denis Kitchen
"...drawings by Mr. Crowley are quite interesting in as much as they contain curious symbols referring to the sympathicus as well as to the multiple luminosities of the collective unconscious. He has been driven in to astounding depths -- quite dangerous when consciousness is not up to it. Such things usually leave a peculiar void in the conscious world after they have passed." -Carl Jung, 1951
"Herbert Crowley takes first place in his joint exhibition with Léon Bakst." New York Press headline, 1914
"He makes creatures with four legs and tails that have no place in nature, but he makes them convincing. If they do not actually exist, they should. He does tricks with them that put him by the side of Lewis Carroll as a person who can make believe properly. It is the illusion of the puppet show, unreal characters acting reality, and infinitely more interesting than real actors acting unreality." -The New York Times, 1915
A sumptuous, towering 11x17" monument of an art book documenting the life and work of Herbert Edmund Crowley. The book will feature roughly 200 Crowley images, along with a 20,000 word biography of the artist. It will be printed by Regent Publishing Services on off-white hundred pound wood-free paper stock, and designed by Paul Kepple, who crafted JJ Abram's and Doug Dorst's meta-novel S, one of the most ambitious design projects of the past decade.
No expense will be spared on the production of this prestige volume.
BRONZE-PLATED WIGGLEMUCH PINS
All backers at the slipcase and slipcase-plus levels will be officially inducted into the Order of Crowley as Knight-Saviors, empowered to spread the gnostic secrets of of the Wigglemuch gospels wherever they are necessary, in the material plane and beyond. They will receive their identification pins free of charge.
These beauties will also be available as their own reward tier at the $15 level, or as a $10 add-on for any backer already receiving the hardcover book.
We will spare no expense in the production of these 1.5" die struck bronze-plated pins. They will be handsome, sturdily crafted, and, of course, imbued with the spiritual power of Crowley's great icon
If you want it as an add-on to an existing reward package, just message us and let us know!
THE TEMPLE OF LOVE Print
A print of Herbert Crowley's gorgeous TEMPLE OF LOVE illustration, produced at 11x17" -- the same size as Crowley's original art. A copy of the print will be included in any reward package over $100, and is available individually or as an add-on to any other package for $25.
THE TEMPLE OF DREAMS Print
A fine art print replicating the platinotype prints that Herbert Crowley personally produced in 1913. At a luxurious 27x20" in size, this print will show off the glorious detail of this mind-boggling drawing.
Here's a photo of Justin in Zurich, looking at one of Crowley's Temple of Dreams prints in his family's collection.
The TEMPLE OF DREAMS print is available as a stand-alone item, or can be added on to any other reward for an extra $50, plus $3 domestic shipping or $20 international. Please send us a direct Kickstarter message if you'd like to add either of the Temple prints to your reward package.
A limited run of hand-numbered slipcase editions of THE TEMPLE OF SILENCE, signed by author Justin Duerr and publisher Josh O'Neill, will be created exclusively for this campaign. All slipcase editions also include an 11x17" TEMPLE OF LOVE print, a digital edition, and all recipients of the slipcase editions will be thanked within the book.
ORIGINAL ART EDITIONS
TEMPLE OF SILENCE author Justin Duerr, who is a highly regarded visionary artist in his own right, will create original pieces of art using Crowley's characters and settings for each of these signed, hand-numbered limited slipcase editions.
The purchaser of each of these drawings will be credited as an associate publisher of THE TEMPLE OF SILENCE. They will also receive a special limited-run slipcase edition, signed by the author and editor, as well as a TEMPLE OF LOVE print, a digital edition of the book, and an all-access digital pass to Justin's complete research.
HERBERT CROWLEY SCULPTURES
We are pleased to offer replicas of Herbert Crowley's strange & charming grotesque sculptures in bronze and gold!
These lovelies will be sculpted by Greg Nangle of Outcast Studios, who worked for years with H.R. Giger and cast many of his most famous pieces. They'll be molded via lost-wax casting -- the exact same process that Crowley used when creating his original sculptures over one hundred years ago.
Here's a video about Greg's artistic process! We are very lucky to have such a talented sculptor making work for this campaign.
ABOUT JUSTIN DUERR
Philadelphia artist, musician and scholar Justin Duerr is best known for his research documented in the 2011 Sundance award-winning documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles.
The term obsessive is very often employed in describing both his artwork and his unflagging commitment to research. His devotion to this project has been characteristically all-consuming. By following every possible lead and dissecting every available trace of Herbert Crowley around the world, he has managed to uncover a remarkable story, resurrect a lost piece of art history, and unearth the heart-stopping artworks of a true forgotten visionary. The rediscovery of Herbert E. Crowley is the second major research undertaking of Duerr’s life.
ABOUT BEEHIVE BOOKS
BEEHIVE BOOKS is a new small press founded by Locust Moon publisher Josh O’Neill. Along with his partners Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens at Locust Moon Press, Josh published the Kickstarter-funded projects THE LOST WORK OF WILL EISNER and the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning anthology LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM. THE TEMPLE OF SILENCE is another art book exploring the influences and legacies of the early days of cartooning and illustration.
BEEHIVE BOOKS will focus on producing book art editions of distinctive literary and pictorial works with singular design sensibilities, the highest production values, and a special emphasis on comics and graphic art. This is their first project.
[Kickstarter video produced and directed by Jon Foy.]
Risks and challenges
As one of the editors and creators of the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM project, Beehive Books publisher Josh O’Neill knows well the challenges associated with funding, printing, and distributing a book this large and ambitious. Along with his partners at Locust Moon, Josh has raised over $200,000 over the course of his last two projects, and rewarded backers of both with very beautiful books.
Armed with that experience we feel very ready to tackle the task of producing and publishing a volume of Crowley’s work that can stand beside the finest and most prestigious art books of the day.
The lion’s share of the nitty-gritty work of putting THE TEMPLE OF SILENCE together is already done. Justin has traveled the world tracking down nearly every extant Herbert Crowley creation. We’ve assembled the full array of images that will be featured in the book, licensed what must be licensed, and scanned or photographed all the pieces. We’ve engaged the brilliant designer Paul Kepple to help us create a beautiful hardcover. The biography of Crowley is fully researched, written, fact checked and edited.
We've carefully priced out expenses for domestic and overseas shipping as well as printing costs for all books, prints and ancillary rewards. We’ve arranged for the logistics of reward fulfillment. We have a budget, a schedule, and a thorough plan. We're ready for the kinds of surprises that are sure to come our way. We know how much we need to get this project across the finish line. We just need the funding necessary to finish the job.
Frankly, the biggest challenge associated with this project is the one that we’re undertaking right now. The very thing that makes this book so vital—that we’re reclaiming a figure almost completely lost in the sands of time—also makes it incredibly difficult. There is no built in audience for this book, no Herbert Crowley fan base that we can rely upon, no promotional momentum we can build off his name. We’re reliant on you guys, our friends and supporters, to spread the word about this amazing artist and this grass-roots crusade to document his legacy. The greatest risk is that Crowley’s work will slip away forever, unseen. Working together, we can make sure that doesn’t happen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)