Raphael The Drawings at The Ashmolean

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Before reading this post it is a good idea to read Michelangelo vs Sebastiano so that some of the references back make more sense!

“Raphael’s hand generated lines that gave shape to his pursuit of eloquent forms” From the Ashmolean’s supporting text

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Raphael self portrait, 1501

In a similar manner to the way that a young Sebastiano would approach his works a young Raphael, as seen in the self-portrait above, works in a rough, almost carefree manner. But his work is far from carefree as he works on the proportions and final image on the canvas rather than in a series of working sketches before hand, to get the precise composition, level of detail and anatomy accuracy that the subject deserves – all whilst in his teens.

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Head of an Apostle, circa 1503

His work seems to quickly develop from the early ‘have a go’ style of his self-portrait, through large collections of sketches and workings of smaller sections of a picture. The sketch of the Head of an Apostle above shows Raphael’s ability to bring a sense of movement to a simple black chalk sketch. The lines are swift, the hatch shading and flowing curls of the hair evoke the feeling of movement and enhance the gesture of the turning face.

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Madonna Studies, 1511/13

Through all of the sketches that Raphael did he grew as an artist and fed his grand appetite for learning. The sheets of sketches shown within this exhibition, as with the one above where the central sketch is surrounded by smaller studies of figures and buildings, have pen studies juxtaposed with soft pencil studies – a burst of workings from the mind to paper. Giving a sense of a need to get things down onto paper.

 “With his voracious appetite for new stimuli, Raphael studied the battle scenes designed by Leonardo and Michelangelo and the antique sources that inspired them.” From the Ashmolean’s supporting text

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Raphael’s studies after Michelangelo’s David, 1507/8

It has been noted that Michelangelo was throughout his career jealous and threatened by young Raphael. So, Raphael’s work that took Michelangelo’s and developed it further, adapting it for his own purpose surely added salt to the wound!

Raphael took Michelangelo’s David and scaled him down changing our perspective of him and developing him from a statue to a sketch that conveys movement and depth. Raphael did not just take the ideas from Michelangelo, he fused visual memories of the sculptures, classical reliefs and print sources always seeking to create a greater expressive energy. He confronted these influences with his pen using drawing to understand them and adapt them, putting his mark on great imagery and making it his own. 

Here is what we found most interesting… 

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The Heads and Hands of Two Apostles, 1519–1520

Raphael’s ability to draw heads stood out in this exhibition. From larger refined sketches like the above to little sketches in the corner of a sheet full of other sketches they all had the same ability to show the subject’s emotion. From the warn lines of the elder gentleman to the smooth skin of the younger, Raphael captured a point in time in the subject’s life on their skin and their feelings in their emotion.

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Study for the Massacre of the Innocents, 1509–1510

In the same sense as when a character within a film or TV program breaks the fourth wall* and you get a slight feeling of confusion and in some cases unease, when you notice the lady running straight for the viewer in Raphael’s Massacre of the Innocents the work seems somehow more realistic and unsettling. This woman and child running forward are seen all throughout the development and in the final presentation of this piece. It gives the sense that the mother is running to you for safety and the fact is that you as a viewer cannot do anything about it – it puts you in the scene and that’s what makes it unsettling, but brilliant.

*The fourth wall is a theatre term for the invisible line or imagined wall that separates the stage and actors from the audience. The audience can see through this wall and the actors cannot. In cinema this is ‘broken’ when the actor would talk directly through the camera and screen to the audience.

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Drapery Study for a Sibyl, 1511-12 and Study of a Horseman for the “Repulse of Attila”, 1513/14

As well as Raphael’s studies of various faces, his workings of drapery stood out within the sketches. He created movement in the material using dark and light shading to produce the various folds, and to show the body of the figures underneath the material. Here Raphael’s variety and delicacy in pose and character within these unfinished sketches of Sibyl respond to Michelangelo’s more weighty and masculine female imagery. He also used white chalk to add extra depth to the figures and material highlighting where the light would hit the body and accentuating the muscles and folds.

The exhibition succeeded in showing how studies in simple medial fuelled the development of a young artist to an established one. Our only criticism is the limited space for circulation in the first two rooms.

By far, our favourite part of the exhibition was to watch on video (at the end of the second room) the processes that Raphael would have used to make his studies. Seeing how he used a stylus to create inductive traces before working over with pen. To understand how sketches were made in the 1500s and understand what it would have taken to create the images changed the way that you viewed the sketches. The last room of sketches seemed even more interesting as you began to see the pre-workings and imagine the process of their creation. The video that showed his process would change the whole exhibition if it were viewed earlier.

Thank you for reading!

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5 London Exhibitions to see

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If you’re stuck on what to do on a warm/wet summers day exhibitions can be the best place to cool down/dry off. We’ve put together a short list of a range of current and near future exhibitions that are definitely worth a visit.

Giacometti at Tate Modern

Until 10 September 2017

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First on the list is a current exhibition at Tate Modern. The gallery is in the perfect position on the riverside between rooftop and outside bars so there’s not really any excuse not to visit. But incase you need more convincing the exhibition on at the moment brings the work of the sculptor, painter and draughtsman Giacometti. The exhibition brings together over 250 pieces, including his iconic bronze sculptures.

Read more here

Rachel Whiteread at Tate Modern

12 September 2017 – 21 January 2018

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Rachel Whiteread House 1993 Photo: Sue Omerod © Rachel Whiteread

This is one to look out for towards the end of summer, but it should be worth the wait. Whiteread was the first woman to win the Turner prize in 1993 and has continued to make interesting pieces since. She is a hands on artist using a variety of industrial materials, such as plaster, concrete and metal. She works with objects and surfaces to create sculptures that mimic our surroundings and objects we see everyday. We looked closely at Whiteread’s ‘Water Tower 1998’ within our Masters study. She has a very interesting and experimental approach to exploring and working on her sculptures which make the process not only the final piece worth a look.

Read more here

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at The Serpentine Gallery

Until 10 Sep 2017

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Grayson Perry has risen in fame due to his televised art work, his presence within the experimental art world and his commentary on society and culture. This exhibition at the Serpentine gallery brings together pieces of his work that explore themes that are relevant to all of us. Worth a visit if his documentaries have captured your attention.

Read more here

Plywood: Material of the Modern World at V&A

Until Sunday, 12 November 2017

Moulded plywood chair, designed by Grete Jalk, 1963. Photograph Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Moulded plywood chair, designed by Grete Jalk, 1963. Photograph Victoria and Albert Museum, London

An exhibition showcasing some of the varying uses that plywood has had in the design world. From chairs to planes and trains, the exhibition shows what the flexibility of the material that is now just an everyday material. From the website: “Featuring groundbreaking pieces by Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer and Charles and Ray Eames, alongside an incredible range of objects from planes to skateboards, this exhibition tells the story of how this often-overlooked material made the modern world.”

Read more here

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at V&A

Until Sunday, 18 February 2018

X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey
X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey

Moving from art to furniture design we come to a fashion exhibition. This exhibition holds over a 100 pieces from the designer Cristóbal Balenciaga and his team of apprentices. It looks into how the influential designs have shaped modern fashion which in turn has its influence on all other aspects of design.

 Read more here

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Arthur Streeton – A master impressionist

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Earlier this month, we attended a wonderful exhibition at The National Gallery titled ‘Australia’s Impressionists’ which runs to 26th March 2017. This is a relatively small exhibition, but expertly curated and features work by four Australian artists – Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, John Russell and Arthur Streeton. Between them, these four created a new artistic movement in Australia based on what they had seen in France and produced a huge combined body of work that represents the very best of impressionist painting from the prodigious talents that Roberts, Conder and Russell are, it was the work of Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) that captured our attention.

This from The National Gallery’s web page summarises his life.

“Streeton’s artistic training began aged 15, with night classes in design at Melbourne’s National Gallery School, while he worked as an office clerk and, later, as an apprentice lithographer. He read amateur art manuals imported from Europe and America that encouraged painting en plein air.

 While painting at Mentone Beach, south of Melbourne, Streeton met Tom Roberts (1856–1931), who invited him to join artists’ camps that he had helped found in the bush near Box Hill, to the west of the city. Together with Roberts and Charles Conder (1868–1909), Streeton helped stage the ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition‘ in Melbourne in 1889, which served as something of a manifesto for this new generation of Australian painters who were embracing the looser, more open techniques of Impressionism.

Streeton moved to Sydney in 1890, after the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased a large canvas of his, ‘Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide’ (1890). He was the first Australian-born artist to have a work exhibited at London’s Royal Academy – ‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ (1889) – but when he moved to London in 1897 he struggled to gain recognition. Nonetheless, he stayed in England for around thirty years, sending work back to Australia.

During the First World War, Streeton served as a hospital orderly in London, and then as an official war artist with the Australian army. He was awarded a knighthood in 1937 for services to art.”

Streeton produced a tremendous body of work during his lifetime, everyone of which merits individual study. But for now we have selected five paintings from the exhibition for specific comment and appreciation. As you study them, take in the balance in the composition, the great sense of location and climate, and the wonderful colour palettes he uses, all of which can inform ebullient design solutions today.

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‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ 1889. Oil on canvas.

This painting is many things, but we specifically love the colour palette Streeton uses. Vivid blues and golds which he describes as the ‘nature’s scheme of colour in Australia’. The depth of detail, the tranquil setting and the mastery of light and shade all stand out.

Artist : Ena Joyce (Australia, b.1925) Title : Date : (circa 1949) Medium Description: oil on plywood Dimensions : Credit Line : Purchased 1949 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 832

‘Fire’s on’ Lapstone Tunnel 1891 oil on canvas.

Again that wonderful colour palette stands out. Up close, his use of a 1″ brush in 1-2″ strokes to build up the tonal range of the blue sky is masterful. The vantage point produces a high horizon allowing an exquisite interpretation of sunlight and shade, as seen in Golden Summer. You almost want to reach out and touch the rocks on the left!

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‘Ariadne’ 1895 oil on wood panel.

Blue and pink dominate the colours here. Ariadne appears to almost float on the sand. With her head lowered into her hands, her sorrow easily felt. Again the sense of sunshine and warm climate is projected so well.

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‘Blue Pacific’ 1890 oil on canvas.

This image doesn’t do justice to the tonal range and brush work that Streeton achieved. The light and dark golds used to pull out the centrepiece sandstone cliff face are superbly constructed. Again the colour palette is excellent and exuberant.

Artist : Arthur Streeton (Australia, b.1867, d.1943) Title : Date : 1893 Medium Description: oil on canvas Dimensions : Credit Line : Gift of Lady Denison 1942 Image Credit Line : Accession Number : 7209

‘The railway station, Redfern’ 1893 oil on canvas.

Finally, we bring this one into the selection because of its juxtaposition in climatic terms to the prior four. Here, grey skies, wind and rain predominate instead of warm sunshine. The composition, with all the detail clustered in the top half of the painting, and just the surface treatment and a lone be-coated person and their shadow occupying the lower half, represent such an eye for the scene. It is reported that he painted this in around three hours…

Celebrate the work of Arthur Streeton. He has many lessons to teach modern designers.

Written by Paul Smith for Bethvictoria.com

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Minimal motivational design inspiration

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These minimalist posters by Ryan McArthur are beautifully simplistic ways of getting inspirational messages from the masters of life and design into the world. The simple ‘less is more’ designs cleverly convey each message in the illustrations. Here are a selection of the posters that relate specifically to the design world. Enjoy!

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London Exhibitions to see

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Here are four current exhibitions in London that we think are worth a visit

Donna Huanca – Scar Cymbals

At Zabludowicz Collection between 29th September to 18 December

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Daily performances by painted models work to create installations within this chapel space.

“Huanca’s work draws attention to the body and in particular the skin, which is simultaneously the surface on which our personhood is inscribed and the surface through which we experience the world around us. Huanca examines conventions of behaviour in our interaction with bodies in space and the invisible histories that are accumulated through those gestures. By exposing the naked body and concealing it under layers of paint, cosmetics and latex, Huanca’s performers confront our instinctive reactions to flesh, which becomes both a familiar, decorative object and an abstract, inaccessible subject.”  – Source

Abstract Expressionism

At the RA between 24th Sept t0 2nd Jan

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Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955

American art from 1950s New York featuring art by De Kooning, Rothko and Pollock. Large scale, intense and expressive this style of painting gave the method a new leash of confidence.

“It was a watershed moment in the evolution of 20th-century art, yet, remarkably, there has been no major survey of the movement since 1959.” Taken from RA website

Antony Gormley – Fit

At White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey between 30th Sept to 6th Nov

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“Gormley has configured the gallery space into 15 chambers to create a series of dramatic physiological encounters in the form of a labyrinth. Visitors are faced with a choice of passage through differently sized, uniquely lit spaces where each room challenges or qualifies the experience of the last.” – Source

Not long left on this one go see it soon!

Beyond Caravaggio

At the National Gallery between 12th Oct and 15th Jan.

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Exploring the influence of Caravaggio on painters and artists that followed him.

“After the unveiling of Caravaggio’s first public commission in 1600, artists from across Europe flocked to Rome to see his work. Seduced by the pictorial and narrative power of his paintings, many went on to imitate their naturalism and dramatic lighting effects. Paintings by Caravaggio and his followers were highly sought after in the decades following his untimely death at the age of just 39. By the mid-17th century, however, the Caravaggesque style had fallen out of favour and it would take almost three hundred years for Caravaggio’s reputation to be restored and for his artistic accomplishments to be fully recognised.” – Source

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5 London Exhibitions this summer

There are as usual a tonne of different exhibitions on this summer in London. We’ve chosen 5 that we are interested in and will let you know some more we find later!

1 -Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

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“A major retrospective of the work of American photographer and film maker, Paul Strand (1890-1976), and the first in the UK since the artist’s death. Strand was one of the greatest and most influential photographers of the 20th century whose images have defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today.”

 Look out for a review on this one coming up!

19th March – 3rd July at the V&A

2 – Performing for the Camera

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A exhibition exploring the relationship between photography and performance. “What does it mean to perform for the camera?” An interesting exhibition that makes us think what does it mean to be yourself in front a camera, we are so used to cameras being constantly on us do we ever act ourselves or are we always performing?

Now – 12th June at Tate Modern

3- Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979

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“In the 1960s artists began to abandon traditional approaches and made ideas the essence of their work. This fascinating exhibition explores this pivotal period in British history, which changed the way we think about art to this day. It gathers together artists who took art beyond its traditional boundaries to suggest new ways of engaging with the realities of the world beyond the studio, which ultimately led to a questioning of the function and social purpose of art.”

12th April – 29th August at Tate Britain

4- Painting with Light

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Art and photography from Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age.

“Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition opens with the experimental beginnings of photography in dialogue with painters such as J.M.W. Turner and concludes with its flowering as an independent international art form.”

11 May – 25th September at Tate Britain

5 – David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life

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This exhibition explores Hockney’s return to portraiture from his work with landscapes. The portraits are of a range of sitters from family to colleagues.

2nd July – 2nd October at the RA

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Architectural Inspiration: The Kunsthal

The Kunsthal is a museum that was designed by architect Rem Koolhaas and established in 1992. The museum in Rotterdam goes against the conventional modernist architecture that was otherwise being seen at the time of its design and making.

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The off the shelf materials used to make this building play with the idea of the industrial ready mades. The joins between materials are harsh and clash. Although the building was cheaply made and badly put together it is a architectural statement.

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The design of the building itself is also a sort of mix match. It is set on a slope with a road at one end and a woods at the other. Within the building the walkways are also a series of slopes. They lead you around the building and don’t allow you to rest, they change how you react to the building and manipulate your experience of it.

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When you enter the building (if you can find the entrance) you are brought straight into the lecture theatre. Seen above and bellow.

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This building is a montage of materials and spaces. It is a homage to modern architecture.

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Mise-en-abyme

We visited the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum last week. Natural History has a constant great display (and gift shop) and the temporary photography exhibitions on there are always great to see. The V&A is hosting an array of work for the London Design Festival at the moment and one piece really stood out for us.

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This is Mise-en-abyme by designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale in collaboration with Johnson Tiles.

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This piece aims to play with your sense of perspective. The overlapping semi-transparent layers and the lines of the tiles work create a landscape that takes influence from the one-point perspective found during the Renaissance period. The title “Mise-en-abyme” meaning “placed into abyss” reflects on the feelings and experience felt whilst walking through this installation. I like the fact that you have to duck to get through some of the layers it gets you involved with the work. This piece isn’t complete until someone walks through it.

I love the way that the colours from the layers work with the light and the tiles to create different patterns and hues. Here is a little text from the exhibition “The grout lines of the tiles lining the bridge represent the perspective grid lines found on Renaissance drawings, creating an illusion of exaggerated depth that draws the viewer into the work. Each tile features a custom landscape across the bridge appear to open outward or to close inward, depending on the visitor’s point of view”

A great piece and one that I will be thinking about whilst working on research for my MA!

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Inspiration – György Kepes

György Kepes was a painter, designer, educator and art theorist.

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He is an unsung hero of design. He was born in 1906 he studied painting in Budapest, then moved to filmmaking after his graduation. In 1930 he moved to Berlin to work with Maholy-Nagy who was a key experimenter in light and moving imagery. They left Germany and ended up in Chicago where they founded an arts school. After leaving Chicago Kepes ended up in 1943 teaching at Brooklyn College and then published “The language of vision”.

Compass and Strainer Photogram n.d Gy?rgy Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80553
Compass and Strainer Photogram            G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80553

He then moved to M.I.T where he refined his art and the way he thought about art. He conducted experiments and produced exquisitely composed and technically ingenious photographs, photo collages and photograms. Kepes focused his attention on the effects of the light and the objects.

Blobs 3 c. 1939-40 G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80545
Blobs 3 c. 1939-40
G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80545

His work and his texts on architecture and light are inspiring:

“In 1967, Gyorgy Kepes wrote: The application of light to clarify and inform architectural spaces and complex cityscapes is not yet a discipline…. We know how to make illumination both adequate and comfortable. This has been the goal of illumination engineers who have learned all that physiology and physics can teach them concerning both natural and artificial lighting. But architects and planners realize that there are immense opportunities in lighting, and they demand more than just comfort and amplitude. “ (Light: The Shape of Space: Designing with Space & Light, Lou Michel, P.xv)

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Designer – Alvar Aalto

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Alvar Aalto was a Finnish sculptor, painter, designer and architect. At the start of his career in the 1920s his style was focused on ‘Nordic Classicism’. This changed to a more international modern style in the 1930s and continued towards a modernist style till the end of his career in the 1970s.

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Alvar Aalto stool, model E60, designed in 1933. Paimio lounge chair, beech plywood, birch, designed in 1932.

The design style of the furniture by Aalto was considered to be ‘Scandinavian Modern’. His designs were pieces that were simplistic, modern and functional.

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Aalto was concerned with making buildings that are a ‘total work of art’. He would not only design the building but the interiors, the light fixtures and the furniture. The buildings Aalto designed continued to have hints towards the Scandinavian style seen in his furniture and early work.

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“God created paper for the purpose of drawing architecture on it. Everything else is at least for me an abuse of paper.” Alvar Aalto, Sketches, 1978, P.104

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