"The Cubies' ABC" is the BOOK HUGGERS March 2013 SELECTION/Fifth Season Magazine/March 2013 ISSUE
The Cubies' ABC (1913)
(New York and London: G.P. Putman's Sons, 1913) was written by Mary Mills Lyall and Illustrated by Earl Harvey Lyall.
Excerpt from the Introduction to the reprint (New York: Readymade Press, 2010):
"The Cubies' ABC" was published in the aftermath of the celebrated Armory Show of 1913. Designed to appear as little more than a children's ABC book--where three pyramidal-shape characters take readers on a tour of the modern works included in the Exhibition--the actual purpose of The Cubies' ABC
was to introduce the newest manifestations of contemporary art to the public in a humorous and highly ingeniously fashion. Thus the letter "A" is for "Art, Archipenko and Anatomics," "B" is for "Braque and Beauty as Brancusi views it," "C" is for "Color Bubistic ad libitum," and "D" is for "Duchamp, the Deep-Dyed Deceiver," whose Nude Descending a Staircase
is rendered in the illustration as an accordion in need of repair. The alphabetical listing progresses in this same fashion to the end of the publication, at times ridiculing the work of a specific artist, at other times satirizing an entire movement or artistic style, the whole done with a remarkable display of wit.
Notable is the letter "G," which they devote, surprisingly, to the writer Gertrude Stein, who was living in France, but who had recently made her debut in American art and letters. Stein's "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia" had appeared in the Alfred Stieglitz's art and photography magazine Camera Work (June 1913)
and the value of her contribution to literature was then being hotly debated...
The letter "I" is also exceptional, for it shows the cubies sliding down a ramp into a raging fire, the accompanying text telling us that "I" stands for "Immense Intuition," a quality required for all artists, for "without it we all would go straight to perdition!"
When "The Cubies' ABC" appeared in 1913, THE DIAL, a prominent political and literary magazine of the era, declared it "the oddest little color book of the season," telling readers that "the book must be seen and read to be appreciated." The book has been reprinted in a near-exact facsimile of the original publication, accompanied by an introduction by Francis M. Naumann.
"The cubies are themselves children, as is apparent in the opening pages, where they are seated at school desks, struggling to master some sort of mathematical formula (no doubt a key to understanding the new art). On the title page, we learn the names of the authors: the text was written by Mary Mills Lyall (1879-?) and the illustrations were provided by Earl Harvey Lyall (1877-1932). Little is known about this couple...Indeed, there is nothing hurtful in the actions of the cubies, who seem to make a sincere attempt to educate a confused American public on the recent manifestations of contemporary art, but whose youth renders them ill-equipped, leaving us in pretty much the same position as when we started, amused and probably bemused by our delightful tour of the Armory Show with our three little cubist guides." Francis M. Naumann, New York, NY May 2010
For more information about the Armory Show 2013 visit Armory Show Centennial Celebration/ECOARTPEDIA 2012-2013 Exhibition