collections

Class of 2015


class-of-2015-FINAL


Top Row (left to right): Felix Nussbaum; Edith Sitwell; Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

Middle Row (left to right): Rachel Carson; Edvard Munch; Flannery O’Connor; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Bottom Row (left to right): Glenn Miller; Wassily Kandinsky; Ian Fleming; Piet Mondrian

Pictured above is our top pick of those whose works will, on 1st January 2015, be entering the public domain in many countries around the world. Of the eleven featured, eight will be entering the public domain in countries with a ‘life plus 70 years’ copyright term (e.g. most European Union members, Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, etc.) and three in countries with a ‘life plus 50 years’ copyright term (e.g. Canada, New Zealand, and many countries in Asia and Africa). As always it’s a sundry and diverse rabble who’ve assembled for our graduation photo – including two giants of 20th-century abstract art, the creator of one of the world’s most reproduced paintings, the creator of one of the world’s best-loved children’s books, and the creator of the world’s most read about, and watched, Secret Service agents.

Below is a little bit more about each of their lives (with each name linking through to their respective Wikipedia pages, from which each text has been based).

Wassily Kandinsky

Considered by many to have created the first purely abstract paintings, Kandinsky was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. At the age of 30 he dropped out of a promising career teaching law and economics to unroll in art school in Munich. The development of his art had many influences, among them Monet’s later works, in particular his “Haystacks” series, the music of Wagner and the influence of the theosophical movement, including the illustrations he encountered in Besant and Leadbetter’s Thought Forms (1901). Two of the key works from his early experiments in colour was The Blue Rider of 1903, and in 1908-1909 The Blue Mountain, both first steps in Kandinsky’s treating colour independent of form. In his so called “Blue Rider” period, from 1911 to 1914, he began to develop his truly distinctive style, seeing his works as expressing the interior world rather than the exterior, and often using musical terms to identify his paintings. As well painting, Kandinsky was an important art theorist and taught at the influential Bauhaus School from 1922 to 1933. For the last 10 years of his life, once he’d left the Bauhaus, Kandinsky produced arguably his most abstract works and developed further his theory synthesising the aesthetic and the spiritual.

Edvard Munch

Best known for his 1893 painting The Scream, Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes paved the way for the development of German Expressionism in the early 20th century. Munch’s early work, at times reminiscent of Manet, was fairly naturalist or impressionist in style. Under the influence of the bohemian circle based in Christiana, including the notorious nihilist Hans Jaeger (who advocated suicide as the ultimate act of freedom), Munch moved away from Impressionism and developed a style more akin to the psychological themes which fascinated him. He termed this new style “soul painting”, and in in 1889 he had his first solo show which led to a a two-year state scholarship to study in Paris under French painter Léon Bonnat. Still experimenting wildly with styles (naturalism, pointillism, post-impressionism) it was not till the early 1890s that Munch first began to settle on his characteristic use of colour and swirling shapes to express often tortured inner states. As well as the various versions The Scream the 1890s was a productive time which gave birth to his “Frieze of Life” series. After an acute psychological episode in the autumn of 1908 Munch left the public eye and lived out most of his last two decades in solitude at his near self-sufficient estate in Ekely, at Skøyen, Oslo, still painting but with a focus on more pastoral subjects, celebrating farm life, many using his work horse “Rousseau” as a model.

Edith Sitwell

An avant-garde British poet, literary critic, and eldest of the three “literary Sitwells”. Born into a difficult aristocratic family, to parents with whom she never felt close, Sitwell spent much of her young adult years living with her governess Helen Rootham, in London throughout World War I and the 20s and Paris during the 30s. Sitwell published her first poem in 1913 at the age of 26 and between 1916 and 1921 edited Wheels, an annual poetic anthology she created with her brothers. In the 20s, with Façade (performed behind a curtain with a hole in the mouth of a painted face), and later also with Gold Coast Customs, Sitwell began to experiment with putting poetry to the rhythms of music, in particular jazz. This innovative approach to poetry was encouraged in her frequent and infamous literary salons held at her flat in London, whose esteemed guest list of the literati included Dylan Thomas and Denton Welch. Almost as much as her radical poetry, it was Sitwells manner of dressing which caused much controversy with critics. A towering figure at six foot tall, she would often appear in public laden with gowns of brocade or velvet with gold turbans and a plethora of rings and other jewellery which can now be seen in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. As well as numerous collections of poetry Sitwell also published many prose works, including a novel I Live Under a Black Sun, based on the life of Jonathan Swift, and two biographies of Elizabeth 1, whose angular features she was said to share, as well as a birthday.

Piet Mondrian

A Dutch painter whose distinctive grid based creations – horizontal and vertical lines upon a white background adorned with red, blue and yellow blocks – proved one of the most influential experiments with abstraction of the 20th century. Mondrian termed this non-representational work “neoplasticism” and, along with the output of fellow Dutchman Theo van Doesburg, it lay at the heart of the De Stijl movement which advocated pure abstraction by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour. Living most of his productive life in the crucible of artistic innovation that was post-war Paris, at the outset of the war Mondrian moved London then New York where he died of pneumonia in 1944.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The name of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry will be familiar to many as the author of the extremely popular novella The Little Prince, which has been translated into more than 250 languages and is thought to be among the top three selling books in the world. Like much of his writings the story draws on Saint-Exupéry’s experiences as an aviator, telling the tale of a crashed pilot’s encounter with a young Prince fallen to Earth. Flying in the French army since the early 20s, with a period working in the fledgling world of international postal flight, he produced several books on the his experiences in the air, including Night Flight in 1931 which propelled him to international recognition. In 1935, he miraculously survived a desert crash over the Sahara whilst trying to break the speed record in Paris-to-Saigon air race. With his co-pilot Saint-Exupéry survived for four hallucination-filled days before a Bedouin discovered them and administered a native rehydration treatment that saved their lives. The experience would figure prominently in his 1939 memoir, Wind, Sand and Stars, winner of the US National Book Award, and is referenced also in The Little Prince. With the outbreak of World War II, Saint-Exupéry returned to the army flying in the reconnaissance squadron of the Armée de l’Air, but moved to the US and Canada after the French surrendered, in this time writing The Little Prince. Keen to get back to action he joined the Free French Air Force, for whom he mainly carried out dangerous reconnaissance missions. It was on such a mission that he disappeared in July 1944, presumed shot down and killed.

Rachel Carson

An American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings played a pivotal role in advancing the global environmental movement. Her fourth book and most best-known, Silent Spring was published in 1962 and focused on the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. With the book Carson helped bring environmental concerns into the mainstream and spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.


Felix Nussbaum

A German-Jewish surrealist painter whose strange and haunting works give a heart-rending glimpse into Jewish life under the Nazi-regime during WW2. In 1933, while in Rome under a scholarship of the Berlin Academy of the Arts, Nussbaum and his fellow students got a visit from Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda causing Nussbaum to promptly leave his studies and in 1934 he went with his later wife Felka Platek, into exile in Brussels. After 6 highly productive years in exile, the GErmans invaded Belgian in 1940 and Nussbaum was arrested by Belgian police as a “hostile alien” and taken to the Saint-Cyprien camp in France, an experience which influenced many pictures. Eventually gaining permission to return to Germany, Nussbaum escaped en route and reunited with Felka again in Brussels where ether lived in hiding. Without residency papers, Nussbaum had to rely on friends to provide him with shelter and art supplies so he could continue to express in art the darkness and difficulties of the next four years, producing some of his best-known work, including Self Portrait with Jewish Identity Card(1943), and Triumph of Death (1944). In July 1944, he was found by German soldiers while hiding with his now wife in an attic, and sent to Auschwitz where he was murdered a week later at the age of 39.

Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti

Marinetti is an Italian poet and editor best known for his key role in the influential Futurist movement. In 1909 Marinetti wrote the Futurist Manifesto, which appeared on the front page of the most prestigious French daily newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February. Marinetti and his fellow Futurists proposed a severance with all art of the past, to “destroy the museums, the libraries, every type of academy”. The movement seemed to glorify warfare which it saw as the the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman”. Of the many manifestos brought out by the group in this early period the most famous was perhaps the “Manifesto Against Past-Loving Venice” in which Marinetti demands “fill(ing) the small, stinking canals with the rubble from the old, collapsing and leprous palaces” to “prepare for the birth of an industrial and militarised Venice, capable of dominating the great Adriatic, a great Italian lake”. As well as the numerous manifestos and political writings, Marinetti also produced some (mostly poorly received) poetry, as well as a novel Mafarka the Futurist, An African novel published in 1910 (after being cleared of all charges at an obscenity trial). As perhaps to be expected, with such an emphasis on militarisation and “progress”, in addition to the Anarchist elements, the Futurists were also closely aligned with Fascism – with Marinetti later becoming an active supporter of Benito Mussolini. Throughout the 20s and 30s Marinetti seemed to contradict many of his anti-establishment ideas by trying to ingratiate himself with Mussolini’s party. He died of cardiac arrest in Bellagio on 2 December 1944 while working on a collection of poems praising the wartime achievements of the Decima Flottiglia MAS.

Glenn Miller

One of the most influential arrangers, composers and bandleaders of the swing era. As leader one of the world’s most revered big bands, Miller was the best selling recording artist from 1939 to 1944, with numerous hit recordings such as “In the Mood”, “Moonlight Serenade”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “A String of Pearls”, “At Last”, “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo”, “American Patrol”, “Tuxedo Junction”, “Elmer’s Tune”, and “Little Brown Jug”. IN 1942, while at the peak of fame in America Miller decide to join the war effort. At 38 his was deem dot old to be drafted but he successfully convinced Army Brigadier General Charles Young to have him lead the Army Air Force Band. He was travelling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War 2 when aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel.

Flannery O’Connor

A writer from the American South, O’Connor was known for her distinctive Southern Gothic style with its array of morally flawed characters often existing in a at once violent but also comical religious and politically charged landscapes. Diagnosed in 1951 with systemic lupus erythematosus, the disease that killed her father 7 years earlier, O’Connor lived out most of her short adult life on a farm on Georgia. She wrote novels but was perhaps best known for her many short stories which, collected into posthumous Complete Short stories, 8 years after her death, won the 1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.

Ian Fleming

An English author, journalist and naval intelligence officer, best known for being the creator of James Bond in his series of twelve spy novels and two short story collections, which together have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The detail and depth of his James Bond stories were informed by his many years of distinguished wartime service during World War II, in particular his work with various intelligence units. At the end of the war Fleming moved into journalism becoming the Foreign Manager in the Kemsley newspaper group, which at the time owned The Sunday Times. In 1952, in just two months, he penned the first Bond book Casino Royale. He would go on to write eleven more before dying of a heart attack at the age of fifty-six.

And a few others that didn’t make it to the class photo….

Ida Tarbell

Romain Rolland

Max Jacob

George Ade

March Bloch

Arthur Quiller-Couch

Some people you think we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments!

To learn more about Public Domain Day visit publicdomainday.org. For more names whose works will be going into the public domain in 2015 see the Wikipedia pages on 1944 and 1964 deaths, and also this dedicated page.

Wondering what will enter the public domain through copyright expiration in the U.S.? Like last year, and the year before…Nothing.

Wondering if “bad things happen to works when they enter the public domain”? Wonder no more.

(Learn more about the situation in the U.S. and why the public domain is important in this article in Huff Post Books and this from the Duke Law School’s Centre for the Study of the Public Domain).