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Book Honors Ties Between Newspapers, Art

Given a choice, few of us would link newspapers with high art.

This, of course, assumes a definition of high art as the kind of painting, sculpture or other media that is exhibited in museums under such enigmatic titles as “Nude Descending a Staircase,” “Politics in an Oyster House” or “Someone Left a Cake Out in the Rain.”

Sorry, that last title comes from an old Richard Harris song. But you get my point.

Which is this: Day-old newspapers are used to line parakeet cages, while centuries-old art can cost more than Michael Jackson’s dermatology bills.

Traditionally speaking, one has little to do with the other.

Or has it? That very question is addressed directly by the three authors of “The Newspaper in Art” (New Media Ventures, 220 pages, $75), a scholarly, lovingly crafted look at the 400-year association between newspapers and art.

The two disciplines, the authors argue, have more in common than we might suspect.

“To the casual reader … it might seem far-fetched to connect a mundane, ink-stained wretch like the newspaper to creative geniuses like Bruegel, Degas, Van Gogh or Picasso,” wrote Garry Apgar in one of the book’s two opening essays. But, Apgar goes on to say, “the ties that bind the world of art to the Fourth Estate are far from trivial.”

“Just as artists use canvas, stone and paint to convey their ideas, publishers use newsprint and ink to express their opinions,” wrote Shaun O’L. Higgins and Colleen Striegel in the other essay. “Both journalists and artists enhance public perception of events and issues and both seek responses to their points of view.”

It was around 1565 when the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted a still-life he titled “The Peasant Wedding.” Amid the revelry, which features folks gorging themselves, Bruegel included on a far wall what appear to be “wall almanacs” - early ancestors of the modern newspaper.

Compare that to, say, a 1990 “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip in which cartoonist Bill Watterson defines the term “neo-cubism” in the context of his protagonist’s world.

In one, art utilizes the newspaper (or its equivalent) in a study of daily life. In the other, the newspaper uses an art movement to define a typical human quandary.

Designed initially as a marketing tool for New Media Ventures, a subsidiary of Cowles Publishing, “The Newspaper in Art” gradually became what Higgins - director of marketing and sales for Cowles Publishing - sees as both an education in art and as a study of newspapers and their influence. “Newspaper readers who buy this book because they are interested in newspapers,” Higgins says, “learn a lot of art history along the way.”

They get to look at a lot of neat pictures, too.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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