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There is a lot to say, we think, about the value and attraction (and sometimes strangeness) of smaller things.  It seems only right to dish out the goods in portions.  Welcome to sm2.

small towns F-Den Haag-MadurodamIn 1952, the Dutch launched a good-hearted campaign challenging the notion that bigger must be better by building something grand on a very very small scale.  Madurodam in the Hague is a mini-representation of Holland as a whole that can be wandered through in half a day.

small town Muadurodam colourHouses, public buildings, canals, canal boats, railways, airport…tiny tulips and cheeses. The effect on the Dutch and the zillions of visitors seems to be calming, amusing, reassuring.  So cute.

The idea has spread. There are now “miniature towns” all over the place–many in the UK, many in Asia, maybe one down the road from you. Their success says something about what appeals to us, almost all of us, for escape and amusement.

But how about the real spaces we need to live in and work in.  How small is just right?  Well we live at a moment when smallness is all the rage in houses.  You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve found yourself cooing “ahhh, look at that!”.  Here’s a few we found at our fingertips:

swedish-red-spackhuggaren-bornstein-lyckefors-architecture-residential_dezeen_hero-1-852x479.jpg             Swedish interior spackhuggaren-bornstein-lyckefors-architecture-residential_dezeen_2364_col_13-1704x1278

olsen kundegfalse-bay-writer-s-cabin-olson-kundig-architects-small-house-bliss              Kimihiko Okada 63371309231

Tetsuo Kondo 63364985428    winter-black-house-03b_oisterwijk-brouwhuis-1024x694-e1529458837608.jpg

Aren’t they adorable?  We are as smitten as anyone by these diminutive domestic dwellings, but being of the wondering kind, we wonder if this craze might just be an economic necessity wrapped in a personal preference, dusted with big dollop of copy-catism, and bound together with quite a large dash of moral superiority.

But hey, it is also entirely possible that these are, in fact, just what we all need

johannesNorlander scandinavian-house-exterior-290117-504-10

But but…OK just one more, inside and out, from Brazil, all white.estudio brasBrazilFOTOS

Estudio-BRA_Residncia-Sorocaba-2280-21_670

Our local art gallery is currently presenting a show called “cabin fever” running all summer if you are in the area.

Images of these houses rarely show any people in them so it is hard to gauge how effectively they serve the real needs of actual living and working.  But there is strong evidence to show that great things can be achieved in modest surroundings.

small Workspace-18 EBW

E.B. White (the New Yorker, Charlotte’s Web, The Elements of Style, etc etc) hammered out some of the most graceful, beautifully realized sentences in any language on a bench in a tiny cabin with a view of salt water.  The spare, plain, durable qualities of the cabin and everything in it perfectly match the products of Mr White’s mind and fingers.

Producing great work, it seems does not (always) require a lot of space. joan miro at workJoan Miro at work, no bench, no table, no window, no ocean, no net.  Art needs only the artist.

 

So maybe we can live smaller, a lot smaller, without giving up the dream of doing great things. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Adorable small houses designed by:

bornstein lyckefors architecture

Olsen Kundig

Kimihiko Okada

Tetsuo Kondo

Oisterwijk-Brouwhuis

Johannes Norlander

estudio bra.

 

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Pieter Bruegel, Flemish, born almost 500 years ago, was a miracle of a painter who gave us images we can still understand and delight in without a thick book or an expert.

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Most of his pictures have their origin in the Christian Bible, but if you never saw a Bible in your life you would see and feel the humanity of what is staring you in the eye.

And you would see the children, somewhere in the frame.

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You need to look, sometimes, for the children.  But they are almost always there, busy, preoccupied, stocky/stubby, lovely.

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This is a detail of the Census of Bethlehem

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Wherever you find them, these, Bruegel’s children are identifiable as today’s children, even if so much around them is bizarre.

Bruegel children

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Hunters_in_the_Snow_(Winter)_-_Google_Art_Project

Above, The Hunters in the Snow also known as The Return of the Hunters, is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting.

It is a quiet cold wonder in the palace of great art–thanks in part to those small boys and girls.

harry g hotel

Sometimes the best discoveries don’t require meticulous planning, a long journey, or special shoes.  Sometimes you just have to see what’s in front of you.

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Harry G gas up 47b16

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This is some of what Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert has been seeing and recording for the rest of us over the last 40 years.

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He is credited with helping to prove the point that European photographs could be in colour and still be taken seriously.  Not that there is anything wrong with black and white.

ITALY. Sardinia. Near the town of Cagliari. Poetto beach. 1998.

Harry G beach PAR15697

SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2007.

Mr Gruyaert claims that he doesn’t think much about all this, and he avoids talking about it if at all possible.

Harry G spain treeleaves shadows light

The British Journal of Photography did manage to get a few words out of him, which can be read here

All images © 2015 Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

 

tuymans

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tuymans the-rabbit-tuymans

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poster dubonnet winter
Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him.  On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.

poster funny little man
As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.

You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.

It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.

chaplin

The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work

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Ads for the Italian herbal aperitif Campari have used a weird little jester/devil of a man in a body stocking wrapped in an orange peel.   Nothing about Campari is ordinary.

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The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.

 

cointreau

Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically

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and ceramically

 

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If you, man or woman, drank aperitifs in European bars in the 1920’s, chances are you lit up a cigar at some point. This little German guy was the guy to call.

 

poster dutch radio
But if you wanted music with your beverage, at home, you’d ring up Little Mr Disquehead  shown in this Dutch design for record players, disques, and radios.

 

poster dolus
Yes, you can say this is not a little man at all, but I don’t think we should exclude the hard-working fella just because he is red and has a trunk.

 

For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin.  Salute.  Santéchaplin

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