Pleasures of the Imagination, Samuel Johnson Illustrated by Stefka Ritchie
Price: Hardback £24.95
Samuel Johnson Illustrated is a unique introduction to six of Johnson’s allegories featured in the Rambler together with ‘The Vision of Theodore, the Hermit of Teneriffe, found in his Cell’ which Johnson thought was the best of all he ever wrote.
The keynote to the present compilation is the extraordinary imaginative power Johnson instils in his writings which in turn, stimulates the reader’s own personal creative experience. It is a new approach that draws attention to the influence of post-Newtonian science on mid-eighteenth-century art which valued mental imagery, ‘seeing in the mind’s eye’, just as Newton had done to produce his synthesis of one universal law. For Johnson, too, ‘words were images of things’ and he often used the power of creative visualisation in an act of contemplation in his allegories.
The introduction as well as the analytical notes that precede each text aim to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the peculiarities of mid-eighteenth-century aesthetics and of Johnson’s own affinity to the arts.
The contributors have also taken into account a striking characteristic of the mid-eighteenth century – that of the affinity between poetry and painting, in the words of Samuel Johnson, ‘two sister arts’, and the book has benefited from over fifty original illustrations by Dr Ana Stefanova, a psychologist and amateur artist and Svetlan Stefanov, a visual artist.
As an inter-disciplinary project, the book has allowed its four contributors to broaden their critical perspective in a truly mid-eighteenth-century fashion, and travelling beyond their own fields of study, they have produced a truly exciting compilation.
Author Stefka Ritchie has lived and worked in Birmingham for over thirty-five years. Following the completion of her MPhil thesis ‘Samuel Johnson in an Age of Science’ (2002) and PhD study ‘Samuel Johnson: A promoter of social improvement’ (2014), Stefka is currently engaged in postdoctoral research as Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. Pleasures of the Imagination, Samuel Johnson Illustrated is her first inter-disciplinary book project.
Ana Stefanova lives and works in Varna, Bulgaria. Ana has a PhD in Folklore Studies, MD and MSc in Psychology. Her interest is in rituals with emphasis on the Bulgarian traditional rite of nestinarstvo (firedancing); and in fairy tales, on the basis of the analytical psychology of C. G. Jung. Ana is also a talented amateur artist who likes to explore the richness of the human psyche. Her illustrations in Pleasures of the Imagination. Samuel Johnson Illustrated lend visual presence to Johnson’s allegories and assist the reader on a journey of self-discovery.
Barbara Fogarty has a degree in Psychology. Having spent 25 years in clinical information and IT for the NHS, Barbara studied History of Art in Birmingham where she now lives. Her MPhil research on the mechanical reproduction of oil paintings in the late eighteenth century, with a focus on the mechanical paintings of Matthew Boulton and Francis Eginton, allowed her to examine the interaction between art, science and industry. Barbara’s team participation in Pleasures of the Imagination, Samuel Johnson Illustrated has proved an enriching experience.
Svetlan Stefanov, also from Bulgaria, is a visual artist – fine art photographer, painter, graphic designer, and holder of an AFIAP distinction. Svetlan is a participant and award winner of many international art and photographic contests. His compositions are enigmatic narratives, full of striking colour and contrasting light. Pleasures of the Imagination, Samuel Johnson Illustrated presented Svetlan with the unique opportunity to explore the richness of digital art today to produce an amalgam of exciting creative photo art images which complement this inter-disciplinary project.