Blowing in the Mind/Mister Tambourine Man. Martin Sharp. 1968. Screenprint on copper foil paper, 29 5/16 x 19 3/8 in. Gift of Sara and Marc Benda. 2009-12-25
Martin Sharp’s vivid, multi-stenciled Bob Dylan poster features two distinct portraits of Dylan: a large, central, frontal image in which the singer wears dark sunglasses that contain the words “Blowing in the Mind,” and, beneath it, a smaller side profile placed in front of entwined letters that read “Mister Tambourine Man.” In addition to these references to two of Dylan’s most popular songs, Sharp has inscribed several of the songs’ most identifiable lyrics within the graphic motifs of the poster. Contained within the “M” of “Mister Tambourine Man,” for example, is the lyric, “to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.” Still other snippets of text reference Dylan himself, as in the notation “A ZIMMERMAN BY ANI NAME WOULD SING AS SWEET,” which both riffs on the classic saying and Dylan’s birth name, Robert Zimmerman.
Sharp also plays up one other signature quality of Dylan: the musician’s curly hair. Radiating circular motifs imitate the curls and also borrow from another famous printmaker: Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528). Just above Dylan’s forehead, Sharp has inserted a knot pattern from a series of woodblock prints that Dürer created in the early sixteenth century. (Dürer’s original knot design is also in the collection of Cooper-Hewitt.) This appropriation adds a touch of irony, as Dürer would have created the patterns as demonstrations of human reasoning while Sharp appears to employ the motifs as references to mankind’s irrationality. Sharp incorporates additional elements from the famed Northern Renaissance artist, such as the small sun-head in the upper-left corner, which is excerpted from a Dürer print.
Sharp, a prominent Australian graphic designer, cartoonist, and filmmaker, lived in London between 1965 and 1969 and again from 1972 to 1974. During his first London period, he produced designs for the musicians Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream, as well as posters for the Opera House, Luna Park, Haymarket, and the Nimrod Theater. As with some of Sharp’s other posters, the Dylan poster was not produced for a particular event but rather for sale as art.
Interlaced Cord Pattern with Heart-Shaped Center. Albrecht Dürer. 1506–07. Woodcut on off-white laid paper, 10 13/16 x 8 3/8 in. Museum purchase through gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt. 1944-37-1-a