Reintroducing: Hella Basu

Picked up a 1980 design annual today put out by the venerable (but soon after to fold) U.K printing house Penrose. In it I found many amusing bits about then state-of-the-art computer graphics technology, articles of interest to the design dork with a historical bent, purty pictures, etc. The most striking bit by far, however, was a feature on a calligrapher by the name of Hella Basu. Beautiful work which put me in mind of everyone’s current fave Marian Bantjes, except Basu was born in 1924. A subsequent internet search for information on her work came up empty. Judging by the samples in the feature that’s a real shame. It’s my pleasure then to reintroduce her here, on the web, with the following 10 pieces culled from the Penrose annual.

Really, really beautiful. If you had a higher res scan of The Sunne Rising, or Thy Musique lying around I’d gladly take them off you hands. Ahem.

Digital take on illustrations with letters.

posted on 11.30 at 06:53 AMPierce

Excellent thank you. Is that real or faux embroidery?

Oh, have you discovered Denis Brown? I allow him his umm.. fill of showmanship, as it were, (although I suppose he probably does deserve accolades just for coming up with idea of performance calligraphy - if he did) because all of his work is exquisite.

posted on 11.30 at 07:43 AMpeacay

The use of words and characters as elements of a picture reminds me of a scene in Takeshi Kitano’s film “Hana-Bi”, in which he paints a scene of a snowstorm in which each individual flake, when viewed close up, is revealed to be the Japanese character (kanji?) for “suicide”.

posted on 11.30 at 10:15 AMsimon

Very cool. Wow! Basu rocks!!! The only thing I could find on her was an abstract of a 1971 article she wrote for Visible Language (published by RISD). Vol. 5.4. Third on list.

Thanks also for the extra examples by Pierce and peacay. Really enjoyed Denis Brown’s work.

I’d also like to contribute. Here’s a lady I just discovered who specializes in Jewish illuminated manuscripts Debra Band. Very interesting. Article here.


posted on 11.30 at 10:24 AM.

@ peacay, that’s real embroidery.

Thanks for the great links guys!

posted on 12.02 at 10:55 PMjmorrison

that was a pleasure watching her works, thank you.

it reminded me of the music lovely notes by Tom Phillips Music Drawings:

and George Crumb’s manuscript pages:

posted on 12.04 at 04:00 PMmoon

Sorry I’m getting in on this discussion so late, but thank you so much for posting this.  I’m a real typography geek from my past life as a graphic designer & I absolutely love Basu’s work.

posted on 12.18 at 11:49 PMjay

Found… Iranian calligraphy! Very cool!

Worth a look.


posted on 12.23 at 12:46 AM.

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