Monday, August 5, 2013

Lettering: Kalogramas and Kalogram

Mexican artist Torres Palomar is the person behind the creation of the kalogramas, which he said “is the psychological portrait of an individual expressed in color with the letters of his name.” As of this writing, the earliest mention of him and his kalogramas was in The Craftsman, October 1914:

“Beauty-LettersDown in Mexico City is a modest studio papered with hand-made paper, hung with hand-woven curtains and draperies stenciled with curiously interesting medallions, furnished with quaint hand-made tables, chairs and cabinets. Torres Palomar, a designer of monograms, made this studio and all the things in it after his own ideas of beauty and the need of individual expression. He lives there in the heart of that excitable city, peacefully absorbed in combining letters of all languages into beautiful monograms or kalogramas, as he calls them, a word of his invention meaning “beauty-letters.” A monogram or kalogram is in reality but a little enigma, a rebus made up of the interlaced or cleverly combined initials of a man's name, sometimes of the full name itself. To be good, says this enthusiast, it must be easy to guess else it fails its purpose; besides, complicated things are never beautiful. Monograms must be beautiful as well as useful. There is a satisfaction in deciphering a good monogram, a pleasant sense of triumph. If the design is confused so that the letters cannot be easily perceived, then it is unsuccessful, for it carries with it an unpleasant impression of failure. 
The work of Torres Palomar is distinguished for its originality of design, its harmonious coloring, its legibility and its extreme simplicity. Monograms of his designing are full of refreshing individuality, for he is a bit of a humorist, a kindly sympathetic one who cannot help but make letters fittingly suitable to different personalities. So he makes them gracious, dignified, severe, flippant, aristocratic, slender or heavy, as varied as human nature itself. To the designing of these small intimate emblems of character, intended for use on stationery and household napery, as bookplates, crests and seals, he applies the big general principles of art.
Color and music harmonies are closely related according to him, and exercise a similar fascination. The mere repetition of a geometrical pattern or of a color note does not produce beauty or quicken the imagination any more than the repetition of a sound produces music that appeals to the emotions. There must be a harmonious arrangement or combination of form and of color to prevent monotony and bring about beauty. He has learned to improvise with letters and colors, developing a multitude of harmonious figures as a musician improvising with notes creates new and haunting melodies. His improvisations spring from a long experience as an engraver, an invaluable experience which gave him thorough acquaintance with the chemistry of colors and the technique of printing. He has played with the letters of many ages, studied ancient Egyptian, Arabic and Cufic inscriptions, examined old missiles, seals and devices of heraldry. So beneath his impromptu kalogramas is a wide technical knowledge of the principles of pure form and symbolism, as beneath the simplest melodies rest the complicated laws of counterpoint.
Monograms in the form of a single sign, representing a name, have been in use from the earliest ages. They were man’s first efforts at a signature, a crude attempt to imprint his individuality upon objects, or to proclaim his ownership. More elaborate ones composed of the several initials of a name have been found upon very ancient Greek coins and upon medals and seals of Macedonia and Sicily. Popes, emperors and kings of the Middle Ages used them in lieu of signatures. In Japan even today initial monograms or those involving the full name, made up in the form of seals, are in general use for signing pictures, letters, contracts, bills, receipts, etc. They are used, in fact, wherever a personal signature is demanded, and most decorative objects they are indeed, for they are often purely emblematic instead of kalographic. A seal, with a bit of red wax, in cleverly contrived plain or ornamental cases, hangs from the girdles of all men, whether workman, merchant or scholar.

The work of the early artists, engravers and craftsmen of Germany. Flanders and many other European countries was signed solely with the initials of their makers, which were frequently interwoven with figures of symbolic character. The most widely known monogram is without doubt the ecclesiastic I. H. S., formed of the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, or, as it is sometimes explained, of the first three letters of the Latin sentence Jesus Hominum Salvatore (Jesus Savior of Men). The most common form of monogram is the square, which represents the foundation principle of life, or the circle, the line of perfection, which, like the infinite, is without beginning or end and incloses all. Some of the simplest ones are a primitive sort of shorthand. A rebus forming a pun upon a man’s surname was once extremely popular in England. Pictorial signatures were also once in common use in England, as, for instance, the letter N between crude sketches of an ox and a bridge, which plainly stands for Oxenbridge. Many old English ideograms persist even unto today, such as lb. for pound and our own mark $ for dollar.

Palomar moved to New York City around 1914. An exhibition of Palomar’s work, including some kalogramas, was at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, 291 Fifth Avenue, New York City, from December 9th to January 9th. The show was mentioned in The Vassar Miscellany, December 17, 1914; American Art News, December 12, 1914, page two, column two; and the New York Times, December 20, 1914, column three.

Palomar wrote about his kalogramas in the article, “The Revival of the Cryptic Monogram”, for the March 1915 issue of Harper’s Bazar. Some ofhis subjects were Gaby Deslys, Pavlova, Réjane, Mrs. Ogden L. Mills, Paul Poiret, Tzet Kranil, and Anatole France.

The making of beautiful letters is an art in itself. I have spent twenty years in studying the making of Kalogramas and there is still so much to learn. Beautiful writing has been numbered among the lost arts; in reviving the cryptic monogram and enlarging its scope, I have been able to show that the simplest letter may be truly a work of art. The combinations shown on this page are the result of these years of study. Japanese and Greek art, as well as Egyptian and French, have inspired me. My object is not only to make the letter combinations as beautiful as lies in my power, but to read in them a meaning. In each of the perfected groupings, therefore, some characteristic or achievement of the person is used as an inspiration. With Réjane, her genius as a tragédienne, inspired me. And I try to get rhythm and melody into each combination. One letter is always the key-note, and, as in music, a certain motif is repeated throughout the whole combination. Some names are more rhythmic, some letters more melodious than others. R is the most melodious letter of the alphabet. I love to draw it. M is also an inspiring one to develop.

With this development of Kalogramas, their use has materially widened. Practically everything that the lady of fashion uses may have one of these so-called monograms imprinted upon it. I am told that the mondaine in this country no longer has her stationery emblazoned with her interwoven initials. This is not so in Paris and London, where such name-plates as are shown above are very fashionable. But their use is by no limited to milady’s stationery. In diminutive form, they may be embroidered on lingerie and handkerchiefs; in larger form, on bed and table linen. They are very beautiful when woven in colours into blankets or stenciled on the leather belongings that men in professions always have. Where I endeavor to suggest some very feminine quality in the Kalogramas for my women patrons, for men, I depict courage, bravery, strength. Where possible, I suggest a sword, for the sword is the soul of man. A man’s name, developed in the way that the name of Poiret is developed, would make an interesting book-plate. Engraved on his crystal ware and on silver, it would add personality to each article. Just before the war, the French mondaines were having such monograms placed on their dinner service and tea sets.

There is much that is fascinating and even instructive in the development of these name-plates. I first study the character and appearance of my clients and then draw roughly a “tapestry” depicting the impressions I have received. This forms the groundwork for the design which is finally created.

An article in the New York Herald, April 4, 1915, introduced the kalograma to a new audience.

Now the “Kalograma”The origin of the “kalogramas” may be found in Chinese and Japanese antiquity among the seals used by the nobility and famous artists. But between this far distant chirographic art and the up to date kalogramas of Torres Palomar—the artist who has made a specialty of designing them and who has lived most of his life in the Orient—there is the same grade of distance that exists between the customs of these ancient people and our modern life of refinement and extreme civilization. 
Kalogramas (Greek from belles-lettres) are the seals made of one’s personal name worked up to a superior form of art and beauty. They are something link an aristocratic escutcheon of refinement and beauty, which, moreover, can tell the character of the person to whom it belongs. For there is in the heraldic of modern life the same thing as in a heraldic exemplary; the virtues of the possessor are explained in the kalograma as in medieval blazon.
Kalogramas are most successfully employed in marking with these characters of grace and personality the stationery of fastidious persons. It plays a dainty role when used as embroidery on handkerchiefs and all sorts of lingerie.
Engraved or enameled on metals for the boudoir, for silverware or porcelain hammered brass or beaten gold; they are also used as a modern blazon on leather furniture, or are carved in wood.
They may be woven in carpets hangings for furniture, coverings, or painted on the doors of carriages, automobiles, or sculpted in the architecture of residences, forged in ironwork of fences, incrusted in marquetry in ceilings or floors. In fact, they lend themselves as a beautiful ornamentation to all sorts of personal belongings.
Some of the kalogramas that have already been carried out are reproduced here with a description of their coloring. That of Pierre Loti has the character of the author who wrote “Aziyade” and “Fantom d‘Orient” delineated by the charming arrangement of the profiled dark green letters which form his name. The letter O, round and colored in a saffron tone, rises like a moon against a twilight sky which could well be that of Islam, beloved of the writer. Loti wears a ring on his right hand on which is engraved and enameled in colors the kalograma designed by Torres Palomar.
Caruso’s kalograma is in gold, merging into silver, against a background of strong indigo that grades to a Nattier blue.
For D’Annunzio there is a design of gold and blue on a white ground, and, struck by the mystic quality in the works of the Italian master, the artist has tried, above all, to express this quality. 
Otero’s kalograma is black on green with thistle red, heightened by gold.

Vanity Fair took note of the kalogram’s popularity in its June 1915 issue with the article, “The Growing Fad of Kalograms and Nine Kalogrammic Designs by C.B. Falls.” Charles Buckles Falls produced designs for Isadora Duncan, Marie Doro, Ruth Chatterton, Irv or Ty Cobb, President Wilson, Vernon and Irene Castle, two others and himself. The magazine article, which was released in May, apparently caught the eye of a number of newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, June 6, 1915, which ran the following article on its women’s page:

The New Fad KalogramsHave you a kalogram? Do you know what a kalogram is? It is excusable not to. Kalograms are a fashionable novelty recently introduced into everyday life.
They are a something more than monograms, filling the same role more adequately, and also infinitely more difficult to create, so that a new calling for artists is created and a “Kalogramist” or grammarian is likely to be a sign appearing on any jewelers or stationers from now on.
Instead of your initials your entire Christian or surname or both—or the initial of one and all the letters of the other go to compose the kalogram.
There are, of course, as many ways of constructing then as there are names. You can take the first letter and if it be one with apertures, so to speak, group all the other letters inside it. In a way it is merely a very complicated monogram that you have to construct. One very unique kalogram consists of the printed initials of the first name, with the surname written as the owner signs it, twisted about the initial and encircles with a final swirl of the last pen stroke.
The outline of the kalogram can subtly suggest the character of the person to whom it belongs. A man’s is usually stiff and square, a woman’s often graceful and much more ornate.
It does not matter what kind you have, but, granted the fads of fashion interest you, a kalogram there must be on your note paper, your hand bag, your handkerchief—nor will your motor be quite in style without one.

The Washington Herald (District of Columbia) printed their article, “Have You a Kalograma?”, August 15, 1915. The graphics arts industry also took notice of the “kalogram”with this article in the American Printer, September 1915: 

A New Idea in Personal DevicesThe monogram as a personal device for stationery and advertising uses has been cleverly developed into what is called the Kalogram, which, enlarging on the idea of the monogram, includes all the letters of a name, arranged decoratively. The four specimens reproduced below were designed by the Eclipse Electrotype and Engraving Company, of Cleveland. They’re all different and all good, and indicate the variety of treatment that is possible in the working out of the idea. These marks are used for stationery, for bookplates, for the auto, and in a business way have uses that are unlimited. Printers who wish to demonstrate to their customers that they are thoroly [sic] up-to-date should make suggestions to them along these lines.

The following month, The Printing Art, October 1915, quoted the Vanity Fair article:

Behold the KalogramIn one of its recent issues, Vanity Fair, that mixture of sweetness and light and social devilishness, takes valuable space (which otherwise would be used to show pictures of the omnipresent Castles and their dances), to tell us that “Nowadays, not to have Kalogram is to be socially ostracised [sic]. It is like not having a motor-car, or a Pom, or a wrist-watch. Everybody’s doing it! A Kalogram must, of course, not only contain one’s initials but every blessed letter in one’s surname, or Christian name, or both! Here is a great chance for stationers, designers, artists — and lovers.”
We show here a number of Kalograms designed by the Eclipse Electrotype & Engraving Company of Cleveland. There is evidence of enterprise in the display. Someone in that company is watching the magazines and adapting some of the frittery fads of society to profit-making. The Eclipse folks have a man whose brain is kinky enough to design any kind of an eccentric Kalogram. The best evidence with which to support that statement you will find on this page.

According to Rodolfo Mata’s article, “José Juan Tablada y Cuba” (see excerpt below), in Literatura Mexicana, XXII. 1, 2011, the poet, José Juan Tablada, shared an apartment, at one time, with Palomar. During his stay he drew a “kalogramas murals”.

Los años de 1915, 1916 y 1917 son oscuros en la vida de Tablada. No hay publicaciones recogidas y muy pocas noticias. José María Gon­ zález de Mendoza cuenta que al llegar Nueva York se vio obligado a trabajar en una fábrica de focos donde se olvidaron de pagarle la primera semana.10 En el cd­RoM José Juan Tablada: letra e imagen (poesía, prosa, obra gráfica y varia documental) las imágenes ayudaron a establecer que en 1916 compartió un departamento con José Torres Palomar y que ahí dibujó unos “kalogramas murales”, sus primeros poemas ideográficos: “Talon rouge” y “El puñal”.11 Ya desde finales de 1916 hay indicios de su cercanía con el consulado en Nueva York y, en 1917, muchas de las noticias provienen de su casamiento con Nina Cabrera y del libro que ella escribió, José Juan Tablada en la intimidad (1954).

In Arte y Artistas (2000) Tablada mentioned Palomar’s first exhibition and the success that followed: “...Luego triunfó, ¡qué friso aquel de kalogramas murales en su primera exposición! Obtuvo encargos remunerativos de kalogramas: Caruso, Vicente Astor, Sarah Bernhardt, Mrs. Ogden Mills…”

Palomar had another New York City exhibition which was called, “Kalogramas”, April 1918 at 520 Fifth Avenue. It was advertised in The Sun (New York), April 21.

Palomar’s work was written up in the New York Tribune, April 20, 1918:

An exhibition of Kalogramas by Torres Palomar is on public view at 520 Fifth Avenue. Mr. Palomar states in his announcement card that “A Kalograma is the psychological portrait of an individual expressed in color with the letters of his name.” In the collection are psychological portraits of celebrities from “God, a Conception of the Almighty,” to “Nabisco,” of the National Biscuit Company.
“God” is a kalograma in gold letters on a blue disc, which is pasted on a white disc with a gray blur; this again is placed on a black disc, the whole being mounted on a satiny gold paper. Above this portrait is hung the “Mexican Republic,” a design in green, red and brown.
Sarah Bernhardt” is black, blue and coral pink, while Irene Vernon Castle’s psychological analysis is a blue and pink butterfly, with long, thin attenae and legs. Geraldine Farrar” also is a butterfly, though more rich in color. It is rather disappointing to find “Enrico Caruso” in a conventional design of quiet blues and grays. “Tortola de Valencia,” Spanish dancer, had much color, showing two full moons on the crest of a wave.
William Randolph Hearst” is shown in his true colors, black and red in the centre, Puritan gray outside.
Other Kalogramas represent Maurice de Maeterlinck, Lina Cavalieri, Muratore, Alla Nazimova, Rejane and Eugene Ysaye. Mr. Palomar displays much ingenuity in his clever combinations of varied colors and textures of paper.
The exhibit will be on display for the rest of the month.

Another article on the show appeared in the New York Herald, April 28, 1918:

Psychology Discovered in Kalogram PortraitsLetters of Name Arranged and Colored So as to Express Temperament and Aspiration of Numerous Sitters.

Kalograma by Torres Palomar are on exhibition at No. 520 Fifth avenue. What is a kalogram? “The psychological portrait of an individual expressed in color with the letters of his name,” answers Mr. Palomar.
For example, in Enrico Caruso’s kilogram the letters arrange themselves in a circle, expressing a human being absorbed in or encircled by a dominating gift. Artistic sincerity is represented by the color blue—“true blue”—which shades off from dark indigo to a light blue finale, representing the high note, high C, in “Di quella pira,” for example. Other letters are of bronze, merging into silver and then into gold (which last may represent Mr. Caruso’s income tax).
The range of the kalograms is great. Mme. Nazimova’s complex personality is expressed by a subtle intertwining of the lines of her letters, “against a smouldering background.” In Miss Helen Keller’s kalogram light struggles against darkness.
Portraits in kalograms may show different orders of motion. In the kalogram of Miss Tortola de Valencia, a Spanish dancer, her art, which Mr. Palomar considers to be expressed equally in the rapid Spanish dances as well as in the melancholy rites of the Moors, is shown by the use in the color scheme of the red and yellow of Spain and gray black, purple and violet with vaporous white. The crosses of the t’s, like spreading arms, reach out for the o’s, which are circles representing tambourines. In Mme. Irina Karsavnia’s kalogram the lines of the letters obviously symbolize dance steps. Quite different in its representation of movement is the kalogram of Miss Halle Kosoloff, a skater.
Mme. Sonia Sikowska’s kalogram is in the shape of a whirling, slanting disk. Within it is the Mohada Buddhistica, the mystic, Asiatic symbol of life. One would have preferred something less obvious than a butterfly arrangement of letters, suggesting “Madame Butterfly” for Miss Farrar.
Gold is the color in the c of the kalogramistic portrait of Miss Anna Case. It is explained that this is not intended to represent money, but the expression “golden throated.” In the curves of the blue m’s in Maurice Maeterlinck’s portrait one catches a glimpse of the wings of the blue bird.
There is more variety that can be imagined in portraits produced by the art of kalograms. Mr. Palomar tells me has made thirty-five thousand kalograms.

Stationery shops were quick to capitalize on the popularity of the kalogram. The American Stationer and Office Outfitter, May 26, 1917, printed the article, “The Golden Wedding Ring Displays,” that mentioned kalograms three times on pages 32 and 34. The Jewelers’ Circular-Weekly, May 29, 1918, noted the availability of a kalogram booklet for stationery shops: “‘Kalograms’ is the title of an attractively printed little booklet, measuring 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. These are featured by the concern's stationery department. The booklet illustrates uniquely designed ‘Kalograms’ used by celebrities such as Marie Doro, Ruth Chatterton, Maud Adams, President Wilson and other. The ‘kalogram’ has become quite the vogue in society. All the die work and printing is done under the concern’s special supervision, nothing being sent out to a print shop.”

In 1920, advertisements for the kalogram by Mark Cross appeared in the New York Tribune and The Sun and the New York Herald.

The International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has two issues of the periodical, El Universal Ilustrado (Mexico City), that mentioned Palomar and his kalogramas. “Tres Artistas Mexicanos en Nueva York: Marius de Zayas, Pal-Omar, Juan Olaguíbel”, by José Juan Tablada, appeared in the January 1919 issue (see Synopsis). “El arte de los calogramas: Torres Zubieta”, by Rafael Heliodoro Valle, was published February 1923 (see Annotations).

Arts and Crafts Collector has color samples of Palomar’s kalograms published in Applied Arts, Volume 1, 1919.

Julie Brown produced a number of “kalogram” portraits which were published in three consecutive issues of the Green Book Magazine in 1919.

July 1919

August 1919

September 1919

Arts & Decoration, September 1919, reviewed the work of type designer, Frederic W. Goudy, and reproduced a design with his surname (lower right corner) and called it a “kalogram.”

Guessing the kalogram was printed in the Washington Times (District of Columbia), May 15, 1920:

The answer appeared a week later, May 22, 1920: Louise Glaum.

Commercial Engraving and Printing (1921) included a definition and samples of the kalogram.

The Buckeye Book of Direct Advertising (1925) had its definition: “A design having the appearance of a monogram, but including all the letters of a name. Fanciful and used occasionally for book plates or stationery.”

R.L. Polk & Co.’s Trow New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, Boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx, 1921, had this listing: “Kalogramas Studios (no inf) 520, 5th av”. I think “no inf” was “no information” on the person who registered the company.

Julie Brown was profiled in the New York Call, May 18, 1922:

What’s in a Name? Get Drawn in KalogramSome faces respond kindly to photography. Others do not.
But if yon are like the majority of us—if your photographs always look pitifully like yourself instead of like the glorious creature you would be if your thoughts could make you—do not lose heart.
For the fault lies not with you but with the camera.
Yours is a personality of many complexes, all of which no mere machine can catch.
You need a more personal medium. Perhaps you will be more truthfully portrayed by a kalogram. A kalogram suggests your personality, but does not tell everything about your face.
Kalograms are the specialty of Julie Brown, New York artist.
With the letters of your name and five minutes’ conversation with you Miss Brown has all the material she needs. But sometimes the composition takes several days
Kalograms got their start this way.
One night Miss Brown read that a man attempted suicide.
Investigation revealed the despondent person was an artist who painted sou! portraits in the natural colors.
Evidently soul painting was no easy task, or had been highly unremunerative, for after a few attempts the artist had been ready to end it all.
Miss Brown felt no urge to follow in his footsteps. but she did share his ideal—to paint something besides features. She had always believed personalities were more interesting than the conventional assortment of eyes and chins.
“The details of the face always escape me, but the personality makes a deep impression,” she explains.
“I remember people’s likes and dislikes and their fads and forgot how they looked.
“So I began to experiment with the drawing of a personality, and finally conceived the idea of drawing it with the letters of the name.
“Up to this time my particular branch of art had been making of silhouettes. I had made one for practically every actor and actress in New York and I made thousands in France for soldiers.
”I tried out the kalogram idea on the theatrical people, and they liked it. They used kalograms on their stationery and for book plates and pictures.
“Then, quite unexpectedly, the idea became very popular, and now everyone wants a kalogram. For stationery some people like the one I made for Anne Morgan.
"When Molla Bjursted, the tennis champion, married and became Molla Mallory, she changed her kalogram as well as her name. Now she has one for professional and one for home use.
“Marion Campbell isn’t a professional woman, but she is an enthusiastic motorist. So her kalogram indicates that.”
When I left Miss Brown she was making a kalogram for Ed Wynne.
“Now there’s a real problem,” the admitted, “trying to make a picture out of seven letters—but give me time, I’ll get it.”

The World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), January 15, 1955, reported Brown’s death.
Miss Julie Brown, 68, Cut-Out Artist, DiesMiss Julie Brown, 68, an Omaha artist, died Friday in a local hospital. She had lived with a friend, Miss Emily Keller, 511 South Fortieth Street, since coming here in 1936.
Miss Brown, a native of Newport, R.I., served overseas with the Red Cross in World War I. She was widely known for the cut-out silhouettes she made of hospitalized service men. She did similar work of Broadway celebrities for Eastern newspapers.

A biography of Palomar has not been found. has a copy of his World War I draft card which was signed September 12, 1918. His full name was Jose Torres Palomar and he resided in Manhattan, New York City at 1 West 47th Street. He was born in Mexico on November 8, 1874, and his occupation was painter. On the line for place of employment it said: 520 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York. The line for nearest relative had the name and address of Jean J. Allard, 46 Riverside Drive, New York. Palomar’s description was short height, medium build, with brown eyes and hair.

La Crítica de Arte en México: Estudios y Documentos, 1914-1921 (1999) has information, in Spanish, on Palomar.

News of his attempted suicide was reported in the New York Herald, April 14, 1915:

Artist, Favored by Gods, Tries to Die for LoveTorres Palomar, Cubist, Writes Letter to Girl and Then Swallows Paint.
Members of the artist colony In New York permitted themselves an unbounded series of amazed gasps yesterday when they learned that Torres Palomar had attempted a rather noisy suicide by consuming a mixed quantity of his own pigments in his studio, at No. 6 East Forty-first street, on Monday night.
Palomar, who originated the “Kalogramas,” a new cubist method of fashioning monogram letters, burst with Spanish intensity upon artistic New York six months ago from Mexico as the “perfect man.” A true disciple of romance, he stalked about in the garb of a Spanish chevalier of the sixteenth century, twirling his mustaches and slapping the short, jewelled [sic] sword which he wore at his side.
All agreed that the futility of man’s pretensions was exemplified, in his dramatic, but not intense, attempt to die for love of Miss Tineds, a Spanish senorita, to whom he left a succinct note begging her to come to him. According to Jean C. L. Comte de Streleckiphotographer, at No. 238 Fifth avenue, one of Palomar’s friends, he scoffed at the gentle passion as a disturber of the artistic spirit and a thing not to be countenanced by a man on whom the gods had bestowed the gift of perfection.
“He—what is it—put women in general down,” said Comte de Strelecki. “The American women here, how they have—shall I say—fallen for him. He is intense, swaggering, courteous and chivalrous, so different from the American husband, who is a business man. He said many times he hated this modern world.! He came to my studio sometimes wearing a glorious cloak, flung over his shoulders, a sword at his a side, and ho says then:—‘Ah, I am happy. I shall walk to my friends up Fifth avenue in this.’
“But that he should attempt to die for love, that I cannot understand, for he had many friends, but I do not ever know that his heart is affected. He says he is above that and scoffs, and never has he once mentioned this lady for whom he takes his paints as poison.”
At No. 108 West 126th street, where Miss Tineds resides, she would not talk of the artist’s attempted suicide, but she admitted that she knew him and that they had quarreled. He was found on Monday night by Raymond Cacho, an artist friend, after he had thoroughly frightened the caretaker of the studio, Mrs. John Allen, by shouting in Spanish. Cacho and Policeman Thompson, who went to the studio, found Palomar, stained with a truly diabolical series of hues from the pigments which he had eaten. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he is recovering, as a prisoner, charged with attempting suicide.
Palomar achieved a reputation in Europe, and several years ago went to Mexico, from where he came to New York six months ago. He has painted portraits of Gaby de Lys and Pavlowa, and has executed monograms for many well known New York women.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania), April 14, 1915, had this account:

Artist Attempts SuicideTorres Palomar, a Mexican artist, whose “Kallogramist” studio has been considered the last word in the New Art, and who has enlisted the patronage of such persons as Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, Mrs. Odgen Mills, Anna Pavlowa and others, was taken to Bellevue Hospital today, a prisoner, charged with having attempted suicide by drinking poison. What kind of poison or whether Palomar really was anxious to die the police are not prepared to say. 
Palomar, who came from Mexico about six months ago, lives in a two-room studio at 6 East Forty-first street. In his room a glass containing a red mixture was found.
Dr. Dineen, of New York Hospital, was summoned and to him Palomar whispered that he had taken poison and wanted to die, but the physician was unable to discover anything either in Palomar’s condition or in the studio that indicated approaching dissolution.

Related to Palomar’s kalogramas are the calligrammes by Guillaume Apollinaire, whose book, Calligrammes: Poèmes de la paix et de la guerre 1913–1916, can be viewed, with English translation, here. Apollinaire’s calligrammes are examined in Graphic Design: A New History (2012).

The kalogram’s distant relatives may be the inversions by Scott Kim and the ambigrams by John Langdon and others.

What does a 21st century kalogram look like?

(Updated September 10, 2014; next post on Friday: Mike Hinge)


  1. Very useful and documented article! Thanks a lot! I'll send some more Mexican references. If you please can send notice of how would you like me to make a citation of your article. Have you published it on print?
    Best regards
    Rodolfo Mata

  2. Thanks, Rodolfo. The article is not in print. The citation can say: “Lettering: Kalogramas and Kalogram” by Alex Jay, Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, 5 August 2013

    I will be happy to add your references.

  3. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.
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