So, then, I’ve now looked through several thousand pages of Jugend magazine and a few things have become apparent. If you’re interested in fin de siècle art and design then all the most interesting material is in the first four years of the magazine’s run, from 1896 on. After 1900 there are still examples of the florid Art Nouveau motifs which filled their earlier pages but the overall style becomes progressively dull, with endless pictures of German towns and hearty country folk. The magazine also begins to reflect an obviously belligerent mood in the country as a whole, pictures of military types and patriotic themes proliferate and the satirical material grows overtly aggressive towards neighbouring nations. Racist cartoons are to be expected—British magazines of the period are much the same—but there’s also a vicious antisemitism boiling away in later issues of Jugend which creates a toxic mix when seen beside the war-mongering on display elsewhere.
Politics aside, these magazines are still a revelation. Pan magazine was being published at the same time (its entire run is also available in the Heidelberg archives) and is the finer journal if it’s art you’re interested in. But Jugend, being a lighter read, contains a wealth of strange and surprising illustrations. Many are naive or just plain bad, of course, but some are quite remarkable. This is the first of a number of posts I’ll make which highlight illustrations that catch my eye. I’ll also be making some follow-up posts about individual artists as the magazine has been a great introduction to minor illustrators I’ve not come across before. This first post is from the two volumes covering 1896 which can be browsed and downloaded here and here.