The Art Nouveau style is seldom more grotesque than in these vases and amphorae designed around the turn of the century by Eduard Stellmacher (1868–1945) for his father’s company, Amphora, in the Tur-Teplitz region of Bohemia. Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil as it was in Germany and Austria) emerged in Europe in the 1890s, and though its development ran parallel to the Decadence of the fin de siècle it wasn’t really a Decadent form in the literary sense of a dwelling on the perverse, the morbid or the blasphemous. The sinuous curves of Art Nouveau are too suggestive of vigorous life and energy to appear corrupt; Alphonse Mucha’s femmes are too healthy to be fatale, they’re nothing like the dissolute, hollow-eyed sirens seen in the drawings of Félicien Rops, an artist who wasn’t Nouveau (he died in 1898) but who was thoroughly Decadent.
Stellmacher and co. created their share of delightful ceramic figures with Mucha-like tresses and flowing garments but Eduard’s designs around this time were preoccupied with ferocious creatures: bats, fish, lizards, octopuses, and a profusion of fire-breathing dragons. Even the plant forms have a diseased, unhealthy aspect. The designs may not have been intended as Decadent but they embody the quality more than anything used as vase decoration before or after this period. Art Deco also favoured predatory animals (snakes and leopards especially) but only in forms that were suitably sleek and abstracted.
Continue reading “The ceramic art of Eduard Stellmacher”
In a post from November last year I expressed a hope that the Internet Archive might add more of the design source books in the Quelle series to its collection. Fast forward a few months and here’s another of the books, this time showcasing the work of Carl Otto Czeschka (1878–1960). As with the Max Benirschke volume, the Czeschka book is a collection of graphics for use by artists, designers and printers. Where Benirschke presented pages of decorative motifs in the Art Nouveau style, Czeschka’s work is more illustrational, and more limited in its use, with some of the pieces intended to function as ex libris plates or menu headers. Considering that these designs were meant to have a general application there’s a surprising quantity of beetles and skeletons/skulls in Czeschka’s drawings; he even manages to put a skull into a drawing of that fin-de-siècle staple, the peacock feather. Browse or download the book here.
Continue reading “Allerlei Gedanken in Vignettenform”
Oesterreichische Monatsbilder (1900) is an Austrian calendar in book form, and a good reminder that the Art Nouveau style produced a huge amount of high-quality work in a very short space of time. The artists, Heinrich Lefler and Joseph Urban, were featured in a post a couple of years ago with their work for Die Buecher der Chronika der drei Schwestern, a book whose drawings were probably produced in tandem with the ones here. For the Monatsbilder the pair present a calendar whose dates are absent (so it could easily be used today) with each month featuring a variety of symbolic details: astrological signs and figures, birds, plants and other items relating to the month in question. Many of these are specific to Austria, as are the illustrations on the facing pages which depict the patron saints of the provinces. The book may be browsed in full or downloaded here.
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L’Image was a short-lived French publication dedicated to the art of contemporary wood engraving. Short-lived it may have been but its position at the birth of Art Nouveau means that many of its smaller graphics have been recycled ever since in studies of the period. One of these graphics, a fleuron by Jean-Jacques Drogue, was the subject of an earlier post when I was tracing the origin of a motif used for many years by my colleagues at Savoy Books. I eventually found Drogue’s fleuron in a collection of rather poor scans at Gallica, a good resource but one whose web interface (and often the materials themselves) leaves much to be desired.
All the images here are from a collection of the entire run of L’Image at the Internet Archive which are much better quality and which include the early issues missing from Gallica. The most notable thing about the earlier issues is the way they combine the Art Nouveau style with Symbolist art; in addition to an engraving by Carlos Schwabe that I hadn’t seen before there’s a very Symbolist piece about nocturnal Bruges featuring art by Georges de Feure.
Continue reading “L’Image, 1896–1897”
A recent arrival at the Internet Archive was this collection of Art Nouveau book decorations by Max Benirschke (1880–1961). Very welcome it is too, although I wish it had been accompanied by its companion volumes from Koloman Moser and Carl Otto Czeschka. The three books formed a series, Die Quelle (The Source), a Viennese equivalent of the design books produced by Alphonse Mucha and others in France. Both the Benirschke and Moser books have been available from Dover Publications at one time or another but the Benirschke one seems now to be out of print. There’s more about Die Quelle and its artists (plus related subjects) at the excellent Vienna Secession. Benirschke’s book may be browsed and downloaded here.
Continue reading “Buchschmuck und Flächenmuster by Max Benirschke”