Alphonse Mucha was so wildly prolific, and his work maintained such a consistently high standard, that book collections tend to focus on the popular Art Nouveau prints and posters to the exclusion of everything else. This short study of Mucha’s career was published in 1897 when the Nouveau style was becoming a dominant trend in Continental Europe, thanks in part to the promotion of art journals like La Plume, as well as to Mucha himself. The reproductions are all monochrome halftones but they include many sketches, illustrations and smaller works that are either never seen elsewhere or are marginalised by his advertising graphics and the designs for Sarah Bernhardt. Browse the book here or download it here.
Continue reading “Alphonse Mucha et Son Oeuvre”
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”