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The Art Nouveau Movement (1890-1914)

E N G L A N D + A M E R I C A


Art Nouveau was an international decorative style that thrived during the two decades (1890-1914) that encircled the turn of the century. It encompassed all the design arts – architecture, furniture and product design, fashion, and graphics. Because Art Nouveau forms and lines were often invented rather than copied from nature or the past, there was a revitalization of the design process that pointed toward abstract. Art Nouveau’s off-spring are 20th century designers who adopted, not its surface appearance, but rather its attitude toward materials, process, and values.

While a common form language linked the various versions of Art Nouveau, the style developed differently in each country. In England, new simplified forms had dictated suitable decoration; in France, the style developed from the sense that decoration
dictated form.The style in Belgium is characterized as a “whiplash linear” style. During
the mid-1890’s the German Jugendstil (Youth Style) and the Austrian Secession were characterized by hard-edge angular graphics; and the Glasgow Style, can be characterized by its rectilinear symmetry.

Although Art Nouveau gained its prominence in France, its roots come from England. Specifically, with the art of Mackmurdo. In England, the style of Art Nouveau primarily seen in the graphic design and illustration, not in its architecture, sculpture, etc. as in other countries.


Aubrey Beardsley
In 1893, the magazine, "The Studio," was created with the work of Aubrey Beardsley featured on the first issue's cover. This magazine went on to become England's leading Art Nouveau magazine. Beardsley gained notoriety with his illustrations for the writer Oscar Wilde's "Salomé" in 1894, which was featured in "The Studio." Beardsley's illustrations were considered to be controversial, and he became known as the 'enfant terrible.' In 1894 Beardsley became art editor of "The Yellow Book." This bright yellow covered magazine became a symbol of the new and outrageous. Unfortunately for Beardsley, he was forced to resign from "The Yellow Book" in 1895 after the public reaction to Wilde's "Salome" – which had been banned in England, although it was widely circulated throughout the rest of Europe. Beardsley's recognition lasted for only five years – he died of tuberculosis at the age of 26.

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Charles Ricketts (1863-1931)
Ricketts was born in Geneva Switzerland, and was an artist, typographer and designer who began his career as a wood engraver. Ricketts emerged as a leading book designer. Unlike Beardsley, who treated each of his illustrations individually, Ricketts designed his books as a whole. Ricketts also designed for the writer Oscar Wilde. He designed Wilde's book, "The Sphinx" (1894). This created a rivalry with Beardsley. Together with his friend, Charles Shannon, Ricketts published the magazine "The Dial" from 1889 through 1897. In 1896, Ricketts opened the Vale Press. Unlike Kelmscott Press, Vale Press was more like a publishing house. Ricketts hired printers and typesetters to create his books, but they had to work under Rickett's high standards. The finished books were greatly admired – the most successful of these books was "The Marriage of Cupide and Psyche" in 1897.

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Two more noted artists from the English Art Nouveau movement, were James Pryde (1866-1941) and William Nicholoson (1872-1949). These two men were brother-in-laws and were both respected British academic painters. In 1894, Nicholoson and Pryde created the psydo name of Beggarstaff Brothers in order to keep them anonymous as they pursued poster art. The collaboration of the Beggarstaff Brothers remained together until 1899. While together, these artits produced bold imagery that they created with a collage/cut paper technique. Their distinct style created flat, simplified shapes/planes of bold color – often requiring the viewer to visualize missing contours. The Beggarstaffs used strong minimal color with hand drawn lettering often integrated into the design. The best known poster of the Beggarstaffs was for the production of "Don Quixote." Thisposter was never used for the production, but was later released for a limited collection. The Beggarstaff Brothers had a great influence on theillustration of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and a huge influence on the contemporary poster.

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Art Nouveau came to Amercia by way of a Harper's magazine covers by the artist Grasset. Commissioned for covers in 1889, 1891, and 1892. These designs by Grasset were printed in Paris, shipped to the states and then
bound into the magazine here.

William Bradley (1868-1962)
One of the more prominent artists from the American Art Nouveau movement was William Bradley. Bradley was self-taught being influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. Bradley worked as an apprentice engraver and then moved into typographic design. Between the years of 1894 and 1896, Bradley designed for the technical magazine called, "The Inland Printer," where you clearly see his Arts and Crafts influence.

Termed the American Beardsley, Bradley created his own magazine called, "Bradley: His Book," which was dedicated to the promotion of fine typography, design, paper, and printing. Bradley pushed his work technically, testing out new photomechanical techniques where he produced overlapped and reversed images.

Inspired by the Kelmscott Press, Bradley established the Wayside Press in 1894 in Springfield, MA. Bradley continued his career dedicating himself to typography,
becoming a consultant for the American Type Founders, where he designed typefaces and ornaments.

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Ethel Reed (1876-?)
Reed was the first American woman to establish a national reputation in the graphic arts. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Reed showed remarkable talent in posters she designed in her teen years. Reed's career ended abruptly, she had traveled to London and seemed to disappear. Her last poster being designed in 1898 at the age of 22. It is not known if Reed got married and left the art world, or if she died.

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Edward Penfield (1866-1925)
Penfield was an important figure in the development of the American art poster. Penfield studied art in New York, and went on to successfully design poster for "Harper's" magazine. Penfield was influenced by the French poster and Japanese prints. His style evolved from naturalistic illustration to a style that eliminated the background, used contour drawing with flat planes of color. Doing this Penfield felt the consumer could concentrate on the type and subject of the poster.

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Clarence Coles Phillips
Early 1900s designed covers for "Life" magazine. His simplified style was inspired by the work of the Beggarstaffs. Because of his simplification of form and color, the fore ground and back ground often blended together, and his pieces became known as the “fade away girls.”

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