The latter half of the 19th century saw an explosion in all kinds of printed materials: public reading rooms, novels, illustrated journals, caricature, collectable prints and luxury books. The sinuous lines and nature motifs of Art Nouveau featured heavily in book design and exlibris plates produced by many artists. Magazines and journals covering artistic and decorative trends were launched across Europe, including Munich-based Jugend and Ver Sacrum, published by the Vienna Secession. The vanguard of Art Nouveau in St Petersburg was communicated through Mir Iskusstva (World of Art). It provided the earliest international exposure for the Ballets Russes dance company.
Illustration and publishing
Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) was a key figure in illustration and publishing, and a significant figure in the Aesthetic movement. Born in Brighton, an English seaside town, he combated the tedium of an office job with drawing and illustration. After encouragement from Edward Burne-Jones, he headed for Paris in 1892. His reputation was established by an illustration of Salome holding the dripping head of John the Baptist. This was published in the first edition of The Studio, a magazine which had an international readership. His erotically-charged pen and ink illustrations typifying fin-de-siècle decadence were also published in Aesthetic quarterly, The Yellow Book. That association ended following the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde in 1895, which affected all those in his circle. Beardsley’s career was tragically short: he died of tuberculosis aged 25.
Journals and Magazines
Many magazines and journals covered artistic and decorative trends, but the circulation frontrunner was Jugend. This Munich-based style-setting cultural weekly published by Georg Hirth gave the Jugendstil (youth style) movement its name. Within a slim format (20 pages or less), it covered fashionable clothes, literature and art featuring the work of Hugo Hoppner (Fido), Emil Hansen (Nolde), Ernst Barlach and Peter Behrens. The versatile German artist and illustrator Hans Christiansen (1866-1945) designed many covers with easily distinguishable hand-lettered fonts. Born in Flensburg, Christiansen moved to Paris in 1895 to study at the Académie Julian and was a member of the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony until 1902. As well as graphic work, he designed wallpaper patterns, tapestries, ceramics and glass windows.
Posters and advertising
Posters and advertising became a dominant means of mass communication throughout Europe at the end of the 19th century. In France, the belle époque was summed up in the posters of Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret, and influenced stylistically by Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Dazzling colours were produced by the new three-stone lithography process. Advertising was a popular medium for artists, including Italian Leonetto Cappiello, who was the first to use a black background. Dutch painter Jan Toorop (1858-1928), born in Java, worked in many styles and divided his time between many locations. In Brussels, he was member of Les XX, and in England he had links to the Arts & Crafts movement. The play of lines seen in his symbolist paintings found a new form in advertisements.