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Entries in Art Nouveau (6)


Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer: A Multi-Talented Artist

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Head of Medusa, 1915, ink on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum (click photo for larger image)Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865–1953) was a French Symbolist/Art Nouveau artist whose works include paintings, drawings, ceramics, furniture and interior design. In 1896 he exhibited his first pastels and paintings under the name Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer; he'd added the last two syllables of his mother's maiden name (Goldhurmer), likely to differentiate himself from other people named Lévy. 

His paintings soon became popular with the public and among fellow artists as well. He earned high praise for the academic attention to detail with which he captured figures lost in a Pre-Raphaelite haze of melancholy, contrasted with bright Impressionist coloration. 

His works in ink are particularly compelling and embody an influence of the Renaissance. He also exerted a powerful influence on the development of ceramics.


The Golden Age of Illustration

Howard Pyle - The Wonder Clock, or Four and Twenty Marvelous Tales: Title page - 1887 - Pen and black ink on paper - sheet: 10 1/4 x 7 1/16 in. (26 x 17.9 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NYThe Golden Age of Illustration was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration. It developed from advances in technology allowing for the accurate and affordable reproduction of art, combined with a voracious public demand for new graphic art.

In Europe, Golden Age artists were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite movement, as well as by such design-oriented movements as the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and Les Nabis.

American illustration of this period was anchored by the Brandywine Valley tradition, begun by Howard Pyle (1853-1911) and carried on by his students, who included N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) and Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), among others.

Pyle's oft-quoted advice to his students was, “Throw your heart into the picture and then jump in after it”. One biographer has described Pyle as having, “fought, sang, struggled and sobbed through his work.”. He paid close attention to historical detail and often painted live models wearing period costumes. Pyle published some 3,300 illustrations during his 35 year career.


Ferdinand Hodler: Synthesizing Art Nouveau and Symbolism

Ferdinand Hodler - The Night - 1889-1890 - Oil on canvas - 116x299 cm - Berne Kunstmuseum (click photo for larger image)Art Nouveau artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) was one of the most important painters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Although in his early years he produced portraits heavily influenced by the French Realist Gustave Courbet, by the mid-1880s Hodler leaned toward works from which a more deliberate linear self-stylization emerged. His subjects also began to deal with the symbolism of youth and age, solitude, and contemplation.  

In the work featured here, Die Nacht (The Night) the painter portrays himself as having been rudely awakened by the figure of death. Around him are entwined men and women, asleep, with self-portraits slipped in along with portraits of the two women with whom Hodler shared his life at that time: Augustine Dupain, his companion since the early days and mother of his son, and Bertha Stuckie, his wife from a brief and tempestuous marriage.


Klimt and the “Golden Phase” — What Goes Around Comes Around!

Gustav Klimt - Der Kuss (The Kiss) - Oil on canvas - 180 x 180 cm - Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna (click photo for larger image)In 1897, Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt’s (1862-1918) mature style emerged, and he founded the Vienna Sezession, a group of painters who revolted against academic art in favor of a highly decorative style similar to Art Nouveau. 

Klimt rarely traveled, but trips in 1903 to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique The early Byzantine mosaics of San Vitale clearly made a lasting impression on him, and their influence is reflected in the development of his “golden style.” It was at this time that he began his so-called “Golden-Phase.” The “golden style” is noteworthy for the use of gold and sometimes silver leaf. There is a sense of horror vacui as almost all surfaces are ornately covered, frequently with geometric or floral elements. The figure takes on the quality of an icon and often appears to inhabit multiple environments. One of the most superb examples of Klimt’s “golden style” is his 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1 and The Kiss (1907-8). Klimt's 'Golden Phase' was marked by positive critical reaction and success.

The Kiss was painted at the highpoint of Klimt’s “Golden Phase”, during which period he painted a number of works in a similar gilded style. This work is a perfect square. The canvas depicts a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborate robes decorated in a style influenced by both linear constructs of the contemporary Art Nouveau style, the organic forms of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement, and the influence of mosaics and medieval art. The work is composed of conventional oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, an aspect that gives it its strikingly modern, yet evocative appearance. The Kiss is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the early modern period. It is a symbol of Vienna Jugendstil--Viennese Art Nouveau--and is considered Klimt's most popular work.

It is perhaps ironic that many Modern artists—in their determination to create something “new”—often returned to the art of the medieval world for inspiration. Their struggle was to break free from standards established during the Italian Renaissance, which had been in place for over four-hundred years. It is not at all uncommon to find many of the characteristics deeply embedded in the artistic traditions of the Byzantine Empire and Middle Ages reapplied and reinvented in Modern Art. “What Goes Around Comes Around”


Ferdinand Hodler: Parallelism

Ferdinand Hodler - Night (Die Nacht) - 1889-1890 - Oil on canvas - Museum of Fine Arts, Berne. (click photo for larger image)Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) was one of the best-known Swiss painters of the nineteenth century. His early works were portraits, landscapes, and genre paintings in a realistic style. Later, he adopted a personal form of symbolism he called “Parallelism” - which emphasized the symmetry and rhythm he believed formed the basis of human society.

The work featured here, Night, marks Holdler’s turn toward symbolist imagery. It depicts several recumbent figures, all of them relaxed in sleep except for an agitated man who is menaced by a figure shrouded in black, which Hodler intended as a symbol of death.