Developments in the 19th Century



 




Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


 




SYMBOLISM

in

Great Britain & United States





(Between Romanticism and Expressionism)

 





 

 


C o n t e n t s:
 
The Great Upheaval
France
Great Britain and the United States
Belgium and the Netherlands
German - speaking Countries and Scandinavia
The Slav Countries
The Mediterranean Countries
Post-Symbolism
 
 
 


 
 

 

collections:
Aubrey Beardsley
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Blaine Mahlon
George Frederick Watts
John White Alexander
Elihu Vedder
Albert Pinkham Ryder
Arthur Bowen Davies
Alphonse Legros
 
 





Great Britain and the United States


 


 


 



See also:

Art Nouveau

 

 
 
 
 
 
William Morris

(see collection)
William Morris
Queen Guenevere
1858
 
 
Aubrey Beardsley

(see collection)
Aubrey Beardsley
Isolde

1895
 
 
Charles Rennie Mackintosh

(see collection)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh and
Herbert MacNair
Poster: "The Scottish Musical Rewiew"
1896
 
 
Blaine Mahlon

(see collection)
Mahlon Blaine

 

  Burne-Jones in turn attracted the veneration of Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), probably the most remarkable English illustrator of the industrial age. He too was a precocious talent: at the age of fifteen he had illustrated his favourite books (Madame Bovary, Manon Lescaut). By the time of his death at the age of twenty-six (he died of of tuberculosis, in Menton, where he had gone in search of a favourable climate), he had made a lasting impact on the art of illustration. It was a field in which a number of outstanding artists were then working, including Walter Crane, co-founder with William Morris of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.
 

Aubrey Beardsley

(see collection)
 

Beardsley's Vision:

Salome
Arturian Legend
Lysistrata
True History





Aubrey Vincent Beardsley
Salome's Dance
1893
SALOME: WILDE AND BEARDSLEY

Both Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and Aubrey Beardsley were part of a group of London dandies who revelled in scandalizing the conventional world with their eccentric and affected behaviour. They were also connected by the publication in 1894 of Salome, in which Wilde's poetic text was illustrated with exceptional decorative show by Beardsley. The story of the Jewish princess — "pale...like a white rose reflected in a silver mirror" - described by Wilde with decadent passion, was interpreted by Beardsley with a modern, daring spirit. He uses iconographic motifs and ideas from Japanese art (he dresses her in a kimono), models from the Paris fashion world, and the peacock-feather decorations in Whistler's Peacock Room, thereby adhering to the modern tastes and literary predilections of fin de siecle intellectuals. From this combination of interests come images that are both puzzling and ambiguous, due to the blend of crudeness and grace, formal elegance and moral perversity, eroticism, and delicate drawing. The character of Salome - that of a wicked and perverse female -appears in many of Beardsley's women, representing the misogyny of a decadent culture affirmed by a dichotomy between beauty and morality, with beauty always given the advantage. In December 1897, the composer Richard Strauss staged his opera Salome in Dresden. Based on Wilde's play, it was a masterpiece of musical decadence.
 
 

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley
Silhouette of Aubrey Beardsley
 


Aubrey Vincent Beardsley

born August 21, 1872, Brighton, Sussex, England
died March 16, 1898, Menton, France


in full Aubrey Vincent Beardsley the leading English illustrator of the 1890s and, after Oscar Wilde, the outstanding figure in the Aestheticism movement.

Drawing was a strong interest from early childhood, and Beardsley practiced it while earning his living as a clerk. Beardsley's meeting with the English artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones in 1891 prompted him to attend evening classes at the Westminster School of Art for a few months, his only professional instruction.

In 1893 Beardsley was commissioned to illustrate a new edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, and in 1894 he was appointed art editor and illustrator of a new quarterly, The Yellow Book. His illustrations (1894) for Oscar Wilde's play Salomé won him widespread notoriety. He was greatly influenced by the elegant, curvilinear style of Art Nouveau and the bold sense of design found in Japanese woodcuts. But what startled his critics and the public alike was the obvious sensuality of the women in his drawings, which usually contained an element of morbid eroticism. This tendency became pronounced in his openly licentious illustrations (1896) for Aristophanes' Lysistrata . Although Beardsley was not homosexual, he was dismissed from The Yellow Book as part of the general revulsion against Aestheticism that followed the scandal surrounding Wilde in 1895. He then became principal illustrator of another new magazine, The Savoy, and he illustrated numerous books, including in 1896 Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock. During this period he also wrote some poems and a prose parody, Under the Hill (1903; the original, unexpurgated version, The Story of Venus and Tannhauser, appeared in 1907).

Delicate in health from the age of six, when he first contracted tuberculosis, Beardsley again fell victim to the disease when he was 17. From 1896 he was an invalid. In 1897, after being received into the Roman Catholic church, he went to live in France, where he died at age 25. His work has enjoyed periodic revivals, most notably during the 1960s.
 

 
 It was through Burne-Jones that, in 1891, Beardsley, then aged eighteen, met Oscar Wilde. Wilde was writing his Salome in French (Arthur Douglas subsequently translated it into English), and asked Beardsley to illustrate it.

 Beardsley's drawings are admirably suited to the technical possibilities of industrial reproduction. Ambitious and supremely gifted, the young artist developed a perverse and playfully theatrical style partly inspired by Greek vase painting. The venomous elegance of his drawings has an ornamental rhythm akin to the abstract decorations of Islamic palaces. For Salome, Beardsley ironically appropriated the decadent theme of the evil, emasculating woman. His characters are often grotesque - notably in drawings he later described as "naughty", representing, for example, grimacing "Gobbi" afflicted with monumentally tumescent phalluses. As a homosexual, Beardsley did not experience the anguish awoken in artists by the problematic state of relations between the sexes. Wilde described Beardsley's muse as having "moods of terrible laughter".


Beardsley and Mackintosh


The young English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98) came to the critics' attention with his 300 drawings for a version of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, which was published by
William Morris' Kelmscott Press. He also developed his own unique stylistic mark, based on very artificial figures, immersed in ornamental detail that was secondary but distinct in its superficial elegance and fine line work. A prolific illustrator who only worked in black and white, he skilfully translated the aesthetic spirit of the hedonistic fin de siecle culture into his illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Salome, published in 1894. Rich in hidden metaphors and perverse erotic details, the drawings are a sophisticated expression of a cerebral art form. With these and other works published in The Studio from 1893 and in The Yellow
Book from 1894, Beardsley exerted a great influence over graphic art in Europe and, especially, in the US. In the field of furniture, contrasting with the exuberant and precious ornamentation of the French style, and in particular with that of the Ecole de Nancy where echoes of Rococo were still present, a more rational and controlled use of line was adopted in Britain. Greater attention was paid to practicality, anticipating furniture design in the 20th century. In Scotland, the designer
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) formed The Glasgow Four with Herbert MacNair and the sisters Margaret and Frances Macdonald. The distinguishing points of their style were the preference for straight lines and geometrical shapes, rather than curved lines and organic shapes, and a symmetry of composition based on aligned and parallel elements. In 1897, Mackintosh started on a large architectural project - the design of the Glasgow School of Art. It is an austere, compact building, with a "disturbed symmetry" due to the presence of some asymmetrical elements. The features of his rigorously simple architecture, as seen in the Glasgow School of Art and in some privately commissioned houses, are also to be found in his production of furniture, which helped to spread the style internationally. He abandoned the use of colour and precious decorative detail, adopting instead the exclusive, sharp black-and-white design of varnished wood and a grid design with chequered bars (which he claimed was of Japanese derivation), seen in his famous high-backed chair.

 


Two chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh:
left, 1900, from the Hunlerian Art Gallery, Glasgow University;
above, 1897, from the antiquarian market, Glasgow.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Glasgow School of Art library, 1897-99.
The design for this austere building is based on regular, rectilinear rhythms

   


Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Harvest Moon
1892





Charles Rennie Mackintosh


(see collection)
 
   



See also:
Blaine Mahlon "Nova Venus"
 

 

 
 



Mahlon Blaine

(see collection)



1894 - 1969

Mahlon Blaine was a twentieth century American artist who is remembered chiefly today for his brilliant illustrations to many books, both children's and adult. His mastery of line was, and remains, unique and masterful. Likened, rightfully, to Aubrey Beardsley, Blaine was another original mind, and his interest in portraying the animal nature of humanity lost him a wider audience.

The only monograph on the artist so far published is The Art of Mahlon Blaine (Peregrine Books, 1982), and this wonderful book, which includes a deep insight into the artist by his colleague Gershon Legman, contains a good cross-section of Blaine's colour and b-&-w art and an excellent bibliography of Blaine books compiled by Roland Trenary.

Many other books illustrated by Blaine turn up commonly in secondhand bookshops: his illustrated versions of Voltaire's Candide and Sterne's A Sentimental Journey are frequently encountered. These books are good examples of his work, but the enthusiast is advised to pursue the many other Blaine-illustrated books, especially the weird-fantastic fiction titles so perfectly-suited to his work.

 

Blaine's early life is cloaked in misdirection and deliberate misinformation. The first published biographical article about him in 1929 (or was it 1927?) is total fabrication. The gullible interviewer, Anice Peg Cooper, swallowed the blarney whole and reported it as fact. Likewise this 1927 fabrication below. It's from the rear of the dust jacket of Hugh Clifford's The Further Side of Silence and appeared below the illustration at left:

"Mahlon Blaine has illustrated these Malayan dramas with the magic of his own experience. A New England Quaker descended from staunch old New Bedford Whalers, Mahlon Blaine went to sea at fifteen and sailed before the mast in one of the last of the old wind-jammers. Then under steam he commuted from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic, to the Mediterranean, to the Arctic to all of Kipling's Seven seas where a merchantman seeks cargo. It is such eastern ports as Macao, Port Said, Hongkong, Pearl Harbor, that have given him his gallery of wicked, twisted Oriental faces and the museums of the world that have been his art schools. He has sailed up the Congo to the make a collection of African masks, rescued fellow countrymen from jails in Indo-China, and nosed into many a Malay river for strange cargo and shipped many a Malay crew. He thinks that Sir Hugh Clifford has an uncanny knowledge of native psychology and can substantiate many of the stories by his own experiences."

 

 



Mahlon Blaine

 



Mahlon Blaine



Mahlon Blaine

 




 



Mahlon Blaine



Mahlon Blaine

 
   


Art Nouveau

ornamental style of art that flourished between about 1890and 1910 throughout Europe and the United States. Art Nouveau is characterized by its use of a long, sinuous, organic line and was employed most often in architecture, interior design, jewelry and glass design, posters, and illustration. It was a deliberate attempt to create a new style, free of the imitative historicism that dominated much of 19th-century art and design. Art Nouveau developed first in England and soon spread to the European continent, where it was called Jugendstil in Germany, Sezessionstil in Austria, Stile Floreale (or Stile Liberty) in Italy, and Modernismo (or Modernista) in Spain. The term Art Nouveau was coined by a gallery in Paris that exhibited much of this work.

In England the style's immediate precursors were the Aestheticism of the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, who depended heavily on the expressive quality of organic line, and the Arts and Crafts Movement of
William Morris, who established the importance of a vital style in the applied arts. On the European continent, Art Nouveau was also influenced by experiments with expressive line by the painters Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The movement was also partly inspired by a vogue for the linear patterns of Japanese prints (ukiyo-e).

The distinguishing ornamental characteristic of Art Nouveau is its undulating, asymmetrical line, often taking the form of flower stalks and buds, vine tendrils, insect wings, and other delicate and sinuous natural objects; the line may be elegant and graceful or infused with a powerfully rhythmic and whiplike force. In the graphic arts the line subordinates all other pictorial elements—form, texture, space, and colour—to its own decorative effect. In architecture and the other plastic arts, the whole of the three-dimensional form becomes engulfed in the organic, linear rhythm, creating a fusion between structure and ornament. Architecture particularly shows this synthesis of ornament and structure; a liberal combination of materials—ironwork, glass, ceramic, and brickwork—was employed, for example, in the creation of unified interiors in which columns and beams became thick vines with spreading tendrils and windows became both openings for light and air and membranous outgrowths of the organic whole. This approach was directly opposed to the traditional architectural values of reason and clarity of structure.

There were a great number of artists and designers who worked in the Art Nouveau style. Some of the more prominent were the Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who specialized in a predominantly geometric line and particularly influenced the Austrian Sezessionstil; the Belgian architects Henry van de Velde and Victor Horta, whose extremely sinuous and delicate structures influenced the French architect Hector Guimard, another important figure; the American glassmaker Louis Comfort Tiffany; the French furniture and ironwork designer Louis Majorelle; the Czechoslovakian graphic designer-artist Alphonse Mucha; the French glass and jewelry designer René Lalique; the American architect Louis Henry Sullivan, who used plantlike Art Nouveau ironwork to decorate his traditionally structured buildings; and the Spanish architect and sculptor Antonio Gaudí, perhaps the most original artist of the movement, who went beyond dependence on line to transform buildings into curving, bulbous, brightly coloured, organic constructions.

After 1910 Art Nouveau appeared old-fashioned and limited and was generally abandoned as a distinct decorative style. It was important, however, in moving toward the 20th-century aesthetic of unity of design.
 

 
 

Walter Crane

(see collection)
 



Walter Crane
The Horses of Neptune
1892

 

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