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Michèle Lavallée

[Fr.: ‘new art’]

Decorative style of the late 19th century and the early 20th that flourished principally in Europe and the USA. Although it influenced painting and sculpture, its chief manifestations were in architecture and the decorative and graphic arts, the aspects on which this survey concentrates. It is characterized by sinuous, asymmetrical lines based on organic forms; in a broader sense it encompasses the geometrical and more abstract patterns and rhythms that were evolved as part of the general reaction to 19th-century historicism. There are wide variations in the style according to where it appeared and the materials that were employed.

Art Nouveau has been held to have had its beginnings in 1894 or 1895. A more appropriate date would be 1884, the year the progressive group Les XX was founded in Belgium, and the term was used in the periodical that supported it, Art Moderne: ‘we are believers in Art Nouveau’. The origin of the name is usually attributed to ...

Article

Avis Berman

(b Roxbury, MA, Sept 14, 1867; d New York, NY, Dec 23, 1944).

American illustrator. Gibson’s graphic creation, the “Gibson Girl,” became a symbol of upper-middle-class American womanhood from 1890 to 1914. The Gibson Girl’s appearance and dress were widely imitated and her popularity helped shape social attitudes at a time when women’s roles were undergoing dramatic changes.

Growing up in Massachusetts and New York City, Gibson entered the Art Students League at 16, studying there for two years. In 1885 he left school to make a living as an illustrator. Gibson drew in pen-and-ink, his medium for the rest of his career, but his early sketches were stiff and labored. In 1886 he sold his first drawing for $4 to Life, a weekly humor magazine. Emulating the draftsmanship of the British cartoonists John Leech, Charles Keene, George Du Maurier and Phil(ip William) May, Gibson developed a freer and more economical style. He successfully sold arch scenes of politics and society to Life...

Article

Simon Houfe

(b Blackheath, July 21, 1817; d Blackheath, Oct 5, 1897).

English illustrator and painter. While articled to his father’s estate agency for two years, he spent his time sketching City of London costumes and liveries and regimental uniforms. This meticulous historical knowledge helped when he became a full-time artist in 1836, exhibiting oils at the Royal Society of British Artists and the British Institution, both in London. From 1842 he was the first artist to contribute historical scenes to the Illustrated London News, making a total of 30,000 illustrations in 40 years. Gilbert found ample employment in book illustration, his classical draughtsmanship being ideal for such publications as Howard Staunton’s Shakespeare (1856–60). He began to paint in watercolour in 1851, developing mastery as a colourist and in working on a large scale; he was elected to the Old Water Colour Society in 1854 and was its President in 1871. He became an ARA in 1872 and an RA in ...

Article

Joellen Secondo

(b ?N. England, ?1840–50; d 1894–7).

English illustrator and designer. He received architectural training under William Salmon of Glasgow. He began his career as a designer in the London studio of Christopher Dresser, where he executed countless designs for furniture, decorations, wallpapers, carpets, tapestries, metalwork and pottery, which according to Smith were passed off as the work of Dresser. Smith contributed some of the designs and lithographed the plates for Sketches of Artistic Furniture, the 1871 catalogue of the London furniture-makers Collinson & Lock. His first publication, Studies for Pictures: A Medley (London, 1868), is dedicated to Dresser. His next two books, Album of Decorative Figures and Ancient Greek Female Costume (both London, 1882), reveal his interest in figurative designs. His most scholarly work was a history of interiors, Ornamental Interiors, Ancient to Modern (London, 1888).

Smith’s penchant for drawing literary, allegorical and historical figures in historical costumes is evident in the themes of the books he chose to illustrate and in his designs for tiles. During the 1870s and 1880s he produced illustrations for Greek myths, fairy tales and the writings of Plutarch and Shakespeare. Smith was a prolific designer for ...