Aubrey Beardsley to me is one of the most stunning artists that we have covered so far. I can't imagine what else he would have created had he not died so young! The three pieces exhibit an amazing amount of penmanship and detail that has yet to be matched. There is definitely a sensual rhythm present, especially in the flowing fabric of The Peacock Skirt. Beardsley possesses an incredible sense of balance in his work, and does indeed employ the idea of less is more, which can be applied to graphic art today. This can be seen in that the black and white works are ornamented with beautiful detail, and Isolde incorporates color but less detail. He is also obviously influenced by Japanese as well as Arabic art, and integrates everything in a way that results in a style all his own. The only thing I have a little trouble picking up on is the sense of androgyny in his work. It would be wonderful if someone could clear that up for me. Perhaps the faces of the figures?
AT’s Wikipedia Aesthetic link defines the movement and mentions that it was similar to Symbolism, Decadence, Decadentismo, etc… It is significant that Wikipedia begins its definition by pointing out that the root of aestheticism means sensuous. Artists of these movements felt that art’s primary goal should be to provide sensuous pleasure. Aesthetes also specifically believed that art needed to be beautiful. These movements rejected pragmatic notions of art as something moral and useful, like those espoused by John Ruskin. Even so the artists of these movements shared the Arts and Crafts movement’s disapproval of the rapid change and industrialization that was occurring during the late Victorian period and also their desire for artistic unity and new forms of artistic expression. These avant-garde artists criticized and satirized the Victorian value system and capitalistic social order through their work. Aubrey Beardsley became the champion of this movement and the innovator of Art Nouveau with his focus was on sexuality. Significantly, this was occurring as the women’s rights movement, by the 1880's, was gaining ground both in education and economics. Beardsley’s austere style with its undulating flowing lines was elegantly beautiful. His subject’s were shocking and rich with symbolism. He seemed to enjoy playing on Victorians’ anxieties about sexual expression by creating visual representations of their latent desires. His drawings blurred gender roles, mocked male superiority, revealed the hypocrisy of prudish Victorian society, and advocated full freedom to explore sexuality.My goal when I began 234 words back was to attempt to address Amanda’s question regarding androgyny. Needless to say I got a bit carried away so I’ll just make one more point and then defer/link to Camille Paglia's book "Sexual Personae" for clarification about androgyny in Beardsley’s work. Googling for this comment, I came across info about studies of Victorian sexual behaviors. In the late 19th century the term androgynous evidently could refer to literal or figurative qualities relating to: abnormal gender norms in terms of genetalia (hermaphroditic,) gender-specific relations in terms of traditional male female roles (gender equality,) or it could be applied to sexual orientations and practices (homosexuality.) Obviously, I wasn’t surprised to learn that attitudes towards sexualities assume that “male-male desire presumably leading to genital contact” was a “pathological perversion” but I found it interesting that Victorians considered homosexuals “androgynes” or hermaphrodites. At any rate all of these violated conventional gender and sexual roles and therefore remained a Victorian “moral perversity.”Ok now to pages 505-507 of Camille Paglia’s book "Sexual Personae" Interestingly I found this online in another blog:Gatochy's Blog. There is a lot of great text and Beardsley reproductions so you need to scroll down to the Monday, June 18, 2007 Favorite Illustrators 13 - Aubrey Beardsley, part I entry. I am also pasting the crucial part below:“Gender in Beardsley is constantly in doubt. Men and women in the Salomé series have indistinguishable faces. Homosexual couples fade toward the feminine. The Woman in the Moon is jowly Oscar Wilde. Gautier's D'Albert is more feminine than the rakish cavalier, Mademoiselle de Maupin. Earl Lavender's half-clad lady stylishly flips her whip at the bare back of a kneeler whose head is coyly cut by the picture edge, the sex of the passive communicant remaining, as they used to say in television schedules, to be announced. Brigid Brophy asks if Beardsley's women transvestites are "female fops," "female effeminates," or "male hoydens, male tomboys, boy butches." Beardsley's monstrosities are gnomes, dwarves, embryos, pasty-faced chinless eunuchs, sycophantic court hermaphrodites of a dead regime. His androgynes are malignant sports of history and heredity. Like Huysmans' venereal blossoms, they are the tainted flora of late phases of culture.
Closest to Beardsley himself are his effete courtiers and soliciting ephebic sodomites. A self-portrait shows him as a leering elf flaunting the phallic javelin of his ink-pen. He is as neutered as extraterrestrial David Bowie. Beardsley said of himself, "Once a eunuch always a eunuch." He likes phallicized women. Two versions of Swinburne's flat-chested Atalanta give her an artificial penis, a hunter's bow or leaping hound, inspired, I think, by Moreau's serpent-sexed Athena rampant, Salome has a war-crown of tusks, thorns, and lunar crescents. She seems half porcupine, half randy ram butting heads with the Baptist, who shrinks from this hectoring apparition. She is the Venus Barbata, my term for a nagging harridan of the type played by Bette Davis in All About Eve and Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Beardsley's hermaphrodite homunculi are not always identifiable. One recurrent persona is a pear-shaped male with bulging hips, buttocks, and thighs. The Abbé of Under the Hill is a haughty, muff-toting dandy in a knock-kneed, pouter-pigeon stance. The male's female fleshiness may be accentuated by extreme costume, as in Lady Gold's Escort, with its phalanx of Russian decadents in zoot-suit pantaloons. The only analogue I find is a metaphor by Shakespeare's Thersites: "the devil Luxury, with his fat rump and potato finger" (T.C. V.ii.53-54). Beardsley's callipygian males resemble the Venus of Willendorf, with her spindly legs and ballooning midriff. It is as if the Great Mother has fused with her son/lover. The son adopts her silhouette as an act of sympathetic identification, like Cybele's castrated priests donning her robes. That this swelling male anatomy is based on a female original is confirmed by Beardsley's bookplate: the nude, book-browsing hermaphrodite has a large butt and tiny vestigial udders.”
Art nouveau was a decorative-art movement centered in Western Europe. It began in the 1880s as a reaction against the historical emphasis of mid-19th-century art, but did not survive World War I. In looking at the spread of art nouveau it was occurring in many different countries under the guise of a different name. In looking at great artists that exemplified the art nouveau principles, such as asymmetrical richly ornamented swirls of patterns and symbolism, it is not hard to look at the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt of whom we have not mentioned. His work concentrated on the female nude and eroticism. His works like Judith and the Head of Holofernes along with The Kiss are some of his best works and examples of a group of young artists that broke with the Künstlerhaus in 1897 in Austria and formed the Vienna Secession. These artists and architects rejected academic traditions and sought new modes of expression. In their exhibition posters and layouts and illustrations for the Secession magazine, Ver Sacrum, members pushed graphic design in uncharted aesthetic directions. . Klimt was the founder of this school of painting, The Vienna Sezession. The breakaway from the traditional academic painters of the Künstlerhaus group in Austria to the Jugendstil, known as art Nouveau in the German regions, is significant because it was Gustav Klimt that developed art nouveau in art that effected the graphic designs transformation in Austria. A new simplification in form arose in these Viennese artists: Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Olbrich Max Kursweil and Otto Wagner. The magazine Ver Sacrum contained illustrations and graphic images of art nouveau at this time.
I agree with Amanda's assessment of Beardsley's contributions. He seems to have been one of the most controversial and revolutionary artists of his time. Certainly his understated manner, yet extravagantly scandalous subject matter seems to have had a clear antagonistic agenda to rebel against Victorian concepts and principles.I see many of Beardley’s ideas re-packaged by more modern musical acts such as Marilyn Manson, in their attempts to shock the status quo. As a former front-man who’s shared the stage with Manson in his days as a local musician, I found much of how his shows evolved pretty shocking even to me. I think more than any obscenities, certainly the blurring of gender lines is still somewhat taboo to many, and causes uneasiness in many if not most. Beardsley was a leader in this response to Victorian art called “Art Nouveau” by creating outrageous art for the time. He illustrated erotic art which bordered on obscene to many, but is a seemingly playful manner. What some would argue to grotesque subject matter, yet depicted in humorous ways, but always with masterful attention to detail. It is difficult to imagine how his work would have evolved had he worked beyond the five years he dedicated to his passion as he changed art history forever.
The work by Alphonse Mucha clearly has the distinctive mark of the Slavic tradition. It is remarkable how he could combine so brilliantly the current elements of the Art Nouveau style with the typical winter colors and rich decoration in figures, clothing and backgrounds present in the folk culture of his natal Czechoslovakia His designs are examples of economy of resources to create highly elaborated images. He constantly uses effective visual elements, also used by the great post impressionism artists of his time, like the black contours to delineate the figures and the symbolism of colors. In his posters we can see how he plays with visual strategies sometimes framing his figures with linear patterns and sometimes using the exuberant floral designs as a natural frame. The elegance of his images and the deep melancholy they transmit speak directly to the viewer, leaving a taste of exoticism and calmness. He is definitely one of the great masters of Art Nouveau. (this site has some great images: http://www.muchafoundation.org/MGalleries.aspx)
I found it quite interesting in the lecture last class to discuss erotic symbolism as an origin of the Art Nouveau Movement. The boundary between pornography and erotica is pretty ambiguous, considering it changes with your perception. For some, it's a matter of whatever turns you on (my erotica, your pornography), or depending on your social status (erotica is pornography for rich people). It also might depend on how it is distributed – internet pornography is unquestionably porn, while publications that are distributed on expensive paper bound into expensive volumes, must be erotica. Throughout history we can see this distinction or lack there of with such artists as Aubrey Beardsley whose most famous erotic illustrations were on themes of history and mythology, including his illustrations for Lysistrata and Salomé, or Tom of Finland’s post WW11 controversial illustrations depicting sado-masochism and festish iconography, as well nazi propaganda in his work, all of which are quite fascinating.
Art Nouveau RevisitedThus far, too little attention has been paid to the realm of architecture…and since language is a type of architecture, built with structures, so too is architecture a type of language expressive of the Zeitgeist. The works of Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudí are at once a bridge and a singularity. Guadí lived and produced in the during-and-betweens of the Industrial Revolution, Gothic revivalism, the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Guilded Age, Japonisme, the “War to end all Wars,” and the Russian Bolshevik Revolution as well. At the very least, the works of Guadí have marshaled a tremendous amount of ink and put Barcelona on the map when it comes to unique and enduring work in the contemporary modern era within Western Civilization. Both initiating and instigating, Gaudí’s unfinished “La Sagrada Familia” is emblematic. Using curvilinear and floral themes and components, as well as the overall conception of a neo-Gothic cathedral, the main buttresses for this work remind one of the massive hanging roots that support and prop the genus of trees called Ficus that inhabit the tropical forests of the world, and have their home here in south Florida too. These Ficus trees are also known as Rubber Trees, and I can almost see the sap running through Gaudí’s cathedral. It is indeed alive…a work in progress, as yet to be completed, and a bridge between the Old and New Worlds, pulsating and inviting us in for a closer look.
Unlike the other art nouveau artists at the time, Aubrey Beardsley was involved in the movement happening in England, which mostly had focused towards the graphic design and illustration side of it instead of the architectural and product designs. Beardsley’s art was different and was at times hard to digest in the beginning due to the exotic imagery and depictions that he would do. In his artwork, one can plainly see his inspiration was from the Japanese. I absolutely love the Japanese style and it’s exotic culture that it does not come to a surprise that their influence will be found throughout many of the art movements, including the art nouveau. In his controversial piece called “Morte d’Arthur”, it had a resemblance towards William Morris designs, such as a page from “The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye”. One can see that Morris influenced Beardsley in this new design but it caused much rage to Morris since, to him, it looked vulgar and the complete opposite of traditional, serene designs used in this type of piece. It was interesting to see how Beardsley was able to come up with the same concept of the intricate design work but made it the opposite of what one is accustomed to. Even in the examples of his Japanese artwork, it was different and obscure for his time but that is the point of art and of a movement; it is to cause a “movement” so to speak towards a progression in the arts. Also, art has been known to test the limits of what really is the boundary for art and I believe that Beardsley was just one of many artists who did just that.
I feel a certain affinity for Alphons Mucha after spending the spring semester abroad in Prague. For me, Mucha’s work became synonymous with the Art Nouveau era. Working off of the English Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau’s suggestion that literally everything should and could be art, is still very relevant. The dividing line between audience and art had never been so thin as Mucha’s work still permeates many different aspects of Prague as a living city. His drawings are still used on postage stamps, and some of his illustrations are still pictured on the koruna (Czech’s monetary system). Departing from other Art Nouveau artists, I get a sense of spirituality and reverence for the feminine ideal out of Mucha’s work. His portrayal of seasons, months, or times of day as feminine personifications reference the Greek and Roman deities, and even Hellenistic sculpture. Mucha’s posters reflect a throwback to classicism, especially when compared to Beardsley or some of the post-impressionist posters of Cheret and Lautrec. His paintings still portray the pinup, but are more concerned with capturing the raw beauty and elegance of a young woman, than her underlying sexual depravity.(sidenote)What A.T. mentioned in class about Czech pessimism was accurate. My native-born Czech language teacher explained to us that the Czechs, as a culture, are negativists- (and considering their history of occupation up until 1989, it’s not hard to understand why). They would rather negate an already negative word to make it positive, than make a positive statement. For example, Czechs say, “The weather is not bad today”, instead of “The weather is good today”…. etc. Considering Czech’s pessimism and cold nature, it’s not surprising that the majority Mucha’s work, particularly “The Slav Epic”, was only reluctantly accepted by the Czechs. Mucha received fame and notoriety by many foreign nations long before his own people embraced him.
Also- great comment Barry!
We briefly touched on him in class, however, i think Toulouse Lautrec should be considered in our discussion of art nouveau. Lautrec's posters became the new face of poster design. His poster designs "simplified symbolic shapes and dynamic spatial relationships that form expressive and communicative images." His influences were of the night life of Paris in the late 19th century. His poster designs have been influential in modern graphic design, not only in Europe, but also in the Americas. There does exist a sense of eroticism in his works, mirroring the scenes of late glittering nights of Parisian life. The cabarets and bordellos were frequented by him.
In the beginning of the 20th century the generation of Art Nouveau was taking design to the next level. Color lithography with large scale printed images took the poster production to a form of mass communication. Printmaking spread the Art Nouveau across Europe and America. It was inspired by organic and dynamic forms, curving designs, as well as the representation of the ideal woman with long hair and decorative floral designs. The name of Eugene Grasset it will be forever related with Art Nouveau movement in France. In 1871 Grasset moved to France from his native Switzerland, where for a couple of years he tried different things like ceramics, jewelry, furniture design and illustrating books. However posters and decorative panels were his strength, so he turned to graphic design. Grasset created different significant designs for a range of clients as well as department stores and theatres. In my opinion, this generation had a consist definition of what we call today graphic design and definitivelyit took graphic design to the next level.
One of the first things that i noticed when looking over the representative Art Nouveau pieces was the use solid color, but also the smaller number of colors featured. Like the florid lines and plant-inspired motifs, the color combinations are reminiscent of flowers or at least their dyadic, triadic and quadratic color combinations. Where the arts and crafts period paintings and posters feature a fuller palette of color, these art nouveau posters from artists like beardsley, Toulouse Lautrec, and Chéret use that specified combination to not only be attention grabbing but also reinforces that plant motif.
Great comments!Thanks for the link, Barry.
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