Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Agassiz Lecture Follow-up and Video

On April 30th, 2014, Anne Bromer delivered a lecture at the Boston Athenaeum titled "Elizabeth Agassiz: Ahead of Her Time and of Her Time." The talk was recorded by the excellent staff at the Athenaeum, who gave us permission to share the video with our followers on social media. View the video below, along with a few photos of the event. Of special significance to Anne and those gathered for the talk, members of the Agassiz family were in the audience and shared their family lore with the attendees.

Anne and the Agassizs

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Work of Julius Klinger on His Birthday


Today is the 138th birthday of Austrian illustrator, typographer, and graphic artist Julius Klinger. Born outside of Vienna on May 22nd, 1876, Klinger is best known for his innovative poster design, which earned him acclaim in Germany and Austria in the early 20th century. His style was functional, clear, and clean, especially compared to the styles of Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil) and the Vienna Secession movement that were popular at the time. In an essay on the subject, Klinger rejected the idea of ornamentation for its own sake, and this shows in his advertising art, which featured clean lines and a limited color scheme.


Klinger's first job after completing his studies at the Technologisches Gewerbemuseum in Vienna was drawing for the Viennese fashion magazine Wiener Mode in 1895. The following year he moved to Munich, where he worked for several art journals, including the Meggendorfer Blätter and Die Jugend. All of these early positions required illustration in the latest style - namely, Jugendstil.

While working at Wiener Mode, Klinger met Koloman Moser, who acted as a mentor to the young artist and would go on to co-found the Wiener Werkstätte. These workshops grew out of the Vienna Secession, which was a reaction against the conservative aesthetics of the Association of Austrian Artists at the Vienna Künstlerhaus. Moser, and his partner Josef Hoffmann, were inspired by contemporary European design, such as the Glasgow School in Scotland and Art Nouveau in France.

During this period, Klinger co-founded a design studio in Berlin and released several portfolio books of patterns and designs, all in the Jugenstil style. One such portfolio is La Femme dans la Décoration Moderne. It contains thirty color lithographs depicting women in various contexts, including nudes, fashion illustrations, and ornate borders, all in bold shades of orange, blue, green, yellow, and brown. The illustrations come from posters, wallpaper, ceramics, jewelry, and other decorative arts of the period, but all derive from Klinger's work for fashion and art periodicals.

In some examples, the figures of women are incorporated into repeating patterns, while others stand alone, adorned with floral motifs or framed by sinuous lines. Portraits depict the active "femme nouvelle" taking photographs, playing tennis, fencing, and out on promenade in the latest fashions. The hedonistic "demimonde" is also represented, shown drinking, smoking, and dancing. Some illustrations are more fantastical, depicting women as fairies or mermaids, while others reflect the period's taste for orientalism and exoticism by incorporating Egyptian and African motifs.

Klinger's poster designs, for which he gained the most acclaim, draw on and reflect the influences of his training illustrating Jugendstil fashion magazines and his graphic design work. Even his later posters show the fine detailed lines required to bring figures and their clothing to life.

Klinger's last poster design, 1937. Via

Into the 1930s, Klinger's style was still evolving as he taught his modern approach to advertising design in Germany and attracted the notice of companies in Europe and the United States. Sadly, his life and talents were cut short. He and his wife, who were both Jewish, were deported to Minsk in 1942 and killed soon thereafter.  

For more on Julius Klinger, his life, and work, see below. To read more about La Femme dans la Décoration Moderne, visit our website, and as always, we thank you for reading.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Norman Rockwell's Huckleberry Finn

In honor of the 2013 World Series win by the Boston Red Sox, which saw the Sox rise from last place to World Champion, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has on display Norman Rockwell's iconic painting "The Rookie." Completed in 1957, the work depicts the yearly rite of passage that incoming rookies experience when they first enter the locker room during training camp and walk past the veteran players to find their place, both in the locker room and on the team. The rookies hope to prove themselves so that they can eventually join the ranks of those veterans. It is the meeting point of the American dream and America's pastime.

Twenty years before he completed "The Rookie," Rockwell worked on another American tale: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was commissioned to illustrate the 1940 Heritage Press edition of the Mark Twain classic in 1935, and from those eight paintings, a lithographed album was published in an edition of 200 copies in 1972. The lithographs in the portfolio are printed in full-color on handmade Velin d'Arches paper and signed by the artist in the lower right corner.

The scenes depicted are "Then Miss Watson took me in the closet and prayed"; "Jim got down on his knees"; "When I lit my candle"; "My hands shook"; "Your eyes is lookin'"; "Miss Mary Jane"; "Then for three minutes, or maybe four"; and "There warn't no harm in them." Considering the memorable scenes in Twain's novel, it is interesting that Rockwell chose to highlight moments of interaction that reveal the characters' emotions and personalities rather than showing the points of greatest action in the story.

Perhaps it is because the artist's genius lay in his ability to portray an idealized vision of small-town America or because Rockwell had an admitted aversion to life's rougher, seedier aspects. Whatever the reason, he was able to portray the simplicity of life, even in a novel with a cast of characters that included murderers, swindlers, drunkards, and thieves. This suite of illustrations represents an essentially sympathetic depiction of the American experience and, like "The Rookie," shows the small, personal moments that unite humanity.

For more information about the portfolio, Huckleberry Finn. Eight Signed Color Lithographs Based Upon Incidents in the Mark Twain Novel, please visit our website, and as always, we thank you for reading.