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.


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