A pair of French "Byzantine Heads" lithographs by Alphonse Mucha. The mastery evident in creating two archetypes of the female form against a decorative background confirms Mucha''s artistic maturity. Both women, portrayed in profile, have their heads decorated with beautiful jewelry, the richness and oriental nature of which suggested the name Byzantine Heads for the series. The subtle differences in details between the images are worth noticing. This is the first appearance of the perfect form of Mucha''s often-used motif, a circle framing each head interrupted by a strand of hair. With this device, it is as if Mucha''s unreachable beauties have broken the magic border between themselves and their admirers and suggest the possibility that they might, perhaps, meet. (Mucha/Art Nouveau, p. 192). In this version, Mucha added corners filigreed with curves to the original circular designs in order to create the standard rectangular shape of decorative panels. This is the rarest of all variants. Pictured in "Alphonse Mucha, The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, page 167, cat. 40, variant 1.
A French "Théâtre de Loïe Fuller" lithograph by Manuel Orazi. The poster depicts the dancer Loïe Fuller with flowing red hair and her signature billowing costume, surrounded by stylized flowers. Realistically-drawn flowers descend from the poster title. The artist''s insignia appears on the lower right of the image. When dancer Loie Fuller arrived in France in 1892, in search of true recognition for her unique art, she was dismayed to find one of her copy-cats already ensconced at a premier Parisian theater. The theater''s owner was persuaded to let Fuller perform, with the accompaniment of the single violinist willing to work late. The owner found Fuller''s inimitable genius compelling: she was hired, and her imitator fired, on the spot. An early practitioner of free-form choreography, and a virtuoso of cutting-edge technologies, Fuller danced amid swirling silk wraps on an electrified stage glowing with her patented chemical salts, gels and smoke. To capture Fuller''s incandescent performances, the lithographer Manuel Orazi drew from his own considerable artistic vocabulary as well as innovations of his contemporaries. He evoked the midnight blue swirls of Mvnch''s 1890s madonnas and vampires to portray Fuller arising from blackness to accomplish feats of luminous transformation into blossoms, ocean waves and flames. He looked to Klimt''s gold period to depict Fuller'
's magic lantern projections of stylized stars and flowers upon her hovering silks as they took on evanescent forms in the air, sinking gently before cohering into the next fugitive sculpture. An evocation of the hypnotic performances that conjured trance states in her audiences, Orazi''s portrayal reveals why Fuller''s revolutionary art is acclaimed by contemporary dance critics as "emerging out of darkness, leading the audience into abstraction."A similar poster is pictured in: "Loïe Fuller: Magician of Light," Exhibition at the Virginia Museum, March 12-April 22, 1979, Richmond: The Virginia Museum, 1979, p. 76; and in: "The Kogod Collection," E. Greenwich, RI: Meridian Printing, 2004, p. 242.
A pair of French Art Nouveau lithographs, "Dawn and Dusk," by Alphonse Mucha. These two panels, both representing reclining female figures, are among the few horizontal formats produced by Mucha. These two ladies represent the terminal points of the sun''s daily journey. Dawn is represented by a girl removing the coverlet from her nude torso as she looks towards the rising sun. Dusk is a somnolent beauty settling down in her bed under the last rays of the day. Some of the most delicate pastel shadings are used by Mucha to differentiate one from the other. Pictured in: "Alphonse Mucha, The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, G. K. Hall, 1984, page 258-259, plate 70.
A French Art Nouveau "La Plume - Zodiac" lithograph by Alphonse Mucha. With Zodiac, Mucha reaches the full maturity of his style, with every one of his signature design elements in their most fluid and elaborate incarnations. The image was originally published as a calendar by F. Champenois but was quickly bought by La Plume, who began issuing it as a calendar with their own name at the top. The image was a huge success and was ultimately used for a variety of different advertising purposes. This lithograph is discussed in: "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1984, pp. 100-102 and pictured in the same volume on p. 103 (var 1).
A French Art Nouveau lithograph, "Hamlet", by Alphonse Mucha. Mucha designed several posters for the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Here she is shown in the role of Hamlet, performed in her theater in Paris in 1899. In the background is an evocation of the night scene in Elsinore Castle and in the banderole below is an image of the dead Ophelia. Signed in the lower left-hand corner. Hamlet was one of several male roles Bernhardt performed. Shakespeare''s play was adapted in French for her by Eugène Morand and Marcel Schwab. Pictured in "Alphonse Mucha: The complete posters and panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, page 239 (cat. 63).
A set of four French Art Nouveau lithographs titled Les Saisons ("The Seasons") by Alphonse Mucha. This set is one of three that Mucha designed to represent the four seasons. Here, the seasons are depicted as sumptuous young women with surroundings that symbolize the seasons for which they are allegories. All four of the brilliantly colored panels are signed. Spring is depicted as a beautiful, rosy-cheeked woman with long blonde hair that reaches almost down to her ankles. The contrapposto figure is fashioning a lyre from a verdant green branch, using her luscious golden hair as strings. Songbirds flock to the allegorical figure, adding to the aural aura that this airy piece emits. Summer sits lethargically at the side of a pond, dipping her feet into the cool water and resting on a branch of ivy. She wears a crown of crimson poppies and her thin white robes appear to be falling off with the heat of the summer day. Autumn''s hair is a deep, rich, reddish-brown, which echoes the colors of the dried leaves in the trees and on the ground below her. The allegorical figure is not looking directly into the viewer''s eyes, but rather to the bountiful grapes she holds in her hand. She is crowned with the fall-blooming flower, chrysanthemum. Winter is wrapped in an icy blue shawl and is surrounded by snowy branches. The viewer is left to wonder if the allegorical woman is qu
ietly whispering to the birds to teach them the song of spring to come; or, if she is using the songbirds that once celebrated new life with her as sustenance to make it through the bitter winter. Pictured in: "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, G.K. Hall & Co., Publishers, Boston, pages 90-97, cat. 18.
A French Art Nouveau lithograph by Alphonse Mucha. An exquisite portrait of Sarah Bernhardt in the role of "La Princesse Lointaine" is used here for publicizing "LU" (Lefévre-Utile) biscuits, with a handwritten testimonial by the actress herself: "Je ne trouve rien de meilleur qu''un petit LU; oh si, deux petits LU." (I haven''t found anything better than a little LU--oh yes, two little LU.) "La Princesse Lointaine" was one of Sarah''s great successes, a play written for her by Edmond Rostand based an old medieval tale, shown for the first time in 1895. She played Melisande, daughter of one of the crusader kings from Tripoli who becomes famous far and wide for her beauty. When word of her charm reaches a French knight, Jofroi, he sets out on a long and exhausting journey at the end of which he dies in ecstasy after having accomplished his goal of seeing her and telling her of his love. The Lefèvre-Utile Company also used other artists to produce posters in this series which featured testimonials by prominent personalities; many were also issued as postcards. The heraldic birds on each corner were appropriated from the heraldic casket of Saint Louis (King Louis IX) on view at the Louvre. A detail from the casket figured in Owen Jones''s seminal work, Grammar of Ornament (1856). The great actress Sarah Bernhardt and artist Alphonse Mucha formed an enduring partnership in 1
894, when he was, by pure chance, selected to design a poster for her. The collaboration launched Mucha''s career. The novelty of these posters'' enchanting stylization and dignified tone made them an immediate collector''s items, often stolen from public display. Though firstan artist, Bernhardt was by necessity a capable, indefatigable businesswoman who powered through numerous ups-and-downs and setbacks. She was famous for her boundless generosity, which led to constant indebtedness and a frenzied work schedule. Here, the two artists combined to create an early form of celebrity endorsement, in this case, for the ever-popular LU Petit Buerre biscuits.Pictured in "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels" by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, Page 308-309, Plate 86.
A French Art Nouveau lithograph, "Lait pur stérilisé de la Vingeanne" by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. This poster, advertising ''pure, sterilized milk from Vingeanne'' presents the viewer with a wholesome image of a young girl (the artist''s daughter), perched on a chair, drinking from a bowl of milk with both hands. Three cats crowd around her feet, their mouths open as if meowing plaintively.Sterilized, or pasteurized milk was a new product in 1894, and it was shipped to Paris from the Quillot Brothers dairy in the Vingeanne district of east-central France as Steinlen''s poster informs us.Steinlen employed his favorite familiars, his young daughter Colette and his beloved cats, to convey the message of the healthfulness of pasteurized milk, inspiring the American poster designer, Louis Rhead, to write: "When I saw it in Paris last year, it seemed to me the best and brightest form of advertising that had yet appeared."Since his childhood, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen had shown an aptitude for depicting cats, frequently making them the focal point of his works. A caricature of Steinlen published in 1898, shows a wave of animals threatening to completely engulf the artist, with a giant cat at his left shoulder. Steinlen was born in Lausanne in 1859 and, after arriving in Paris in 1881, soon became a member of the artistic community in Montmartre, of which Henri de Toulo
use-Lautrec and Adolphe Willette were also members. Steinlen and Toulouse-Lautrec depicted several of the same subjects in their work but it was the Swiss artist who enjoyed greater fame during the artists'' lifetimes, no doubt due to his ability to undertake more commercial work, such as this poster for Vingeanne milk, which reached a greater audience than Toulouse-Lautrec''s controversial graphic work.
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