Moderne Stil/The Modern Style:
with art nouveau harks back decades into the last century, when I
unearthed, in a Washington D.C. thrift store, a pair of candlesticks like
the one in my first ever major definitive art book investment. Ah, that
thrill of recognition when I spied the mangrove-root-like foot,
and-be-still-my-heart-made out of ‘Tiffany Studios, New York’ stamped
theron. The little grey checkout lady shook her head and gave me her ‘my,
my, the things people buy!’ look, but took my $15 and shoved over some
Post classified pages for me to wrap them in …
Fast-forward to an even more definitive work on Art Nouveau well worth its weight in the currencies we deal in. Behold the 3-kilo tome Der Moderne Stil, a vast compilation of the periodicals originally produced over a century ago by the Stuttgart publisher Julius Hoffmann, and inspired by the 1897 Glass Palace exhibition in Munich, which marked the birth of Jugendstil/Art Nouveau in Germany.
The keen interest, around 1900, in modern trends in the decorative arts was stymied by the difficulty in acquiring visual documentation materials, especially of foreign achievements, as the new style began to spread throughout Europe. Hoffmann’s idea was to collect the most important innovative illustrations from the leading trade journals and present - in his own journal (entitled Der Moderne Stil), succinctly and without aesthetic commentary - hitherto unpublished illustrations of the Paris salons, La Maison Moderne and Art Nouveau Bing galleries, as well as artists’ designs and manufacturers. The first number appeared in 1899 and was followed by 84 further issues until 1905, with thousands of illustrations, thereby creating an inexhaustible catalog of primary source material of mostly still unknown Jugendstil objects, with the designers and manufacturers identified.
Under the title Der Moderne Stil/The Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau, 1899-1905, the Arnoldsche has consolidated Hoffmann’s enormous project in one vast volume, to include ca. 2500 photographs and more than 3500 illustrations of objects, structured according to category (furniture, metal, glass, ceramics, jewelry); each object identifies the designer and/or manufacturer. A complete index with over 700 entries facilitates the source search. The photo documentation is black & white, the rich color plates we’ve become accustomed to were not available back then, and uniform monochrome printing was perferred to early faded, low-contrast primary color prints.
One should bear in mind that this volume is a trove of authentic, mostly unknown pictorial material from the heyday of European and American Art Nouveau - a comprehensive documentation for scholars, and an indispensable reference for dealers, auctioneers, collectors, and all Art Nouveau devotees.
Granted, the jewelry section is a minor part of this huge work, but when I think of the designers and artisans in our VFCJ membership who like me are eager for inspiration wherever it can be found…just look at the designs on the ceramics and porcelain, not to mention applied furniture decoration and metalwork designs. Decorative Art Nouveau details abound, and are an endless source of design elements. Why not draw on some of the wonderful designs depicted?
Here again is the exquisite ‘femme fleur’ from Theodor Fahrner (VFCJ, Vol. 17, No. 4, 2007) which reminds me of the wonderful Art Nouveau re-strike Lucille had created for us to commemorate our 2007 convention. What’s not to like? And don’t we all relate to Siegfried Bing’s ‘…gratitude to things that shorten the days and make life livable’…?
Cut to an antique shop down the street which occasionally displays markdowns in its front window. That heavy hammered fire-gilded plate doesn’t fit in with anything else in the assortment…flip side, ‘Tiffany Studios, New York’. Egad, my heart again! Pay the lady her DM 25 and high-tail it home! Life made livable once more!
So, every 30 years or so I’m on a roll!
Moderne Stil/The Modern Style:
reprinted with permission
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