The word Japonisme is maybe one of the most used one when dealing with Art Nouveau illustration and graphic art. It is quite a common known statement the influence the graphic art produced in Japan in XVIII and XIX Centuries upon the turn of the century art, in particular, book illustration and graphic.
The reception of this Far East tradition was every time mitigated by the personal taste and style of the authors.
Gustav Klimt was quite receptive to non-European styles and artistic traditions. In his painting, the influences of Byzantine art is quite recognizable, while in graphic art he looks at Japanese one. in These vignettes designed for the Secession exhibition Catalogue (VII exhibition) and Ver Sacrum (Volume 1) his style is interpreting the Japanese using large black areas combined with a fluent line, developed on the vertical, as several Japanese wall paper productions. Klimt was able to characterize the facial expression with very few thin lines, once again like Japanese drawing technique:
Dealing with Austria, professor Koloman Moser was also involved with graphic design, mostly in relationship with the artists work craft named Wiener Werkstaette. Again the lines are well evidenced. Anyway, Kolo Moser used a mixture between curves and segment, between fluent (Art Nouveau) and segmented and straight (as many Wiener Werkstaette productions) lines, creating a tension between the dynamism of the first, and the static hieratic of the latter. facial expression recalls the Japanese art too, but in Moser’s work Japonism is mitigated by the stylistic researches on the melting between straight and curves:
Once again Austrian Empire, but Hungarian side. Japanese influences are quite evident in Attila Sassy production. He also used large curve areas filled either by black colors or geometric, repetitive patterns. Female bodies, as in his famous “Opium Dream” are also constituted by white large area, which includes only essential lines to distinguish anatomic elements:
Lajos Kozma was an illustrator, architect and interior designer. He was really a prolific author (see http://www.szecesszio.com/?p=701). As an illustrator, he developed a personal style in which the overall composition followed the orthogonal lines, either vertical and horizontal; the lines of the drawing became very thin and spotted, contrasted with marked and filled ones, providing really the distinction between dream and reality, between the perceived and the quintessential lines of characters coming from other world, either dreams or super-human ones. White spaces which fragmented the lines are here stylistic elements too, bringing the spectator to other dimensions, accessible just trough the art:
Hungarian as well, Imre Simay was an illustrator and a sculptor too. As illustrator, he maturated his own black/white style after the shadow/light atmospheres of some Japanese and Chinese artistic production. Simay’s style is characterized by overcharged darkness, in which human characters act as in a mysterious world, hiding mostly of their bodies, providing to the spectator the sensati
on of mystic and sensual worlds:
Use of the lines, revisited by other two European artists. Jan Toorop, Dutch, stressed to its limits the abstraction function of the curve lines, removing at all all the traits from the face, and providing expressivity just using concentric lines. The reclining head of the vignette below, has enough symbolic power to let the spectator perceive the feelings of the female (again, female by lines) character (reclining head, meditative position of the shoulder, open arms from which come a fluids toward above worlds …). Not by hazard, the vignette came after an article of the prophet of line, Henri van de Velde.
Adolfo De Karolis (aka De Carolis) is one of the most influencing Italian fin-dè-siécle illustrator. He was the preferred by the Commander-Poet Gabriele d’Annunzio and eventually he was chosen by the Vate to illuminate most of his works. Mainly published for the Edition of Treves brother, the vignettes and illustrations of De Carolis show an indubitable neo-classic inspiration. In any case, his styleis far to be considered eclectic, since even the neo-classic lines and themes are revisited by the special turn of the century taste attitude toward melancholy (decadent) and symbolism (that, in case of De Carolis, presents echoes of pre-Raphaelitism):
Finally, in UK, the one who is considered the master of black/white illustration. An author who dedicated his short live and artistic activity to the monochrome illustration, Aubrey Beardsley. Symbolic and erotic elements, styled using large areas, sometimes huge, of black ink. The Black Cap seems just a large ink spot which gains the shape of a sinuous female figure; The famous “Climax” from the Oscar Wilde’s Salome presents a female figure never before so fatale, where the blood exiting from the Baptist’s head has the flexuous characteristics of the Art Nouveau line.
Lucian’s Strange creatures collect together several grotesque figures who inhabited the author own dreams (or nightmares, perhaps …):
Large black areas and flexuous lines are also characteristic of the maybe most influencing American illustrator, William Bradley. He worked as advertising illustrator for private Companies in the States, and for reviews such as The Inland Printer. The Author was often compared to Beardsley (the figures below were published by the British leading fin-dè-siècle art magazine “The Studio”). Anyway, considering the same subject (the masked woman in Bradley’s “Masked Ball” , and the “Lucian’s Strange Creatures) drawn by Beardsley) the American artist lacks the perverted erotic atmosphere which surrounded the Beardsley’s drawing.
The line for Bradley represented not only a decorative element, but an effective way to suggest the sense of dynamism in his drawings. Again, in “Masked Ball” ideally a curved line begins at the top of the second female character’s cap till the back shoulder, a sort of big “S” which is the ideal join with the complex background, decorated with floral elements (which recall the school of Morris) placed and developed with an S-like movement.
Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration was a leading art magazine in Germany at the turn of the century. An article, on Volume 21, presented the works by Julius Klinger as illustrator. Again, the Japanese influences are quite evident (see first illustration, for example, and the decoration of the vest). Long and sinuous lines remark the luscious character of Klinger’s Femme Fatales, even if, as in many German illustrations (see, for example, illustrations for magazines Pan or Simplicissimus) the female figures are often seen under a sort of ironic perspective. C’est a dire, Une belle dame sans merci, but, maybe, just for fun …