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Art Nouveau on Paper

on May 25, 2011 – 10:18 am

 The Frick Art Museum presents, PAN—Fin de Siècle Prints: Art Nouveau on Paper, 80 sheets originally published as part of the Berlin-based periodical PAN, which reflect the avant-garde spirit of Europe at the end of the 19th century. Produced between 1895 and 1900, PAN is a milestone in graphic arts publishing and has been called the first “20th-century arts magazine.” The exhibition remains on view through September 11, 2011.

Most of the prints included in PAN—Fin de Siècle Prints: Art Nouveau on Paper date between 1895 and 1900 and represent an international group of artists working in wood engraving, lithography, and etching with works that encompass not only Art Nouveau, but Expressionism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, Japonisme and other trends in international art. Depicting scenes from the Champs-Elysées to a Kellergarten (cellar garden) in Germany, the prints from PAN provide a rich, instructive, and fascinating look into the end of the 19th century—into a world where fashionable, independent women frequent stylish shops, yet urban families struggle with poverty, a world where the bucolic countryside is often in jarring contrast to the industrial city, yet the sun sets over the coast in gorgeous Post-Impressionist pools of color. The artists and writers featured in PAN both assimilate and escape the past, and capture the vibrancy of the moment.

[Aubrey Beardsley (British, 1872–1898), Isolde, n.d. Line etching
and printed color. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.]

PAN was named after the earthy Greek god of flocks and pastures associated with fertility (creativity) and springtime, who also gives his name to the Greek word for all. The inclusiveness implied by the choice of the word PAN exemplifies the international scope of the publication and its attempt to encompass both established and emerging artists, and diverse modes of expression. As a publication arising out of the Art Nouveau movement, PAN sought to capture the energy and spirit of the international arts scene. This international ethos was not exclusive to PAN, but part of a larger spectrum of world events that included the creation of the Venice Biennale, and one year later the revival of the Olympic Games.

[Henry van de Velde (Belgian 1863-1957), Plakat (Tropon)/Poster (Tropon)
color lithograph, 1898. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.]

Founders Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865–1910) and Julius Meier-Graefe (1867–1935) were ambitious and not yet thirty when they founded PAN with the support and financial investment of a larger group of intellectuals, art historians, and cultural commentators. Bierbaum, the more literary of the two, went on to be a successful poet and novelist. Meier-Graefe, the magazine’s first art director, became one of the most influential critics and art historians of the first half of the 20th century. The illustrious group of international artists who contributed to PAN trace a distinct path out of the 19th century and into the 20th. In addition to German artists, PAN published artists from France, England, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and the United States. Some artists were established international names, like French Post-Impressionist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864–1901), English Art Nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley(1872–1898), German Symbolist Max Klinger (1857–1920), German Impressionist Max Liebermann (1847–1935), French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), and French Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac (1863–1935), while others were young advocates of Art Nouveau and Expressionism, like Otto Eckmann (1865–1902), Peter Behrens (1868–1940), Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945), and Henry Van de Velde (1863–1957). Typically, 1,100 copies were produced of the deluxe, high-end publication.

[Peter Behrens (German, 1868–1940), Ohne Titel (Der Kuss)/Untitled (The Kiss)
c. 1898. Six-color woodcut. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.]

The Art Nouveau movement that spread throughout Europe at the end of the century was associated with young artists breaking free of 19th-century conventions and attempting to incorporate ideas of design and style into both the visual and applied arts. In Germany the movement was known as Jugendstil (literally, young style), and many of its practitioners, like Peter Behrens whose famous image The Kiss was published in Pan, went on to have influential careers that are clearly more associated with the 20th century than the 19th. In 1899, when Behrens designed and built his own home, the experience proved so transformative that he ended up abandoning painting and illustration for a career in architecture and design, in which his impact was felt for most of the 20th century through students and followers like Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier.

[Comte Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French 1864-1901),
Mademoiselle Marcelle Lender en Buste/Bust of Miss Marcelle Lender,
8-color lithograph, 1895. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.]

Early in PAN’s history, internationalism came into conflict with nationalism when Meier-Graefe was dismissed as art director following concerns that the publication was too influenced by French art. The print that spurred his dismissal was Toulouse-Lautrec’s Mademoiselle Marcelle Lender, En Buste, published September 1895, in Pan’s third issue. However, at the time it was perceived by some members of Pan’s editorial board as being the ultimate in French frivolity and decadence. Publication of the print was seen as a con or farce propagated on the German audience. History has since sided with Meier-Graefe, and the Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph is known as one of the most important images to have appeared in PAN.

Even without Meier-Graefe, French influence continued to appear in PAN, as exemplified by Henri Edmond Cross’ In den Champs Elysées, which was published in Vol. IV, no. 1 of PAN in 1898. A rare example of pointillist technique used in lithography, it is one of the finest prints Cross made. Like his friend Paul Signac, Cross adopted a blocky pointillist style in the 1890s that was influential into the 20th century.

[Otto Eckmann (German, 1865–1902), Nachtreier/Night Herons
c. 1895. Color lithograph. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.]

A now lesser known artist who appears with frequency in Pan is Otto Eckmann (1865–1902). Eckmann trained as a painter and worked in the Symbolist style, but soon became a leader in the Jugendstil movement. He is known for his ornamental floral designs, logos, and for creating two typefaces that are still in use Eckmann and Fette Eckmann—both fonts indebted to Japanese calligraphic style. His interest in Japanese art and his admiration of Japanese woodblock prints is obvious in the work he produced for PAN—which combine carefully delineated studies of nature with a masterful use of color and design to create images of great drama and simplicity. The exhibition contains several works by Eckmann, including Nachtreiher (Night Herons), a woodblock print, with a startling vivid orange background. Using just two colors Eckmann creates a world of atmosphere—the realistically rendered herons wade in water stained orange by the setting or rising sun, ripples in the water and foliage at the edge of the sheet ground this in a real setting, but the birds are simply breathtakingly decorative—clearly created by a master at integrating design and subject.

In total, 59 artists are represented in this survey of some of the works included in PAN. A glimpse into the contents of this important periodical is not simply a view into the spirit, style and spectacle of the 1890s, but is a vivid reminder of what art can accomplish in enriching our lives and expanding our view of the world. Visit the Frick online at TheFrickPittsburgh.org.

[Top Image: Franz von Stuck (German 1863-1928), Pan cover illustration, woodcut, 1895, Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.]