Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stylistic Illustration: 2. Abstraction

Until impressionism arrived in the latter years of the 19th century, art was In the first half of the 20th century both art and illustration were being redefined. concerned primarily with documentary and narrative interpretations of subject matter. As the Arts and Crafts movement progressed to Art Nouveau, and movements that sponsored further exploration of non-traditional style and abstractionism, the lines between that of the artist, illustrator, and designer were only beginning to be differentiated. Artists who indulged in experimental composition and presentation of subject matter such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Ferdinand Leger, Erté, and Raoul Dufy produced both artistic personal works and illustrative commercial commissions, although in time they primarily became classified as fine artists rather than illustrators. Non-the-less, their influence on stylistic illustration was considerable.

Artist: Alphonse Mucha, 1896.
Artist: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892
Artist: Romain de Tirtoff a.k.a. Erté, 1936.
Artist: Raoul Dufy, 1934.
Artist: Ferdinand Leger, 1924,

In the 1940’s and 50’s the various markets for art, illustration, and design proceeded to be more rigidly defined. For illustration, it was the editorial, advertising, and corporate communications markets that emerged as viable markets, and for fine art it was the gallery and boutique markets. Fine art, illustration, and graphic design matured as individual types of businesses. Fine Art Galleries flourished. This offered fine artists exposure, and patrons of fine art an opportunity to experience it and purchase work. Illustration and design studios were created, as well as a large freelance market, dedicated to the creation of illustration that contributed to, and were incorporated into, other forms of communication.

The Beginning of Abstraction

Some of the first uses of abstractionism in illustration appear in the work of Leonetto Cappiello, an Italian poster artist who lived in Paris and worked from 1896 to 1936. His style, which was very unique and influential at the time, led to him being later referred to as “the father of modern advertising”. Cappiello’s work was more simplistically stylized, which made it step beyond the work of his predecessors, such as Jules Chéret and Alfred Choubrac. Cappiello influenced the entire genre of poster art and advertising including A.M. Cassandre, Jean Carlu, and Severo Pozzati to name a few.

Artist: Leonetto Cappiello, 1921.
Artist: Alfred Chobrac, 1898.
Artist: Jules Cheret, 1894.

Too Abstract To Be Illustration

From the late 1920’s through the years of World War II, abstractionism became a predominant form of illustration. Pure shape, line, texture, and color became ever-present pictorial conventions in the illustrations of that era. Some illustrators, such as Joost Schmidt, E. A. Barton, Edward McKnight, and Leo Marfurt, created compositions that took the use of abstract form to the extreme. This presented quite a challenge for an audience that was primarily accustomed to realist imagery.

Artist: E.A. Bardon, 1925. 
Artist: Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1930.
Artist: A.M. Rodchenko, 1923.
Artist: Fortunato Depero, 1930.
Artist: Lucio Venna, 1930.
Artist: Charles Loupot, 1930.
Artist: Severo Pozzati, 1928.
Artist: Joost Schmidt, 1923.
Artist: A.M. Cassandre, 1928.

The Acceptance of Abstraction

The purity and simplicity of abstract illustrations, and their inventive conceptual style began to romance the general public. The result was a fervent appreciation for the abstract aesthetic. Illustrated advertisements and announcements were distinctly effective at drawing a viewer’s attention and reinforcing their product retention. Editorial content that was based on concepts that could not be observed in the real world e.g. thought processes, etc., could suddenly be visualized through abstract illustration. Structurally, abstraction provided a means whereby strange juxtapositions of subjects could be illustrated without seeming to be so strange and compositionally out of place.

Artist: Paolo Garretto, 1933.
Artist: Severo Pozzati, 1938.
Artist: Alexey Brodovitch, 1939.
Artist: Bernard Lancy, 1937.
Artist: Claude Gadoud, 1930.
Artist: Fortunato Depero, 1930.
Artist: Hermann Keimel, 1931.
Artist: Leon Dupin, 1931.
Artist: Paolo Garretto, 1932.
Artist: Anibel Tejada, circa 1930.
Artist: Jean Carlu, 1935.
Artist: A.M. Cassandre, 1932.