It would have been just as easy and perhaps clearer to title this article Non-Realistic Illustration. After all, realism is also a style. So to clarify, the article will be concerned with the origins of the transition from realism to other styles of illustration.
During the golden age of
illustration from the last quarter of the 19th century through the first half
of the 20th century, a realistic approach to figure, still life object, and
setting was the norm for illustration, with an occasional artistic foray into
non-representational fantasy, such as in works by Maxfield Parish and other
magic realists. Caricature illustration and political cartooning took some liberties by distorting and exaggerating figures for editorial and narrative
purposes, as can be seen in the works of Thomas Nast. But for the most part,
illustrated figures related comfortably and proportionately to their settings.
If action was depicted, it was done so accurately and believably. Classical
perspective was applied to compositions to add a pictorial reality to
illustrations. This was at a time when photography and the camera were thought
of as a novelties and not serious media for communication.
|Stonewall Jackson. Artist, N.C. Wyeth, 1910.|
|Pictures from Thakery. Artist, Howard Pyle, 1906.|
|The Geste of Duke Jocelyn. Artist, Eric Pape, 1919.|
The Childrens Longfellow. Artist, Frank E.
|Wild Geese. Artist, Maxfield Parrish, 1924.|
They Scrambled Up The Parapet. Artist, Howard
Some of the earliest
examples of stylized illustration occurred between 1890 and 1920. Art Nouveau
was firmly founded as the new art movement of the time. Artists such as
Alphonse Mucha, Eugene Grasset, and William H. Bradley began to explore the use
of shape and pattern as a way of presenting figures and objects. Compositional
arrangements became more complex and the rendering of the elements themselves
was flattened and simplified. Dimensionality was implied though the design of
form and limited values rather than by realistic rendering techniques.
Illustrations presented idealized figures in unreal stylized settings.
|Reverie Paris. Artist, Alphonse Mucha, 1897.|
|Grafton Galleries. Artist, Eugene Grasset, 1893.|
|La Libre Esthétique. Atist, Gisbert Combaz,1898.|
|Bec Auer Incandescent Candles. Artist, Henri |
The use of exaggerated,
but realistically based illustrations, was popularized by 19th and early 20th
century cartoonists of political and narrative subject manner. The exaggeration
of facial expressions, body proportioning, and other compositional elements was
a way of communicating satire to a viewership. This distortion of the physical
attributes contained in an illustration became an understood style for the
editorializing of a person, place, or event. And this editorializing of content
was but one more stylistic form that played a role in the diminishment of
realism as the predominant form of illustration. Born out of
realism, the use of exaggerated interpretations of subjects was part of the
repertoire of many illustrators who also worked in a true realistic style.
|Tammany Ring. Artist, Thomas Nast. 1873.|
|Victor Hugo. Artist, Benjamin Roubard, 1878.|
|Russian Patriotism and Hatred. Artist unknown, 1914|
Willie McKinley as the Trusts Little Boy With His New Playmate
Teddy Roosevelt. Artist, Fredrick Opper, 1900.
When it first appeared in illustrations, expressionism presented itself as another form of exaggerated realism. Most popular in Germany and Russia, it emphasized a more spontaneous way of working. Many expressionists worked without reference material, preferring to illustrate completely from their imagination.
|Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Artist unknown, 1920.|
|Cabinet of Dr. Calagari. Artist unknown, 1920.|
|Drama Comedy. Artist, Oskar Kokoschka, 1907.|
|Der Sturm. Artist, Oscar Kokoschka, 1910.|
|Simplicissimus. Artist, Thomas Theodor Heine, 1896.|
The visual appearance of concurrent art and design movements influenced illustration to move away from representational realism. Artists such as Leonetto Cappiello, A.M. Cassadre, Jean Carlu, etc introduced the efficient use of form through simplification of visual elements to illustration. Not only were figures, objects and settings rendered more simply, compositional arrangements also became simpler through the elimination of extraneous elements. Simplification served the purpose of suggesting realistic form without fully rendering it, while exercising an efficient method of depiction that was also more practical to mass produce in certain media such as screen printing and lithography.
|Brighton. Artist, Perre Commarand, 1920.|
|Vins Camp Romaign. Artist, L. Dadoud, circa 1930.|
|Ca-bloc. Artist, Leonetto Capiello, 1934.|
|Motobloc. Artist, Rene Vincent, 1928.|
|Nord Wagons. Artist, Jean Raoul Naurac, 1927.|
|Grado. Artist, Macello Dudovich, 1933.|
|Modiano Cigarettes. Artist, Franz Lenhart, 1930.|
As the Art Nouveau movement began to wane, so did the amount
of detail and use of pattern in illustrations. Illustrators began to place more
emphasis on shape, color, and compositional dynamics, such as shifted
orientations and dramatic perspective. At this time, illustrative design, i.e.,
the fusion of illustration and graphic design began to emerge to produce highly
stylized illustration. The Constructivist, Suprematist, De Stijl, Plakatstil, and
Art Deco art movements provided inspiration for an approach to illustration
that was based on challenging a viewer to interpret the formal aspects of an
illustration to understand it's meaning though a visual or experiential
association rather than by pictorial realism. These movements began in 1900 across
Europe and were differentiated by their highly stylized graphics, flat colors,
and simple compositions.
|Vogue. Artist, Eduardo Benito, 1909.|
|Chapbook. Artist, William H. Bradley, 1895.|
|The Last Flight. Artists, Vladimir and Georgil |
|May Day. Artists, Vladimir and Georgil Stenberg, |
|Tournee Du Chat Noir. Théophile Alexandre |
The simplification of
illustrations led to the use of abstract elements and the ultimate acceptance
of abstractionism as a non-realistic genre of illustration. This required a
viewer to make a mental association with the subject of the illustration to
fill in the blanks so to speak. Reliance on basic shapes, color and a geometric
approach to forms and composition reinforced the abstract appearance of an
illustration. The boldness of abstractionism along with simplification was
particularly effective in advertising media and public display posters.
|Head of a Peasant. Artist, Kasimir Malevich, 1930.|
|Wimereux. Artist, Leon Dupin, 1930.|
|Keeping Up With Science. Artist, Shari Weisberg, |
|Foriegn Trade Zone. Artist, Martin Weitzman, 1937.|
|Chemins De Fer. Artist, Theo Doro, 1930.|