T.G. has a Belle Epoque lithographic poster from Paris and wants to know about its relationship to Art Nouveau, which she loves. And there is a huge relationship between the poster design of the era and the great movement of the early 20th century called Art Nouveau.
The late 19th century was a hotbed of talent in the world of design in Europe, the time of the first international form of design. Artists of the era were influenced by the idea of the artist as a maker — not of one specific type of object, but a maker of good design, which, by its use, would uplift mankind.
Thus, in this era, an artist doesn’t simply create oils on canvas, but the artist is a maker who could achieve newness and, in fact, greatness in two dimensional work — and furniture, jewelry design, glass, ceramic, fabric and metal. The late 19th to 20th centuries composed the era of the artist as designer, and these artist/designers were more than open to the influence of fellow makers. They actively borrowed motifs across national borders.
This is the case of the artist of T.G.’s poster, Joseph van Sluytens, who created under the name Georges de Feure (1869-1943), a Dutch/French artist who was also a free spirit.
His talent for free spiritedness was evident early on, as he was one of a handful of artists to be awarded a prestigious art school position in Holland, yet he quickly left for Paris and never took another class. He sired children with both his wife and mistress. And he joined a very forward thinking group of artists at Siegfried Bing’s famous Maison de l ’Art Nouveau (more about that important place later).
Joseph van Sluytens was making art in the era of Paris during the Belle Epoque, a conservative time for the nation, but a wild time for artists in the new spirit of the age that was international, bohemian, cross-discipline and collaborative.
T.J.’s poster is as mysterious as the artist. It is advertising a guidebook to Paris attractions that had been published by Ed. Sagot, shown in the lovely hands of a lone travelling woman. She’s glancing over her shoulder at the mostly male throng on the streets of Paris.
The poster was created in 1894, the golden era of advertising posters, in which luminaries like Toulouse Lautrec worked. (The Wagner family have donated their whole collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as “Posters of the Belle Epoque.”)
The words below the figure give the name of the publisher, Bourgerie & Cie. This is an original poster to the era, as I can see the paper looks “right.” It should be valued at $1,200 to $1,600. A modern reproduction can be had for $30.
Now to the notorious Siegfried Bing, who promoted de Feure’s work, along with the other great artists of the era who were also makers.
Bing was an art impresario of the top order, coming from a German family who had trading interests in Paris. He took over the family biz in 1873 and began to trade art and objet d’art from Japan, and housed his brother August in the Yokohama office to do so.
This was in an era in which few knew of the art of Japan. The nation had been closed to Western eyes for centuries. Soon the aesthetes of Paris wanted Japanese anything. Bing published a highly influential magazine about the arts of Japan, Le Japon Artistique (1888-1891).
In 1895, Bing opened a house museum-style gallery downtown Paris in a redesigned Maison. Each room was decorated in the Art Nouveau style, each object was for sale.
There he pioneered the look which came to be the first international style, Art Nouveau. Henry van de Velde did the interiors, and Tiffany, the glass and windows.
During the heyday of the Maison de l ‘Art Nouveau (1892 -1902), Bing sold fabrics by Briton William Morris, Tiffany glass, Rookwood pots from Cincinnati, Grueby Faience of Boston, paintings by the Les Nabis (Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, Serusier, Ranson, Vallotton), and artists Bonnier, Brangwyn, designers Gaillard, Colonna, Benson, and De Feure; an international collective. He sold art, jewelry, ceramics, metalwork, stained glass, and furniture to private buyers and to world museums.
A book about his era is “The Origins of l‘Art Nouveau: The Bing Empire.”
He dressed in traditional Japanese attire. If I could step back in time, I would love to meet Bing, feel the excitement of a new movement in making design and of course wear those clothes.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press Life section.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.