William Morris is considered as the father of modern graphic design. Morris, an idealist and a champion of socialist causes, was an artist, designer, printer, typographer, bookbinder, craftsman, poet, and writer. His art was emotional and mythical. He loved country-garden nature and medieval ideals of chivalry as well as the romantic attachment to forests, gardens, flowers and birds. The son of a prosperous banker, Morris was born in London in 1834. At Oxford in 1853-55 he became interested in medieval life and art, was stimulated by the poetry of Mrs. Browning and Tennyson, became a friend of Burne-Jones, wrote verse and prose, and was a member of a group called ‘The Brotherhood.’ He believed that a designer should understand the limits and the possibilities of the media that contain his works. Consequently, he diligently applied himself to learn a wide variety of skills, and technical know-how and apprenticed himself to an architect, and at the same time also practiced several decorative arts, such as woodcarving, illuminating manuscripts, and designing furniture, stained glass and embroidery. Together with Burne-Jones he became an enthusiastic pupil of Rossetti in painting. In 1861 he established the decorative-art firm of Morris and Co., which after some years grew into a large business.
In the second half of 19th century his Kelmscott Press initiated a renaissance in book-design. Morris was the leader of English Arts and Crafts Movement, and became a major figure in the evolution of pattern designs, particularly on fabrics and wallpapers. His vision was to introduce artistic vision into industry and commercial design. This was important since the industrialization process of the 19th century and its aim of low-cost mass-production of goods like books , textiles and wall papers had caused a general decline in the quality of design. Books, in particular, were published on low quality paper, with shoddy presswork, and cheap inks, using dry and rigid text typefaces. In 1891, the Kelmscott Press changed this state of affairs and published high quality hand bound books. Morris founded the Kelmscott Press, named after the village near Oxford where he had lived since 1871. The firm produced high quality hand-printed books to be seen and cherished as objects d’art. Morris designed and cut the typefaces, ornamental borders and title pages which were based on the style of medieval manuscripts, while the illustrations were created by the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Edward Burne-Jones. The books were printed on handmade paper, copied from 15th century Italian samples, and bound in vellum. Although Morris looked to the past for inspiration, his aims anticipate modernist ideas on typography and layout:
‘I began printing books with the hope of producing some which would have a definite claim to beauty, while at the same time they should be easy to read and should not dazzle the eye……I found I had to consider chiefly the following things: the paper, the form of the type, the relative spacing of the letters, the words, and the lines; and lastly the position of the printed matter on the page’
Many of the 20th century art historians, under the spell of post modernism ideas, tried to discredit Art Nouveau as a fall-out from bourgeois taste and criticized it as a misguided artificial movement for creation of a modern style severed from its Western tradition. Of course, more recently this view has been challenged as a biased and shallow assessment based on inaccurate and misleading information. The post-modern view of the previous century ignored the sophisticated aesthetics of this style in favor of an outrage against the profit-seeking print shops, who were capitalizing on a lustrous market demand by permeating its reproductions and intense marketing to promote the works. At times a raw nationalistic feeling was the main culprit for this disdain as, for instance, French nationalist critics despised all the emerging signs of the Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony, ironically at the same time the British elite themselves disliked the foreign influences on the Arts and Crafts movement, and largely disdained Art Nouveau as tasteless, artificial, and fleeting.
As a result of Burne-Jones , Morris, and Rossetti’s association, their Pre-Raphaelitism movement succeeded in its microscopic realism that influenced English painting for the rest of the 19th century. The movement gradually evolved and began to emphasize the general aesthetic ideals over their previous stylistic dogma. Burne-Jones and Morris met while while students at Exeter College, Oxford in 1853. Rossetti’s passion for literary subject matter, in particular medieval sources, distinguished the artist’s work from the modern subjects championed by his colleagues . Morris and Burne-Jones identified with Rossetti’s enthusiasm for medieval and un-modern subjects, which evoked a sense of implicit spirituality. During the summer of 1855, Morris and Burne-Jones traveled to Northern France to the study the churches. As a result of this tour, Morris decided to become an architect after completing his studies at Oxford. Burne-Jones, on the other hand, resolved to leave Oxford without a degree and dedicate himself to painting. He became apprentice to Rossetti, whose teaching curriculum stressed the idea of painting as a mode of self-expression.
In 1857, Morris, Burne-Jones and Rossetti returned to Oxford and decorated the walls of the Debating Room with ten scenes selected from Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’ Arthur. Burne-Jones, in particular accomplished the large-scale project with incredible skill and imagination. In 1861, Morris co-founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., nicknamed “the Firm,” which combined medieval imagery with decorative aestheticism. In the following decades, Rossetti and Burne-Jones would make contributions to Morris’ design company. By the 1870s, Morris established a more business-oriented Morris & Co. geared toward the manufacturing of design items for consumption.
By the end of 19th century large colorful posters were a familiar feature of the main street in all the metropolises of the industrial world. The general public and particularly art connoisseurs soon recognized the artistic values of the posters. Galleries began to exhibit them, and art critics assessed their aesthetic compositions in the art journals, and there were a considerable demand for them by the art collectors . During the last few years of the Fin de siècle period the Cheret’s firm Imprimerie Chaix published the most beautiful posters of the era by more than 90 European and American artists under the heading “Les Maitres de l’Affiche” (Masters of the Poster) . This era known as ‘La Belle Époque.’ was characterized by the vivid colors, the visual excesses, the daring designs, the voluptuous styles, and an exaggerated concern for realistic details.
Chromolithography, or the technique of “printing in colors,” had a dazzling and meteoric life. After centuries of black ink on white paper, it burst onto the American scene about 1840 and then vanished by the 1930s. But during this nearly one hundred year period, it revolutionized the printing industry and intoxicated the world with lush colorful hues. It transformed cigar box labels, advertising posters and many other types of printed ephemera into eye-catching works of art that proved too beautiful to be thrown away after temporary use.
Stone lithography was a rather convenient medium for the talented and skillful artist. The artist used a soft Bavarian limestone as his canvas, drew pictures with greasy crayons, applied ink and and then placing the stone on the press machine produced identical copies of his image on paper. Soon the infant cigar industry that needed to attract customers, started to use it to advertise its cigars. The industry let the artist to be free to use his imagination, apply his artistic skills, and create the most vivid images ever in the most vibrant colors. The creation of lithographic technique revolutionized the art of poster, stemming from its low production costs. More than 50 years after the American Civil War, millions of colored lithographs were printed and sold for less than $10. Louis Prang , a Bostonian, produced fine-art subjects, such as still-lifes, landscapes, and classical subjects. However it was only after Jules Chéret posters, in 1847, that the potential of this technical process for creation of artistic posters was fully realized.
Jules Cheret was born in Paris into a poor but artistic family. Because of their limited means Jules’ education terminated at a young age and he began a three-year period apprenticeship with a lithographer when he was only thirteen. Soon he found out that he is interested in painting and thus he enrolled at the Ecole Nationale de Dessin and began to study the techniques of various masters in Paris museums. During the 1859-1866 period he traveled to London, England and was trained in lithography. After his return to France, influenced by the Rococo artists he created his fabulous posters for the Parisian famous cabarets and theaters. Soon his advertisement business grew producing ads for various consumer goods such as liquors, perfumes, soaps, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, as well as ads for the railroad companies and a number of manufacturing firms.
As Cheret’s work became more popular and his large posters displaying free-spirited females found a larger audience, pundits began calling him the “father of the women’s liberation.” Females had previously been depicted in art as prostitutes or puritans. The women of Cheret’s posters, joyous, elegant and lively – ‘Cherettes’, as they were popularly called – were neither. His posters empowered the women of Paris, and lead to a noticeably more open atmosphere in Paris where women were able to engage in formerly taboo activities, such as wearing low-cut bodices and smoking in public. These ‘Cherettes’ were widely seen and recognised, and a writer of the time said “It is difficult to conceive of Paris without its ‘Cherets’ (sic).” His success inspired an industry that saw the emergence of a new generation of poster designers and painters such as Charles Gesmar and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. One of his students was Georges de Feure.
In his old age Jules Cheret retired to the pleasant climate of the French Riviera at Nice. He died in 1932 at the age of ninety-six and was interred in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris. He was awarded the Legion d’honneur by the French Government in 1890 for his outstanding contributions to the graphic arts. Although his paintings earned him a certain respect, it was his work creating advertising posters, taken on just to pay his bills but eventually his dedication, for which he is remembered today.
Swiss-born graphic artist Eugène Samuel Grasset was one of the leading figures in the Art Nouveau movement in Paris. Best known for his iconic posters and his contributions to graphic design—an italic typeface he created in 1898 is still used by designers around the world—Grasset also designed furniture, ceramics, tapestries, and postage stamps. In 1894, Grasset was commissioned by the French department store La Belle Jardinière to create twelve original artworks to be used as a calendar. Grasset’s delectable color wood engravings, depicting beautiful young women in seasonal costumes and gardens that change with the seasons, were issued with empty spaces for calendar dates in a fine art portfolio called Les Mois (The Months) by the Paris publisher G. de Malherbe in 1896. Grasset’s impact upon the early formation of the Art Nouveau movement had been vast and both Berthon and Mucha acknowledged him as the single greatest influence upon their art.
Alphonse Mucha was born in 1860 in Ivancice, Moravia, in the modern Czech Republic. He became interested in art at a very young age and when he was 27 years old he traveled to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian. However, after two years study he was out of money. He abandoned school and living above a Cremerie that catered to art students, he sold his drawings to popular magazines. After recovery from a near death illness he shared a studio with Gauguin for a short while after the Frenchman’s first trip to the south seas.
On January 1, 1895, he created a poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s play, Gismonda that became an overnight sensation. Bernhardt signed him to a six year contract to design her posters and sets and costumes for her plays. Because of Mucha’s sensuous curves inspired by natural forms, elaborate ornamental elements and vibrant colors he was associated with the Art Nouveau style of William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement, andhe became quite well known as an Art Nouveau artist. However, he denied the connection.
By 1898, he had moved to a new studio, and had his first one-man show. He begun publishing graphic arts with Champenois, a newly established print firm that was interested to promote his work with postcards and panneaux – sets of four large images around a central theme. Mucha designed the Bosnia-Hercegovina Pavilion
for World’s Fair in Paris in 1900 and he began co collaboration with goldsmith Georges Fouquet crating jewelry based on his designs. He trveled to the US and did several covers and illustrations for a variety of U.S. magazines. In 1909 he began to plan out “The Slav Epic” a series of twenty massive canvasses overing the history of the Slavic people from prehistory to the nineteenth century. In 1919 the first eleven canvases were completed and exhibited in Prague, and in the US. The project was completed in 18 years and he presented it to the city of Prague in 1928. After the Germans invasion of Czechoslovakia Much was one of the first people who was arrested. He returned home after a Gestapo questioning session and died shortly thereafter on July 14, 1939.
Paul Berthon was a very gifted graphic designer, and a pupil of Grasset, who created some of the most elegant Art Nouveau posters of women. Although Berthon died at the age 37, he is considered one the most prominent masters of the ‘La Belle Époque.’ era. He studied as a painter in Villefranche before arriving at Paris in 1893. There he enrolled at the Ecole Normale d’Enseignement de Dessin, where he was taught by Luc-Oliver Merson. However it was his teacher of Decorative Arts, Eugene Grasset, who exerted the greatest artistic influence on the young Berthon.
Berthon’s early lithographs often exhibit his stylistic debt to Grasset. However, as his style matured Berthon began to experiment with the autumnal pastel palette in his Femme de Profil works that date from 1898. These warm colors together with strongly defined lines and patterns in elegant compositions were the characteristics of his mature period. The graphic design portfolio of Paul Berthon includes ninety-four original lithographs, with about sixty of his original lithographs (Femme de Profil included) are what the artist termed, “Panneaux Decoratifs” Unlike most Art Nouveau posters, these posters were meant to stand alone as significant works of art and they were not Adventist anything . These works were influenced by Berthon’s study of Japanese woodcuts and the arts of medieval France.
Henri Privat-Livemont was born in Brussels,Belgium. He is best known for his Art Nouveau posters. From 1883 to 1889, he worked and studied in the studios of Lemaire, Lavastre & Duvignaud. He, with Lemaire, created the decor of the Theatre Francais as well as the Hotel de Ville. He later moved back to Brussels, and worked on theaters and casinos there.
Two brother-in-laws, William Nicholoson (on the right) and James Pryde who were both academic painters expanded the frontiers of Art Nouveau movement in England. They worked together under the pseudo name of Beggarstaff Brothers over the 1894-1899 period, producing bold images with cut out and collage techniques that were much in demand from the new advertising culture. Their early successes in making play posters led to the Beggarstaff Brothers producing a series of woodcuts for the publishers Heinemann. Their minimalist approach using flattened and simplified surfaces, exploited the tension of colors to invite the viewers’ imagination to participate in the reconstruction of the image. Their hand drawn lettering was the integral part of their powerful compositions.
Cigar smoking was caught on the US after the contacts with the native Americans. During the US civil war the smoking surged among the soldiers, as it was the most prevalent way to kill time during various stages of a battle from waiting for the enemy’s move, or taking care of the falling comrades. Generals used to ride into camps to encourage their men and offer a particular soldier a good cigar. The future president Ulysses S. Grant, who was able for the duration of the Civil War to stop drinking, was most often seen with a cigar and because of that he contracted cancer after his Presidency. The men of commerce and industry retired into smoking rooms after dinner to drink, talk, play games and to socialize or discuss business. To finance the civil war in 1863 the US Federal Government mandated all cigar makers to box their cigars with a tax stamp sealed over the lid. A hefty fine was imposed if the seal was broken before the box was sold to the customers. The cigar companies needed to make these blank boxes attractive to their customers, and thus they used various illustrations. In fact, perhaps, the cigar industry is the main pioneer of modern advertising and package design.
With the evolution of the US copyright law in the 19th century the printed cigar box labels became under the protection of federal government, providing incentive for the cigar producers to start on creating a production identity for their products, and to advertise that identity. Of course, the history of American copyright law originated with the introduction of the printing press to England in the late fifteenth century, where as the number of presses grew, authorities sought to control the publication of books by granting printers a near monopoly on publishing in England. The Licensing Act of 1662 confirmed that monopoly and established a register of licensed books to be administered by the Stationers’ Company, a group of printers with the authority to censor publications. The 1662 act lapsed in 1695 leading to a relaxation of government censorship, and in 1710 Parliament enacted the Statute of Anne to address the concerns of English booksellers and printers. The 1710 act established the principles of authors’ ownership of copyright and a fixed term of protection of copyrighted works for fourteen years, and renewable for fourteen more if the author was alive upon expiration. The statute prevented a monopoly on the part of the booksellers and created a “public domain” for literature by limiting terms of copyright and by ensuring that once a work was purchased the copyright owner no longer had control over its use. While the statute did provide for an author’s copyright, the benefit was minimal because in order to be paid for a work an author had to assign it to a bookseller or publisher.
To change the term of copyright protection, to address new technologies, and to broaden the scope of copyright, the English copyright law has been revised in a series of decisions in the United States. For the start, in 1787, the U.S. Constitution had stated that;
“the Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
In the U.S. Copyright Act of 1790, the First Congress implemented the copyright provision of the Constitution, providing protection for the Copies of Maps, Charts, and Books to the Authors and Proprietors of Such Copies. The act was modeled on the English Statute of Anne, and granted American authors the right to print, re-print, or publish their work for a period of fourteen years and to renew for another fourteen. The law was meant to provide an incentive to authors, artists, and scientists to create original works by providing creators with a monopoly. At the same time, the monopoly was limited in order to stimulate creativity and the advancement of “science and the useful arts” through wide public access to works in the “public domain.” In 1831, the law was revised, an the term of protection of copyrighted was extended to twenty-eight years with the possibility of a fourteen-year extension. Congress claimed that it extended the term in order to give American authors the same protection as those in Europe. For the 1834 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Wheaton v. Peters, Justice McLean stated the majority’s view;
That an author, at common law, has a property in his manuscript, and may obtain redress against any one who deprives him of it, or by improperly obtaining a copy endeavours to realise a profit by its publication cannot be doubted; but this is a very different right from that which asserts a perpetual and exclusive property in the future publication of the work, after the author shall have published it to the world.”
The decision struck a decisive blow against the notion of copyright as a perpetual natural right, and the utilitarian view of copyright embodied in the U.S. Constitution prevailed, i.e., “that patents and copyrights are exclusive rights of limited duration, granted in order to serve the public interest in promoting the creation and dissemination of new works.” In 1841 case of Folsom v. Marsh that was brought before the Massachusetts Circuit Court, the court defined a “justifiable use of the original materials” as the basis of the “fair use” doctrine, according to which
“the question of piracy, often depend[s] upon a nice balance of the comparative use made in one of the materials of the other; the nature, extent, and value of the materials thus used; the objects of each work; and the degree to which each writer may be fairly presumed to have resorted to the same common sources of information, or to have exercised the same common diligence in the selection and arrangement of the materials.”
With the evolution of the US copyright law, cigar producers were able to create a protected identity for their products in the form of cigar box labels.
|An early monochromatic cigar box label, in which using an interesting typeface the designer has tried to associate the identity of the brand to the feminine and floral beauty and to the serenity of nature.|
|The early cigar box labels provided a platform for artists to experiment and exhibit their artworks.|
|El Dante is one of the first registered cigar labels, circa 1850s.|
After the invention of photography in 1839, the halftone Photo-lithographic process was invented. Prior to this process, photos and illustrations were reproduced from wooden blocks, and later on stone plates that had to be handmade by skilled woodcutters or engravers. In this way printers could reproduce line drawings, but not the shades of gray in a photograph. The problem persisted with printing presses, because they also cannot print gray — only black and white.
In 1885, Frederic Eugene Ives (1856-1937) invented the “halftone” process, in the Cornell university’s photo lab, which is still used today to reproduce photographs on a printing press. Ives invented a screen that would convert a photograph or drawing into a pattern of tiny dots — large dots forming where the image was dark and tiny dots where the image was light — giving the illusion of shades of gray. By reshooting an original photo through this screen, Ives obtained a halftone — which was then engraved onto a metal plate from which the image could be cheaply and quickly reproduced on paper. In the beginning, printed labels were simple and usually drab in color. But slowly, they started to catch on as a means of product identification.
Ives first grew fascinated with the world of printing when he found a small hand printing-press in his father’s Litchfield, Conn., shop. He became a printer’s apprentice at the Litchfield Enquirer newspaper and was an apprentice at the Ithaca printer Andrus & McChain and another printer in Greene, N.Y., before applying for the position of photographic technician at Cornell. In a 1928 address at a dinner of the Optical Society of America, Ives recalled,
“I was only 18 years old, and [physics] Professor [William Arnold] Anthony seemed to think it was something of a joke for such a kid to undertake the work, but was persuaded to let me try it. I remained nearly four years. . . . I was so much interested in this experimental work that I slept in the laboratory, and worked at all hours, living principally upon crackers and milk. Once, I worked for a period of five days without sleep.”
|In this cigar box label, progressive proofs were developed for its 12 colors, with each requiring a separate stone and press run. Printers applied their technical skills making final adjustments getting final approval for printing.|
|An astonishing number of cigar label designs were created every year, but seldom the original artwork survived, as it was standard practice of printers to destroy the originals as soon as the lithographers had transferred them to stone.|
|An early example of exploitation of woman’s body in advertisement. The artist’s use of typeface is quite imaginative.|
|Artists allowed their imaginations to search for idealized women of beauty, in suggestive poses, or in romantic moods.|
Many artists recorded detailed and valuable sets of images from their socio-cultural environment, and carefully chose a subject matter, encompassing a specific narrative; that could be deciphered from the scene presented; the action’s time and place; the persons involved; and the environment and its details. They depicted politicians, workers, industrialists, farmers, and people doing sports.
|This cigar box label shows a triptych of images under the title ‘Fire Fighters,’ 1898. The image was printed by the American Lithographic Company; it also references ‘F. Heppenheimers Sons NY.’|
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