japonisme: hohenstein: father of the italian poster

31 January 2007

hohenstein: father of the italian poster

The rise of the Italian poster is intimately tied to the opera, the only national cultural institution in Italy at the turn of the century. Ricordi, the music publisher of Verdi and Puccini, decided in 1874 to create an in-house printing operation to promote its music. It began by installing the most advanced German lithographic presses and hiring a brilliant German Art Nouveau master, Adolfo Hohenstein, to train a staff of Italian artists.

Though born in Russia of German parents, Hohenstein (1854-1928) understood the Italian spirit so thoroughly that he is often called the "Father of the Italian Poster." Hohenstein’s charming La Boheme of 1895 was his first great Italian opera poster. It revealed the artist’s absorption of French poster art, particularly Cheret, in its playful and carefree depiction of Bohemian life in Paris. Yet in its classically rich color harmonies and use of strong diagonals to build dramatic impact [ital mine], the poster showed traits which would increasingly distinguish Italian poster art from other national traditions.1

Adolfo Hohenstein was a set designer at La Scala before being engaged by the Ricordi Publishing company in 1889 as a poster and frontispiece designer. His Edgar [not found] poster was his first known work in that capacity. Opera was a national past time in Italy and Ricordi published hundreds of opera-themed postcards that the public collected and mailed with fervor. The best of their efforts were postcards from the designs of Hohenstein and Metlicovitz. The La Bohème set, attributed to Hohenstein, no doubt coincided with the premiere of Puccini's piece. One of his other postcard sets is of Mascagni's neglected masterpiece, Iris. 2

Ricordi opened an in-house lithography shop to promote its operas and sheet music business. Ricordi quickly became the leading lithographer in Italy and by 1895 was creating posters for other clients such as Campari, the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, and the Mele Department store of Naples. Under the tutelage of Adolfo Hohenstein, a brilliant stable of artists emerged at Ricordi. Artists including Cappiello, Caldanzano, Cavaleri, Dudovich, Laskoff, Metlicovitz and Mataloni brought Art Nouveau, known as Stile Liberty in Italy, to a world class level.3,4

(i know these little stories contradict each other and are not somehow chronological, but this is how legend is built, i'm finding. only occasionally am i willing to come up with an official version all on my own. all of the artwork is by hohenstein except for the giulio marchetti, which is by leopoldo metlicovitz, an obvious student of the master.)

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Blogger Imagemuse said...

Hi, I'm glad you left a comment on my Dior blog post - your blogger name reminded me to load my lotus and waterlily flower pics onto my flickr account (check them out at http://www.flickr.com/photos/essaouiraetc )- I to love Japonisme and Art Nouveau :)

31 January, 2007 21:25  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, thank you too for what you do. after seeing your blog yesterday, i thought you might be interested in these:



02 February, 2007 13:50  

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