japonisme: plakatstil & hand-lettering

21 February 2008

plakatstil & hand-lettering







in order to understand the evolution of japonisme into what was called plakatstil in germany (and which occurred, as a look, mainly in germany, england, and the united states), we need not think image, we need to think calligraphy.

we have seen the numerous art nouveau lettering styles that so closely imitated the japanese brush-made letters. the important thing was that, in the flurry of the industrial age, this stress on hand-lettering.

one of the first to take the hand- lettering beyond the purely japanese- brush look was toulouse- lautrec. his hand-lettering is a bit awkward at times (look at the 'd' in aristide's name) but always quite charming, and maintains the feel of the japanese calligraphy. there is just nothing hard-edged about it. an itc font has been created to honor it, and you've been looking at it at the top of this page for a year and a half now; it's called 'le petit trottin' after a sketch lautrec made of a trottin, a shop-girl.

note also in the lautrec posters the blocks of color, the flat surfaces, diagonal structures, and the asymmetry in their layouts -- all things we have compared with japanese prints in the past.



the next steps the hand- drawn characters took were to still less stylized but no less charming forms. credited as leading this movement were the beggarstaff brothers (the name william nicholson and james pryde took to do commercial work so as nobody would think they were not serious artistes).

while they still borrowed many of the design elements of the japanese prints, they took the lettering to its next step.





and following closely on their tails were edward penfield in the us, and the artists of plakatstil: german advertising posters which are said to have revolutionized advertising (while still richly inspired by the japanese).


among these were lucian bernhard (the instigator), ludwig hohlstein, paul schuerich, emil paul rumpf, julius gipkens, and many more. note additionally, of course, the use of outline, blocks of color, simplicity and solitary focus, and the diagonal lines of their inspiration.

otto heim codified the wonderful fonts, and in our own time, nick curtis has reinvigorated them. to me, they are the most charming fonts available.



why did the rest of europe never adopt this lettering? i'll let you know when i find out.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous theorist said...

Fascinating!

22 February, 2008 18:02  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks so much, rachel! it will continue. i emailed nick curtis with an invite to comment, but i'm not even sure i got the right email address.

22 February, 2008 21:37  
Blogger ClavdiaChauchat said...

Thanks so much for stopping by my site! I really love the images and commentary you provide here, especially as I seem to always learn something new.

Also, you're a wealth of great photographs! The Bellocq images are ones I've seen and always had trouble tracking down.

23 February, 2008 11:17  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i spent d a y s searching for those!

and thanks! yeah--i learn new stuff every day too--there's so much out there....

23 February, 2008 12:29  
Blogger Roxana Ghita said...

and I had wondered about the font too :-) I liked it so much in your header, the fluid and joyous and light-hearted letters! thank you again Lily!

23 February, 2008 14:46  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you so much! (oh no--i just almost called you roxie! what do i call you?)

can you believe i have been using that font for over a decade and never looked up its source before!

the original inspiration is here.

24 February, 2008 09:12  
Anonymous Tia O'Connor said...

You will find lots of images and inspiration in Ken Russel's "Valentino" - brilliant costumes and interior design.

24 February, 2008 23:17  
Blogger Jacob Russell said...

Russell's (Ken, not Jacob... so you won't be confused ) Women in Love (his wife was responsible for design and costume)... Klimpt. Nice thing about Russell, he quotes his sources. Glenda Jackson sitting on a bed, dressed in a Klimpt gown... over her shoulder, a reproduction of the painting.

28 February, 2008 17:41  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you tia and jacob--looks like its time to hit the library dvd section and have a russell (ken, not jacob) weekend.

28 February, 2008 19:08  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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