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Modernist Posters

by Swann Auction Galleries

Platinum House

126 lots with images

May 10, 2004

104 East 25th Street

New York, NY, 10010 USA

Phone: 212.254.4710

Fax: 212 979 1017

Email: swann@swanngalleries.com

THE BEGGARSTAFF BROTHERS, JAMES PRYDE (1866-1941) AND WILLIAM NICHOLSON (1872-19 A TRIP TO CHINATOWN. 1894.

Lot 1: THE BEGGARSTAFF BROTHERS, JAMES PRYDE (1866-1941) AND WILLIAM NICHOLSON (1872-19 A TRIP TO CHINATOWN. 1894.

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Description: 117x89 1/2 inches. Dangerfield Printing Co., London.Condition B+: restoration and repaired tears along vertical and horizontal folds. 6 sheets.Following in the same, Japanese-influenced footsteps of Toulouse-Lautrec, these two young brothers-in-law took tremendous steps in revolutionizing the graphic arts. In spite of the artistic and historical importance of their work their careers were not easy and they constantly struggled with their clients. As a result, their production was very limited and the survival rate of their work even less! Their conceit was to compose striking images using simple paper cutouts which they intended to be turned into posters. In 1894, they exhibited a number of these sketches at the Royal Aquarium, fishing for clients, with no success at all. The story behind this poster is a good indication of the misunderstandings the Beggarstaffs had with their clients. The original design of the Chinaman was sold to advertise a musical comedy, "A Trip to Chinatown" by Charles Hoyt, which opened at Toole's Theatre on September 29, 1894. However, the design was altered by the printer, Dangerfield, who decided to add the chocolate background and the pseudo-Chinese typography. These changes infuriated the Beggarstaffs. Nicholson commented that the overall design was "mutilated by some idiotic imitation of Chinese lettering placed around it to form a border." (The Idler, January 1896). This conflict explains why the poster is unsigned, as the Beggarstaffs refused to put their name on a work they no longer regarded as their own! Regardless of their squabbling it is an impressive image, enormous in size, with the impeccable profile of the Chinese man against an orange background, balanced by a green square in the purest Ukiyo-e tradition. The poster achieved world-wide acclaim, appearing in Les Maitres de l'affiche (1899) and in L'Affiche Etrangeres, it also appears in the catalogue, of Alexandre Henriot's poster exhibition in Reims in 1896 (no. 1357). Even in its own day the poster was considered extremely rare and expensive; in the October 15, 1899, l'Album d'Affiches de la Plume the poster was offered for sale for 20 French francs. By comparisson, in the same catalogue Toulouse-Lautrec's Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret was offered for 3.5 French francs, and Alphonse Mucha's Bieres de la Meuse was available for 5 French francs! Very few copies of this poster are currently known to exist. The Hamburg Kunstgewerbe Muzeum has a copy in their archive, which is pictured in Das Fruhe Plakat. This is the first time this image has appeared at auction. DFP I -16, Reims 1357, Maitres pl. 184.

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CLAUDE FAYETTE BRAGDON (1866-1946) THE CHAP BOOK. Circa 1895.

Lot 2: CLAUDE FAYETTE BRAGDON (1866-1946) THE CHAP BOOK. Circa 1895.

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Description: 21x13 1/2 inches. Stone & Kimball, Chicago.Condition B+: water stains and minor tears in margins; creases and staining in image.Bragdon, like many of the early Art Nouveau artists, was trained as an architect but worked in all the fields of decorative arts. As a graphic designer he contributed to the Rochester Post Express and the Chap Book. In all he designed three posters for the Chap Book magazine, this being the last. We can tentatively date it, as it is listed in the catalogue of Henriot's 1896 exhibition of posters in Reims. Whereas Bragdon's first two posters are very turn-of-the century in style, this one clearly heralds a new era in design, presaging Art Deco by almost 30 years! The allegory of the Juggler with the sun is purely stylized, and with the signs of the Zodiac and the planets in almost atom-like orbits around the central figure. The image belongs to the symbolism and Art Deco visual lexicon that can be seen in Lee Lawrie's monumental statues in Rockefeller Center's. A rare, turning-point piece with a dynamic layout. DFP-I 183, Margolin p. 112, not in Kiehl.

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BRUNO PAUL (1874-1968) KUNST IM HANDWERK. 1901.

Lot 3: BRUNO PAUL (1874-1968) KUNST IM HANDWERK. 1901.

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Description: 34 3/4x23 1/2 inches. Vereinigte Druckereien und Kunstanstalten, Munich.Condition B: restored losses and restoration in margins; repaired tears and creases in image.Born in Berlin, Bruno Paul moved to Munich where he became one of the leaders of the Secession, a member of the 11 Scharfrichter and, from as early as 1896, a regular contributor of drawings to Simplicissimus. In addition to being a graphic designer he also worked as an architect and a decorator and, in 1897, was the founder of the United Studios for Arts and Crafts, a position from which he was chosen to design this poster. Like most German exhibition posters this image is symbolic and allegorical, but Paul takes a superb modern approach. The two elegant birds, formed from flat colors against a monochromatic background and within a similarly colored frame are one of the most brilliant examples of German Jugendstil poster design-a classic example of the artist's reaction to the realist / academic treatment and vision of other contemporary graphic designers. DFP III 2514, Weill no. 162, p. 97, Schindler no. 8, p. 100.

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JOHAN THORN PRIKKER (1868-1932) HOLLANDISCHE KUNSTAUSTELLUNG / KREFELD. 1903.

Lot 4: JOHAN THORN PRIKKER (1868-1932) HOLLANDISCHE KUNSTAUSTELLUNG / KREFELD. 1903.

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Description: 33 1/2x47 1/2 inches. S. Lankhout, Haag.Condition B+: restored losses, repaired tears, creases and abrasions in margins; tear in right margin.A graduate of the Academy of Fine arts in The Hague, Thorn Prikker went on to become an artist in many fields, including painting, stained glass and mosaics. In 1903 he moved to Germany where he began teaching at the art school in Krefeld. These three, extremely rare posters were commissioned by Friedrich Deneken, the director of Krefeld's Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, as part of a collaborative relationship with Thorn Prikker. This is the most famous of the three posters, consistently exhibited as a classic example of Dutch Art Nouveau style. It "demonstrates the restraint and symmetry manifested by the Art Nouveau style as adapted in Holland. The juxtaposition of positive and negative, dark and light versions of the same interlaced patterns is allied with a similar succession found in Celtic manuscript borders. The tulip-like floral forms, appropriate to the Netherlands, are combined with shapes related to the decorations on the batik, or wax-resist, textiles of Java.. . In the sidewise green "L" with orange circles is a reflection of a conventional arrangement in the Book of Kells. While the colors in the poster are as brilliant as Gaudi's stained glass panels in Barcelona, they are confined within a framework as rectilinear as the designs of Mackintosh in Glasgow. Prikker's poster embodies the reasoned Dutch approach to Art Nouveau, harmonizing exotic Javanese allusion with medieval decorative tradition, tempering severity with sensibility."(http://www.nelson-atkins.org/collections/printdrawphoto/detail/dutchartexhib.htm) In "A Century of Posters," where the image is reproduced, the authors Martin LeCoultre and Purvis point out that "this copy of the posters was donated by the artist [to a Dutch institution] and therefore is the original version. Later printings lack the background color." This does not sound logical. We can strongly doubt that there was more than one printing for such a short event. Due to the lithographic process we are much more inclined to say that Thorn Prikker tried a different background color at the end of the printing process that was not used on the posters put into circulation. All the other copies known are similar to the one offered here. Dutch Poster p. 97, Modern Poster p. 68, Plakat Kunst p. 52, Century p. 182.

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NIEDERRHEINISCHES KUNSTERLFEST / KREFELD. 1905.

Lot 5: NIEDERRHEINISCHES KUNSTERLFEST / KREFELD. 1905.

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Description: 29 3/4x35 1/4 inches. Kleinson, Krefeld.Condition B+: restored losses in margins; expertly repaired tears in margins and image.For this festival for artists from along the lower Rhine, Thorn Prikker uses the same construction he did for his Hollandische Kunstausstellung: A frieze of decorative motifs at the top and bottom with a central horizontal stripe in the middle for the text. The motif itself is an intriguing, repeating pattern of what mysteriously could be eyes, bird heads, fish or even tulips. The striking image is composed of only two colors and the color of the paper itself, and would have been printed in fewer numbers than the previous poster, as the event only lasted for three days.

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