When art nouveau arrived in Germany it was also called Jugendstil (Youth Style) after a new magazine, Jugend (Youth). German Art nouveau had strong British and French influences and retained strong links to traditional academic art as well. The Germans had interest in medieval letterforms and it was continued side by side with art nouveau motifs. During the Jugend’s first year its circulation climbed to 30 000 copies per week and the magazine soon attracted the readership of 200 000 per week. Art nouveau ornaments and illustrations were virtually on every editorial page. Full double page illustrations, horizontal illustrations across the top page and decorative art nouveau designs brought rich variety to a format that was about half visual material and half text. One unprecedented editorial policy was to allow each weeks cover designer to design a masthead to go with the cover design.
Peter Behrens’s along with Otto Eckmann became widely known for large multicolor wood block prints inspired by French art nouveau and Japanese prints. In addition to five color illustrations and numerous decorative borders for Jugend, Eckmann designed Jewelry, objects, furniture, woman’s fashion and typefaces, one of which he called Eckmannschirft. Eckmann also explored the application of Jugendstil ornament to the graphic design and product needs of industry.
Otto Eckmann, Jugend cover, 1896.Jugendstil graphics often blended curvilinear stylization with traditional realism.
The Klingspor Foundry was the first German type foundry to commission new fonts from artists. When they founded Eckmannschrift in 1900 it thrust this small regional foundry into international prominence. Drawn with a brush instead of a pen, Eckmannschrift was a conscious attempt to revitalize typography by combining medieval with roman.
Peter Behrens experimented with ornaments and vignettes of abstract design. The primary German contribution was not Jugendstil, but the innovations that developed in reaction to it after the turn of the century. Architects and designers, including Peter Behrens, became influenced by ideals of the Art and Crafts movement rid of its medieval affections. Designers moved rapidly from the floral phase of art nouveau towards a more geometric and objective approach. This accompanied a shift from swirling organic line and form to a geometric ordering of space.
Peter Behrens, The Kiss, 1898.This six-color woodcut, controversial for its androgynous imagery,
was first reproduced in Pan magazine.
Italy was not influenced that much by Art nouveau. Italian posters were characterized by sensuous, exuberance and elegance rivaling that of the “Age of Beauty” in France. The Milan Firm of Gilulio Ricordi, previously known for publishing opera librettos, produced most of the masterpieces of Italian poster design. The director, Adolfo Hohenstein, was seen as the father of poster design in Italy, just as Grasset was the father of poster design in Paris. Working under him was the best poster artists including Leopoldo Metlicovitz , Giovanni Mataloni and Marcello Dudovich.
Marcello was an eclectic designer who eventually arrived at a unique colorful style. He preferred elegant subjects presented it in flat areas of color. He was a popular designer for the fashionable Mele department store in Naples.
Herbert Read once suggested that the life of any art movement is like that of a flower. A full bloom follows a mere budding in the hands of a small number of innovators. Then the process of decay begins as the influence becomes defused and distorted in the hands of imitators who understand merely the stylistic manifestations of the movement and not the motivations that drive it.
After the turn of the century this was the fate of art nouveau. Early art nouveau objects and furniture became one of a kind but then it fell victim to mass production. These items weren’t collectable items anymore. It was just another set of furniture or another painting. There was nothing unique to it. Lesser talents copied the style while many innovators moved on in different directions and art nouveau slowly declined and vanished in the ashes of World War 1.