Wolfsonian associate librarian Nicolae Harsanyi curated the library’s latest installation featuring the graphic artwork of William (“Bill”) Bradley, who has been credited with popularizing Art Nouveau in the United States. The materials are a perfect complement to Modern Dutch Design, a major exhibition in our sixth-floor galleries that highlight the distinctive “Nieuwe Kunst” aesthetic of the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. Here is Dr. Harsanyi’s report:

The library installation focusing on William H. Bradley’s Art Nouveau decorative designs has been open to the public for two months now.

Bradley Installation Library Pan1

Bradley Flat left case detail_18A7274

Bradley Flat right case detail_18A7271

Bradley Library Installation _18A7276

Selecting the items to be displayed was demanding because the decorated materials by Bradley held by our library are numerous. In this blog post, I will present other items that could just as well have gone on public display had there been more space available.

The wall display case of the installation contains a sampling of several poster designs Bill Bradley created for the Ault & Wiborg printing ink company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of them presents a couple dressed in carnival costumes against a background of trees with visible roots, blue being the dominant color in contrast with the whiteness of the paper on which it had been printed. Our library has two other variants of the self-same design, also bearing Bradley’s signature, which advertise two other hues of ink:



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

As the posters commissioned by Ault & Wiborg Co. became popular, in 1901 the company put together a catalog of the posters advertising its typographic inks so the public could order individual copies of the selected posters. This catalog also contained the following poster that Bradley designed in 1895:


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The flourish of the ribbons lends dynamism to the two static figures, and suggests all the movement and slapstick implied by the popular eighteenth-century Italian genre of commedia dell’ arte, from which these characters (Colombina and Pantalone) are drawn.

In 1894, Herbert Stuart Stone commissioned Will Bradley to create seven posters to advertise his new literary magazine The Chap Book. The first poster, often referred to as The Twins, is seen below. Critics complained that if you squinted, Bradley’s design looked like an oddly-shaped red turkey. Nowadays, it is credited as the first American Art Nouveau poster.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The design of two identically drawn women was used on another poster advertising the 1895 Thanksgiving issue of the same magazine. The repetition of the figure in a smaller size overlapping the larger figure gave depth to an image made up of two bi-dimensionally treated elements.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Another poster for The Chap Book was conceived mostly as an interplay between dark colors: blue and black. Bradley situated the female character in a wooded surroundings—the irregular lines of the young trees contrast with the angular and curvilinear treatment of the woman’s dress:


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

As much of Bradley’s work is done in strong black-and-white images, our library holds many depictions which show his mastery of blending Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau features. Usually the thick frames of vegetal motives recall William Morris’s illustrations, while the fluid, organic and undulating lines of the image placed within the center of such frames are characteristic of Art Nouveau. This mixture can be seen in many designs for a variety of works on paper: posters, advertisements, brochures, and periodical covers.






Finally, the additional instances of designs Bradley employed in decorating publishers’ bindings cannot be left out of this blog post (even if they were not selected for the installation):






The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

~ by "The Chief" on April 6, 2017.

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