GRAPH BOOKS: PRINTED MATTER FROM RADICAL ART AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. FEMINIST HISTORIANS OF MATERIAL CULTURE.
L’Art Décoratif pour Tous.
Léon Ruffe, Ed, 1902-1904
Ruffe, Léon, ed. L’Art Décoratif pour Tous. Nos. 1-17, 19-42; Nos. 2-12 (Nouvelle Série). Paris: Samuel Sigismond Schwarz, 1902-1903 [First and Second Series]; Hostingue & Blum, 1903-1904 [“Nouvelle Série”]. Together with L’Art Décoratif pour Tous. Nos. 1-41; Nos. 1-12 (Nouvelle Série). Paris: Samuel Sigismond Schwarz, 1902-1903 [First and Second Series]; Hostingue & Blum, 1903-1904 [“Nouvelle Série”].
Two fine and near complete runs (together containing every issue and plate) of the rare Art Nouveau decorative arts journal, illustrated with more than 130 full-page chromolithographic and pochoir plates. The publisher, Samuel Sigismund Schwarz, was best known for the anarchist-leaning satirical weekly L’Assiette au Beurre. As the title L’Art Decoratif pour Tous suggests, the magazine was sympathetic to the same political philosophies of social transformation, in this case through art and design.
A stylish example of Art Nouveau printing, L’Art Decoratif was part of a larger movement to synthesize the fine and applied arts; encourage the craftsmanship of French artisans while embracing industrial arts and modern technologies; and revolutionize society through popular access to culture. “[L]e devoir esthétique se confond avec l’ordre moral, qui est de propager la vie, puisque la Beauté en exalte les forces et les perpétue.”
The editor, Léon Ruffe, was an engraver whose artistic direction of the deluxe woodblock monthly, L’image (1896-97), was recognized with a medal at the Paris 1900 Exposition Universelle. Ruffe brought this fine press sensibility to L’Art Decoratif and its documentation of Art Nouveau tendencies in everyday objects (“objets usuels”) of middle- and working-class life: architecture, wallpaper, textiles, glass, metalwork, typography, book design, lighting, furniture, leather, ceramics, tiles, menus, and more. Emphasizing the democratization of art and beautiful design, the serial offered special editions of furniture and lighting, and provided designs and instructions for amateur crafters and householders in a section called “L’Atelier de l’amateur.” The eye-catching color plates were proposed to subscribers as a series of collectible posters for the popular print album format or for home decoration.
When Schwarz went bankrupt in 1903 the magazines were sold; L’Art Decoratif and L’image resumed publication under the imprint of René Blum (co-editor of the satirical Gil Blas and brother of Léon Blum, the first Socialist Prime Minister of France).
Well-known names from the Art Nouveau and Jugendstil movements and Les Maîtres de l’Affiche were frequent contributors, including Roger Marx, Paul Follot, Peter Behrens, Jules Rais, Pierre Selmersheim, Armand van Waesberghe, Henri Bellery-Desfontainer, Georges de Feure, and Edouard Beneditus. Typography, graphics, and plates attributed to Adolphe Cossard, Emile Jammes, Henry de Waroquier, and the Mucha student, printmaker Vojtěch Preissig (later a famed Czech Resistance publisher murdered by Nazis at Dachau).
Scarce. One near complete run held by the Met, three incomplete sets identified at Bard, Northwestern, and the BNF. The present examples, loose and bound, satisfy needs for both exhibition and research.
1) Folio (varies, approx. 35 cm), 52 of 54 issues, 12-24 pp., most 16 pp.; profusely illustrated with b/w reproductions of original artwork, photography, and designs, and 130+ large color plates. Weekly with intermittent supplements until no. 22, then biweekly with 4 color plates in each issue (including wrappers). Lacking no. 18 (1902) and no. 1 (1903); no. 4 (1903) front wrapper present only. Color pictorial stapled wrappers, rear wrap with adverts for Bing, L’Assiette au Beurre, etc. Housed in three custom-made cloth-and-decorative board folders, the trio housed together in a matching clamshell case.
2) 2 vols., 53 of 54 issues, profusely illustrated with b/w reproductions of original artwork, photography, and designs, and 130+ large color plates. Weekly with intermittent supplements until no. 22, then biweekly with 4 color plates in each issue (including wrappers). Lacking no. 42 (1903) and supplemental pl. no. 8 from Nouvelle Serie, No. 8. Orig. color pictorial wrappers bound in to contemporary half calf and marbled paper boards, gilt title to spine with ex-libris initials “J.M.” Boards rubbed, a few supplemental plates from the Nouvelle Serie loose and worn at edges.