Yesterday’s post got me thinking generally about famous illustrators, which of course led me down another tangent. There is a longstanding tradition of artists applying their talents to commercial projects that I, as a consumer, really appreciate. It’s pretty cool to be shopping or leafing through a magazine and see a famous artist’s work.
As far as I can tell, the tradition really became popular during the Art Nouveau era. Even though Art Nouveau was a fantastical, elaborate style, it was a strangely practical movement. The style infiltrated utilitarian objects such as writing implements, furniture, and of course the original Paris Metro signs. Artists not only worked on sketches and paintings, but lent their skills to restaurant menus, liquor advertisements, and theater posters. Even the most famous of all Art Nouveau artists, Alphonse Mucha, did this. In fact, his Absinthe Robette poster is one of his most well known works. If you’re incredibly wealthy and looking for something more tangible of Mucha’s, he also tried his hand at designing jewelry. The pieces are marked his characteristic details of winding natural elements.
Speaking of jewelry, one of my favorite examples of an artistic crossover comes from a Van Cleef and Arpels advertisement. I could rattle on for a very long time about how Van Cleef and Arpels wares are themselves art in its highest form, but it would take a very long time. One of the house’s most iconic ads was done by fantasy illustrator Adrienne Segur. I love the ad because it’s design manages not to take away from either the artist’s work or the jewelry itself.
Other times, the fashion world collides with the art world the other way around. Iconic art deco designer Paul Poiret (the subject of an awesome show at the Met a few years ago, by the way), actually produced a small collection of art prints.
Both the art and fashion world were all atwitter when Ruben Toledo, one of the most well known fashion illustrators, collaborated on book covers for three tried and true classics: Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, and Wuthering Heights. The highly glamorized books surely got some people who wouldn’t normally read the old stuff to crack them open.
Commercial artistic collaborations not only give the average fan a chance to keep a piece of their favorite artist’s work, but they greatly increase the visibility of the artists themselves. I’m also grateful for the chance to get a shot of art in my books and fashion magazines, which are, after all, much cheaper than travel fare to a major museum.