Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Golden Age of Illustration

Writing this blog has led me to realise that I'm a keen fan of illustrative art, especially that from a period known as The Golden Age of Illustration (1880s to 1920s). Astrologically, that Golden Age coincides with a period of time when the outer planets were at points in their slow cycles above, strangely appropriate to what was going on below.

Development of technology capable of good and economical colour reproduction launched illustrative art into the mainstream. In 1880 Uranus (technology and invention)was in Virgo, ruled by Mercury(planet of communication). Pluto and Neptune were both in Taurus ruled by Venus(planet of art and beauty). It could be said that the seeds of a relatively new industry fell upon fertile ground.

By 1900 Pluto (transformation) and Neptune(imagination) had moved on into Gemini, ruled by Mercury(communication). The generation born then brought us some exceptional communicators, in both art and writing. Uranus was now in Sagittarius ruled by Jupiter (expansion and publishing). The pieces fit.

By 1920 Uranus was traversing its own sign of Aquarius(revolution and all that's new) maintaining an atmosphere in which people craved novelty and the work of this new breed of artists. A revolution had quietly taken place. Colourful prints to hang in the home, book and magazine illustrations, postcards, illustrated advertisements and posters created rapidly growing commercial demand, both in Europe and America.

In Europe artists such as Alphonse Mucha and Toulouse Lautrec had led the way. In the USA Howard Pyle is credited with ushering in the Golden Age. His many pupils, and others inspired by them, helped it flourish - Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, and J.C. Leyendecker, among the best known.

"Ecstasy" by Maxfield Parrish

From Norman Rockwell's "The Four Freedoms"

J.C. Leyendecker

(Small illustration at top of blog entry is 'Neptune's Horses' by British illustrator, Walter Crane)

I've written in past months about comic strips and cartoons, and more

children's book illustrators
Aubrey Beardsley,
Beatrix Potter,
Alphonse Mucha
without fully realising that all these do come under the same general heading of illustrative art. I've frequently included Norman Rockwell illustrations, too, because his work has a special appeal.

The digital age has now changed the scene for illustrators, almost beyond recognition. We may never again see the talent and skills of Rockwell, Parrish and Leyendecker - that is all the more reason to appreciate them. I can't resist adding another Maxfield Parrish here - "Stars". I must get me a print of this one!


mrslilypond said...

you are featuring some of my favorite artists (even though some may claim illustration isn't art, I must disagree)

Great (Aquarian) minds must think alike?

Twilight said...

So we must! I'm glad.

I look on illustration as art with a capital A. No doubt about it in my mind.

I'm in awe of the skills of these artists - and the amount of work they turned out, all of such exceptional quality. :-)