Poster, The Chap-Book (Blue Lady), August 1894
This is a poster. It was designed by William Henry Bradley and published by Stone & Kimball. It is dated August 1894 and we acquired it in 2003. Its medium is color zincograph on thin cream wove paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.
William H. Bradley executed a number of designs as promotional pieces for The Chap-Book, his Chicago-based publication considered to be the American public’s introduction to art nouveau style and the British Arts and Crafts movement. Unlike his contemporary, Louis Rhead, whose influences were predominately French, Bradley looked to England. He was especially influenced by Aubrey Beardsley’s sophisticated illustrations for the The Yellow Book, a journal of art and literature that caused great scandal in London when first published in April 1894. Like Beardsley, Bradley relied on breaking the compositional rectangle into a series of dominant and subdominant lines, filling in areas with flat expanses of one or two colors.
Bradley’s second Chap-Book poster, also known as The Blue Lady, demonstrates the link between the British Arts and Crafts movement and the American adaptation of that aesthetic in graphic design. The influence of the Beardsley on Bradley is evident in this poster. Like Beardsley, Bradley relies on the stark use of the silhouette for dramatic effect, balancing the flat blue and black areas of the woman’s coat and patterned dress with a careful arrangement of thin branches. The dramatic slash of white across the top creates a connection between the frozen lake and the woman’s haughty profile, while the skates, dangling vertically at her side, break up the expanse of blue. Throughout the poster, Bradley creates a brittle effect by outlining the shapes with white, allowing the color of the paper to function effectively as a design element. The use of vermilion for the lettering has a startling effect against the moonlit scene.
The posters from this period by Bradley, Rhead, and Edward Penfield, among others, were not intended to be affixed to walls, billboards, or outdoor displays as were their French counterparts. They were instead intended as advertisements sent from the publisher directly to bookstores and book dealers, where they often were sold to poster collectors or favorite customers. Many of these posters were printed in limited editions by the publishers, signed by the artists, and marketed as "fine art.”
This poster would be the first example of Bradley’s poster design in the museum’s graphic design collection. The museum currently holds many examples of his cover designs from Collier’s Weekly (for which Bradley served as art editor from 1907–10), Scribner’s Magazine, and Harper’s. This poster also complements other objects in the museum’s collection that demonstrate the influence of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, including Rookwood Pottery, wallcoverings by Morris & Co. (notably, the Pimpernel and Persian designs), and woven textiles by Morris & Co. (Tulip and Rose from 1876 being a particularly fine example). Three of Beardsley’s art illustrations are also held by the museum at the time of this proposed acquisition.
May 14, 2003
This object was
Thomas G. Boss Fine Books.
It is credited
Museum purchase through gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman and Ely Jacques Kahn.
Its dimensions are
H x W: 50.5 × 35.2 cm (19 7/8 × 13 7/8 in.)
It is signed
in stone lower right: BRADLEY
Cite this object as
Poster, The Chap-Book (Blue Lady), August 1894. color zincograph on thin cream wove paper. Museum purchase through gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman and Ely Jacques Kahn. 2003-6-1.