Comic Art Friday: Art for nouveau’s sake

Poster featuring Sarah Bernhardt, by Alphonse Mucha

Although I collect original comic art exclusively — and that within a fairly specific range — I appreciate many different styles and genres of art.

Since the days when I struggled through an introductory fine arts course in college, I’ve enjoyed master painters and their work. Among the immortals whose creations resonate with me: Titian (his Venus of Urbino is probably my favorite painting of all time), Giorgione, Veronese, Rubens, Vermeer, Renoir, Boucher, Frederic Leighton, Tissot, Albert Joseph Moore… well, there are others, but my typing finger cramped. I’m also a fan of great pinup artists, from Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas to Olivia De Berardinis and Dave Stevens. I even love gawking at unusual architecture — anything from Frank Lloyd Wright to Antonio Gaudi to the Las Vegas Strip.

The one artist outside the comics realm whose work I always carry with me is Alphonse Mucha, the Czech painter and printmaker whose distinctive style defined what came to be called Art Nouveau. Mucha first came to fame in the 1890s when he created a series of advertising posters featuring actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was to 19th century Paris what Meryl Streep is to modern Hollywood. Mucha’s unparalleled design sensibility inspired a host of homages and imitations. Even today, more than 70 years after his death, artists are still trying to recreate the Mucha magic.

I have an app on my iPhone that displays Mucha’s complete works at the tap of a finger. I tap often.

Isis, pencils and inks by comics artist Sanya Anwar

Earlier this year at Big Wow ComicFest, the Pirate Queen and I stopped by the booth of a Canadian cartoonist named Sanya Anwar. (People often are taken aback by the word “cartoonist,” thinking it refers only to those who draw humorous strips or panels. In fact, a cartoonist is simply a comics creator who both writes and draws. The term is equally applicable to such diverse talents as Charles Schulz, Will Eisner, Charles Addams, Jack Kirby, Art Spiegelman, and the aforementioned Dave Stevens.) Sanya’s signature project is a self-published comic entitled 1001, a reimagined twist on the classic Arabian Nights.

I was particularly impressed with a series of posters Sanya created using an Art Nouveau approach reminiscent of Mucha. I took her business card and made a mental note to contact her about a commission. Fast forward to today, and you see the result above.

Isis seemed like a perfect choice for Sanya’s commission project, given her visual and cultural sensibility. Also, since I so admired Sanya’s Muchaesque “Silk Road” posters, I asked her to create a piece with a similar flavor. The combination of character, artist, and style melded perfectly.

Comics and Art Nouveau are like a graphical Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: Two great tastes that taste great together.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Explore posts in the same categories: Comic Art Friday, Hero of the Day, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

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