How Art Nouveau influenced the psychedelic art of the '60s

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/18/how-art-nouveau-influenced-the.html

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I will unfairly give Art Nouveau a pass since it is in a language that is not my native tongue, but I always hate movements or styles that use words that are so generic. like the modernist movement demanding that the next movement be called the post-modern era. newly made things are modern. words have meaning people. argh! don’t get me started on ‘genre’ films. double argh!

as for the style itself I love both Art Nouveau and the sixties style. I only dislike all the superhero fandom of the modern era doing their heroes in the Art Nouveau style like its a clever thing not done to death.

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I am old enough to remember when architecture that is now called “mid-century modern” was called “contemporary.” Indeed the term “Gothic” when applied to cathedrals was originally a disparaging term applied by Renaissance architects.

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The Arts and Craft Movement was a precursor (and partially an influencer) of Art Nouveau.

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I have five 60s posters that I saved since I was a child, and I spent some cash having them restored. A while ago I was dismayed to find that these artist borrowed the images from previous generations, including the most iconic Skeleton and Roses and the 13th floor elevator man. Of course, these images were beyond copyright but they were appropriated without a how do you do.

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Not all languages use the French term. Germany calls it Jugendstil as the first artists to adopt it worked for the magazine Jugend (“Youth”). Just use whatever term you like, as long as people know what you’re talking about.

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The “beyond copyright” makes the “how do you do” not required. As for appropriation, remember, everything is a remix. Something the copyright laws these days is attempting to undermine/destroy.

Rather than being dismayed, you could instead treat it as a learning journey to discover the influences behind the posters you love.

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Okay “influences?” The most iconic image from the 60s, the skeleton and roses poster was “borrowed” from I think either (Albrecht Durer or Dante Alighieri) without any changes, just colorized. Art = theft in your world.

E J Sullivan

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Ah, you’re one of those people who tell me what’s what in my world. Super.

For the record, in my world Art ≠ commodity. Art = freedom. Current copyright laws = theft from the creative commons in order to fill the pockets of big business. Disney lawyers and lobbyists = greed incarnate.

But I’m firmly anti-capitalist, so what does my world matter in the current scheme of things?

If you have a mad or a sad because a poster you loved took from prior art without you knowing, that’s your problem. It was the ’60s, and the counterculture was in full swing. There was a lot of pushback against the establishment; and with luck there’s going to be again soon. If it had been theft as you put it, they would have ended up in court and would have lost.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

So what makes this “stealing”? It’s that instead of just borrowing something for a weak imitation—which just reminds people of the superior original—you change it with your own compelling ideas. When you’ve truly transformed and elevated someone’s idea, an informed audience could look at both works and say yours explores a certain idea better. You “own” that idea now. So you’ve stolen it!

So, was this…

… improved when it was made into this?

Apparently so, if as you say it’s “The most iconic image from the 60s…” instead of just a reminder of E. J. Sullivan’s original (thank you @timd for revealing the original artist).


Edmund Joseph Sullivan (1869–1933), usually known as E. J. Sullivan , was a British book illustrator who worked in a style which merged the British tradition of illustration from the 1860s with aspects of Art Nouveau.

Later books include The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam , first published in 1913 and in many subsequent editions. Here, among many fanciful and beautiful black-and-white drawings, he used images of skeletons and animated pots. One such skeleton image was appropriated by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley for a Grateful Dead poster in 1966, and album cover in 1971.

At that time I’m guessing the copyright laws had yet to be twisted to so heavily favor Mickey Mouse, so they were within the law when they made that artwork. Maybe I’m wrong, IANACL.

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