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"The Chap-Book"


William H. Bradley

Les Maîtres de l'Affiche, Plate 136.

“Being A MISCELLANY of Curious and Interesting Songs, Ballads, Tales, Histories...” so announced The Chap-Book, for whom William H. Bradley designed numerous covers. The Chap-Book was a short-lived but influential literary magazine, published in Chicago by Herbert S. Stone and Hannibal Ingalls Kimball. The company used The Chap-Book as an innovative means of promoting their authors before it dissolved in 1897.

Specializing in European “decadents,” the journal became famous for its avant-garde illustrations. The publishers took advantage of the popularity of these illustrations and soon began to commission limited edition posters to advertise the magazine, following the trend of Harper’s Magazine, which was the first American magazine to issue posters. Collecting posters had been popular in France for over a decade. The Chap-Book’s daring illustrations included work from celebrated artists such as Felix Vallotton, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Bradley himself most certainly helped the cause in America. These illustrations were some of America’s first introductions to Art Nouveau.

This illustration uses the sinuous lines of Art Nouveau with an American twist. Bradley expertly renders the foliage surrounding the two figures. The dense curves of plant life creates a nest, a sanctuary for two lovers hidden far off from the prying eyes of the outside world. Behind them, a thick wall of trees further insulates the couple from the world, and breaks up the space to create a visually interesting pattern. The man wears a black garment, defined with white lines, counterposing the woman next to him who is completely white, her form sparingly drawn with a few black lines. The simplified manner in which Bradley draws her makes her the focal point of the composition. She is a calm island for the eye amongst a sea of dense, busy forms.



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