Monday, June 22, 2015

Jan Thorn Prikker, The Bride

Jan Thorn Prikker, The Bride, 1893
57.5 x 34.6 in.

Jan (Johan) Thorn Prikker (1868-1932) was a Dutch painter and printmaker and a pioneer of Art Nouveau.  Prikker attended the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, where he became the director of the art gallery.  He moved to Germany in 1904 to help found a new school of arts and crafts.  A major part of Art Nouveau philosophy was the incorporation of decorative arts into the fine arts. Prikker's work included landscapes as well as decorative pieces such as textiles and stained glass.  Much of his work had religious themes and he had a very unusual figurative style.  The Bride is fairly abstracted; while we can certainly make out recognizable shapes (flowers, columns, etc.), there is no clear narrative, and the bride herself is difficult to discern. Instead, Prikker shows a veil, beautifully draped in this somewhat surreal setting.  In addition to elements like the style of flowers, what makes this painting so distinctly Art Nouveau is the relationship of line and color. With the thick black outline, the piece bears a resemblance to stained glass, and the pale colors also suggest a kind of translucence.  Art Nouveau was also about the integration of natural and unnatural forms, an impulse brought on by the machine age. Here, Prikker seamlessly combines flowers and vines with columns and candles to create an ambiguous space the evokes both indoor and outdoor, natural and constructed.

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