In a few weeks what looks like a great show will open at the Grolier Club.
At the Grolier Club February 20–April 27, 2013
The long smouldering passion of revolt at conservatism in English art and literature . . . resulted in a bilious explosion, the Yellow Book. . . . The seed fell, as British seed usually does, on America; it grew, and began to flourish. . . . Strangely fashioned periodicals, preaching fantastic doctrines, uttering weird thoughts, began to appear like mushrooms after a shower.
— Percival Pollard, “In Eighteen Ninety-five,” Echo, 15 August 1895, 8.
The 1890s witnessed the birth of the little magazine, a form associated with emerging modern art movements and alternative social and cultural trends. While the movement originated in Europe with magazines such as the Yellow Book, Le Chat Noir, and Jugend, it flourished, as Pollard notes, particularly in America. Here, in just a few short years, hundreds of “freak magazines,” dinkeys,” “ephemerals,” or “fadazines,” as they were variously called, emerged all over the country. Though they have tended to be overshadowed by their European counterparts, the American little magazines were a prolific and culturally important print phenomenon – a fad that exerted its influence on old and young, in town and country, and on professional and amateur writers, artists, and pundits across the nation.
In February, the Grolier Club will open “American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print,” an exhibition which will bring viewers into the world of these magazines, and explore the role they played in the aesthetic and cultural revolts of the fin de siècle. Curated by Dr. Kirsten MacLeod, the items on show will illustrate the relationship of these little magazines to the rise of mass-market periodicals; the Arts and Crafts movement and the work of William Morris; Decadence and Symbolism; and the transatlantic poster revolution that brought fame to artists including Aubrey Beardsley, Toulouse-Lautrec, Will Bradley, and Ethel Reed. While it focuses on the aesthetics of these magazines, the exhibition will also highlight their connection to the era’s major literary, cultural, and social fads and trends, including crazes for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the “poster girl,” and for bicycling; feminism and the New Woman controversy; the New and Free Thought movements; Tolstoyan socialism; Utopian communities; and health and diet enthusiasms.
The 150 items on view in American Little Magazines of the 1890s will represent the crème-de-la-crème of little magazines – aesthetically beautiful productions including Bradley, His Book, the Lark, the Chap-Book, the Bibelot, M’lle New York, and Echo – shown, for comparative purposes, alongside European counterparts, such as the Yellow Book, and examples of the emerging cheap mass-market periodicals. Materials will be drawn from institutions such as Columbia, Princeton, the Delaware Art Museum, The Grolier Club, and from private collections.
The exhibition will extend beyond the most familiar American little magazines to encompass a variety of rare and unexpected titles in order to provide a sense of the breadth of the fad, its influence, and the various uses to which such publications were put. Among these are the productions of amateur printers and publishers, collegiate magazines, parodies and satires of little magazines, little magazines devoted to health, esoteric religions, food and diet, cycling, and medical fads. In addition to the little magazines themselves, the exhibition will feature arresting advertising posters, publications of the presses that issued little magazines, and relevant photographs, manuscripts, and ephemera.
LOCATION AND TIME: “American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print will” be on view at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, from February 20-April 27, 2013. The exhibit will be open to the public free of charge, Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Feb. 18, when the Club will be closed. Additional information and directions are available at http://www.grolierclub.org.
CATALOGUE: A fully-illustrated catalog of “American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print” will be available at the Grolier Club.