Section One

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Robert Blum’s Great Decorative Painting in January Scribner’s
Robert Blum
William Sergeant Kendall, 1895

In 1893, when a young art editor at Harper’s designed a poster in the decorative style of the European poster craze to announce an upcoming issue, the results launched a competition for stylish magazine advertising in America. William Sergeant Kendall made three monthly placards for Scribner’s, including this January 1895 image of the painter Robert Blum. Kendall’s use of an angled viewpoint and heavy, dark contours suggests the influence of Japanese prints.

The effect was noted by a contemporary critic, who wrote in 1895 that Kendall’s portraits were “a telegraph utterance, short, nervous, incisive, spoken with a dash and go which seem to imply ‘I have not time to linger on the curves of those lips, on the turn of that eyebrow, and neither do you. . . . I have uttered the essential thought; you may fill in the rest.’” Instead of using the magazine’s masthead, Kendall hand-lettered the text himself, balancing the off-center composition.