Mike Kelly – Feb/15/2019
An Imaginary Interview with Hans Christiansen
Q – Good day. My name I Michael Kelly and I am seated here with German artist and designer Hans Christiansen, not to be confused with the English author. The piece we will be covering today, no pun intended, is your cover for the prolific, Munich-based art journal Jugend, Mr. Christiansen. What can you tell me about it?
A – Good day, Mr. Kelly. I am glad to be here today to tell you about the cover I produced for George Hirth, the founder of the magazine. I decided to name the cover Andromeda, after the Greek Myth where she is saved by the heroic Perseus from a terrible sea serpent, but instead of including the male hero, I focused on the princess’s legendary beauty, using it to bend the serpent to her will. The flames which both spell out the journal’s title and surround her and her pet is a display of this power, the power of the female body.
Q – Can you tell me why you decided to go with the serpent and flames, along with the very warm colour palette of yours? When I look at many of your contemporaries, and even some of your other work, you share the motif of the beautiful woman, but not the flowers and natural settings, which is atypical of this movement becoming known as Jugendstil, or “Youth Style,” for our other readers. Can you explain that?
A – Honestly, this is an era to explore what has not been explored as much. This movement is not limited to those motifs. We designers and illustrators of the Jugend covers have a way to express ourselves and the new ideas we have to offer. I wanted to stand out, like the other artist who have also done something different with their designs. You should know, I take my work as an artist as general as possible. And when your competition is making covers with mostly cool palettes, a bold, warm palette will catch the eyes of all who pass by it.
Q – You mentioned George Hirth earlier. What did this commission involve?
A- The two of us have quite a history together when it comes to Jugend. Since I arrived in Munich, I have been a designer for Mr. Hirth’s covers for a long time. As long as I am available to do a commission, I meet with Mr. Hirth during the day in his home in which we go over what he would like and the restrictions surrounding the design, as well as some contents of the journal, incase that will impact my design. I usually have free reign over the content, with my track record with my work, but some requirements would be that it is not too geometric, making sure I redesign the title in a new and interesting way, ensuring that the title is readable.
Q – Seeing as how Mr. Hirth is very pleased by your artistic style and quality of work, along with your other clients, who, or what influenced you when creating this, or any, of your designs?
A – This new art movement that has been seen popping up around Europe originated in Paris, and I so happened to stay there during the time of 1896 to 1899, and it had a great impact on my work. To begin with, there are many beautiful women who live there, so of course I must try and capture that beauty in my designs. On a more serious note, a major influence from my time in Paris was Le Nabis, as well as Alphonse Mucha and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. I must also admit, like many of my contemporaries, that some Japonism influenced my creations, but who has not seen that work and wished to create it with a spin of their own? In fact, their limited colour palette is what helped me decide on simplifying the design of my Andromeda.
Q – I did not know that! Back to your work, are all Jugend cover designers required to redesign the title?
A – Yes, every one of them. But what separates the likes of me from the others is how I incorporated the title into the design, even party obscuring it with the serpent. Yes, other designers and artists incorporate the title into their designs as well, but Otto Eckmann simply printed a new typeface onto his design.
Q – It has been an honour, Mr. Christiansen. I hope to see more of your work in the future.
Anonymous. “George Hirth (1841-1916).” Jugend Magazine, www.jugendmagazine.net/ georg-hirth.html.
Anonymous. “Hans Christiansen Biography – Infos – Art Market.” Hans Christiansen Biography – Infos – Art Market, Art Market, www.christiansen-hans.com/.
Anonymous. “Jugendstil Movement Overview.” The Art Story, Art Story Foundation, www.theartstory.org/movement-jugendstil.htm.
in Art, Magazines | September 1st. “Download Hundreds of Issues of Jugend, Germany’s Pioneering Art Nouveau Magazine (1896-1940).” Open Culture, Open Culture, www.openculture.com/2017/09/download-hundreds-of-issues-of- jugend-germanys-pioneering-art-nouveau-magazine-1896-1940.html.