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Glorious German Art Nouveau

Today, searching for more Art Nouveau for inspiration, I had the good fortune to stumble upon the excellent blog of artist John Coulthart, which is called {feuilleton}.

John posted a link to an archive of scanned copies of the German Jugend Magazine, which dates from the late 19th and early twentieth century. It is the source of the German expression for Art Nouveau: Jugendstil, or “youth style”.

Here’s a rather romantic cover for the magazine, dating from 1899 when Róisín Dubh is set.
Jugend Magazine, Sept 30 1899
Many of the other covers are full of beautiful stylised images of contemporary life in Germany in the 1890s, including a lot of pictures of women with big hats and smiles, and several of them show women riding bicycles.

This is really pleasing to me because the heroine of our comic, Róisín Sheridan, is an ardent cyclist. People today don’t realise how important the invention and popularity of the bicycle was to women’s ability to move about more freely. It also impacted upon clothing, and aided the movement toward less restrictive outfits for women. Over time this all contributed to changing the perception of women and their place in the public world.

In 1896, American suffragist Susan B Anthony said:

“I think (bicycling) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

Róisín is very much a New Woman, a product of a liberal upbringing and indulgent parents, and of course this all brings with it a certain friction when Róisín attempts to assert her independence.

It’s one thing to agree over the dinner table in polite company that suffrage for women is a noble concept, it’s an entirely different thing when women like Róisín, who were brought up to expect a better place in the world, start to seek free expression and self determination.

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