Attempting to research more about the German poster artist Mayer-Lukas (whose work is a fine representation of the German poster heritage of the 1900s-20s), I found nothing online or in any library databases in English or German. I do, however, have a 1920s article from the May 1920 issue of Das Plakat, the most important of the German language design magazines. Regrettably, the online translation program I used offered scant insight and little solace. Nonetheless, an intrepid translator might be able to move words around and intuit enough to make sense of the text at the bottom of this string of images. This does prove one of two things: The level of writing about design and designers back then was not at its zenith or the translation programs have not yet been programmed for nuance. Robots! You can’t live with ’em or without ’em!
For the truly creative and the earnestly striving, it has become increasingly difficult, in the course of time, to achieve a success in the field of graphic arts, which is worth the trouble. The understanding theoretical discussion, which began almost at the time of the rebirth of graphic purpose-art, and which followed its creations first with curiosity, and later with growing attention, sympathy, and love, has for a long time comprehensively clarified the basic conditions of its being and its effect. In this way, it has raised the achievements of the average artist to a level which makes it more difficult to distinguish between good and evil, of effective ability, and well-trained pelvicism for the general public, as well as above all for those whose judgment in orders finds a tangible precipitation.
Moreover, the world, for which the products of utility-graphic art are formed, and in which work is their work, rarely, so to speak, exceptionally, give the effort to the one-going consideration and loving deepening, the indispensable prerequisite for quietness Weighing and fair appraisal. And it is the voluptuousness and carelessness, which the practical world, which opposes artifice, too often, and which by which it destroys many beautiful artistic spaces of the recognition of honest work, offers to others secure protection against the revelation of their weakness and inner hollowness. It increases their prospects of success with cheap antics, who despise and loathe the serious aspirant. And the industrious rashness of some celebrates the more easily the artist’s triumphs, when she finds herself in the works which have been awarded to the public in an honest way, the material for her artist’s coats, the pattern in the twirling hubbub of the day is scarcely ever recognized again with a few skillful machinists. It can not be surprising if, under these circumstances, some who promised much would be paralyzed.
There is a willpower, and an iron self-breeding, which is much greater than the average, and it is necessary to remain at the stake, and to do a serious, thorough work, if the hastily thrown out of the claims is sufficient; verviel-kindled. This cliff becomes the test of the value and the unvaluation of personality. It is only whoever has this specimen can be attributed to the number of the beasts, the talent may still be so unmistakable, and his bearer may still have so fortunate ideas. For this alone is at most a successful graphic artist, but far from an artist. Being an artist means experiencing and experiencing within to revive the experience independently. It is only the everlasting effort to increase the ability to experience and the ability to express itself to the susceptibility and sensitivity of the most delicate organs of sense, leading to mastery, in any field of art. And it is only such sentiments, which are directed towards the artist, that can also make use of graphic art about themselves, beyond their functional expediency, into the realm of art, and render them, with all consideration for their immediate tasks, sources of exulting pleasure and ennobling joy. Mayer-Lukas is one of those who are becoming.
All his, the whole field of use graphics comprehensive work already the nature of the surrender. They bear the stamp of a strict breed which spares nothing, and are thus in sharp contrast to so many new works in this field, which too often have a rather external contact with Expressionism welcome to refrain from giving a thorough training. The taut breeding is probably a happy legacy at the time of the beginning of the artistic career of Mayer-Lukas, in which he compelled the compulsory lithographs of lehrlings-is as liberation from the pressures of infertile books a rare solidity of wisdom.
Even in the clarity of the arrangement and classification, the result of this solid education in the art of craftsmanship may be seen more than the profit of later art studies the art-trade school and the academy Münchens; for their success already presupposes a clear goal-consciousness. Even at that time Mayer-Luke must have known that the direction in which the development of the gestural diagram was not promising much more. was but the kind which offered the possibility of artistic maste
ry of the purpose was only too quickly transformed into a more or less skillful and intellectual work with once-won formulas and types, over whose increasing lifelessness and lack of expression even the most desperate and doubtful means could no longer disappoint. It was only from a revival and revival of the graphic arts that salvation could come.
Mayer-Lukas sought and succeeded in the ability to substitute artistic wealth for so many of his fellow-men. The inexhaustible source of this wealth is the same to him as to others, from which a happy further development of the graphic arts of use can be expected, nature. But in the case of many who pursue the same goals as he does, the pursuit of artistic values for at least a period of time seems to exclude the consideration of the special requirements of utility graphics, the transition of the natural form into the functional form takes place in Mayer-Lukas with a surprising, completely smooth self-evident. It is as if he had already succeeded during his years of studies,a special organ that translates the forms of reality into the peculiarity of its workspace. Thus the expression of the most frequently fleeting phenomena, which is sensed by the safe observer, is instantly reflected again in delicate nervous lines, such as a merely indicated twist or movement. In Mayer-Lukas, thanks to a mastery of the use of black-and-white technology, these lines have an infinite flexibility and adaptability to the constantly changing, ever-changing new expression.
It is astonishing to what rich life this tasteful art of the line is able to awaken the otherwise so worthless ladies, gentlemen and children of fashion advertisements in the newspapers. Above all, the ladies are full of charming charms, which, singled out in detail with a happy eye of nature, came to life with the finest taste. It is especially noticeable how brilliantly the substance in these lines of poetry appears, and so the practical value of this kind of work has also undergone an important increase. Worn out of life, the light, springy momentum of the line can also liven up inanimate things, even down to the strictly stylized trademark.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →