Harper's Bazar: Midsummer Number

Edward Penfield American
Publisher Harper & Brothers American

Not on view

Regarded as one of the most influential poster artists in America, Edward Penfield joined the publishing house Harper and Brothers at the age of twenty-five as a staff artist and editor. Shortly after his promotion to artistic director, Penfield created his first lithograph for Harper’s Magazine in 1893. Following its runaway success, he made posters advertising each successive issue of the magazine for over seven years. Magazine readers and poster collectors celebrated his designs for their boldness, abstraction, and occasional comic touch. Penfield also created advertisements and cover designs for books published by Harper and Brothers.

As the most acclaimed artist working for Harper’s, Penfield was free to experiment with avant-garde styles. Less concerned with the dramatic curving lines of Art Nouveau than his contemporaries, Penfield synthesized a number of stylistic sources in his work, including Japanese ukiyo-e prints and posters made by contemporary French and British artists. Penfield’s work for Harper’s displays a late nineteenth-century American type—the wealthy and well-appointed middle-class individual enjoying leisure time. Penfield himself was part of this newly emerging middle class.

Following the success of Harper’s Magazine, the brothers James, John, Wesley, and Fletcher Harper founded The Weekly in 1857 and Harper’s Bazar a decade later. The Weekly, which was the most widely read journal in the United States during the Civil War, prided itself on being the first to publish material by the most illustrious artists of the day including Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast—examples of their wood engravings can be seen nearby. While The Weekly catered to readers hungry for information about the war, Harper’s Bazar began as a tabloid-size weekly newspaper for middle- and upper-class women interested in fashion. Though created with different audiences in mind, the two posters are almost interchangeable, showing well-dressed couples 
courting in the moonlight.

Harper's Bazar: Midsummer Number, Edward Penfield (American, Brooklyn, New York 1866–1925 Beacon, New York), Lithograph

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