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Kristian Niemi

L'Andalousie au Temps des Maures (Andalusia in the Time of the Moors)

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About Kristian

Born and raised in an artistic family in northern Minnesota, Kristian has kept that creativity alive with his many restaurants (Mr. Friendly's, Gervais & Vine, Solstice, Rosso, Bourbon) since moving to Columbia in 1993. His maternal grandfather, Kyzer Butkovich, was an accomplished graphic artist who illustrated field manuals for the Army (and pin-ups for fellow soldiers) throughout WWII. Upon returning, he opened a small print shop, specializing in lithographs and four-color printing, where Kristian grew up drawing, painting, and pushing a broom. "My grandfather never really taught us that much, but he was always incredibly supportive of our artistic endeavors. None of his art supplies were off-limits to us, and paper was everywhere."

Kristian chose his piece because it reminded him of his grandfather's work (which was lost in a devastating fire in 1994). "He did everything! Seriously, from cartoony stuff to caricatures to amazingly accurate sketches to giant canvases to sign painting. There wasn't anything he didn't just nail. Amazing, amazing artist and one of the most compassionate, wonderful men I've ever known." The bold colors and action that seems to jump from the poster are what led him to choose L'Andalousie au Temps des Maures (Andalusia in the Time of the Moors) by Eugéne Samuel Grasset. "It immediately struck me because it looked like something he would have done. It's his style, even though he had many."

About the Piece

  • Eugéne Samuel Grasset
  • L'Andalousie au Temps des Maures (Andalusia in the Time of the Moors), 1900
  • Color lithograph
  • Museum purchase

Talented as a writer, printmaker, and designer of stained glass, jewelry, and furniture, Eugéne Grasset was perhaps best known as one of the premier poster artists of the 1890s. His father was a cabinet maker/designer and sculptor, and being raised in an artistic and creative environment helped shape Grasset into becoming one of the pioneers of the Art Nouveau design movement. His influences were as varied as his work, and included Japanese woodblock prints, fabric and tapestry patterns, plant forms and botanical studies, stained glass window designs from cathedrals, and various aspects of Art Nouveau design. After completing his education, he visited Egypt, an experience which would later have a great influence on a number of his poster designs.

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Grasset turned to graphic design in 1877, creating postcards and postages stamps for both France and Switzerland. Grasset's interest in romantic medieval subjects was apparent in many of his illustrations for books including A Crusader's City and the Hunt in the Days of Charlemagne, as well as theatrical posters such as one for the actress Sarah Bernhardt as Joan of Arc. However, it was poster art that soon became his specialty. A continuation of his interest in such dramatic subjects, L'Andalousie au Temps des Maures was created for a quasi-historical attraction at the Paris Exposition Universelle de 1900 which provided the Parisian with the opportunity to visit an "exotic" recreation of a culture from another era -specifically, southern Spain during the Moorish occupation. With the growing popularity of French posters in America, Grasset was soon contacted by several American companies. In the 1880s, he did his first American commission, and more success led to his cover design for the 1892 issue of Harper's Magazine.

Art Nouveau was a decorative style that spread extensively over Western Europe during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. Art Nouveau was a conscious effort to create a new style in reaction to the academic art of the nineteenth century. It was an art of ornament inspired by natural forms-such as plants and flowers-with a focus on curved lines. Art Nouveau is considered a "total" style, seen in architecture, interior design, graphic design and illustrations, and most of the decorative arts including furniture, textiles, jewelry, light fixtures, and silver. According to the philosophy of the style, art should be a way of life and can influence the soul. For many Europeans, it was possible to live in an Art Nouveau-inspired house with Art Nouveau furniture, fixtures, and art.