Fresh from a New York estate, Grapefruit Moon Gallery is proud to offer the first of several original John Louis Rhead Art Nouveau/Belle Epoque-era illustrations. This large harvest goddess image was exhibited at The Twenty-First Annual Exhibition Architectural League of New York 1900. The work is matted and framed in a large period gesso frame. An astonishing and rare surviving document from this American poster master. Rhead’s work appeared alongside Alphonse Mucha, Jules Cheret and Toulouse Latrec pieces in “Les Maîtres de l’Affiche” (Masters of Posters) folios at the turn of the last century.
John Louis Rhead was a noted illustrator during the Golden Age of Illustration. Born into a family of well-known English artists, Louis Rhead was sent to Paris at the age of thirteen to study under Boulanger. Returning to England several years later, he continued his studies under Edward Pointer and Alphonse Legros. He later emigrated to New York where he spent most of his career. There he was a member of the Architectural League, and the New York Watercolor Society, he also exhibited work at the Paris Salon.
When Rhead visited Paris in his formative years he became good friends with Eugene Grasset, the famous French art Nouveau master, and was deeply influenced by him. Along with Will Bradley and Edward Penfield, Louis Rhead was in the forefront of the American Art Nouveau movement. Rhead created lithographic posters for both Century and Scribner’s. Rhead also was honored with one-man exhibitions of his work in France, England and the United States.
Though best known for his illustration art and fine-art paintings, Rhead also was proficient in etching and ceramic design. A broad thinker, he even manufactured fly fishing lures, which are hotly collected today. He and his equally talented brother, George Wooliscroft Rhead, collaborated on editions of Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King.” Among the many books Louis Rhead illustrated are “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Treasure Island.” Although Rhead illustrated many childrens books and novels, he is most beloved as a master of design. His striking work was often based on daring colour schemes, flat tints and few lines, which he managed to combine with surprising harmony. Rhead’s original paintings are very scarce and his original posters, like all the work of the best Art Nouveau artists including Alphonse Mucha, command great attention to this day.
Here are a few other images by Rhead which show his prolific and stylized portrayals of the female form from the turn of the last century.