Ephemeral Bibelots: How an International Fad Buried American Modernism

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Ephemeral Bibelots: How an International Fad Buried American Modernism

Restoring proto-modernist little magazines--known as ephemeral bibelots--to the scholarly canon.

Emanating from the cabarets of modernist Paris, a short-lived vogue spread around the world for avant-garde journals known in English as ephemeral bibelots. For a time, it seemed that all the young bohemians passing through Paris started their own bibelots modeled on Le Chat Noir, the esoteric magazine of the famed Montmartre cabaret. These journals were recognizable for their decadence, campy queerness, astounding art nouveau illustrations, fin-de-siècle color schemes, innovative typefaces, and practiced bohemianism.

In Ephemeral Bibelots, Brad Evans relays the untold story of this late-nineteenth-century craze for bibelots, dusting off a trove of periodicals largely untouched by digitization. In excavating this forgotten archive, Evans calls into question the prehistory of modernist little magazines as well as the history of American art and literature at the turn of the twentieth century. Considering how artistic movements take shape, move, and disappear, the book is organized around three major themes--vogue, ephemera, and obscurity--with authors and artists to match. A full-color insert reveals a glorious array of bibelot covers.

This revisionary history of print culture incorporates discussions of pragmatist philosophy and relational aesthetics; women writers like Juliet Wilbor Tompkins and Carolyn Wells; the graphic artists Will Bradley, Louis Rhead, and John Sloan; the dancer Loie Fuller; and twentieth-century figures like H. L. Mencken, Amy Lowell, and Anita Loos. Bringing nineteenth-century American literature and culture into conversation with modern art movements from around the world, Ephemeral Bibelots provides new ways of thinking about the centrality of various media cultures to the attribution of aesthetic innovation and its staying power.

Publication Date: 
September 10, 2019