Berthon, Paul Emile(French, 1872-1909)
Along with the art of Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860-1939), the lithographs of Paul Emile Berthon stand at the center of our interpretation of the grace and beauty of Art Nouveau. Despite his very short life, it is impossible not to rank Berthon among the greatest masters of this entire turn-of-the-century movement.
Paul Berthon first studied as a painter in Villefranche before initially coming to Paris in 1893. There he enrolled at the Ecole Normale d'Enseignement de Dessin, receiving lessons from Luc Olivier Merson (French, 1846-1920), yet the greatest influence upon Paul Berthon came from his teacher of Decorative Arts, Eugene Grasset (Swiss, 1841-1917). Grasset's impact upon the early formation of the Art Nouveau movement was vast and both Berthon and Mucha acknowledged him as the single greatest influence upon their art.
Paul Emile Berthon's early lithographs (dated up to 1896) often show stylistic elements comparable to Grasset. However, as his style developed, Berthon began using the autumnal pastel coloured palette and the strongly defined lines and patterns that have made his art so famous. Other key elements in Berthon's art came from his study of Japanese woodcuts and his attention to the art of the natural world, particularly its flora and fauna, for which he utilized the art of medieval France as exemplars.
The graphic work of Paul Berthon consists of ninety-four original lithographs. Almost two-thirds of Paul Berthon's original lithographs are what the artist termed, "Panneaux Decoratifs", and unlike most Art Nouveau posters, Paul Berthon's panneaux decoratifs included no advertising and no letterpress. These were meant to stand alone as significant works of art in their own right.

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