In his essay on “The Painter of Modern Life,” Charles Baudelaire defined modernity as “the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent.” Baudelaire’s terms apply equally to the fin-de-siècle magazines that conveyed the language of modernity to the first mass readership. In its topical focus on the “now” and the “news” and in its multi-media, disposable format, a periodical is always ephemeral, fugitive, and contingent.
Illustrations of all kinds flourished in both the aesthetic little magazines and the mass-market, popular magazines of the period. Celebrated by Baudelaire as the painter of modern life, the pictorial journalist produced and reflected the visibility central to modernity. The experimental visuality and exciting vitality of fin-de-siècle magazines are newly available in the digital archives of the twenty-first century, challenging us to engage critically with the contingencies of form, content, and cultural moment and their (re)mediations.
In fall 2015, graduate students in Modernity and the Visual investigated the complex relations between image and text in illustrated magazines of the 1890s in tandem with the digital resources that deliver them. This first issue of a digital magazine, Modernity and the Visual 2015, uses the multi-media format of the digital page to creatively reflect on, and critically apply, some of the key ideas we have explored in class discussions on Image and Text in Fin-de-Siècle Illustrated Magazines and Digital Archives.
Lorraine Janzen Kooistra
We invite you to read our digital magazine and to browse the Image Bank of fin-de-siècle periodical images, Glossary of key terms, and Select Annotated Bibliography we have collaboratively created.