Tiles & Styles: Jugendstil & Secession by Ken Forster

What we have with this book is a thoroughly researched look at primarily Jugendstile and Secession art movements in Central Europe (in Germany and Austria, respectively) closely related to Art Nouveau in France and Arts and Crafts in England. The focus is on decorative tiles – from heating stoves to plaques, serving trays to floor tiles. Although the book is copiously adorned with color photographs of the tiles, it is the research and knowledge accompanying the images that provide true utility.

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The book breaks down as follows: Introduction; Section One (tile information, floor tiles, cement floor tiles, stove tiles, tiles with special uses, artistic tiles and plaques, wall tiles); Section Two ( art nouveau and arts and crafts design in German and Central European Ceramic Tiles, the styles, the tiles, the manufacturers, designers, comparative consideration of English, Belgian, and Dutch tile production); Bibliography; Appendices, Index.

As can be seen from the above list, the breadth and depth of the knowledge is impressive. Whether looking up information on a specific designer, a manufacturer, or a style, the book provides all the information needed. The regions covered are: German Jugendstil, Austrian Secessionist, Hungarian Secessionist, and Bohemian/Moravian Secessionist. Correspondingly, manufacturers from Germany, Asutria, Hungary, and Bohemia, Moravia are also exhaustively cataloged with background information.

To provide reference, discussions about English, Scottish, Dutch, French, and Belgian tiles/styles are also included. Adding to the utility is information about tile definitions, usage, history, manufacture, style, patterns & motifs, installation design, and decorating techniques. It makes researching easy – whether one is holding a radiator cover tile or concrete floor piece.

If I have one nitpick, it’s that the tiles are photographed individually and subsequently there are few tile patterns shown. We’re given verbal indication of how the tile would have been used but it would also have been just as useful to see the pattern as a whole. The genius of some tiles is how they stack together to create a unique pattern; that is sadly missing from this book.

Tiles & Styles is a lovingly compiled, beautifully illustrated, and well researched resource on middle European tiles. Suitable for art historians, decorators, researchers, or those who love the designs from the period. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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