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The Book and the Binding at the Legion of Honor

Through May 12, 2013, the Legion of Honor museum will feature the art of book design in the exhibition The Book and the Binding. It features unique selections from the Reva and David Logan Collection and contributions from Earl M. Collier Jr.

Before the Kindle and iPad era, a book’s presentation included the aesthetic of the front and back cover connected by a spine. By the early 20th century, art books containing high-resolution reproductions of paintings and drawings created a demand for a stylish display extending to the exterior of the book as well as the interior.

These rich, graphic forms replaced the earlier bookbinding trend when volumes were lined with sober, dark leather-bound jackets. The creations of Art Deco and Nouveau designers like Rose Adler and Pierre Legrain replaced this cool, formal style, revolutionizing bookbinding into an art form of lively and radiant innovation.

On view are rare assortments of books designed by famous artists as well as the great masters of the art of bookbinding from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods through the mid-20th century. Included are works by the luxury binding pioneer Paul Bonet, Marius Michel and Georges Crette. Also on exhibit is the work of Pierre Legrain, the avant-garde bookbinder and artist whose delicate, ornamental motifs extended to his diverse talents in draftsmanship, designing, and decorating, which included light fixtures, furniture and silverware.

Many of the popular bookbinders of this era interpreted the Nouveau and Deco style in the furniture arts, glass and interior design, creating a unified aesthetic that merged art into all aspects of life. The Book and the Binding presents colorful and imaginative volumes of this era, sometimes made from exotic materials and normally only found in private collections, making this public exhibition all the more exclusive.

The Book and the Binding: Legion of Honor, 100 34th Avenue (at Clement), Tuesday–Sunday 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. through May 12, free–$10, 415-750-3600, www.famsf.org

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Sharon Anderson is an artist and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at www.mindtheimage.com

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