Paper Knife

c. 1900
(American, Cleveland, 1879–1981)
Overall: 32.5 x 10.5 x 0.5 cm (12 13/16 x 4 1/8 x 3/16 in.)
Location: not on view
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

This expressive Art Nouveau paper knife, or letter opener, was sold by the Cleveland jeweler Cowell and Hubbard around 1900.


During the 1890s a new style emerged that reflected naturalistic and symbolic motifs found in Japanese and other Asian design. This movement rejected the historicism that had dominated architecture and design during the previous decades and took hold across Europe and America too. In France the style was known as "Art Nouveau," after the name of the gallery belonging to its chief proponent Siegfried Bing, the Maison de L'Art Nouveau (House of the New Art). This paper knife by the American silver company George W. Shiebler & Co. typifies Art Nouveau style with its flowing lines enveloping a young woman, revered as the ideal natural beauty. The composition resolves into a pointed dagger, suggesting a tragic end to life itself. Art Nouveau reached its apex at the 1900 world's fair in Paris, which was intended to herald the new century with a new style of art. However, critics and consumers alike soon rejected Art Nouveau as too sentimental in favor of newer motifs and styles as the moment passed. By 1905 it was all but forgotten.
Paper Knife

Paper Knife

c. 1900

George W. Shiebler & Co., Cowell and Hubbard Co.

(American), (American, Cleveland, 1879–1981)
America, late 19th-early 20th century

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.