"Fidus"was the pseudonym used by German illustrator, painter and publisher Hugo Reinhold Karl Johann Höppener, a Symbolist artist whose work had a direct impact on the psychedelic style of graphic design in the late 1960s.
The son of a Lübeck confectioner, Höppener revealed his artistic talent at an early age.
Moving to Munich in 1887 with the intention of enrolling at the local Academy, after only a few months he joined Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851–1913), a painter, socialist and "Apostle of Nature" who was living with his family and with occasional disciples in an abandoned quarry at the time. In this "commune" Diefenbach practised nudism and led a life based on vegetarianism and on abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, also preaching the abolition of private property and developing a religious bent advocating worship of the sun.
Diefenbach's theories had a profound influence on young Höppener, who became his most loyal follower, earning the nickname of "Fidus" which he was to adopt as a lifelong pseudonym, continuing to use it even after he left Diefenbach's commune.
In this phase of his career Fidus' work revolved around natural themes and spontaneous contact with the environment. He focused primarily on drawing children and adolescents, innocent creatures moving in an enchanted natural wonderland.
Moving to Berlin in 1892, he worked as an illustrator for the magazine "Sphinx" which was starting to lean increasingly towards theosophy. This proximity with theosophy ended up having an impact on Fidus' thought and work, and he began to turn increasingly to esoteric and orientalising themes in his art, which frequently found its way into "Jugend" and other illustrated magazines. He created numerous ornamental designs, chiefly to decorate books, and he was one of the first artists to use advertising postcards to promote his work.
In the climate of protest that took hold at the turn of the 19th century, a fertile terrain in which the artistic avant-garde movements of the first half of the 20th century took root and flourished, Höppener was to become one of the leading exponents of German Art Nouveau.
After 1918, however, interest in his work began to wane. Despite his enthusiasm for the ideology of the Nazi Party, which he joined in 1932, he failed to find favour with the regime.
In fact, his work was impounded in 1937 and a ban was placed on the sale of his art. By the time he died, his art had been almost forgotten, and it was only rediscovered in the 1960s.
Today the Berlinische Galerie has an archive of Fidus' work, while another major archive of material relating to him (comprising works of art, diaries, correspondence and photographs) is to be found in the Jack Daulton Collection in Los Altos Hills, California.