Born in Boston, Will Bradley was largely self-taught as an artist. He began working in a printer’s shop at the age of twelve in Ishpeming, Michigan, where his mother had moved in 1874 after the death of his father. This work experience would be important in introducing the young man to the many issues of typesetting, advertisements, and layout that would occupy him in the years to come.
Bradley executed a number of designs to promote The Chap-Book, a short-lived but important publication based in Chicago. His 1894 design for Chap-Book, titled The Twins, has been called the first American Art Nouveau poster; this and other posters for the magazine brought him widespread recognition and popularity. In 1895 Bradley founded the Wayside Press in Springfield, Massachusetts, and published a monthly arts periodical, Bradley: His Book. He remained an active and important member of the graphic arts world for the rest of his long life.
Bradley was well acquainted with the stylistic innovations of his European counterparts. Like many French artists, he borrowed stylistic elements from Japanese prints, working in flat, broad color planes and cropped forms. He appropriated the whiplash curves of the Art Nouveau movement so dominant in Europe at the turn of the century and was influenced by the work of the English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley.
Therese Thau Heyman Posters American Style (New York and Washington, D.C.: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the National Museum of American Art, 1998)