SPEAKING OF PICTURES: A VINTAGE GRAPHICS BLOG

THE GOLDEN, EDGY FASCINATION OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE, JUNE, 1933

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Naysayers notwithstanding, this is, for me, an irresistible graphic design. It graces the back cover of an issue of lithographically and journalistically advanced Fortune Magazine, and was published 81 years ago.

First a concept: it takes guts for a bride to admit  she’s more married to her cigarettes than to the guy she’s marrying later that day. Note that it’s the “I” not the “do” that’s emphasized. The pitch here is to the affluent, well-educated and very independent readership of a publication aimed at those ardently committed to private enterprise and self-promotion. Thus, in the course of selling Lucky Strike smokes, it offers a whole rationale for free-wheeling risk.

The modelling and color choice are striking (no pun intended). Her little, “It’s toasted” is both flip and sexy. Continue reading

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SPORTING LIFE IN ORIGINAL VINTAGE POSTERS

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Cycles France 1920s; A. Bernat; 63″ x 47″

World Cup Soccer, the Tour de France, Wimbledon…we live in fabulous times for those of us who love the world of sports.

The darkness of this graphic design so aptly captures the solitary daring of the event. There may be teams of riders in the Tour de France but each man has gone out on a long and dangerous limb here. What a great, iconic and even cinematic image to underline the special poetry emanating  from a prosaic, winner-take-all concern! Continue reading

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DELICIOUS ITALIAN VINTAGE GRAPHICS

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Sorrento 1955; Mario Puppo; 39″x25 3/4″

The other evening we were enjoying a delicious meal at Tutti Matti, an Italian restaurant we love, and we began to consider the qualities of the preparations, wine, liqueur and coffee, not to mention the remarkably congenial and knowledgeable young server, Giacomo.

Giacomo was able to describe the often-days-in-the-making attentions to bringing the produce to superb flavoring. This was our entry point to reflecting on remarkably nuanced vivaciousness in Italian original vintage lithography, such as the poster above by Mario Puppo. Though a work from 1955 and firmly settled in the register of Moderne, the color and shading strategies allow it to carry a bracing kick of art deco perfectionism (just as the marinades of the food release a majestic topspin). Continue reading

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MAKING A BEAUTIFUL MESS—KONTAKTHOF BY PINA BAUSCH

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One of the most magic moments of the fare provided by the Toronto Luminato Art Festival every June came our way a few days ago, in the form of the Pina Bausch Wuppertal Dance Theatre performing one of their classics, namely, Kontakthof (Court of Contact [1978]), concerning making the case for truth in interpersonal actions. The late Pina Bausch was a choreographic innovator, obsessed—like filmmaker Federico Fellini—with figures ardently hoping to bring to light the primal power implicit in human interactions, but proving to be far from coordinated enough to succeed. (Fellini featured our dance star, in the role of a blind princess, in his 1983 film, And the Ship Sails On.)

The photo here—showing a group of women who had individually tried (way too hard and way off course) to win over the audience, at the evening’s outset, with what they hoped would be winning smiles, and in fact being repellent grimaces—covers their being close to frozen with stress, in making a team effort to impress the audience as a “court” (hof) intent on being charmed by “contact” from these newcomers. Continue reading

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GRAPHIC CIVILIZATION AND WILD ANIMALS

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ggg Antelope 1989;Kazumasa Nagai;41″x29″

It might be a good idea to begin our embrace of original vintage poster design’s focus upon animals, by way of a creature’s-eye-view of what is thrilling. The work shown above, Kazumasa Nagai’s reverie on the antelope and its being haunted by visions of the wild beauty of swiftness that is not its own, opens the way for our appreciation of a modest and generous elicitation that can be remarkably developed by design. Continue reading

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AT THE CAPTAIN’S TABLE—THE GOOD LIFE AS GLIMPSED BY VINTAGE CRUISE SHIP MENUS

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One of the most ephemeral instances of original vintage graphic poster art comes to us in the form of menus for the cruise ship pleasures of fine food and companionship in the days when “going on a cruise” was a rare distinction. Pictured here is the cover pertaining to an event—on the Canadian National (Pacific Coast) Steamships liner, “S.S. Prince George”—on Saturday, September 4, 1948. The Prince George is shown with its lights fetchingly twinkling on a B.C. inlet with totem poles and Northern Lights blazing and providing the long-ago travellers with memories to last a lifetime. Ephemera with a powerful difference, when given a chance to touch us. Continue reading

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SURREALIST GRAPHIC ART—BIGGER THAN YOU THINK!

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We’ve gotten together before, on this blog site, to mutually marvel at the impact of original vintage poster art with a Surrealist twist, as an ardent exponent of some of the most incisive reflections upon the subject and lifeline of dynamic power. Here the difference can be summed up in two words, Jonathan Glazer.

Glazer can be described in many ways—rock video writer/director; writer/director of superb graphic art-based TV ads; pop music expert/historian; feature filmmaker (with a graphic arts priority). But the heart of his activities, it seems to me, is recycling the high tide of Surrealist excitement, from the early and mid-twentieth century. “Recycling” might seem a boring notion—but not the way he does it!

Pictured here from Glazer’s film, Sexy Beast (2000), is a boulder having fallen into the swimming pool of a couple, Gal and Dee Dee, living the soft life on Spain’s Costa del Sol.

Continue reading

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WHAT HAPPENED? BALLET’S BIG SURPRISE!

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We tend to think of ballet as a field of design effort—not unlike original vintage posters—as a bastion of antiquated ways. We know how inaccurate that supposition is, when it comes to vintage graphic art as whipping up a tornado seriously (along with the rest of the avant-garde) displacing stodgy priorities. Can we, however, bring ourselves to seeing devotees of ballet as a major exponent of kicking ass?

The National Ballet of Canada’s Spring Season includes a bombshell of innovation calling itself, “Physical Thinking,” a term that goes straight to the heart of an avant-garde galvanized by(in complete subversion of the endeavors of the past two thousand years) having the physical pegged as a hideous impediment to thinking, in the form of rational, intellectual discovery. Continue reading

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DOORS OPEN TORONTO—OPENING OUR EYES!

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Toronto’s recent building boom has galvanized, as never before those living here to try to understand the riches of design skills and efforts going into all this change. Consequently, the May weekend festival of visits to architectural highlights, called DOORS OPEN, has become a hugely attractive event. This year, Jack Diamond, a principal figure of the world renowned Diamond and Schmitt Architectural firm, delivered a brilliant account of his project resulting in the new Montreal Concert Hall (Maison Symphonique de Montreal)—an account that penetrated to the heart of architectural genius.

He prefaced his power point disclosure by noting that architects often slide into powerful surface appearances and underestimate the need to provide effective overall functioning. Only when both the science and the poetry dovetail do we come to architecture worthy of it name (a metier alert to architectonics, to, that is, the developmental functions of spaces informed by the gamut of human endeavors).

As to his Montreal structure, he spoke at length about the acoustic issues of a hall, covering very complex phenomena in a way that could clearly impact for a novice. A master of great musical venues (having constructed to acclaim the New Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, his vast store of scientific initiatives is complemented by attention to the social as well as to the artistic experience of the audience; and the satisfaction of the performing artists. Continue reading

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VINTAGE GRAPHIC ART AND GREAT EXPOS–MAKING SOMETHING BIG EVEN BIGGER

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Atherton; 30″ x 20″

Modern technology has enabled a proliferation of international events focussing upon excellence and the changes going on in current history. This poster graphic from one of the most memorably iconic attention getters deftly thrills to a cosmic event no one can afford to miss. Continue reading

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