Sometimes a graphic artist has a creative reason (perhaps more than one) to stay small. There may be a clutch of motives for putting tableau-scale poster work aside; and in this report I’d like to put them in play, because they come to the heart of the artistic payoff of graphic design, particularly that of hands-on work far more common years ago.
More often than not, the desire to produce a less popular attraction (be it about volume, context or both) will be shelved in favor of the urgent matter of making a living. (A remarkable number of vintage posterists were adept at fashion, industrial and spectacle design, therewith adding to the distance from a cherished run of diminutive ephemera.)
Once in a while, however, a client would, perhaps sheepishly, wonder if the artist’s skill would not mind doing something quiet and subtle and not very lucrative, only to discover that the commission comes as a welcome little feast of challenges!
In 1938, that deco Lautrec, A.M. Cassandre, was commissioned to produce a magazine ad for a brand of pineapple juice. In response he created a fusion of Cubist and Surrealist bolts to bring into the picture a singularity unfurling within the rather prosaic vehicle of the mass-circulation journal and the reader more likely looking for diversion than the sizzling divine! But there it is, take it (wisely) or leave it (unwisely)!
The year is 1908, but the real ingredients are timeless. The modest format induces reflection upon the fragility of those venturers in their pastel garb, hurtling into a rigorous future.
Gino Boccasile, segueing from pin-up posters to more delicate energies. Such an affinity for aristocratic imagery was seldom in the offing.
The Art Nouveau notable, Eugene Grasset, would have found this project, titled Revue of Elegance to allow a rather literary, intimate transaction, possibly more to his liking than poster art, which almost demands taking pleasure in pizzazz and the raunchy side of life, as driven by Belle Époque marketing along lines of the risqué in its many forms. The exuberance and compositional brilliance here convey the artist’s enthusiasm for modest initiatives.
Theophile Steinlen, an ardent exponent of the simple souls of the world, human and animal, would have been more than just OK bringing to life the hard and dignified ranges of peasants, in a liberal, popular journal. The less than blue-chip, newsprint vehicle could not be more apt for the subject matter!
This menu for a cruise ship dining room shows another field of opportunity and professional delight within the small-format graphics field. Jean A. Mercier, a highly-respected expert at large-tableau lithographic poster art which never failed to amaze with its chromatic depths was far from making common cause with neglected spirits; but he would have delighted in producing little gems like the one shown here, where the course of “good things come in small packages” would be a pleasing novelty and a measure of aristocratic poise.
Renowned English marine and naval painter, Charles Pears, would, I think, have been willing and eager to produce this exciting menu for the even more renowned Queen Mary luxury liner.
Walter Schnackenberg, that master of Weimar decadence, would have enjoyed the commission of a small-format movie promotion, for the sake of dipping into something wholesome!
For Eaton’s in Toronto, that art deco celebrity, Jean Dupas, probably relished this little hasty-note announcement for its self-effacing cool!