SPEAKING OF PICTURES: A VINTAGE GRAPHICS BLOG

DEFINITIVE GLAMOR–GEORGE AND JEANNE BON SALLE’S CATALOGUE RAISONNE OF THE POSTERS OF BERNARD VILLEMOT

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The Poster Art Library; New York (2015) 320 pp. ; 12 1/2″ x 9 1/4″ ;

Beginning a career of lithographic poster art in the mid-1930s, as he did, Bernard Villemot(1911-1989) would have seemed to be handicapped in being underway just as the golden age of the metier was winding down. However, being from a family of very successful and affluent graphic designers, Villemot was, at an early age, exposed to those perennial avant-garde implications of that business which would counteract any sense of facile obsolescence.

The sensual priorities so salient in the cover choice above speak to a non-rational avant-garde in general and the work of painter, Henri Matisse in particular. Villemot was, from the get-go, aflame with the evergreen issues of sexy glamor as a selling point and a comprehensive vocation. Prose and poetry in tandem as a double-barrelled intervention within middling modern commercial life. Continue reading

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VINTAGE BEVERAGE POSTERS (PART TWO)—LIGHTNING STRIKING ALL OVER THE PLACE!

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Perroy c.1945;Unsigned (Martin Peikert?);50″ x 35″;A-, Japan paper

Last week we settled in with the peppy wit and graciousness of the designs of French champagne and cognac promotions. This week we’re on a grand tour of the Continent looking for something a bit different from that.

Swiss craftsmanship can be as driven and divine as that emanating from France; and the casual elegance of this wine attraction well attests to that situation. But whereas the promotions shown last week tend to be exclusively about the homeland (outsiders paying homage as pilgrims), here the striking (this being Switzerland, having nothing to do with strikes) farm laborer–perhaps the owner’s daughter preparing to take over the business–looks straight at the whole world (and finds it to be bountifully satisfying). All the lithographic technique and design artistry is about exporting the good life as understood in the mid-twentieth century.   Continue reading

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VINTAGE BEVERAGE GRAPHICS (PART ONE)–DELIGHTING IN FRENCH CHAMPAGNE AND COGNAC

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Cognac Monnet 1927;Leonetto Cappiello;78 1/8″ X 50 1/4″;A-, L

The subject of lithographs alerting us to beverages brings to the fore two richly sensuous crafts. An alert graphic designer would have in mind affinities between his own field’s capacity to thrill and the bounty of the subject—here, fine wines, liqueurs and beers. Our collection concerning this industry and art is too extensive to be coherently presented in a single blog; and so we begin a series—of this case of kinship—with the subject of presenting in works on paper French champagnes and cognacs.
The nature of champagne and cognac is both earthy and elegant. And with our first vintage poster (courtesy of one of the premier designers and lithographic craftsmen, Leonetto Cappiello) creating a sensation for the sake of conveying to the passer-by what a field of energy, beauty and joy the product elicits, those ecstatic qualities come to light at a high level. The fantastical goddess and her regal observances (about “sun in a glass”) invite us to let ourselves concentrate on the sensuous phenomenon of experiencing the treasure and let the rest of the world get lost for a while. The very large scale of this poster well coincides with the mysterious powers involved. Continue reading

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MAKING A PERFECT POSTER TRIO

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Two posters  in a bedroom looking for a companion–other than the resident Kitty!

A loyal and charming client has asked us to help her find the final graphic component of a bedroom wall in her New York City apartment. As you can see from the photo above, there is in place a grand nocturnal by a modernist French master and a beach patio design with typical Italian flair. We’ll let you in on how we marshaled our proposals as to completing the room.   Continue reading

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SIGNS OF SPRING, SITTING PRETTY IN OUR COLLECTION

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Maudit Vent GBT 1914;Pierre Brissaud;9 1/2″ x 7 1/2″;A,P

The spring season means various things to many people. My most vivid childhood memory of spring in Arctic Winnipeg was racing wooden matches along the still-frozen gutters awash with mountains of melting snow. These days, however, I favor a more moderate, colorful and variegated interaction with the visitation. Still waiting for that magic in this year’s maudit (censored) spring, here we let ourselves go by virtue of snappy and arresting lithographic homages to what can be the greatest time of the year.

We start with a pochoir, now more than a hundred years old, coming to light when April in Paris was beauty itself; but it could be nippy, and windy hell for those wearing specially chosen hats. Continue reading

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PIERRE BONNARD’S GUIDE TO THE BELLE EPOQUE STREETS OF PARIS

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La Petite Blanchiseusse       Plate 42

Paris, an amazing repository of the height of sensuous excellence, tends thereby to send us to the firmament. But artist/graphic designer, Pierre Bonnard, in the portfolio titled, Bonnard Lithographe, prefers the streets to the sunsets—leading to an upshot, as I hope you’ll see, of mundane moments plunging to depths you could explore for a lifetime.

Our first glimpse is called “The Little Laundress.” Were we to go with the literal title, we’d suppose that the figure in question (seen from behind) is a youthful sprite. A close look, however, shows quite the contrary. She’s “little,” largely due to ageing and the hardness of a widow’s life (nothing chic about the blackness of her wardrobe) reduced to the bent-over exertions of restoring a freshness (to fabrics) which she will never know again. Or will she? Though she braces herself with her umbrella as she negotiates the cobble stones of a quiet side-street in the metropolis, en route to her client’s door with the perfectly laundered whites, her attitude is jaunty and her attentions go out to a little mongrel (passing by without looking her way) with whom she commiserates.   Continue reading

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FERN BISEL PEAT—A REMARKABLE AND UNSUNG DESIGNER

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We have had, for quite a while now, in our to-show-soon drawer, a little gem of vintage children’s book illustration. Now, in finally focusing on it, I realize how great a master of visual expression has been resting there, patiently waiting to be discovered.

The book is Round the Mulberry Bush (1933) and the illustrator is Fern Bisel Peat. Whereas the writer, Marion L. McNeil, has produced a rather precious and humdrum tale about a grandmother reminiscing to her two granddaughters (told by one of them, now an adult), she has, all the same, in setting up a perspective  telescoping far back in time, given an opportunity for an alert, sensitive and supremely skilled illustrator to, in a context of poignant ageing, bring to us a rich and vibrant sense of the beauties and joys of life beginning to bud.

Here we have one of the grandmother’s older sisters delighting in ironing at the playhouse their father built for them. The modelling of sister Harriet’s face and the chromatic and textural features of her clothes speak to the bracing thrill of discovery and development touching each and every generation. An unobtrusive framing in pale green catches the perky ribbons in her hair and close to her intent consciousness. Continue reading

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THE ABSORBING CITY LIFE OF PIERRE BONNARD

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plate #3

The subtitle, shown on this book cover (by Pierre Bonnard [1867-1947]) which graduated to fine-art lithograph, in 1892, runs “Ways of Decadence” [the Demi-Monde]. Though the smashing portfolio of Bonnard’s studies of Paris life covers much more than that dimension, it is the moments of far from perfect tuning which are of special interest to this posting. We love Paris not simply for its abundant prettiness but for the denizens’ so forthrightly and passionately expressing life as hugely out of control.

So we have, from the portfolio of glorious printed works–Bonnard Lithographe (Monte-Carlo, 1952)–“Reine de Joie,” the novel and the paragon, not having a good day. But her presence as trying to detach itself from a swamp of messy business (even if fairly upscale) gives us a wonderful day of truth, indeed. The color distribution is a model of classiness in the service of distress.   Continue reading

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BASQUIAT: MORE THAN MEETS THE LAZY EYE

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At the Art Gallery of Ontario these days, we come face-to-face with the puzzling phenomenon of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Starting out in the 1970s as a teen-aged New York City graffiti presence in the anything-goes Lower East Side, he graduated to graphic paintings which lifted him, meteorically, to remarkable heights of fame and fortune, only to crash and die at the age of 27.

The painting shown above, rather presciently titled, “Fallen Angel,” could be approached in many ways–his Haitian roots, for instance, and the casual arrestingness of voodoo hysteria; Surrealism, for instance, and its invocation of life “more real” than common sense comportment; and, for instance again, the anguished compromise of blacks in world history. But although all of the above and others besides can be seen in the extended parade of an exceptionally inquisitive young man, I think there is about the initiative of this unlikely researcher a truly remarkable content which is well aware of the enormous difficulty of his very unusual metier.   Continue reading

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GRAPHICS TAKING US REALLY FAR! TWO GREAT CRUISES BY CANADIAN PACIFIC!

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Round the World Cruise;Empress of Scotland (1926-1927);Maurice Logan; 10¾”x18 ½” B+, P; Cover; Booklet 48 pp.;22 full page color illus.

Our focus today is upon a remarkably conceived and printed booklet promoting two Canadian Pacific cruise tours (in 1926-1927)–one for the Mediterranean (by way of the Empress of France); and the other for the whole globe (by way of the Empress of Scotland). As we peruse the splendid art work of that exceptional designer, Maurice Logan, we’ll key our remarks to the peppy and incisive text. Of the Empress of Scotland–“She has the variety and comfort and cuisine so essential to a four months’ trip. Passenger elevators connect the eight decks of the vessel, and the oil-burning engines mean that there is freedom from dirt, dust and soot, and the annoyances caused by coaling or shifting coal at ports. Of the Empress of France–“The lounge-ballroom follows a scheme designed by Sir Christopher Wren, for the Royal Apartments at Hampton Court Palace…”

Continue reading

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