SPEAKING OF PICTURES: A VINTAGE GRAPHICS BLOG

VINTAGE ILLUSTRATED BOOKS BY PERE CASTOR

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Bravo, Tortue(Bravo Tortoise), 1950; 7″ x 8 1/4″

Last week we met, Christina, working at our beloved Cafe Neuf—here in Toronto for a 1 year hiatus from work at the Paris publisher, Flammarion. On hearing this from her, it was a very quick step to happily discussing the Pere Castor children’s illustrated books (which adults can’t resist)—a commitment by Flammarian going back to the early 1930s.

Today we bring you 2 issues of the series in our collection, which we didn’t cover in the previous blogs. Our pairing today is special in that it spotlights one from the Golden Era of the 1930s, with illustrations by Rojan; but, for a change of pace, one from 1950, illustrated by Romain Simon. Continue reading

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THE ELEMENT OF DARKNESS IN VINTAGE GRAPHIC DESIGN

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Chicago Go Greyhound c. 1960 ; Rod Ruth; 40” x 30”; A-, P

Nocturnal imagery has a long-standing record of providing special impacts. In the vintage poster shown above, it lends an aura of mystery to the skyline of Chicago, the better to illuminate the glamor of its renowned commercial architecture. Continue reading

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CARDBOARD, BUT FAR FROM TACKY—ORIGINAL VINTAGE PLACARDS!

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Rhum Tamaris c.1940; Anonymous; 14 1/4″ x 10 1/4″; A-,Cdbd.

We’re beginning this survey from our placard collection, with a very simple design, a photograph of a pretty girl replete with accessories apt for the tropical production areas of rum. The poised congeniality of her expression is special. And the homespun, patterned dress, with headscarf to match, is a sort of beacon, simulating the sugar cane-based flavor of the beverage.

Promotional graphics printed on thin cardboard were designed for the interiors of shops, restaurants and bars. Their modest dimensions accord with a more casual take upon the product than full-fledged, street-salient lithographs. On the other hand, they were capable of more intimate, more exquisite communications. Both of these factors will be explored in the following steps. Continue reading

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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.

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