SPEAKING OF PICTURES: A VINTAGE GRAPHICS BLOG

SLEEK AND GRITTY NOCTURNAL GRAPHIC DESIGNS  

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Flying Over Avalon 1940;Ruehl Heckman;14 1/4” x 10 ½ ”;A, P

I’ve always found the endeavors of those who work at night to be strangely special. Someone toiling in an office tower or studio after midnight comes to mind as someone with peculiar energy and range. Restaurants, hospitals, transport businesses and entertainments would seem to deploy a special kind of marine, somehow giving more of him or herself than 9-to-5-ers. Though I’ve felt this way since long before our dealings with vintage graphics, its energies have never, till now, become a part of our acquisition strategies. Therefore, this survey serves as not only a probe of quite unique historical renditions (aesthetic and reflective), but a new focus for searching out special graphic design.

We begin with the heavenly night flight over Catalina Island, a place that dares to cherish the night amidst a population of sun-worshippers. With the beach-front glittering as it does, the transport thrust here falls within the embrace of a business (even a vocation) of glamorous diversions.   Continue reading

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FABULOUS LADIES’ PARTY WEAR—LISTENING TO THE BEAT OF NECESSARY LUXURY IN VINTAGE GRAPHIC ART

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Fourrures Max, Leroy and Schmid 1912;Charles Martin;11″ X 7 5/8″;A, P

When frigid New Year’s Eve seems to check mate one’s hopes for fanning the flames, there is always an answer in the form of furs comprising a cozy house in themselves. This astonishing snowscape by Charles Martin seems to imply some kind of Revolution! Continue reading

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DRESSED TO KILL—FORMAL ATTIRE IN GRAPHIC ART

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Salem Gold 1914;Anonymous;10 1/8″ x 7 3/8″;A,P; litho from Die Reklame

The Party Season is upon us; and we felt that showing vintage graphic art vignettes of serious party animals would be fun and edifying. In this instalment we’ll let the gentlemen have their moments (reserving, for New Year’s, the ladies in all their glory).

Our first dazzler above will serve to demonstrate how the thrilling blackness of formal attire can provide a feast for the eyes and heart within the scope of graphic design.  Continue reading

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PARIS, THAT GOLDMINE OF GRAPHIC ART!

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Pacha Noir 1890s;Jules-Alexandre Grun; 48″ X 34″; B+, L
About 1890, Parisian artist, Jules Cheret, discovered an efficient and low-cost technique for the production of lithographs, leading to a torrent of advertising graphics adding even more brilliance, delight and mystery to the City of Light.
 Here we have Cheret’s colleague, Jules-Alexandre Grun, pushing a club/restaurant; but, even more to the point, pushing the Montmartre district as the coolest place on Earth.

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PARIS 1926

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Paris Streets 1926;Charles Laborde;13″ x 16″;Engraving from portfolio,Rues et Visages de Paris

A most amazing engraved graphic that allows us to enjoy the excitement in the streets of this romantic city! Continue reading

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ZELDA ILLUMINATES OUR COLLECTION!

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This week, for the first time, our blog does not centre upon instances of graphic design redolent of an avant-garde of the early twentieth century. Instead we’re catching up with a current magazine which has delighted us for years now, namely, Zelda (“The Magazine of the Vintage Nouveau”). Named, in part, for Daisy, the unattainable, lethally dangerous heroine of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Era novel, The Great Gatsby (Daisy’s problematic energies being somewhat modelled on his wife, Zelda), this inspired publication is the labor of love of two bright and heart-warming New Yorkers, Diane Naegel (taken from us at a shockingly early age) and her partner, Don Spiro. (Diane’s legacy lives on thanks to her loving friends  devoted to what is involved in the sense of Zelda.)

Shown above, our ad, which we’re proud to add to the amazing contents.   Continue reading

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WHEN OCEANS WERE DEEP–PASSENGER SHIPS ON THE ATLANTIC

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 Allan Line Royal Mail  c.1910;To and From Canada;James S. Mann;40”x25”;A-,P

Before aviation hit its stride, but after sailing ships were retired, steamships (designed with great care) were the main link between Europe and North America. In this blog we’ll narrow the subject even further: ships carrying passengers to Canada from Britain, in the decades just before World War II–considered in view of the drama of their history and designs.

The Allan Line had been transporting passengers and products (prominently including mail) from Britain to Montreal since about 1820; but here we have a coal powered behemoth (18,000 tons) leaving Liverpool in the years directly before the company was taken over by Canadian Pacific Steamships in 1917. The design, especially as shown in the profile at the top of the poster, was eager to portray a sleek configuration with cosmopolitan black and red color statements. The design also juxtaposes the ship with lesser vehicles to imply that Allan was the smart line to deal with. The jaunty lettering for the letter C in the word Canada would evoke a going concern. (The data at the bottom indicates that the company was about emigration as much as shipping and round trips.)    Continue reading

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WAY DOWN YONDER: A NEW DAY ON OLD TURF

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We recently did some work with the R.W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana. This, we have found to our delight, is a remarkable collection of American and European painting, sculpture, decorative art, vintage graphic art and vintage books (historical and illustrative), with an emphasis upon historical and individual recognition and exploration.

Making this even more exciting, is the importance to me of Shreveport as my means of getting started with the special magic of modern music. How so? In the 1950s, Winnipeg winters were super-cold, and they were good for one thing—jacking the 50,000 Watt power of Shreveport radio station KWKH! Hunkered down with frost and ice an inch thick on the window pane, I stumbled upon that bundle of elemental cool, flowing out like a supernova in a dark void. One Saturday night I heard a guy named Elvis Presley on a live show called “Louisiana Hayride.” That same night, as always, the many hours of country/western programming was followed by a show of blues recordings by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, as presented by DJ, Frank “Gatemouth” Page.   Continue reading

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NOTHING SKETCHY ABOUT THE SKETCH

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The British periodical known as The Sketch (1893-1959) took upon itself the project of showing “aristocracy” in a positive light. In addition to its coverage of expensive events and pampered heirs and heiresses, it was able to attract illustrators and–most remarkably and unusually—photographers of so high a calibre (as able to count on deluxe paper stock) that the upshot was an impression of a more comprehensive and profound sense of aristocratic energy.

The young women in the photo above are captured in their readiness for life and society transcending their débutante status and certification by royalty.     Continue reading

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MICHELANGELO AT THE AGO–RE-CHARGING THE SENSE OF RENAISSANCE MAN

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The Art Gallery of Ontario has transported the opportunity to display a few dozen drawings by Michelangelo into a most stimulating embrace of the ancient-god-like artist’s enduring significance. Its exhibition strategy boldly maintains the parity of that giant’s architectural projects with the far more renowned and revered paintings and sculptures.  So it transpires that the heart of the event is a slide show of the Biblioteca Laurenziana. Michelangelo’s creation of a library in Florence for those over-achievers, the Medicis’ in the early 16th century, was, it now dawns on us, despite being commissioned by a Pope (a Medici family Pope), not about the vision of a pious, ascetic geek being brought to fruition by a pious, ascetic artist, but instead about a Ponderosa of a family wanting to show off its collection of rare books and manuscripts in order to prove it had become super-refined.

Shown here, the reading room, provided with pews. But more significantly the linearity of that feature folds into an ensemble of formal progressions along the windows in the service of focusing light through self-disciplined endeavor. Continue reading

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