SPEAKING OF PICTURES: A VINTAGE GRAPHICS BLOG

ANNIE CLARK (ST. VINCENT) AND THE SLIPPERY ROAD TO THE NEXT THING

Sometimes we learn more from what disappoints us than from what excites us. For instance, there is a pop music phenomenon, recently lauded by the Smithsonian Magazine (and awarded, by them, an America Ingenuity recognition, in Performance Arts), who calls herself St. Vincent and fetchingly distributes a melange of lush melody and abrasive, often cornball jingles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9prpAv6kvo    Continue reading

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IT’S HERE—A SEASON OF JOIE DE VIVRE!

Joy to the world! Let’s explore the joys of Christmas as mustered by some of our most vivid graphics. The great pochoir shown here is about a city girl in love—not the least of which, with the holiday season. From the olive-toned bell to her little scarlet heels, the color harmonies here are superb at a level as only a labor of love could convey. Nonchalance as befits her being in tune with this time for lovers.  Continue reading
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GEORGE BARBIER–SPIRITING TRACES OF THE MODERN WORLD INTO OLD FRANCE

The deluxe cruise ship of a magazine that was L’Illustration, 80 or so years ago, was not simply a tireless and generous repository of visual arts and belles-lettres, but it was also a testing ground for modernists—especially graphic designers— looking to discover how far from Old France they could nudge a mainstream clientele.
The “Numero de Noel” (Christmas) editions were particularly heavy on the Louvre-level satisfactions; and in the number for 1924, with a cover showing a reproduction of a portrait-painting by Fragonard, that elegant and witty design provocateur, George Barbier, gives us a fascinating ride into visual irony. Purporting to be a document from the pre-Revolutionary period (by someone called Andre le Breton—Andre Breton being the notorious Dadaist and Surrealist firebrand; but at the same time there is remarking of an Andre le Breton who was a notorious censor, in the eighteenth century)— the rather daffy text punches out twists and turns of the love affair of one of Marie Antoinette’s confidantes. The main thing, though, is Barbier’s presenting the actors in this imbroglio as if they had become present-day, deco-era Parisians.    Continue reading

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GEORGE BARBIER AND THE NECESSITY OF EXTRAVAGANCE

Paris’ reputation as the center of brilliant elegance was the upshot of a long history of ruthless efforts to, if not obviate a critical mass of rustic obtuseness, at least circumvent it. Versailles and the chateaux of the Loire valley were, to a significant extent a, not very effective, attempt to place a cordon sanitaire between intentions of profane power (the aristocracy) and intentions of more stolid, pious power.
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, economic wealth began to foster strivings for a Belle Epoque of increasingly gratifying comfort and excitement. Paris, then, became the scene of inventions to attract those intent on unprecedented wonders of sensual discovery. There, in particular, decorative activities of fashion design and graphic design promotion of such a metier caught fire.
These days, in Toronto, we have, in a ponderous chateau-facsimile, namely, the University of Toronto Robarts Library, an exhibit of the output of a major exponent of that Paris phenomenon. Continue reading

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NORMAN ROCKWELL AND THE PULSE OF AMERICA


For a number of decades, graphic artist. Norman Rockwell, sent forth a large quantity of illustrations which seemed— to most Americans and most non-Americans— to capture the essence of the Republic. This was a portrayal (to a great extent emanating from the widely-read periodical, The Saturday Evening Post) involving richly observed vignettes of a population of down-to-earth and buoyant folks. Continue reading
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NERI AND HU, JOINING WHO’S WHO!


Architects and industrial designers, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, have managed, ever so quietly (in a field not known for its diffidence), to provide us with a fascinating new slant on design’s speaking to questions of innovative cogency. Having been educated and having launched careers in the U.S., they quite recently (9 years ago) decamped back to the Orient, settling in that most historically glamorous and mysterious of Chinese cities, Shanghai.

The factor they decided they could not live without was Shanghai’s legacy of dark, narrow streets and corridors. From a North American standpoint that would seem to be an odd attraction, given the premium here upon expansive, uncluttered configuration. In the photo above, the heaviness of the stairways drags down the lightness of the room’s context. What could they be thinking of?  Continue reading

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BELIEVE IT OR NOT:TORONTO’S RIPLEY AQUARIUM PROVIDES DEEP POETRY!

16,000 water-traversing creatures can affect you in surprising ways. There is their out-of-this-world cadence, configuration and color. And there are juxtapositions galore!  Continue reading

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“GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM” THE DAVID BOWIE SHOW

The Art Gallery of Ontario, deftly following up on its Surreal Things show, has tapped into London’s Victoria and Albert Museum’s rampage of a show, a wild and wonderful bundle of entities, pertaining to singer/songwriter PLUS, David Bowie (b. 1947). Like stumbling upon a fun house that fights your instincts to concentrate in calm, this friendly assault is more of a challenge than most of us had bargained for.   Continue reading

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A BUTTERFLY STORY!

We found, in a Noel 1933  issue of L’Illustration, a lithographically illustrated article concerning a fabulous German collection of butterflies from around the world. The writer was an expert at Paris’ Museum of Natural History, ensconced in the unforgettable Jardin des Plantes on the Eastern fringes of the City’s core.
As you can see from this introductory page, the issues of color and linear design are activated in an overwhelming and yet subtle way. Continue reading

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KNOWN FOR THEIR CARING—BRITISH VINTAGE GRAPHICS!

This exquisite lithographic poster, by the very accomplished and special, Austin Cooper, is a paradigm of vintage British graphics. There is the love for history, literacy and the land and sea. And there is modelling of persons in such a way as to capture a bountiful solicitude. Continue reading

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