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FRANK McINTOSH (b. 1901-?)

The dynamic initiatives of art deco design, from the very early stages with Paul Poiret and Georges Lepape in Paris, capitalized upon the surging of exotica coming their way in the form of North African colonials from places like Algeria and Morocco. Soon that catchment was to include the mysterious and sexy factors to be found amongst the Equatorial populations with which France had a lot to do.

Not readily endowed with such inspirational traffic, Oregon-born and San Francisco-based Frank McIntosh had to rely on magazines and movies featuring such places when he found himself commissioned to produce a long series of covers for the photo-enhanced travel, culture, business and politics publication, ASIA, in the 1920s and 1930s. Regardless of gaps with his first-hand experience of the templates of deco exotica, he moved from triumph to triumph on the basis of a true affinity for primitive glamor and surreal mystery.

The output for ASIA is vast and varied, and its special qualities deserve distinct attention. First of all, there is a latent cosmopolitan sheen injected into the radiance of the wild subject, the better to capture a cosmopolitan clientele. In this regard we have:

Those instances also stand as glowing examples of a compositional bravura bringing to mind great cinematography. Here are three more in that vein, which go on to flood the impact with a powerful theatricality, so much so that we have to suspect that McIntosh has got his hands on some editions of the French pochoir-enhanced fashion publication, Gazette du Bon Ton.

McIntosh’s modelling skills were not confined to human subjects, but memorably lingered over wild animal subjects.

A final aspect of the work for ASIA is a marvellous dose of surrealist mystery and wit, in its own way rivalling Cassandre’s surrealist designs for Harper’s Bazaar. The croc pictured just above is but one glorious twist to the surrealism-for-hire mode patented by Dali. So, too, are the beauty-on-the-warpath, the Siamese Twins and the Smokin’ Percussionist pictured below.

To wrap things up with a particularly delicious twist, there is the gift of McIntosh as an inspired colorist.

These amazing images would be particularly effective as a suite of individually framed entities, either with the contents enclosed within the matted presentation or having the contents attached separately to the back of the framed picture.

From out of a regrettably meagre amount of poster work, there is one brilliant example making us hope there are others to be discovered, somewhere, someday.

Reflecting the artist’s involvement in stage-play design, there is a glistening out-of-this-world Boeing 314 Pan Am Clipper just arrived in a tropical paradise with its ecstatic passengers making their first contact with beautiful and gracious denizens of the island. Pan Am would dock at a seaside hotel facility (no doubt an entity invested in by the airline) and so these passengers are making their way directly on foot from the plane to their home away from home. (That could account for the rather Caucasian presence of the tanned locals. They are in fact tourists-gone-native or hotel staff.) The overall tone of the poster is one of wonderment about having ventured toward the Orient. Everyone is enroute to an unforgettable expansion of consciousness. In the case of the ASIA covers, a taste for mystery has become predominant, a disorientation for the Western viewer made more manageable in the reflection-friendly precincts of a magazine, as compared with the quick fix of the poster.

Please enjoy 2 pages of Asia graphics at Artistic Magazines.