ON POSTER DESIGN
PETER EWART (1918-2001)
During his studies in the late 1930s, at the Commercial Illustration Studio in New York, Ewart became especially fascinated by poster luminaries, A.M. Cassandre (eg. Normandie) and Tom Purvis (eg.Austin Reed).The dynamics and sheen of such predecessors clearly struck a responsive chord, as Ewart went on to a career, at the Canadian Pacific Graphics Studio in his hometown of Montreal, of presenting travel vehicles and destinations with remarkable panache, as supplemented by an equally strong commitment to landscape painting that evokes the upbeat and mysterious implications of the land.
DONALD BRUN (1909-1999)
Donald Brun was unique amongst the large roster of brilliant Swiss posterists of the golden era, prior to 1970, inasmuch as his designs were not primarily intent upon dazzling prowess but upon awakening little moments that mean so much. A good example of the inflection in his work, on the basis of money-in-the-bank lifelikeness, is the work, from 1946, for Bata sports shoes. Here we have the spiffy product and jaunty bit of fun-seeker’s ankle—like so many other Swiss designs perfect as far as it goes (and the evocative range of the object poster does go a long way).
A.M. CASSANDRE (1901-1968)
One of the most resolved poster artists to grace the era (1890–1940) of the métier’s heyday was A.M. Cassandre. During the 1920’s and 1930’s he designed enticements–particularly for transportation firms–which would impact by way of streamlined composition and surrealist spatiality and light. Notwithstanding polemical insistence upon commonness, geometry and physics, Cassandre’s dedication emerges clearly enough in the works as a dedication to uncanniness. Somewhat like Artaud, Cassandre was neither a prolific nor a comprehensive commentator on his business, but he evinced, in his fashion, a startling acuity. Early in his career (c.1929) he could declare, "The poster has to trigger an emotion. And this emotion, whether or not the viewer is conscious of it, has to be an obsessive one."
PAUL POIRET (1879-1944)
Paul Poiret, fashion designer and impresario-at-large, was very instrumental in the inception of art deco phenomena. Exactly one hundred years ago, he began to produce women’s fashions unequivocally at odds with the nineteenth century obsession with screening off female bodies with forest of textiles, from which the individual would peek out at the world like an immobilized, sacred figure within a cordon sanitaire. In marked contradistinction to that antiseptic strategy, the designs of Poiret were developed to accentuate the sensual dynamics of a woman’s body making pleasurable progress through space.
GIUSEPPE RICCOBALDI (1887-1976)
Riccobaldi was virtually unique among graphic designers of his time, in having admired and studied at some length the Angst-ridden and hyper-dramatic late nineteenth century, early twentieth century art of such figures as Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch. Theatricality and darkness would, thereby, become the watchwords of a promotional production that proved surprisingly effective amongst a mass market not particularly interested in stress, but having quite an appetite for juicy suspense. There were two major outlets for the motives, of daunting mystery and power, that Riccobaldi was born to develop.
GINO BOCCASILE (1901-1952)
Boccasile’s early-career association with the great Franco-Italian posterist, Luciano Achille Mauzan (1883-1952) cannot be overstated as a key to his remarkable art. It was one thing to have a facility for figure drawing (particularly pin-up drawing); but what sets Boccasile’s promotional work apart is superb visual wit, a factor he would have developed in the orbit of Mauzan (eg. Persil). A Boccasile graphic (eg.Tricofilina) does not rest its case on a dazzling impression, but engulfs that impression in an ongoing drama of lasting interest.
KAZUMASA NAGAI (b.1929)
It has always been possible to discern a surprisingly muscular aesthetic in much of the output of graphics in the Belle Époque and modern eras. A.M. Cassandre was the most articulate and obsessive of such artists. Much later, in Japan, the endeavors of Kazumasa Nagai elicit a world of overarcing drama by which to convey a set of workaday promotional tasks. The first upshot—of the extensive activities featuring distorted figures in disorienting compositions, oddly juxtaposed and with a daring palette of colors—recalls Surrealist painting. And, by virtue of interviews and articles, we can definitely gain an orientation in terms of the “more real” (but usually closed off) of the golden age of the “sur-real.”
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.
BERNARD VILLEMOT (1911-1989)
Villemot missed the full flowering of French lithographic poster art, being born a generation too late. But his work represents a profound engagement with the heart of poster graphics in their heyday, due to a family history heavily implicated in the world of illustration and the associated world of wealth and celebrity. He was born in a chateau-like residence erected by his maternal grandfather, near the chic resort of Deauville. His father was, as several generations of his family, a caricaturist for smart, satirical publications. Young Bernard encountered at Deauville celebrities of the art deco era and benefitted from sojourns at the family’s Paris residence. So it was that he enrolled in Paul Colin’s Graphics School in the early 1930s, and embarked on a career of advertising graphics that was not to hit its stride until after the Depression and World War II.
Adolph Treidler (1886-1981)
A good place to start, in specifying the qualities of Treidler's graphic designs, is our poster titled, "Starlit Nights." The illumination level clearly does not derive from starlight. What we have is a silvery moon (not shown) gently lending some romance to a group of Bermuda-bound tourists on the upper deck of a cruise ship. They could be at a patio party back in Pennsylvania, and that's just what Treidler finds not only to be a lucrative angle but a fascinating one.