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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.

After leaving Mauzan’s production plant and before breaking into poster accounts, Boccasile maintained a heavy workload regarding magazine (especially cover) illustration. Ranging from the quasi pornographic Paris Tabou to People-like flutters (le grandi firme), these accounts evinced his delight in contemplating the range of female sensibility from sexy playfulness to domestic confinement.

At the cusp of his transition from small-format to large-format work, there was the very significant and dicey factor of Boccasile’s fascist leanings. A clear early sign of the fortuitous potential gains to be derived from harmonizing with the powers-that-be is the poster-like calendar from 1927, “L’Anonima Grandine,” with the sexy dimension subsumed within a bright but stolid domesticity. A glance at the progress from the cruise ship brochure, “Crociere Estate 1935,” to the poster for Tradate shoes, as featured in the Milan Trade Fair of 1939, reveals how earlier design factors could be readily recycled to large-scale work, maintaining his strong suit of female glamor portrayal. One of the few early 1930s posters is a case of the exception proving the rule. Viarregio promotes the resort with a pin-up giving a fascist salute.

With the onset of World War II, Boccasile was well positioned to be the Italian war effort’s go-to cheer-leader.

At the same time as his rather lurid flowering as a war propagandist, Boccasile found himself showered with orders to keep the home fires burning. The quality of such responses to the windfall allows one to appreciate that he was first and foremost a fertile graphic artist rather than a political fanatic. Noteworthy in this regard is the dazzling, but undeniably bristling with master race energies, indoor poster (cardboard placard), Dischi Cetra (1940) where the pin-up strikes a glossy martial pose while riding on a disc offering the Italian opera, Aida. A more easy-going presentation, “Biciclette Frera” (also from 1940), promotes a symbiosis between Italian industry and an earthy, bright and gorgeous Italian womanhood. In a calendar design from 1938, Donna con Rosa, we have a presentation managing to emit, at one and the same time, spunkiness and preciousness. With the wartime designs for suntan lotion (“Crema Brunetta”) a baby food supplement, “Superdiamaltina” and the cover of a radio program guide (“Radiomelodie”), Boccasile conveys a sense of safe and happy gals well protected by sturdy troops. Particularly in the latter piece, Boccasile’s gift for shimmering and often rather abrasive observation is firing at a vivid level. Two hotties, whose guys are presumably at the Front, keep smiling (and singing) through, accompanied by a band of decidedly spiffy but—from the point of view of the fascist status quo—defective musicians.

After a remarkably short imprisonment for his prominent support of the fascist regime, Boccasile—whose talents could have been more wisely channelled (or, could they, given the socioeconomic setting?), but were such as to be by then widely recognized as displaying firebrand marketing intensity—went on to produce, in the five or so years he had left, a flood of product promotions in poster form that were both down-to-earth and brilliantly observed.

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