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POSTER OF THE MONTH - January 2014

vintage transportation posterHolland-America Line 1954
Reyn Dirksen
39” x 24”

Most folks nowadays regard cruise ships as drifting islets, their gargantuan proportions closely resembling Mediterranean real estate providing pied à terres for gadflies or gamblers hungry for stress-relieving diversion. Great graphic designers, like this month's master, Reyn Dirksen (1924-1999), are not like most folks, though they might be assigned to butter them up.

Dirksen, like so many of his colleagues during the era when managing change through design meant more than providing fatties with ways to get even fatter, comes to grips with the tourist fleet of Holland-America Line from the perspective of the wide-open seas. Even though this graphic doesn't show so much as a drop of water, its color saturation upon flat planes (primed by that azure sky) reaches the viewer in a key of something bigger than the banquet line.
The elemental color component is matched with elemental geometric factors to exude a multifaceted sense of modernity. At one level the efficiency and seaworthiness of the vehicle is brought forward. And then, what all of the great designers lived for, there is an aura of uncharted waters---richly sensuous, like an exciting dream come true!

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - February 2014

vintage ski posterQuebec Region c.1950
35 ¾” x 24 ¼”
A-, L

I think the best way to fully appreciate this rare and lovely vintage poster is to take to heart that it is not merely about skiing but about the wider thrum of the Quebec region, its delights and its challenges. With all the greenery showing, we have to imagine it's Spring and this might be one of the last chances that year to enjoy the drama of the plunge. Not only is this not the Swiss Alps with its endless season and chic apres-ski, it is the purveyor of totally different charms. Those pictured are not jet-set foreigners, but instead we get a taste of the perks of a less than dazzling neighborhood for families having lived there through many generations.

The design goes on to give us a study of how line and color divulge expanses of historical deposits. You'll notice that there are no ski lifts on
these hills, vantage points by which to show off amazing clothes and equipment. The decidedly homespun figures are dwarfed by a virgin countryside that, you may be sure, does not have lurking in its midst a Michelin-approved culinary gem with Ferraris in the parking lot. Here the attention has to do with more down-to-earth vigor and an almost desert bluntness implying lives far from skipping from triumph to triumph. The Quebec Region, as presented here, is a haven of sorts--but in the sense of having that concentration upon simple beauties from which to plunge into true modernity.

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vintage art deco posterFort William LNER
Grainger Johnson
40” x 50”

British Rail posters, from the 1920's and 1930's, were a dash of Magic Realism in an era otherwise aflame with the fiery distortions of art deco and Surrealism. The graphic artists commissioned to stress the attractions of holiday spots and railway rolling stock were a felicitous small army who were able to bring to great heights their love for the phenomena of their homeland.

Here Grainger Johnson cherishes a moody day in the Scottish Highlands, with its overcast sky still able to direct a few shafts of glorious sunlight upon the perky structures of the town, and upon that sailing yacht being excitingly challenged by the peppery winds so typical and so beloved. The unusual (for Britain) mountainousness is vigorously presented (the major peak is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles) in earthy tones, made even more dashing by the contrasting blue of Loch Linnhe. amazing clothes and Like so many of his colleagues, Johnson was a brilliant exponent of graphic composition. The tilt of the boat and the touch of the sun play wonderfully against the changeless highlands, to an upshot of vivid pleasure. This poster is rare!

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vintage art deco posterPKZ
Marcel Hemjic
50" x 35"
A-, Japan Paperbacking

Here is a graphic design that seems to call out for responses to its seasonal evocativeness. But we'll take another avenue of appreciation, namely, delight in a solitary walk. This being about a Zurich clothier, we could take up the proud loneliness of the successful businessman; but we won't go there, either.What we will consider are the precise balances of the cut of the sleeves and the hem as touched by a Manhattan-like gridwork facilitating progressions that are both part of and out of this world. I love how the bolts on his scarf resume their pitch into terra firma by way of outlining of the cane (and even the trace of his boot).In this perspective the spray of leaves evokes the overall dynamics which the soloist with shaded face undergoes, as he bends into stiff headwinds.

There is a masterful balance of form and color, with its implication that our protagonist is unusually scrupulous. And where has this distinction carried him? There is a masterful balance of form and color, with its implication that our protagonist is unusually scrupulous. And where has this distinction carried him? The art deco frappe of this business-as-usual promotion would seem to be including a dimension beyond the domain of shopping. Like so many great vintage graphics, it is subtly touched by excitements having to do with the days dwindling down and the luxurious rewards included in facing up to that situation.

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vintage modernist poster Golden Arrow c. 1950
Alan Durman
40” x 25”
A-, P

We know of lots of people who travel to places, like New York and Paris, primarily to shop for clothes. We have traveled extensively to shop for vintage posters and graphics.

There was in the post-War era a British train service (remarkably luxurious) called the Golden Arrow, which linked London with Dover and, after the hop across the Channel, carried the lucky shoppers to Paris in a French facsimile, called, Fleche d'Or. Our smashing graphic statement here is masterfully redolent of that premium upon the very best. The color scheme is as neat and rich as those pink bow ties. The pretty shopper, on the way home with beautifully packaged treasures, is a bit becalmed after a hectic day or two but suffused with the magic of riding the wave of modern invention.The power and grace implied by the imagery also seems to promise leaving behind a muddy past for the
sake of a future in the pink. Notice, the figure's rather Victorian travel garb. (She left from Victoria Station.) How does it all add up? That we're drawn to that question, demonstrates an especially haunting piece of graphic art!

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vintage modernist poster Blue Star Arandora Star 1935
Kenneth Shoesmith
40" x 24 3/4"
A, L

This design, by the very special graphic artist, Kenneth Shoesmith, is a luxury liner in itself, what with its instantly dazzling portraiture and color and compositional strategies. The objective is to inspire one to book passage on a cruise to the Southern Hemisphere; and, the graphic work having thus shown the Southern Hemisphere to be rich beyond anything at home, the temptation would be overwhelming (overwhelming, that is, to those able to afford it in the midst of the Great Depression).

The two ladies do much of the heavy lifting here, perhaps especially in their physical presence and apparel. As in alert filmmaking—for instance, the recent gem, Under the Skin—sensuous poise is a powerful attraction. Those eyes and those perfect positions speak to be compellingly alive to the moment.
This snippet of Java sums up a world of mix-and-match ensembles—the tops being filmy or non-existent, the skirts being more enfolding and with bold color patterns.

One last point: the ship’s whiteness has the aura of another planet to which the palm trees bow in their genius for conviviality.

The Daily Mail announced that Liverpool’s Merseyside Maritime Museum is hosting an exhibition of ocean liner posters starting on May 16th, 2014. The poster headlining the show happens to be our Poster of the Month.

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vintage French travel poster Paris Welcomes You
International Exposition 1937
39” x 24 ¾”
B+, L

The Eiffel Tower was the center piece of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. In 1937, despite very difficult times, Paris staged a hopefully revolutionary International Exposition of Design. Here we have an original vintage poster that takes into account a history of French accomplishment in hopes of rallying a dispirited populace. For good measure, it includes the Statue of Liberty, another iconic endowment from French design savvy and depth. As such, the work emphasizes the special invitation to Americans to refresh their bonds of liberty and reaching for the skies, at a time when most eyes were directed to far less lofty priorities.

I especially like those touches that mark definite progress of vision over the grand but rather musty Tower.
Lady Liberty is a deco exclamation mark playing toward shimmering seas-- the ocean liner route to France. The French countryside traversed by the French State Railways is shown to be blessed by golden light and a verdant Paris destination. Thus the play of the design becomes a roundelay of Arts and Crafts (the Tower), Deco (the Statue) and Moderne (the Cityscape).

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vintage Ireland travel poster Ireland-Travel in Comfort c.1950
39 ¾” x 24 ¾”
A, L

What makes this a poster design you’d come back to often, after being initially charmed, is its play between the geometric and the organic.

The heart of the work, a train disappearing into a distant expanse, trails two parallel tracks converging in a point of infinity. The linear tan-colored tracks are punctuated by rectangular ties, also in tan. The viewer looks out at this ethereal play of forms from a viewpoint within a tunnel the entrance to which has been formed into a symmetrical arch, with straight lines and right angles completing the structure. The text is also ordered in a strict pattern of straight lines and symmetrical arches.

Emanating from this transportation marvel of predictable presences, we have, first of all, the puffs of smoke trailing back from the little dot that comprises what is left from the train. These forms trail back into the tunnel with us; and they are irregular, textured and worlds apart from the mathematics. Similarly, Ireland itself—rolling green meadows and purplish mountains—offers surprises in direct contrast to the predictability of the transportation. “Travel in Comfort” the tag line proposes. But also, the poster conveys to us, be prepared to be swept off your feet by earthy beauties and the jaunty little shamrocks like the one with three leaves at the side of the track close to our vantage point. The phrase, “Travel in Comfort” is in an antiseptic white. “Ireland” is in glowing green!

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - September 2014

original vintage British travel posterBridlington LNER c.1925
Graham Petrie
40” x 49 ½”
B+, L

There are two design initiatives sustaining the seductive beauty of the vintage poster, Bridlington, a British Rail promotion from the 1920s.

The first is a capitalizing upon not only the sunny, temperate weather of the Yorkshire coast but also a repository of fine Georgian (chalk-colored) architecture there. In our wonderful graphic, a sunny haze prevails and the smartly-dressed locals promenade on the imposing dock which shelters the crafts of the town’s fishing fleet. The classically-inspired structures along the strand add their light coloration to the unhurried, gracious impact of the pastel attire and the stone work of the dock.
But there is even more to the energies within this graphic design. Its seaside play of light and shadow--and its prominent flag--take us back to Claude Monet, especially his painting, “Garden at Saint Andre.” As with the poster, Monet’s canvas conveys the excitement and grace of an afternoon at a tasteful seaside locale.

That two-phased Impressionist inspiration of our Poster of the Month would draw many sightseers to the LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) offices to book their visit.

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - October 2014

vintage transportation poster Canadian Pacific to Canada and USA c.1933
Kenneth Denton Shoesmith
40” x 25”
A-, L

As shown in this stunning vintage poster design, the Canadian Pacific star of the fleet, namely, Empress of Britain, would be thrillingly at home in a world of dazzling and challenging contrasts. Here we have a dove-white structure amidst the relentless darkness of the night, its knife-sharp edges maintaining fertile creativity against the amorphous chaos of the sky and sea. Happily sheltered within that haven are many lucky travellers anticipating an exciting destination. Their massive and chic conveyance is serviced by unlovely little tugboats. The Canadian Pacific red and white checkered flags abounding here somewhat upstage the Union Jack tucked away at the back of the craft.
Kenneth Shoesmith (1890-1939), the great British graphic designer who brings off this lovely dream(in tandem with the soaring lines of the original structure) has capitalized on the golden funnels and other equipment
on deck to suggest a sunset arrival, just ahead of a nasty rainstorm. (However, these funnels were apparently illuminated to serve as a beacon.) I love the casual, workaday body language of the foreground tug’s crew, contrasting with the stylish clientele, perhaps looking forward to a night on the town at some exciting port. Who wouldn’t want to “Book Here” for a taste of safe and satisfying drama?

A hidden contrast here would be the widespread Depression-era desperation as set against the blithe folks to the fore in this blue chip phenomenon. Another point of contrast was its ending by being torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1940. A RARE poster!

Kenneth Denton Shoesmith was a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors and the British Society of Poster Designers. He exhibited widely, and much of his work was for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - November 2014

vintage transportation poster Take a Trip to Lotus Land 1960s
Milton Glaser
37" x 23"

Milton Glazer is an American graphic artist and all-purpose designer whose output of lithographic and silk screen vintage posters is an ongoing master class in evoking the emotional freeway that sprang into view in the 1950s and especially 1960s. Our instance in this posting, from our collection, especially pertains to the notion of Lotus Land, a precinct where common sense takes a back seat to uncommon sense.
This design prominently features Glazer's sharp instinct for color contrasts to endow a realistic focal point with the capacity to go wild. Amidst a spare and sombre take-off point, the lush floral eruption serves notice that Lotus Eaters are on to something Big, and that killjoy Odysseus was wrong to drag his crew away from them. The single blossom in the subject's hand functions as a kind of high-wire performer's balance pole, offering the prospect of sound--even corporate--traction derivable from daring modern initiatives.
The work here represents a means to identify that, for all its corporate savvy and mainstream ingratiation, the genius of Glazer entails a heavy smack of the uncanny energies struggling to thrive in a geek-canny juggernaut. "Take a Trip to Lotus Land," he recommends. But, thereby, would he be oversimplifying the issue of acuity? At any rate, this poster's vintage inheres in its glorious evocation of the thrilling, unfinished business of modernity.

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - December 2014

vintage travel poster Hawaii by Clipper 1948
Pan American World Airways
John Atherton
42" x 28"

When you think of Hawaii, warm sunlight and ravishing beaches take over. Implicit in that surge of sunniness, there would also be a broad range of sheer pleasure.
In the 1950s, when this vintage lithograph was strutting its stuff, there would also be a widespread recognition of the 9/11-like Pearl Harbour rain of death from the skies which brought the United States into World War II (WA II is etched in the top banner). That would be a significant ingredient going into this lovely but rather subdued look at ecstatic fun. The dancer is more a monument than a party animal. The attenuated Clipper sea plane (which would be landing at a waterfront Pan Am hotel) is both a blithe evocation and a sobering reminder. The bounty of the land at the dancer's feet reminds us of floral tributes to the fallen.
I think the special power of this remarkable reflection in the form of a "System" of relaxation consists of looking ahead to a mysterious future, filled with both delight and danger.

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