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POSTER OF THE MONTH - January 2015

vintage transportation posterAir France Great Britain 1952
Lucien Boucher
39” x 24¼”
A-, P

Now that it's January the days are getting longer and the allure of greenery is at its height. Here the always-resourceful, Lucien Boucher, delivers a color-poem stemming from the Gulf Stream.

The foliage does not confine itself to nondescript, temperate vegetation but rather it shows off a rich variety of growing things. The manor house is surrounded by a veritable museum of trees, an arboretum. We are struck, first of all, by tall, silvery-green guardians, at least a hundred years old. Among the supporting cast are delicate sprays of smaller leaves and at least one pine. A Japanese-Maple-like reddish plant hugs the wall and pink, russet and yellow shrubbery plays out toward us. The manor's pond sustains marsh grasses and a meadow proceeds from there, dusted with wild flowers. A small flock of sheep become golden in the evening glow, seemingly doing their best to fit in visually. Around a larger body of water a mile or so behind the house, there are stands of trees, some of them lighted up like the sheep. Distant hills glow pink and blue.

That the shadow of London's Tower Bridge reaches into that bucolic yard startles us a little. But, like the Air France craft still in take-off disposition rising over the property, the touches of industrial and post-industrial constructs seem to assure that diligence about the land will not be betrayed. This is the mildest form Boucher's Surrealism will ever take, a remarkably upbeat visual poem to a venerable heritage well worth visiting.

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - February 2015

vintage Canadian poster White Star Line c.1920
Canada's Call to Women
W.T. N.
39 ½” x 24 ½”
A, L

Nowadays online dating, with a view to long-term attachments is a widely accepted means of realizing one's dreams. At the era (the beginning of the 20th century) depicted by our poster of the month, the daring involved in such an adventure was considerably more problem-fraught. Mr. Right was far more a hope than a promise.
As such the sweetness of the graphic initiative of our poster is not only delightful but heart rendering. There she is--replete with sketchy geography--poised on the British shore and hoping for a homestead perhaps more civilized than the reality.
The sand and gold motif (gracing a perfectly calm sea)--extending to her well coiffed hair--evokes bright hopes, lightness of spirit and loving attention.

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vintage Canadian travel poster Allan Line Royal Mail c.1910
To and From Canada
James S. Mann
40” x 25”
A-, L

There must be thousands of shipping images in the universe of vintage graphic art. But only a few really keep you coming back, day after day.
I think our Allan Line vehicle is one of those haunting presences, and it's very worth trying to figure out. I'll start with color. The brown frame-motif for the smashing portrait is a bold move, inasmuch as blue waters and blue sky would seem to be de rigueur. What does that rather heavy element contribute here? It trips up the standard vignette, pulling us away from a nautical cliche, in favor of a tribute to the color savvy of the industrial design. Blue is but a complementary factor to that initiative; and in a flash it serves to supplant any flaccid towing the line.Moreover, that circle of surprise has elicited correspondingly audacious typography stemming from its freshness. There is a sort of rigorously contained peppiness about the slightly bulging (abundant) lettering. And that particular shade of brown brings the classic black signage into a rich harmony.
On the basis of that chromatic allure the two vignettes of the masterful conveyance that changes lives forever move into view with a modesty that only increases their aura of power. There are also the new-world red, black and white keys to the future; and in the larger vignette, the tugs and lesser crafts accentuate the marvel that is the client's superstar. The two angles shown serve to imply both sleekness and speed (in the upper image); and solid proof against disaster (in the lower image).
I could spend a really long time enjoying such classy graphic design!

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’Round the World ’Round the Clock
via Pan American 1955
42 ½” x 28 ¼”
A-, P

vintage transportation posterThis is a transportation poster design that eschews flashy vehicles. In fact it eschews every tincture of hardware--- opting as it does for an hourglass motif instead of a mechanical or high tech timepiece! Its theme, of an airline that routinely moves 'round the world and 'round the clock (moves, that is, in unprecedented ways for its time) is encompassed in an exuberant and subtle flourish of arts and design initiatives of the early 20th century.
You don't find many vintage posters taking direction from Russian Supremacist, Kazimir Malevich. But those red and black chevrons spell over-the-top dynamics from the era where mysterious motion was feted by the daring contrarians of the dawning of the modern era. You do find quite a few of those Surrealist pink clouds to imply that your flight is going farther than you thought. The Constructivist touch on the central hourglass gets pretty much high-jacked by art deco pampering. And then we have Moderne in the flip way the typography works.
Somehow this complex of hustling around seems neither lazily contrived nor self-conscious. The designer was truly caught up in the strange multiplicity of modern change, taking a shot of a spring-green world as headed for more thrills than before.

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vintage Canadian war poster Oh Please Do Daddy,
Buy Me Victory Bonds 1917
Joseph Ernest Sampson
36” x 24”
A-, L

In the midst of a World War there would be a lot of motivation to buy Victory Bonds. But rather than counting on an easy way to touch the folks at home, the graphic design for this lithographic treasure rolls up its sleeves and makes some sparks fly!
First of all, it shows master-craftsman subtlety--not in heavy supply in the field of propaganda. There are several motifs which catch us up in the threat to gentle souls being posed by the German forces. First we have a little girl (Toronto artist, Joseph Ernest Sampson, enlisting one, Miss Faith Berry) in a sun suit where the sky is pervasively dark. Here skilled spelling alerts us to her future as a literate and vivacious effective adult---maybe. Those two blocks toppling over provide the most restrained expression of imminent disaster.
The sheen of patrician restraint links to blue-chip lithographic color infusion as well as compositional smarts. As such it addresses adults in the form of an affluent, sophisticated clientele, well-versed in the importance (and possible profit) of that investment. High-power sensibility here demonstrating the stiff upper lip of the Mother Country.

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vintage Canadian war poster Loterie Nationale 1952
Grand Prix de Paris
63 ” x 47 ¼ ”
A-, L

If it's a Grand Prix, it has to be over the top; and our Poster of the Month has what it takes to rise to the occasion. The horse's number is 2. Are we to suppose that the much bigger steed in ghostly white is #1? Size is not everything, and the rich purplish-black features of our hopeful, positioned right in the center of the large expanse, draw us to a close investigation of how a graphic design can be largely common while still making our hearts pound!
The truncated thoroughbred carrying an arrestingly chubby jockey would come to us as an instance of great heart struggling with a world of tough obstacles. The text is heavily weighted toward quantity. But the optics (that white aura implying that the little pony is huge) are all about quality--a zone of quality that touches us and keeps us posted.
There are many graphics featuring horses. Nearly all of them hitch a ride on the natural beauty and excitement those creatures exude. Our Poster of the Month is an object lesson in the marvellous surprises to be found in graphic art.

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vintage Canadian railway poster Travel Canadian Pacific 1959
Peter Ewart
35 ¼” x 24”
A-, L

Right on time for summer travel joys, we bring to you a dash of sunny anticipation from the days when passenger trains were not just a means of marching you into work! The observation dome in full view evokes soaking up far away beauties under azure skies. Enough, for a few days anyway, of routine and narrow focus, and instead bring on surprises and new people and places!
Our guide, as rendered by the super-effective, Peter Ewart, gives us a quintessential 1950s working girl thriving in that special time of the advent of modernity for all. Her workplace is top-of-the-line civilian speed wagon; but it's something more. It's an instance of a new and vaguely mysterious simplicity, its lack of fussy adornment signalling a more adventurous disposition toward the world. Her attire and coiffure coincide with that flare which Ewart has so well devised within her rather enigmatic smile. A rare Canadian Peter Ewart poster!

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Vintage modernist poster Deso Radio 1949
Pierre Monnerat
50 ¼” x 35 ½”
A-, P

This vintage poster is so much more than a cliché for the fiftieth anniversary of a radio manufacturer. It is, in fact, over and above its seizing the moment to roll out a most handsome lithographic advertisement, a fascinating close-up of that mysterious land from which the business and the poster emanate, namely, Switzerland.
Say what you might about the Swiss, they could never be accused of being sensualists. What with their day-and-a-half shut down of weekends for religious observances and $30 mediocre hamburgers, a degree of constraint is clearly de rigueur. So here we have a potential conduit of fun pressed into the perspective of the ancient guild of Meistersingers
(drawing attention to the firm's longevity and strict craftsmanship). An accordingly constrained song bird expresses not a musical composition but the firm's name. The cloud effects perhaps suggest a special song from heaven itself.
Miraculously, with all those strikes against it, the rendering of the creature is most charming, and the whole chromatic piece is a dazzler! We are reminded by this burst of sunlight that exponents of fabulously warm graphic art--like Donald Brun and Martin Peikart--thrived in that atmosphere!

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - October 2015

vintage French poster Pacha Noir
Jules-Alexandre Grun
48" X 34"
B+, L

We can remember the beginning of Halloween festivities in France, in the 1990s. Bemused, no doubt, but also charmed, we'd see an unexpected premium upon seriality--multiple Halloween nights and groups wearing exactly the same costumes!
Our poster, predating Halloween-France by a century, pushes all those buttons, giving us tons of Gallic sweetness. The artist, Jules-Alexandre Grun, was a bellwether of inducing, by way of lithographic posters, the denizens of Paris to find their intrinsic wildness and joyousness jacked up to an unprecedented level. Here, from his bailiwick of Montmartre, he offers to us a great local music hall by showing one of the beautiful women and many of the stray cats to be found there. The motif of unbridled sensuality is sustained by the notion of hitherto remote exotica in the term "Pacha," the glorious modelling of the woman and the wit of the composition with its party animals. The composition includes space for an up-to-the moment roster of performers and their offerings. The ensemble also anticipates Halloween in its evocation of creatures on a dangerous wild side of town!
An amazing and beautifully rendered lithographic poster! Closeup images on request.

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - November 2015

vintage French poster Bally Lotus 1973
Bernard Villemot
62 1/4" x 46"

When we come to an instance of vintage graphic design like this one, we pause for quite a while before saying anything. Then the first words that come to mind are, "This could only be a French invention." Sexy, deluxe and meditative components are rife in vintage advertising design, but, as this poster invention quite startlingly conveys to us, there is something fascinatingly unique about our instance here as devised by that patrician and arts salient scion, Bernard Villemot, on behalf of a new line of women's shoes produced by the venerable Swiss concern, Bally.
In accordance with a long-standing intent on behalf of that firm to bring industrial/fashion design to advanced levels (and to promote modern fine art exhibitions), the remarkable finesse and edginess of Villemot's metier meant that he was clearly meant for that enterprise. He readily found his way to compositional features that would coincide with a premium upon solitude and kinetic intimacy in modern art, the modern art, for instance, Henri Matisse.
The vignette here dispenses with everyday details and shows two figures dedicating themselves to simple and mysterious powers, thus locating the pristine footwear within a pacesetting range of exciting discovery. Villemot magically transmits these rather daunting priorities by way of direct visual features alone---form, color and composition---to an upshot of haunting elegance.

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POSTER OF THE MONTH - December 2015

vintage French travel poster En route pour la Suisse 1935
Herbert Matter
40" x 25"
A-,B+; L

As I write this the Santa Claus Parade is underway in Toronto. You could call Switzerland as valid a homeland for Santa as the North Pole and its artisanal workshops.It's quaint, it's a supply hub and it's elusive. But it is also a place of quite baffling mystery, which lets it off the hook for being a hotbed of candy-coated domesticity. No, the Swiss and their real estate and their various inscrutable shelters are more about strange, confusing and precipitous exertions than putting on weight. Our dazzling photo-montage by the masterful Herbert Matter goes quite a distance along maintaining a no-fly zone for cherry-nosed pet-charmers. Desolate and icy (in many senses) are what first come to mind here.
But on a second consideration there is the matter of its astonishing configurations, so redolent of hard-won artistic mastery. The nicely-wrought pattern on the jaw-dropping road includes chirping about 30% off gas and lots of informative brochures for the motoring tourist who has not been wiped out by the Depression. (Switzerland and its conclave of billionaires with an eye for not paying taxes does not brook recessions because Switzerland has made sure not to be really part of planet Earth.) But that Dali-esque highway and its play of textures can give mere earthlings dropping by a purchase upon a deep and perhaps even happy future, an infusion to take back home to more sensual energies.

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