CHAPTER ONE. Art Posters

CHAPTER TWO. Modern and Professional

CHAPTER THREE. Posters and Reality

CHAPTER FOU. Posters and Society



see also:



Jules Cheret
Theophile Alexandre Steinlen
Thomas Theodor Heine
Koloman Moser
Manuel Orazi
Georges de Feure
T. Privat-Livemont

Leonetto Cappiello

Will Bradley
Jan Toorop
Henri Van de Velde
Victor Moscoso
Jan Tschichold
Walter Allner
Herbert Bayer
Jean Carlu
Paul Colin
Jean Dupas
Georges Lepape
Tom Purvis
Ludwig Hohlwein
Hans Neumann
Charles Loupot
Milton Glaser
Herbert Leupin
Henri Gustave Jossot
Ruzzie Green
Jean D'Ylen
Heinz Edelmann
Franciszek Starowieysk
Alan Aldridge
Martin Sharp
Roman Cieslewicz
Jan Lenica
Tomi Ungerer
Tadanori Yokoo
Karel Teissig

Collection: Cards and Posters
G. BarbierR. Cramer, J. Harbour, R. Kirchner, C. Zander, d'Erte)



Modern and Professional


The term 'modern' has come to suggest a certain hollowness when applied to the arts - as though it represented a solution in design that time has quietly filed away with all the other styles. The twenties had an air of stylish optimism summed up in the title of Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World, and yet so much of its faded elegance has an element of what we now call 'camp'.

Two elements seem to have been at work: formal modern design and decorative modern. The first springs from the idea of function, which replaced the single word 'ornament' that had described the design of the nineteenth century. It represents that forward-looking design that links art with industry and the age of technology. The second element, decorative modern - regarded as a backward-looking style by Le Corbusier and his supporters - thrived in times of affluence, it represented the work of the individual and, as far as posters are concerned, was usually connected with painting.

Formal modern was to find a synthesis in the work of the
Bauhaus, decorative modern in two periods - the first between the end of Art Nouveau in about 1900 and the rise of Bauhaus influence in the early thirties, the second after the Second World War in the first decorative era of the consumer society. Inevitably some elements of formal design appear as decoration and this, as we shall see, was usually regarded as a compromise between the more rigid principles of design and the decorative manner that developed as a result of the emergence of new forms, The obvious example is the way in which the formal possibilities of Cubist design were turned into almost neo-classical decoration, not only by designers of posters but even by Picasso. The character of both those design elements that went to make up the new form of posters, as well as that of painting, appeared within a few years after 1900, although the dividing line between the world of the nineteenth century and the new, mechanized world of the twentieth is often ascribed for convenience to the effect of the First World War. As far as design is concerned, or as far as art movements were affected by that catastrophic event, one can find only two major connections between the war and art. The Futurist movement seemed to anticipate the nature of mechanized warfare; and the Dadaists were born as a result of the despair produced by the hopelessness of it all. Otherwise, the many changes of style of the various art movements of the twentieth century have their foundations in the years between 1900 and 1917. The most important element in early twentieth-century design was the search for a new structural order, which was most apparent in what we call here 'formal art movements', such as Cubism,
De Stijl and Constructivism.

As far as the public was concerned, the dates when these different art movements were made known occur between 1908 and 1917.
The first Cubist works of Picasso and Braque appeared in 1908. In 1913 Malevich exhibited his first
Suprematist work, Quadrat, a black square on a white ground. In 1917 De Stijl, the Dutch progressive movement, was founded by Van Doesburg.

Cubist paintings presented a new language of pictorial art which tended towards abstraction. But however far the Cubists travelled away from reality, they always returned to it, for Cubism was basically an art concerned with the real. The Cubists, in fact, had more to say about art and reality than many other painters who had worked in the tradition of illusionistic representation since the Renaissance. The Cubists made the artist's approach to reality both intellectual and sensual. An artist did not necessarily record what he could see of an object from one particular viewpoint - a convention established by centuries of tradition in painting. Instead the Cubist made an analysis of what he knew to be in front of him. Therefore, an object was represented from all viewpoints simultaneously, and in order to make this feat a possibility it became necessary to take reality to pieces and to re-assemble its fragments in a new structural form.

In this way, painting becomes more obviously a concept of the artist's intellect, and in the work of art a new language of form was developed to describe space. A painting produced in these terms has a life of its own. It has its own reality, which one is invited to explore mentally. In the past, one had been invited to 'take a walk' in a landscape with the help of various pictorial devices, like the road leading into the middle distance with subtle twists and turns. The Cubists rejected these methods of association, which were after all often merely sentimental responses to the illustration of a view. Instead, they substituted an artificial structure which was to be grasped with the mind and the senses as a fresh experience. In order to give the feel of a new reality, a great emphasis was laid on the tactile elements of the objects of the painting, cither by implied surfaces of wood graining or marbling, or by literally incorporating pieces of material into the work. Collage, sand, parts of posters, lettering were pasted onto the work.

The work of art is therefore an independent entity that is itself a new reality. It is interesting that this movement in twentieth-century art was the direct result of a collaboration of personalities - Braque and Picasso. It is important to see that Cubism was both an intellectual and a sensory revolution: most writers on art underline the former, but painters have shown that the appeal to the senses and to the technical language of painting itself has been just as significant. To this double revolution one must therefore add a third element -the invention of the technical device of collage. Together, these developments were to be responsible for changes in the style of posters during the twentieth century.

In addition to the discoveries of Braque and Picasso, the effect of the work of Fernand Leger was to be reflected in posters. Leger's interest in the technical elements of modern civilization linked Cubist discoveries with the spirit of the new era. 'L'Esprit Nouveau' found expression in the writings and work of Amedee Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. Their precise treatment of objects and materials became known as the
Purist Movement. This formal presentation of reality had clarity and directness - it was to be the principal influence on the applied arts everywhere; that of Leger was confined to France.

In Apres le Cubisme (1918), Ozenfant and Le Corbusier stated: 'What we demand in art is precision. The necessity for order which alone can be effective has brought about a daring geomctricization of the spirit which is entering more into all our activities. . . . Contemporary architecture exemplifies this process. Trams, railways, motorcars, implements are all reduced to a rigorous form.' The authors felt that Cubism had, for example, in the neo-naturalism of Picasso's works of 1915-16, reverted to the old pictorial concepts of the past; certainly Picasso's later neo-classical work justifies this fear. The revolution of Cubism and the new technology of the age prompted Ozenfant to write later, in Journey through Life (1932), of'... the first Purist School 1918-26 which, dissenting from Cubism, was both a seeking after the principles of form and a protest against the arts of the drawing room.' In the same work, he also said that he wanted to find some means of making mass-produced paintings: he felt that genius lay in the all-important quality of invention. Problems of the loss of the personal touch in the execution of such works were of secondary importance. ' . . . if we really set out to look for mechanical or semi-automatic processes, some modern Gutenberg would very soon find them. Processes of this kind would do about eighty per cent of the work, and the master would do the rest by hand.'

At this point, designers in Paris such as
Cassandre (1901-68) took up the language of the formal art movements and applied them to the advertising poster. The name 'Cassandre' was the pseudonym of Jean-Marie Morcau, who had been born in the Ukraine. By 1921 he was able to show that the mechanization of design - loved by the Futurists and by Moholy-Nagy - had in fact become a social reality, although he presented his mechanized compositions within the terms of Paris painting. In a colourful descriptive passage, he wrote that the poster had ceased to be a display but had become instead 'an an-nouncing-machine' - a part of the repetitive process of mass-communication. In an introduction to a publication called Publicite (1928-29) he gives a poetic account of Paris, alive with the sights and sounds of modern advertising media and presided over by the illuminated Eiffel Tower.

Cassandre rarely used montage - Wagon-bar (1932) is a brilliant exception - but he simulated the effect of montage photographs in carefully worked-out designs. At the age of twenty-four he produced his design for L' Intransigeant (1925), a work of almost classical purity, rigidly laid out on the Golden Section. A few years earlier, Ozenfant had written, 'Nous aurons aussi notre Parthenon, et notre epoque est plus outillee que celle de Pericles pour realiser l'ideal du perfection.' Cassandre's most acclaimed work has been his design Etoile du Nord (1927), which combines a feeling for the new technology and a comlete faith in its function. One senses the inevitable reliability of the railway system and the vast spaces that the track covers so directly.

The set of three posters that
Cassandre designed for Dubonnet (1934) are good examples of the use of precise arrangement in the popular idiom. Cassandre expresses movement here in the way a film sequence develops a series of events: the three panels of the poster show three stages through which a man is seen to anticipate, savour and finally become attracted to the aperitif. The automaton-like figure becomes suffused by the drink, which also causes his eye to roll around, in the accepted reaction to this condition. The letters that spell out 'Dubonnet' are also gradually suffused in the same way, implying, in French, a gradual acceptance of something, something that is good, something that is also the name of the product. Such a decorative and humorous use of the clean lines of Purism shows how the formal possibilities of the new design could lead on into decorative treatment. In Dubonnet Cassandre joined other designers in Paris in the thirties whose work contributed to the decorative style of that era, and to which we must return later. At the moment we are concerned with that formalized approach to design which Cassandre derived from the abstract movements in the arts and which led to posters like his L'Intransigeant.



In 1933 he summed up his attitude towards the role of the poster designer in this way:
It is difficult to determine the status of the poster among the pictorial arts. Some reckon it as a department of painting, which is mistaken, others place it among the decorative arts and I believe they are no less mistaken. The poster is neither a painting nor a theatrical backdrop but something different, although it often makes use of the means offered by the one or the other. The poster demands utter resignation on the part of the artist. He must not assert his personality. If he does so it would be contrary to his rights.

Painting is an end in itself. The poster is only a means to an end, a means of communication between the dealer and the public, something like a telegraph. The poster designer plays the part of a telegraph official: he does not initiate news: he merely dispenses it. No one asks him for his opinion, he is only required to bring about a clear, good and exact connection.

In making this statement,
Cassandre is preparing the way for the emergence of the professional communications expert. In Paris, the national home of Cubism, it was natural that French designers would develop their ideas from that movement or from other local movements - such as Purism - that stemmed from it. In other countries, movements such as De Stijl and Constructivism, which in the early stages of their development had looked to Cubism for pictorial reference, later applied these discoveries in ways that were to have a more direct influence on poster design than Cubism itself.

In 1915 Mondrian returned to Holland from Paris, where he had been associated with Cubism. He developed the new formulae to a more disciplined conclusion than that reached by Cubist work, which later became decorative. As a result his influence, and that of Van Doesburg, who founded De Stijl in 1917, extended the initial, breakthrough of the Cubists to influence and transform the way we now live. Mondrian wrote in 1942:

Neo-plasticism now has its own intrinsic value, as painting and sculpture, it may be considered as a preparation for a future architecture. It can complete existing new architecture in the way of establishment of pure relationships and pure colour. Actually it is an expression of our modern age. Modern industry and progressive technics show parallel if not equal developments. Neo-Plasticism should not be considered a personal conception. It is the logical development of all art, ancient and modern; its way lies open to everyone as a principle to be applied.

The effect of the formal art movements on our environment is clearly stated by Mondrian in this quotation, and future work at the Bauhaus, and in the 1950s in the movement known as Die пеuе Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) in Switzerland, shows how the early achievements of De Stijl were expanded and applied. But before we examine these two areas of design, there are further developments in connection with the formal arts that spring more closely from the Dutch movement. De Stijl design was restricted, in its orthodox form, to the use of primary colours and simple square or rectangular shapes. The Dutch designer, Piet Zwart, born in 1885, has been responsible for some of the most adventurous typographical work based freely on this formal discipline.

Hendrik Werkman (1882-1945) developed the use of printers' materials - inks, rollers and assorted type - to create compositions which he called druksels - from the Dutch word 'to print'. Word pictures had been used by Marinetti and Apollinaire, and one can quote a precedent such as 'The Mouse's Tale' in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. In Werkman's designs, the arrangement of different typefaces conveyed the effects of collage and montage that other contemporary art movements had achieved. The letters themselves formed the image - an idea that the Cubists and Dadaists had been quick to understand - except that in Werkman's designs the process of using type in painting had been reversed. Braque and Boccioni had used lettering in their easel paintings as a means of introducing an element of reality. Werkman, on the other hand, 'painted' with type. Posters using type in this way expressed pictorial patterns instead of decorative but straightforward arrangements. An interesting development of Werkman's experiments is seen in Robert Indiana's poster Noel (1969) - one of a series of variations dealing with the relationship of large single letters. The unusual achievement of Werkman was cut short when he was killed during the occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, and much of his original work was destroyed during the Liberation. In the Netherlands an imaginative use of formal design in poster layout has been continued in the work of Willem Sandberg and Wim Crouwel.


Hendrik Werkman

Willem Sandberg

Wim Crouwel

One of the most significant single influences on 'formal' design has been that of Jan Tschichold, who was born in 1902 and who graduated from the Leipzig Academy of Book Design. In Asymmetric Typography, published in 1935, he writes (trans. Ruari Maclean):

The connection between 'abstract' painting and the new typography does not lie in the use of 'abstract' forms but in similarity of working methods. In both, the artist must first make a scientific study of his available materials and then, using contrast, forge them into an entity. . . . The works of 'abstract' art arc subtle creations of order out of simple, contrasting elements. Because this is exactly what typography is trying to do, it can derive stimulus and instruction from a study of such paintings, which communicate the visual forms of the modern word and arc the best teachers of visual order.

In his poster for Phoebus Palast (1927), Tschichold uses photography as an 'abstract' element. A shot from the film is cut into a circle which is balanced with an oblique line. This, in turn, is set at right angles to lines of sans serif type. The shot, incidentally, is of Buster Keaton, whose props in this instance consist of cannon balls and railway track so that the shapes in the still are repeated in the total design of the poster.

Jan Tschichold

Keaton appears again, with his stony expression staring from the elements of formal design - this time in a poster by the Stenberg brothers in Russia. Formal elements are used decoratively in this film poster, but the contribution from the Constructivist movement towards precise 'abstract' poster design was considerable. In her book, The Great Experiment: Russian Art 1863-1922, Camilla Gray-Prokofieva notes the connection between the work of Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) and that of Dziga Vertov of The Man with the Cine Camera and Kino-Pravda, and also the effect of the early films of Eisenstein. His use of camera angles is apparent in the posters for Battleship Potemkin. Eisenstcin's sophisticated use of montage is also reflected in a poster such as Russische Ausstellung (1929) by Eleazar Markovich - known as El Lissitzky (1890-1941). In this poster Lissitzky docs not make use of a photograph as Tschichold had done in Phoebus Palast, but instead creates a new reality through montage. Lissitzky was also the first to use the device of the 'photogram' as a poster - for Pelikan Ink (1924) - but his most direct use of formal de- sign in a poster can be seen in the work, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1919-20). In this poster he uses simple elements - sharp, aggressive shapes, circles, and the direct impact of black, red and white. He later made an illustrated accompaniment to Mayakovsky's poem, For Reading Out Loud (1923), and in The Story of Two Squares produced a work that is pure visual communication in abstract terms. Malevich described the nature of this new language when he wrote of another movement - Suprematism:

The forms of
Suprematism are imbued with the same forces as the living forms of nature. Suprematism is a new form of pictorial realism, a realism which is purely formal because there are no mountains, no sky and no water. Each true form is a world in itself. And each pure unmarked surface has more life than a drawn or painted face with a pair of eyes and a smile.

The styles produced by the various art movements during the early years of the twentieth century left their mark on poster design at the time, but the general effect of the new formalism was consolidated and directed in Germany. In 1922 Van Doesburg invited Moholy-Nagy, Richter, El Lissitzky, Arp, Tzara and Schwitters to a conference at Weimar, the original home of the Bauhaus, which was then in its fourth year. The confrontation of personalities was perhaps less fruitful than the idea that such connections were possible. Much more significant was the proximity of the Bauhaus itself, which rapidly came to represent the centre for the new spirit. This is not to say that there was ever a 'Bauhaus Style', but rather that the elements brought together by that school represented a body of alternative work to the universally admired School of Paris. In Weimar a group of brilliant European artists, including Feininger, Itten, Klee, Kandinsky, Schlemmer, Moholy-Nagy, Albers and others, under the direction of Walter Gropius, brought their intelligence to bear on the new discoveries. Equally important, they aimed at a universal participation in artistic experience based on the old formula of the medieval guild relationship of master and apprentice - but in terms of the twentieth century and mass-production.

Within the staff of the Bauhaus itself, it is necessary to distinguish between those, such as
Klee, Feininger, Itten and Kandinsky, whose work one might say belonged to a spiritual area of expression! and Moholy-Nagy, whose work places him alongside Lissitzky, Malevich and members of De Stijl. It is with these latter names! linked with the new elements of the age - one in spirit with society! social system and architecture - that the most significant influence of the Bauhaus on poster design is to be found. Moholy-Nagy understood that the new techniques of the cinema - montage, trick photography, camera angle - could all be used as creative elements in posters. If one compares the effective though 'dead' montage of a work by, say, Hannah Hoch with the related elements of Moholy-Nagy's Circus and Variety poster, one can see that a new 'living' reality could be created out of the images of still photography.

Various art movements, then, converged in Germany in the early twenties and it is in this area and during this crucial period of reconstruction after the First World War that the foundations for an integration of design and painting were laid. In 1924 Moholy-Nagy wrote:

Whereas typography, from Gutenberg up to the first posters, was merely a (necessary) intermediary link between the content of a message and the recipient, a new stage of development began with the first posters. . . one began to count on the fact that form, size, colour and arrangement of the typographical material (letters and signs) contain a strong visual impact. The organization of these possible visual effects gives a visual validity to the content of the message as well; this means that by means of printing the content is also defined pictorially. . . . This is the essential task of visual-typographical design.


Cubierta del decimosegundo libro de la Bauhaus

Moholy-Nagy was mainly responsible for the new elements in Bauhaus typography and advertising techniques from 1923 until the beginning of the Dessau period (1925), when the Bauhaus had to move from its original home in Weimar. Development of a specific Bauhaus type began in about 1923. It was derived in part from the work of Schwitters and also of Van Doesburg - thus bringing together ideas from Dada and De Stijl. Moholy-Nagy initiated the idea of type without capitals, which was implemented by Herbert Bayer (1924).

In 1929 and 1930 the influence of Joost Schmidt on Bauhaus poster design led to a development of posters into three dimensions as exhibition structures. The development of a combined commercial art and photographic department in Berlin under Peterhans stressed the exhibition-stand photographic poster in Bauhaus design (1932). The Bauhaus existed at Weimar from 1919 until 1925, at Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and in Berlin during 1933, when the Nazis insisted that changes should be made in the staff and programme so that it would conform to the ideals of National Socialism. The Bauhaus was then re-established in the United States. The formal art movements which had started in Europe had a direct influence, through the teaching of the Bauhaus, throughout the world. Walter Allner and Herbert Bayer, among others, continued the work of the Bauhaus in America after its 'expulsion' from Europe. The Bauhaus signalled not only a change in design, but of the place of design within society and so ultimately of society itself.

Walter Allner


Herbert Bayer

The country that followed the developments of the Bauhaus most closely was Switzerland. Switzerland was removed from the economic depression, which had begun in the United States, and later became encircled by the Second World War. The disastrous six years of war did affect Switzerland, but not in the way that other countries were affected. There was no real outlet in Switzerland for advertising, and it became necessary to cultivate an artistic organization in order to continue graphic work. This was achieved on a national scale by the Ministry of the Interior. Switzerland, well known for its precise craftsmanship, also has a distinguished history of design. Among Swiss poster artists of international rank one can number
Grasset, Steinlen and Amiet - and, more recently, Matter, Max Bill and Leupin.

Two elements in Swiss poster design which originate from the 1920s became known as 'New Objectivity'. They consisted, on the one hand, of a realistic image - usually very precise - of the object together with simple, formal lettering, and on the other, a two-dimensional simplification of the object reduced to a symbol. This led to the abstract poster, which, as it became accepted, was a step forward in the development of an international language of communication symbols - a necessary step among nations that have become increasingly interdependent through technology.

An example of abstract poster design that stems from these developments is the series of works designed by Muller-Brockmann for concert performances in the Zurich Tonhalle (c. 1960). Writing of these posters, the artist said:

The concert posters done before1960 were designed with strict formal elements and simple design media. They were intended as the symbolic expression of the innate laws of music. The thematic, dynamic, rhythmic and metrical factors in music were illustrated by corresponding optical forms and form sequences, and the tone colours by the selection of visual colours interpreting the emotional content of the composition concerned in each case.

The designs and colours of these posters were largely selected on emotional, subjective grounds and considerations. However, it was then felt desirable to restore to the posters the greatest possible power of imparting information, without secondary objectives or decoration. This entailed dropping colour and working purely by typographical methods.
The concert posters from the period subsequent to i960 represent a conscious departure from formally symbolic shapes and a return to poster advertising based on pure typography. These tasks previously assigned to design forms - the illustration of dynamic rhythm, tone colour and so on - have now been taken over by typography. This enables the available space to be integrated and brought into rhythm. Lettering applied in various colours and integrated logically can produce a poster laden with musical atmosphere and tension.


The example of Switzerland has been underlined because of the substantial contribution from its artists to formal design; but by the 1960s there were also important examples in other countries - Italy, for example. But it is necessary first to retrace our steps to the Decorative arts of 1910.


It is by now a commonplace observation that great exhibitions commemorating art movements usually announce that the style is dead and that by the time the official organizations have managed to accumulate enough examples and funds to mount the display, creative talent is busy elsewhere. In 1900, an Exposition in Paris proclaimed the beginning of the end of
Art Nouveau. In 1925 the Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris revealed the climax of another chapter in the history of design, although the effects of twentieth-century decorative design were to continue down the scale through successive waves of imitation until the advancing tide of new decoration from the United States introduced fresh elements of style in the 1940s.

Decorative poster design in Europe from 1910 until 1939 seems to have proceeded in different countries according to the local elements of decorative design. For example, in Germany the delicate pattern of Secessionist design produced one element, the heavy shapes of Munich Jugendstil another - and both of these appear constantly in German posters. In England, the most significant posters derived from the simple, flat patterns of the posters of the Beggarstaff Brothers. In France, the colour of Les Fauves, the fashion designs of couturiers such as Paul Poiret, and the work of Jean Cocteau prepared the way for a decorative style that was further enlivened by the many influences that gravitated to Paris, which remained, during this period, the principal art centre of the world. The visit of the Ballets Russes to Paris is just one example. Picasso designed 'Cubist' decorations for Diaghilev's Parade: particularly significant are the set of drawings showing the metamorphosis of a sandwich-board man wearing his posters into a Cubist pattern of still-life and portrait, together with the lettering and picture-plane of the poster. That one of the founders of Cubism could make use of his discoveries in this decorative way shows that the lament on the part of the Purists - that the work of the Cubists lacked 'precision' - was justified. The decorative possibilities of Cubist discoveries also contributed to poster design, although in a way that was quite different from the austere influence of the formal art movements.

The 'angularity' that one associates with so much 'Art Deco' is found in the fashion designs of artists such as Boussingault in his drawings for the fashion designer Paul Poiret (an example can be found in La Gazette du Bon Ton in 1914). Poiret himself detested Cubism and its austerity, and we must therefore accept that we have two distinct lines of development in poster designs between 1910 and 1939, one stemming from Cubist abstraction (but even more precise), and the other, based on decorative angular patterns that also take in Cubist developments. Our division of the 'modern' into formal and decorative therefore seems justified by the very real antipathy that existed between artists at the time. Le Corbusier despised the so-called decorative arts - an article in his L'Esprit Nouveau (1924) by Paul Boulard condemned 'phoney-cubism', laid out by the kilometre. (He attacked Cassandre's first widely distributed poster, Аu Bucheron, as a 'gros messieur' in the tradition of Meissonier.) Corbusier in his turn seems to have been persecuted at the Decorative Arts Exhibition of 1925 when his pavilion, already confined to a poor site, was surrounded by an 18-foot-high wall. The first prize that an international jury had awarded him was vetoed by the French member of the jury.

The posters of Cassandre were derived partly from the work of Purist designs - as we have seen already in his Etoile du Nord and Wagon-bar - and partly from neo-classical decoration, as is evident in his posters Grew (1933) and Angleterre (1934) - a more decorative development than Cubism, which appeared also in the work of Braquc as well as that of Picasso. Cassandre later made designs in the United States for Harper's Bazaar and also turned his attention to theatre decor. His style also relates to that of other poster designers in Paris at that time, notably Jean Carlu (born 1900), who, in turn, also helped to spread the Paris style in the United States, where posters and billboards tended to be realistic photographs, paintings from these or cartoon gags enlarged to poster size. In his poster, America's Answer - Production (1945), Carlu displayed some of the devices of the Decorative Arts in Paris. The title lettering of the poster is displayed across the work. Beyond this, a large gloved hand in the form of a symbol grasps a wrench which is fastened around the first 'o' of the word 'production' as though it were a nut. In this way the typography is made part of an implied picture from reality. This device is typical of Carlu's earlier work, which always has strength and simplicity: the neon version (1935) of his poster Cuisine Electrique shows these characteristics. He made other excursions into mixed media poster form, including work for Osram, Martel and, with Claude Lemeunier, Cordon Bleu.


Jean Carlu
Victory, Franklin D. Roosevelt

Jean Carlu
Gelle Freres



Jean Carlu
Sirop des Vosges

Jean Carlu
Pepa bonafe



Jean Carlu
Aquarium de Monaco

Jean Carlu
Air France

Paul Colin, who exerted a great influence both through his work and through his design school, is represented here by a study for the poster Bal Negre. This brilliant design clearly relates the poster to decorative painting of the time. It also presents the new entertainment world of Paris that had succeeded the cafe chantant as the subject of the music and variety poster. The work of musicians and singers such as Josephine Baker represented a continuation of the cosmopolitan life of Paris as reflected in the posters of the 1890s. There is, however, the important change technically in the transference of ideas from canvas to print. In the work of Cassandre, Carlu and Colin, surface marks, whether of brush or of collage, are usually invisible in the immaculate poster-prints. Even hand-lettering is indistinguishable from type. The effect of photo-montage is simulated: there is none of the 'artist's handwriting' that one finds, for example, in an Expressionist poster. This seems to be a concession towards the mass-production precision of the time, implying that decoration itself was leaning towards formalism. The appearance of the actual painting surfaces of the works of Constructivists and De Stijl artists may have been the obvious source - as they were to be for the painters of hard-edge compositions in the 1960s. Another, less obvious, source for an 'impersonal' technique of execution was the work of Dali and Tanguy.


Paul Colin

Posters such as Cointreau (1926) by A. Mercier; Mlle Rahra (с. 1927) by Bernard Becan; Pierre Fix-Masseau's Le Transport Gratuit and Paulet Thevenez's poster of 1924 are all typical works that relate to the 'Art Deco' style. Jean Dupas's London Passenger Transport Board, from the thirties, is characteristic of his paintings, which are so much a part of the period. The fashion designs of Georges Lepape that appear in the Gazette du Bon Ton and Les Choses de Poiret (1911) - two sources that are indispensable for those interested in the design of this era - are also reflected in his poster, Soiree de Gala pour L'Enfance. The influence of Paris design on decorative posters lasted from before the First World War until well after the Second, as in the sensitive work of Picart-Le-Doux and Nathan-Garamond. In France the Union de l'Affiche Francaise furnished printers, designers and agents with a form of organization which other countries lacked. Posters in France, however, did not have so wide a dissemination in the community as they did, for example, in England.

Jean Dupas

Georges Lepape

Many French designers were commissioned by British organizations, such as London Transport, Shell Oil and Imperial Airways, to make posters. However, many English designs still related the poster to its smaller ancestor - the printed page. Painters made designs which were well reproduced and frequently accompanied by captions, as if they were intended for a book. The idea that the poster should be the 'art gallery of the street' suggested that artwork should come from eminent painters as well as 'commercial' artists. Unfortunately this resulted all too often in a respectable, tasteful series of harmless views or jolly travel posters that may be characteristic of the period but which hardly added to the power of poster design. The most interesting posters came from designers such as Tom Purvis, London and North Eastern Railway, or Frank Newbould, Ventnor (1922), whose simple, flat pattern-making recalls the work of Pryde and Nicholson.

Tom Purvis

In spite of the 'good taste' that this patronage brought to the form of the English poster (in much the same way as radio developed under the British Broadcasting Corporation), one has to realize that monopoly brought certain benefits. The work of Frank Pick for London Transport and Jack Beddington for Shell are important contributions to the spread of poster display and general design coordination. The outstanding work in England by the American designer McKnight Kauffer was recognized by Frank Pick, to whom Kauffer dedicated his book, The Art of the Poster, in 1924. Kauffer came to Europe after seeing the 1913 Armory Show in New York. His design, Flight of Birds (1919), which was used for the Daily Herald, is typical of his grasp of geometrical decoration. This is also demonstrated in his poster, London Museum (1922), for Underground Railways. His designs represent a compromise between the formal and decorative art movements. In his book he admitted that few of the posters of his time were ever 'designed either with "cubistic" or "futuristic" finality' - two adjectives which he complained were applied indiscriminately by the public of 1924 to anything unusually modern.

Another designer in England whose work showed similar stylistic connections was Frederick Charles Herrick, in his poster Royal Mail (his was the only English poster in the Paris Decorative Arts Exhibition of 1925). The painter Edward Wadsworth, whose poster advertising Englische Graphik in 1923 showed an appreciation of the effects of a startling pattern, provides a link with the English avant-garde. Similarly Aubrey Hammond's Evie de Ropp (1923) and V.L. Danvers's Bobby's (1928) are characteristic period pieces.

Frederick Charles Herrick

Aubrey Hammond

V.L. Danvers

No less significant in the history of posters were the designs from Austria and Germany. A study of the pages of the magazine Das Plakat, issued from 1910 until 1921, reveals a body of work just as remarkable as that produced in Paris, and representing a consistent development from Secessionist and Jugendstil design. An additional stylistic element appeared with a return to the decorative interpretation of realism. The principal exponents of this new style, if one can group together individual artists, were Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) and Lucian Bernhard (b. 1883). Both artists made use of the characteristic flat pattern and simplified design that had become the essence of powerful poster imagery from
Toulouse-Lautrec to variations in other countries (such as the work of Pryde and Nicholson in England). In his poster Hermann Scherrer (1911), Hohlwein presents a realistic concept executed with an economy of means. The shadows, clearly marked, are in fact the ground of the poster. The shadow, itself an innovation in flat designs - one does not often find shadows used in Art Nouveau posters - here becomes a decorative clement, although its actual shape is dictated by observation. By exaggerating the contrast of light and shade the artist implies relief in a two-dimensional work, which is, however, flattened by the patterns of the textiles illustrated in the poster. Hohlwein used flat areas of tweed or tartan which he frequently 'laid' across the design - not literally, although they very well could have been. It is interesting that Picasso was at the same time laying the piece of simulated cane on his Still-life with Cane Seat (1911-12).

Hohlwein first used this method in 1908 in his posters Confection Kahl and Kunstgewerbehaus Gebrueder Wollweber. Another example of Hohlwein's technique can be seen in Audi-Automobil (1912).

It is interesting to see that the large revolutionary posters from Cuba in 1969 have revived his methods. The realistic image produced by this use of isolated patches of colour was given more conventional treatment by Hohlwein in posters of a straightforward manner such as Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen (1912). In his later posters, Hohlwein moved away from the decorative quality in his work and made designs with loose brush-strokes that give them the feeling of being 'paintings'. His subject-matter (the middle class in evening dress or the colonial official) became very popular not only in Germany but also in the United States. Carl Moos shows a similar approach to Hohlwein's earlier style in Lessing and Co. Cigarettenfabrik (1910).

Ludwig Hohlwein

Lucian Bernhard, who was born in Vienna and studied at the Munich Academy, now lives in New York. His posters show a distinctive, decorative quality, rounded and luxuriant, based on reality - descriptive, yet each a complete work, as in Berliner Sitzmobil-Industrie (1905?), Mampes-Likore (1909), Luce Borch (1914), Manoli Gibson-Girl (1913-14). Priester shows his use of the single object, presented, in this case, on a monumental scale. His poster for Verkadee's Biskwie (1919) illustrates the form of the 'Sach-Plakat' (fact-poster) formulated in 1905 - it is a still-life realized in meticulous detailed accuracy, clear, precise and unemotional. Throughout his career Bernhard has shown particular interest in the use of lettering: a number of typefaces have been named after him.

Other decorative posters from Germany are Vogue Parfum by Jupp Wiertz, Marouf (c. 1935) by Marfurt, Fritz Bucholz's cigarette poster design Caba (c. 1924) from the studio of Hans Neumann and Jacobinier (c. 1927) by
Julius Klinger. The anonymous design mperator (c. 1914) also has a special quality that is not found in the designs from Paris. Posters by designers such as Gipkens, Gulbransson and Prectorius add to the remarkable German contribution, which also reflected Cubist ideas - for example, in the posters of Kampmann, Gispen and Dolliers (c. 1915).

Hans Neumann
Josephine Baker Revue

Hans Neumann



Hans Neumann
Im Haus Zur Roten Laterne

Hans Neumann


While the modern art movements had contributed stylistic changes to the art of poster design, another factor had been developing which was to affect the place of posters in advertising generally and, ultimately, to affect their style as well. The importance of the professional graphic designer had emerged from the interchange between the fine and applied arts at the turn of the century, which, in turn, had derived from the original design movements of the nineteenth century.

The liaison between industry and the designer had an early precedent in the commission that the firm Tropon gave
Van de Velde in the 1890s; this resulted in the famous poster of 1898, as well as Van de Velde's designs for packaging, and a prospectus. Similarly Peter Behrens was commissioned to design, for the Allgemeine Elektrizitatsgesellschaft, everything from the notepaper heading to the building itself - an early example of complete design coordination. In England, Frank Pick was responsible for developing a series of design elements for London Underground Railways that gave the amalgamated transport system of that metropolis a coordinated pattern. For the same organization Edward Johnston designed a typeface in 1916, which was the first sans serif type to be cut from new designs in the twentieth century. It is still in use and makes an interesting comparison with the same, although independently developed, use of sans serif at the Bauhaus.

An inspired use of design, that extended throughout the advertising of a single product and introduced a number of outstanding visual innovations, was the series of decorative posters and murals made by Charles Loupot for the firm of St Raphael in France. Following the anonymous design, which appeared in 1928, showing two waiters bearing St Raphael Aperitif, Loupot produced a number of variations in 1938 which made a formal pattern out of the design. During the years that followed, until 1957, his work -later carried out from the Atelier Loupot - developed into designs-for large painted wall-space, breaking up the formal patterns into fragments. These were distributed in any given locality, often appearing as giant abstract shapes with no acknowledgment to St Raphael; but the simple colour combination of red, white and black, and the sweeping triangular shapes, made their identity obvious. The most interesting part of this campaign was the establishment of design in an environment - free from the conventional hoarding or billboard if necessary, and relating one mural to another over a wide landscape. The same design was also used on cars, and buses: even to the extent of linking the movement of the bus to set the elements of the design in motion.

Charles Loupot

In Italy, Adriano Olivetti, the first advertising manager of that company in 1928 (he later became president), was responsible for design coordination. Marcello Nizzoli not only provided designs for posters but also for Olivetti typewriters. Among other designers employed by the company were distinguished artists such as Bruno Munari and Giovanni Pintori. In a statement accompanying the Olivetti exhibition Concept and Form, shown during the Edinburgh Festival of 1970, there is this comment on the relation of the designer to industry:

The artist who is merely consulted by industry remains himself, just as the industry remains unchanged. A transient relationship could not define the two parties except momentarily, even though the relationship does begin with mutual attraction and perhaps leaves some trace. The depth and dynamism of industrial form spring from an accumulation of such relationships - in other words a cultural policy.

Naturally the form of a poster, when it comes not only from an industrial designer but from one who is playing a part in the overall policy of design, is bound to be different from that of a poster designed by an independent artist. Posters reflecting the spirit of the product became a part of advertising display in the 1950s.

Marcello Nizzoli

Giovanni Pintori

Professional design consultants, agencies, groups of studios and companies, and the establishment of graphic-design courses for students suggest a degree of organization that might have stifled experimentation. From the mass of tasteful and sophisticated advertising material which at times seemed to have an international uniformity, various names of special importance appeared during the 1960s: Push Pin, founded in California under the direction of Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast; the distinguished partnership in London of Theo Crosby, Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes; and the work of Albrecht Ade and the Department of Graphic Design at the Werkkunstschule, Wuppertal. The work of the professional artist-businessman is, of course, in the great tradition of artists who are also able to delegate their work, an image established long before 'the outcast artist' became the criterion of integrity.

Milton Glaser

The position of the professional designer was summed up in the introduction to Neue Grafik, a design magazine which, during its short life, represented the views of professional designers - with a particular emphasis on formal design work: 'The modern designer is no longer the servant of industry, no longer an advertising draftsman or an original poster artist; he acts independently, planning and creating the whole work, informing it with the full weight of his personality so that very often his design determines the actual form of the product with which he has been dealing.' These words anticipate the development of design co-ordination, a system of unified graphic design in any corporation, relating also to the shape of the product and including any poster advertising. This would seem to be the logical conclusion for the role of the professional designer. However, the body of professional designers were themselves largely responsible for the form that commercial advertising took in posters in the period of decorative design, the forties and fifties.


A change in style in the decorative arts appeared in the 1940s and 1950s. In Europe, an amalgamation of formal and decorative styles, developed in the Scandinavian countries, was imitated with less success in other areas. In the United States, a more flamboyant version of the same amalgamation appeared in the 'streamline' decoration of automobiles and in architecture. The significant distinction between the two areas lay in the way the new style was adapted by the imitators in each case. In Europe, the minimal elements of design used in work based on ideas from De Stijl or Constructivism too often degenerated into mere austerity in countries that had suffered economically as a result of the war. In the United States, industrial and technological expansion led to the development of popular design elements. The two broad areas of expression on each side of the Atlantic produced a new style, as diverse as Art Nouveau. In Britain this New World seemed less 'brave' than its predecessor in the twenties: the style was described, rather flatly, as 'contemporary'.

The desperate attempt to stay modern yet be acceptable to a new consumer society - in some cases re-building its shattered towns - led to a form of mannerism. That term, as applied to sixteenth-century art, suggested elements of paradox and contradiction that were the product of another age of uncertainty: apparent functionalism yet actual meaningless decoration, exaggeration of scale, the high tensions of melodrama. This was a style at once classical and anti-classical. The new mannerism of the forties and fifties generally produced striking points of similarity. The earlier age had always suggested a world of movement and drama that seemed to anticipate the future art of the cinema; in the post-war years of the forties the cinema had come into its own. Films such as Citizen Kane by Qrson Welles contained many of the devices of the mannerist tradition. Film techniques had already influenced poster design in the twentieth century, as in the work of Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky, but now the cinema was to exert an even greater influence on the appearance of posters. For example, German State Railways (1955), by Eugene Max Cordier, demonstrates the mannerist devices of the period. First, ambiguity: the image is both descriptive and stylized, abstract and realistic - without too much of cither. The underlying idea is to show how the passengers of a train (modernized to seem like air-travel) are presented with a picture-window view of the passing landscape. The outline of this window is also the shape of a cinema or television screen, implying that our vision is now conditioned by the viewfinder of the camera. Many posters have used this device of the outlined screen to enclose a visual quotation or simply to give an otherwise straightforward image the technical modernism of the photographic frame. In any case, film and television advertising forced the poster into a less significant role in visual advertising - at least as far as the development of new imagery was concerned.

Eugene Max Cordier's poster has the double meaning of the two passengers being given the reality promised by the travelogue movie; further camera devices, such as close-up, the zoom and the effect of a panning shot, were all introduced into poster design. Among the important influences that contributed to the 'contemporary' style of posters were the Cubists' collage and textural effects, and other of their stylistic elements, such as the full-face profile image often used by Picasso and Braque in their paintings and drawings in the 1930s. Interpretations of the style of the School of Paris had already been given currency in posters through the work of Cassandre and others; now many designers made renewed use of these conventions. In Switzerland Herbert Leupin - Poster for a Printer in Lausanne (1959) - and Hans Erni produced elegant examples of this style; in France Raymond Savignac continued to make his sophisticated designs, for example, Ma Colle. In England, Tom Eckersley - General Post Office (1952) - and F.H.K.Henrion produced many designs that demonstrated the use of the simple, direct message of posters.

The main characteristic of the period after the Second World War was a rather uneasy attempt to make a connection with the posters of the thirties. This earlier and relatively 'innocent' era - the spirit of which was often reflected in the popular movies of the period as well as in advertising - could not compare with the complex nature of the Nuclear Age. In the 1960s, poster design, often produced by highly professional artists, became subject to influences that were more characteristic of a period of uncertainty, and took the form of a more emotional and erotic approach to visual advertising - for example, the 'sick' element of surrealist humour.


Herbert Leupin

Herbert Leupin



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