April 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The General Dynamics posters are vibrant works whose designs are unparalleled in the poster world.
Eric Nitsche designed three series of posters for General Dynamics from the years 1955 to 1960.
The first series, created in 1955, was called Atoms for Peace, and consisted of 6 posters. These posters all featured a central image with the words “Atoms for Peace” written in a different language on each poster. Some of the specific themes of the posters were: astrodynamics, hydrodynamics, and electrodynamics.
The images in the middle of the poster are striking, they ask the viewer to think – what is that imagery? What is that showing? The poster below embodies the concept “radiation dynamics,” and it evokes a sense of waves generating from the deep red circle at the top of the poster. The design is simple, yet stunning.
Another question we can ask in the year 2013 is: just WHY did they design these posters?
The answer is complex, but one could conjecture that the propaganda was necessary for General Dynamics to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy. Certainly, the history behind the atomic bombs dropped on Japan was fresh in people’s minds even a decade after World War II. People associated atomic energy with a force of mass destruction and tragedy associated with war. The plan for General Dynamics at this time was to change that perception through the creation of these posters that generated a positive association and connection to atomic energy.
Atomic energy was a fast-emerging power source, and General Dynamics displayed the Atoms for Peace posters at the conferences they attended, like the Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva in 1955. These were important tools in representing General Dynamics’s company, which was founded in 1952. What kinds of products did General Dynamics make? Most notably, they made the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, but some of their other products included medical instruments and rockets.
Why were they in different languages? The different languages include: Sanskrit, French, German, Russian, English, Japanese, Arabic. General Dynamics tried to appeal to an international audience; thus, they tailored their poster to be striking visually for all viewers, but to have writing in different languages on each poster.
The second set of Atoms for Peace featured 7 posters, all created in 1956. Some of the others series of posters that General Dynamics created were the Triga series, which promoted a research reactor, and a series that focuses on a variety of products for energy and industry.
The posters offer a look at how a groundbreaking scientific research movement used propaganda. As artwork, the posters have a vibrancy and visual power that makes them eye-catching. I find it interesting that they are a set that is hard to find in full completeness, and I think their rarity adds even more to their mystique.
Vintage European Posters has been lucky to acquire a collection of General Dynamics posters recently, and we invite you to visit us and see for yourself how intriguing these posters really are.
Right now, we are exhibiting at LA Modernism with 10 newly aquired General Dynamics posters. When we get back to the shop in Berkeley next week, we will photograph them, catalogue them, and upload them to our website, so stay tuned for new acquisitions!
This post was written by Karlie Drutz, Vintage European Posters special projects coordinator,
and edited by Elizabeth Norris, owner of Vintage European Posters.
You can visit our showroom at 2201 Fourth Street in Berkeley on Tuesdays and by appointment.
Call us at 510 843 2201 to schedule an appointment.
Our next pop up open weekend is May 18-19 2013. You can see our collection at www.vepca.com
August 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
The greatest thing about collecting original posters is how much we get to learn about 19th and 20th century history just by soaking up these colorful collectibles. I recently found a Menthe Pastille poster by Eugene Oge which struck me as just such an opportunity to learn more about the period leading up to World War I. It is uncommon for a poster artisit to uses political humour in an advertising poster—politics can be too controversial, and might alienate the consumer from a brand, but in this example, Oge does a great job creating caricatures of the world’s leaders.
The poster from 1904 shows a total of 13 figures, each representing something different and interacting together to show political situations in Europe. They sit at a table with a tablecloth decorated with the large text of “La Menthe-Pastille.” All the figures look as if they are in peaceful talks with each other. On the left, Oge depicts William II serving a drink to the Japanese Emperor, Matsuhito. In the foreground, the Emperor of France is being comforted about his inability to produce a male heir. The Japanese Emperor stands behind the Emperor of France, even though they are enemies, but the Emperor of France does not seem concerned. In the middle of the table, the newly chosen Catholic Pope puts his arm around King Emmanuel III of Rome. Next to King Emmanuel III on the right is Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom, who smokes and gazes at the globe that the man on his right, Jacques Lebaudy, gazes at as well. Behind those two figures is Leopold II of Belguim at an image of his “muse” Cleo de Merode. Next, to the right, is Alfonso XIII who sits regally, wearing his crown, as he recently was coronated King of Spain. Lastly, below him sits Uncle Sam with a small African American baby on his lap.
In the 1913 poster, the figures are fewer, and some major players in the European situation are either out of power or not longer alive. Only 10 people now populate the poster. **Those missing are Emile Loubet, the French Emperor, and two people who had since died: Edward VII and Leopold II. The situation is much more tense here, and inflammatory situations are shown here that La Menthe-Pastille, William II tries to become allies with the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet V. In the center of the poster, the Kaiser Frederic William, plays with three small childlike figures who represent the Kings of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. This poster again tells people to drink La Menthe Pastille to inject tranquility and ease into their lives, but in 1913, the statement is more adamant.
* Eugene Oge: Affichiste , Anne-Claude Lelieur et Raymond Bachollet, published 1998 by Agence Culturelle de Paris. p. 214-215)
** Eugene Oge: Affichiste , Anne-Claude Lelieur et Raymond Bachollet, published 1998 by Agence Culturelle de Paris.pages 224-225)
This post was written by Karlie Drutz, San Francisco State Museum Studies Student and VEP intern and Elizabeth Norris, Owner, Vintage European Posters.
See our entire collection of original vintage posters from Europe and the United States at www.vepca.com or visit us on Tuesdays or by appointment at our Berkeley Showroom 2201 Fourth Street in Berkeley, CA
May 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In the 19th Century Worlds Fairs and International Expositions were much anticipated glorious and elaborate events hosted by wealthy and prominent cities.
These fairs featured pavilions from many countries, which were constructed over a period of one year, by prominent architects and designers representing their countries. Participants strived to feature modern innovations in technology, commerce and the arts and spared no expense in the construction and display of their goods and technologies.
The Turin Exposition of 1911 was a proud moment in Italian history, held just 50 years after the reunification of Italy It served as a proud spotlight on Turin as a modern city. The fair opened on April 29th and lasted for 6 months . It was held in the Parco del Valentino. The Exposition’s focus was on Industry and Labor, to distinguish itself from another Exposition held in Rome the same year with a focus on the arts.
The artist chosen to create the impressive poster for the event was Leopoldo Metlicovitz, (1868-1944) an Italian of Serbian descent, born in Trieste. Metlicovitz was not formally trained as an artist but exhibited a rare talent in capturing light and shadow, and he rose to prominence quickly after his arrival in Milan during the pinnacle of Belle Epoque poster design. He joined the foremost printing house Ricordi, where he studied with Italian poster designer Adolph Hohenstein. After Hohenstein’s departure, Metlicovitz was named Ricordi’s artistic director. He went on to create famous posters for the prominent department store Mele among others.
The poster Metlicoviz created for the Turin Fair captures the very best of classical realism. The figures are proud, perfect in form, and the flag they display represents unified Italy with the great city of Torino rich in commerce, industry, architecture spread out behind them.
March 31, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Marc Chagall lived a life that spanned the 20th century. He was born in Vitebsk, a Russian Jewish ‘Shtetl” or village in 1887, and his young life was made up of family, village, and farm. His desire to become an artist brought him first to St. Petersburg in 1907and then to Paris where the arts were flourishing. in 1910. To earn money, he worked as a servant and a sign painter. Chagall’s paintings were first exhibited in Paris in 1912 when the artist was only 25 years old. His early paintings are rich with imagery from his childhood, chickens, goats, church windows, and throughout his career he revisits the warm and pastoral village that shaped him in a style referred to as naïve realism.
Chagall spent WWI back in his native Russia, where he married Bella in 1915. After the war, the two of them spent time in Berlin and settled in Paris where they spent the 1920s enjoying the life of a successful artist in the ‘city of light’.
Chagall was friends with the influential editor and dealer Ambroise Vollard who commissioned him to create book illustrations in the 1920s, and encouraged Chagall to explore the themes of the circus and the bible in his paintings. In 1931, Vollard commissioned Chagall to create 100 etchings depicting the bible, and so The artists and his wife visited Syria and Palestine for inspiration.
Chagall spent time in the South of France, moving to Gordes in Provence in 1940. He loved the light, the flowers and the landscapes of the South of France, and these inform his work from this period and going forward. For a second time, the war interrupted his path, and Chagall, Bella and their daughter Ida avoided the occupation by emigrating to the United States at the invitation of the NY Museum of Modern Art. Tragically, Bella died of pneumonia in the states in 1944.
After the war, Chagall settled again in South of France, this time in Vence, Nice where he revisited the themes of the bible, the circus, his childhood, Judaism in his work. In 1950, at the age of 63, he began to work with the esteemed printer Mourlot in Paris, there he with studied with master lithographer Charles Sorlier. and explored color lithography. “Chagall wrote in 1960, “When I held a lithographic stone or a copperplate in my hand I thought I was touching a talisman. It seemed to me that I could put all my joys and sorrows in it..Everything that touched my life through the years, births, deaths, weddings, flowers, animals, birds, the poor workers, my parents, lovers in the night, the biblical prophets, on the street, at home, in the temple and in heaven. And as I grew older, the tragedy of life within us and around us.”*
Chagall’s embrace of the medium of color lithography is apparent in his work. When working in this medium, artists traditionally begin with a black outline and then produce subsequent color plates. Chagall built layer upon layer with pure color and the resulting lithographs are so dense that they resemble paintings, with color so lush, it looks as if you could scrape it off the page.
In 1952 Chagall was commissioned to illustrate the pastoral romance of Daphnis and Chloe. That year, he married for a second time to Vava, On their honeymoon, they explored Greece where they fell in love with the ancient story of Daphnis and Chloe. Chagall returned home to Nice and began to work on the series. In 1958, he was commissioned by the Paris Opera House to create sets and costumes for the ballet of Daphnis and Chloe. The artist worked closely with the director and the dancers, and his paintings were informed by this. It is interesting to note that the first poster designer, Jules Cheret, studied the dancer Loie Fuller and brought her graceful visage to posters in 1891. Alphonse Mucha designed stage sets, costumes and jewelry, and Eugene Grasset created wallpaper and volumes of botanical illustration.
For the remainder of his career, Chagall continued to create beautiful and rich paintings and lithographs filled with mysticism, folklore, romance, the bible, the circus, landscapes , musicians, Russian Judaism. He was an unparalleled colorist, and was admired for his skill as a painter and a print maker. He courageously embraced new techniques throughout career and was rewarded with many opportunities and honors.
Chagall was considered to be the ‘last survivor of the first generation of American Modernists’. Born in 1877, Chagall lived through two wars, made his home in 5 countries and witnessed the impressionists, the fauvists, the symbolists, the surrealists, and the birth of modern art. In 1973, When Chagall was 86 years old, The Musee de Chagall opened in Nice. Five years later in 1977, The Louvre, which rarely exhibited the work of a living artist , featured 62 his works.
Picasso said “When Matisse dies Chagall will be the only painter alive who understands what color really is.” With the death of Chagall in 1985, the world lost it’s finest colorist. *
*Marc Chagall Printmaker” by James Healy, 2002 from the Weinstein Gallery
Visit our website and click on view the collection select ‘art exhibitions’ to see our new acquisitions. All of these posters are original art exhibition posters, printed by the esteemed printer Fernand Mourlot. All are linen backed archivally and can be shipped worldwide.