Short Biography of David Klein

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

We are excited to have new Klein posters for our show next week.  As we were talking about Klein and  the tradition of travel posters after WWII, we decided to share some of what we learned.  Klein was born in El Paso, Texas in 1918, and moved to California to attend the Art Center School — later renamed the Art Center College of Design — in Los Angeles.

Like many other poster artists, David Klein started his career as a painter and illustrator. In the 1930’s, he was part of the California Watercolor Society, a group of artists who got noticed for their original use of paper and color and their focus on everyday life in California. Their style was characterized by rich colors and free, broad brushstrokes directly applied onto the paper without any preliminary drawings. There, undoubtedly, Klein learned some of the techniques he later used as a poster artist: quick brushstrokes on large format, bold colors and designs.

A photo of TWA Egypt Poster

Original "TWA Egypt" Poster by David Klein, c. 1965

During World War II, Klein contributed to the war effort and made use of his talent to illustrate army manuals. After the war, he moved to New York and settled in Brooklyn Heights. There, he started making window cards and posters for many major Broadway shows such as The Music Man and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Klein’s major breakthrough as a poster artist happened when he started working for Howard Hughes’ Trans World Airlines (TWA) Klein was asked to develop an advertising campaign for different travel destinations and came up with a clever blend of emblematic landmarks, images drawn from American collective consciousness, bright colors and abstract, modern designs. He captured and defined the atmosphere of places as diverse as New York, San Francisco, Switzerland, Ireland, Paris or Egypt. His posters came to represent the glow of post-war air travel, the Jet Set style so representative of that era. Klein’s work at TWA won many Awards for Excellence from the Society of Illustrators.

A photograph of Las Vegas -- Fly TWA Poster

A sneak peak at one of our new acquisitions: Original "Las Vegas -- Fly TWA" Poster by David Klein, c. 1965

Klein then worked with many other companies, including the First National City Bank of New York (later Citibank) for whom he designed a campaign that was so original and became so popular that the bank decided to produce ready-to-frame sets of prints and sell them. There too, Klein won many awards.

A commercial artist, Klein however came back to watercolors at the end of his life — some of them are now displayed in museums.

Although Klein died in 2005, his images continue to influence the poster world. In 2006, the online travel agency Orbitz displayed a campaign Klein designed for them in 2000, and very reminiscent of his TWA years — a sign of today’s nostalgia for the post-war air travel era? Entertainment Weekly recently featured his work in an article depicting the universe of the ABC series Mad Men. One can easily imagine Klein, in his white shirt and black tie, presenting his cutting edge New York poster and its graphic depiction of Times Square to Don Draper, who would then nod and declare “Yes, that is what we want people to feel”

A photograph of Florida -- Fly TWA Poster

Another sneak peak at one of our new acquisitions: Original "Florida -- Fly TWA" Poster by David Klein, c.1965

Come to one of Vintage European Posters upcoming shows in Berkeley, Healdsburg, Burlingame or Santa Monica and see our dynamic collection of Original vintage posters advertising TWA from the post war period.

You can also see more David Klein posters on our website, along with many other original travel posters from 1880 to 1970.

If you want to read further, we rec0mmend “The Art of the Airways” by Geza Szurovy. Published by Zenith Press in 2002.
This blog post authored by VEP Intern
Candie Sanderson
Student at La Sorbonne Nouvelle
Edited by Itinerant Poster Collector and VEP Owner Elizabeth Norris

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