06 October 2012

Graphisme















The French word is more capacious than the English one: graphics.   It suggests a movement, a new way of combining words and images, or the bold, sleek style of the images themselves.















In the ideal(ized) history of art, advertising would not be a major catalyst for expanding the reach of art.  But the same industrial production that put money in people's hands to buy more things increased the means of reproduction of artworks.  The birth of mass media made possible many careers in art.

From posters (art in the streets)  to postcards (art in the mail) there was an appetite  for the new, the colorful, the modern.   These images make vivid impressions through one of the basic tenets of graphisme: not too many colors at once.  People collected postcards (and some still do), pasting them into albums like stamps.   In Ludwig Hohlwein's Fashionable People we see a brilliant practitioner of graphic art, using the limitations of the form to free his imagination.  Using only four colors he can put checks next to stripes without wearying the eye.




Postcards could be used to advertise a new product (a bicycle or an electric fan),  or publicize  one of the new department stores where you could buy things (Mele), or a place to visit (the Basel Zoological Gardens).    Their advantages were obvious: they were cheap and portable.  Do hamsters actually play with crocodiles?  No matter, the charming postcard from the Basel Zoological Garden is too amusing to ignore.














Cartoons were an obviously good  match for the postcard.  You could send a message to someone and, at the same time, a souvenir, if you have been traveling.   The road racers shown here are the second example I've come across by Fernand Fernel (see also Model Children, posted here March 10, 2009).  The road race, although dangerous - and not just to the participants - struck the French funny bone as drivers careened around the French countryside in their dusters and goggles. 


Borrowing images that the public would recognize from artists shown in  museums added a touch of elegance to selling stuff.  Aleardo Villa's elegantly dressed red-haired woman in the advertisement for the Mele Department Store of Naples is possessed of the aplomb to stare down even Gustav Klimt, if need be.













Postcards have several new equivalents in the age of the computer.  We have email, Flickr, Pinterst, and Twitter.    Which could be one reason why there have been major museum exhibitions in the United States devoted to postcards in recent years: The Art of the Japanese Postcard at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2004 and Postcards of the Wiener Werkstatte at Neue Galerie in New York City in 2010.  This month the MFA in Boston hosts The Postcard Age.  All three exhibitions are drawn from the collection of Leonard A Lauder, and the Neue Galerie, which opened to the public in November 2001,  is the joint project of his younger  brother Ronald S. Lauder and his friend Serge Sabarsky. 

Images: Postcards from the collection of Leonard A. Lauder, promised gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
1. Franz Laskoff, from a series The Months of the Year, 1900.
2. anonymous -for Continental Pnuematic.
3.Ludwig Hohlwein - Fashionable People, 1906.
4. Laurence Sterne Stevens, c. 1930.
5. Fernand Fernel, car racing cartoon.
6. .Aleardo Villa - Mele Department Store, c.1900.
7. Giovanni Mengoli - La Fotografia.
8. anonymous - crocodiles & hamsters, Basel Zoological Garden.

6 comments:

Timothy Cahill said...

What musings you've provoked, Jane. I used to make photographic postcards and send them to friends; now I post pictures on Facebook. The pleasure of these virtual cards is nothing beside the arrival of small gifts via the post, and the delight in sending them is equally diminished. Is this loss offset by the fact that my images can now be shared en masse rather than in one-to-one correspondence? Does it come down to broadcast vs. intimacy? I certainly enjoyed seeing what you've sent us here, in pictures and words; your posts always deliver the same delight as receiving a card in the mail. Maybe it's not FB, Flicker, etc. but blogs that are the modern analog to postcards—postcards to strangers. I wonder if the proliferation of postcard exhibitions will spark a rebirth of this charming activity—or in more blogs! Thank you. Looks like I'll be going to Boston.

Jane said...

For anyone who likes postcards, check out Eleanor Antin's conceptual artwork "100 Boots." In 1971, Antin traveled across country from Long Beach to NYC, photographing the adventures of 50 pair of boots. Each image was sent to her friends on postcards. In the denouement, 100 boots entered the Museum of Modern Art, a place that has resisted female artists since its founding. There's a book version, too.
Cheer up, Tim. Television didn't kill radio nor did it kill movies. Greed is another matter. Greed killed cd sales and it may kill cable tv someday.
I still write letters to people who value them (and save them!)
Stone tablet, codex, scroll, or book, it is the contents that matter.

Jane said...

For anyone who likes postcards, check out Eleanor Antin's conceptual artwork "100 Boots." In 1971, Antin traveled across country from Long Beach to NYC, photographing the adventures of 50 pair of boots. Each image was sent to her friends on postcards. In the denouement, 100 boots entered the Museum of Modern Art, a place that has resisted female artists since its founding. There's a book version, too.
Cheer up, Tim. Television didn't kill radio nor did it kill movies. Greed is another matter. Greed killed cd sales and it may kill cable tv someday.
I still write letters to people who value them (and save them!)
Stone tablet, codex, scroll, or book, it is the contents that matter.

caregiver/Gin said...

Very interesting and takes us to another time and place as usual. I always enjoy your blog, and loved the Fall painting earlier in the week.

violetta said...

I have been having trouble getting a comment on this blog but hope I can now. I love what you are showing us here and also I agree with what Timothy is saying. It was special receiving a postcard with just you/me in mind. Now we have access to anything and everything and always fee we are running out of time. (It sounded better before but I have been trying to work out why I cannot put a comment here...)

Jane said...

Violetta, it must have been gremlins in the computer program! You are so right about postcards. I received one not long ago from one of the websites linked here and I was so happy that someone made that effort. It's displayed in solo splendour on my refrigerator right now.