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A. M. CASSANDRE

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWagon Lits Cook. 1934.

"Un buen cartel es un telegrama visual". A. M. Cassandre.

Con vosotros uno de los pilares del cartelismo e impulsor decisivo del Art Decó a nivel popular. De las estilizadas obras de A.M. Cassandre me sigue maravillando su abrumadora capacidad de síntesis, su certera diagramación, su radicalidad a la hora de llevar lo más lejos posible un concepto de partida, y ese modelado cromático, denso y bidimensional al mismo tiempo, tantas veces imitado desde entonces. Os dejo con su obra.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usGrand Sport.1938.

Muchísima información sobre él, incluídos estos textos que a continuación incluyó, puede encontrarse en la página web: www.cassandre.fr.

Adolphe Jean-Marie Edouard Mouron, known as A.M. Cassandre, was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, on January 24, 1901. His parents were French. After a childhood spent shuttling back and forth between Russia and France, he settled in Paris with his family in 1915 and completed his schooling there. In 1918, after attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts very briefly, he enrolled in Lucien Simon’s independent studio and later at the Académie Julian.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBonal. 1935.

Soon obliged to earn his own living, Mouron designed several posters, possibly as early as 1921; they were done in a caricatural style which was probably derived from the German School. Almost all of these early works have been lost. In 1922 he moved to his first studio in Paris, on the Rue du Moulin-Vert in Montparnasse. He decided to sign his advertising designs with the pseudonym Cassandre, which was sometimes combined (up to 1928) with the name Mouron.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMentor. 1949.

He produced his first poster Au Bucheron at 22. His inspiration for this piece and others that followed, came from the fine arts active in Paris at the time. There is evidence of influence from the works of Picasso and Braque. His poster works celebrate architectonic structure and the machine. His attraction and use of the steamboat and locomotive elements were close to embracing the poetic spirit of friend Le Corbusier. Close inspection of his works reveal a knowledge of the Purist principles and the use of grid structures.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usVin Tonique Quinquina.

In 1924 he created the great L’Intransigeant truck poster. Cassandre’s work was seen as a bridge between the modern fine arts and the commercial arts. Despite his affinity to the fine arts he always believed there should be a separateness between disciplines. The success of his posters probably lies in his philosophy that his posters were meant to be seen by people who do not try to see them.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usVenezia. 1951.

In 1924, Cassandre married his first wife, Madeleine Cauvet, who was the niece of Georges Richard, one of the pioneers of France’s automobile industry. He commissioned Auguste Perret to design a house for him in Versailles and settled there after its completion in 1925. That same year, Cassandre signed an exclusive contract with Hachard & Cie, the firm which was to publish his posters up to 1927. After meeting Maurice Moyrand (in 1926), who was at that time the head agent for the printers L. Danel in Lille and who soon became a close friend, he quit Hachard and began to design for the Lille firm. Simultaneously, he designed his advertising typeface, Bifur, which was cast in the spring of 1929 by Deberny & Peignot.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNormandie. 1935.

Toward the end of 1933, he made his debut as a painter for the theater, thanks to Louis Jouvet who was first to put his gifts in this field to use. That same year, Cassandre was given a teaching position at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs; however, the graphic advertising studio he taught in soon had to close its doors for lack of funds. Between 1934 and 1935 he taught at a graphic arts school on the Rue Férou in Paris.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNord Express.

In 1935, Cassandre signed an exclusive contract with the firm of Draeger Fréres for the French editions of his posters. Between 1935 and 1936 he also produced work for Säuberlin & Pfeiffer S.A. in Vevey, Switzerland, and the Officina Grafica Coen in Milan, Italy. He also completed his first all-purpose typeface, Peignot, which was cast in time to be exhibited at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTriplex. 1931.

In 1936 he traveled to America to work on several projects. While there he designed several surrealistic covers for Alexey Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar. In addition, he created for NW Ayers, the classic eye of the Ford billboard and several pieces for the Container Corporation of America. His career as a poster designer ended in 1939 when he changed disciplines and became a stage, set and theatrical designer.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSweepstake. 1935.

On his return from New York, Cassandre settled in Paris again. He divorced his first wife and, shortly afterward, joined the army when World War II was declared. He was demobilized in the fall of 1940, and resumed work on his painting. An exhibition of his easel paintings was held at the Galerie René Drouin in Paris in 1942. A year earlier, while working on several decorative panels in Lyon for the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, he had met Nadine Robinson, a dress designer for Lucien Lelong, whom he was to marry in 1947.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNicolas, Verre et Bouteille. 1935.

Up to 1944, painting remained Cassandre’s main activity, though he devoted a good deal of time to designing sets and costumes for the theater, a creative field which allowed him to combine his interests in painting and architecture. His theater work included designs for the Paris Opera, the Comédie des Champs-Elysées in Paris and the Monte Carlo Opera. At the end of the war he resumed his activities as a graphic artist (advertisements, magazine covers, illustrations, playing cards, posters and layouts).

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDole Pineapple. 1938.

Cassandre spent six months in Italy in 1948; he designed several posters for his publisher in Milan, Augusto Coen (Calcografia & Cartevalori), and experimented with the technique of polychrome copperplate engraving used in printing bank notes. He continued his theatrical work, designed the maquettes for the sets for Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, which opened in Paris toward the end of the year. After returning to Paris in the fall of 1948, Cassandre was approached by the organizers of the International Music Festival at Aix-en-Provence, who asked him to design an Italian-style open-air stage in the courtyard of the Archbishop’s palace in that town, as well as the décors and costumes for Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which was to inaugurate the theater. This production was internationally successful. Cassandre, at the height of his reputation as a theater designer, was awarded the French Legion of Honor in the same year.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDole Pineapple. 1936.

In 1950, a major retrospective exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs revealed to the public Cassandre’s richly diverse work in the graphic and plastic arts over the previous twenty-five years.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usLys Chantilly.

Cassandre divorced his second wife in 1954. After designing sets for the Comédie-Française, the May Festival de l’Œuvre du Xxe Siècle in Paris, among others, he rounded off his theatrical œuvre by designing the settings and costumes for Racine’s tragedies at the Comédie-Française in 1959. Time consuming as they were, however, these activities did not prevent him from carrying on his graphic, typographical and pictorial work; he designed several posters, logotypes, record jackets and typefaces for Olivetti typewriters.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThomson. 1931.

In 1959-60, after declining André Malraux’s offer to appoint him director of the French arts academy at the Villa Medici in Rome, Cassandre gave up his apartment and studio on the Rue de Bellechasse, where he had lived for almost twenty years, and moved to a town house which had once belonged to Meissonier on the Place Malesherbes. He painted a series of “decorative” compositions there, and one of his last canvases, La Frontière. In 1962, he was promoted to officer of the Legion of Honor.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTouraine. 1947.

The following year, however, Cassandre decided to retire to the country, close to his friend Françoise Michel, near Belley in the Bugey region east of Lyon. He flirted with the idea of founding an internationational art institute, dreamed of building his own house (and actually designed plans for it) and tried to grow roots in the Bugey landscape. But the two years he spent there were filled with uncertainty for him and, discouraged, he returned to Paris in 1965. Back in the city, he designed his last poster, 24 Heures, for a newspaper which folded before it could even begin publishing, and prepared his work for a series of retrospective poster exhibitions at the Galerie Motte in Geneva (1966), the Galerie Janine Hao in Paris (1966) and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1967). He began work on several canvases, but, except for a last Bugey landscape painted from memory, never completed them. Professionally, Cassandre’s final years were distinguished by the creation of his last typeface, Cassandre, specially designed for photo-composition, which was to remain unpublished until after his death and its epigraphic version, Metop. After a first suicide attempt in 1967, Cassandre took his life in his apartment on the Avenue René-Coty in Paris on June 17, 1968

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPacific. 1935.

A genius of poster and type design, Adolphe Mouron was born in Ukraine in 1901, but the political situation at the time moved his family to migrate to Paris. Ironically for one of the most celebrated designers of all times, Adolphe had decided to become a painter upon graduating from high school. He only turned to the art of poster, under the name Cassandre, in the hopes that it would make him self-supportive enough to soon drop it and dedicate himself to painting.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBugatti. 1925.

Instead, poster design started exerting an irresistible fascination on him: he saw it as an art that "gave the painter a golden opportunity to communicate with the large public". His words herald the role he would eventually assume, that of a translator of the fine arts into design. At25 he wrote with great lucidity that "the poster is not meant to be a unique specimen conceived to satisfy a single art lover, but a mass-produced object that must have a commercial function. Designing a poster means solving a technical and commercial problem... in a language that can be understood by the common man." Because of this need for clarity, and because he wanted very large posters but had to face the risk of them being distorted by the enlargement process, Cassandre turned to architecture and geometry as means to design them.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usL'Intransigeant. 1925.

The poster done for the newspaper L'Intransigeant in 1925, is one of his best-known works exemplifying his geometrical tendencies. The flatness of the colours, very clear shapes, perspective lines, restrained palette and striking uppercase typography are all characteristic Cassandre elements. The composition is based on three circles -- the eye, ear and mouth. This poster's message is strengthened by conceptual wit. The telegraph lines connected straight to the ear of the figure are a straightforward way of conveying the newspaper's unbiased efficiency. The paper's slogan, "Le plus fort tirage de journaux du soir" (The best-selling evening paper") is cropped to "Le plus fort" ("the Strongest"), and even its name is cut off as if it was impossible for anyone not to instantly recognize it. Braque, Picasso and the collage medium cna all be said to have influenced this work.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNew Statendam For Real Comfort. 1929.

This dramatic poster by Cassandre is the perfect expression of the Art Deco style. Power and speed are the message of the streamlined, geometric design of ventilation cowls and smoke stacks. Even the wavy smoke trail evokes the rhythmic, abstract designs of the Jazz Age.
Cassandre burst on the Paris scene in the mid-‘20s and was soon recognized as the father of a new, Machine Age poster style. Strongly influenced by modern art developments in Paris, his posters shocked the public with their dynamic spatial arrangements and abstract geometry. His travel posters for the Normandie, Étoile du Nord and Nord Express, all created in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, are among the most recognized posters ever. In 1936 he was honored with a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usL`Atlantique. 1930.

Here, a later poster where Cassandre's growing mastery of geometric composition is visible. The monumental ship is nothing but a large rectangle to which a few elements have been appended. The rectangle even continues into the water to become the ships' reflection. Along with strong, centered type, the result is an image of unsinkable strength.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWagon Bar.

Wagon Bar shows off Cassandre's mastery of compositional theory and his cubism/collage influences. The visual elements are flat and layered on different planes; the photography of the wagon wheel emphasizes their flatness. Four carefully placed circles tie the composition together; the result is a complex assemblage where the eye is lead to and fro.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usl'Etoile du Nord. 1927.

Trains and ships were a large part of his posters' subject matter. For l'Etoile du Nord (1927), in a characteristic freedom of vision, he doesn't even show a train, only the railroad tracks composing a nearly abstract picture. The image's main element is a star, literally intrpreting the name of the train with means "the Northern Star". Notice the brilliant way in which the problematic size of the "O"s is solved in the type: by letting them overlap the other letters with a transparency effect he saves them from looking awkwardly large relative to the rest. Moreover, the two Os form a compositional triangle with the star that bring the eye back from the vanishing point. Secondary text creates a frame, almost as if this scene was seen through an abstracted train window.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usL.M.S. Bestway. 1929.

The mood of the industial age can be felt in this very unusual approach to a poster. After creating a poster about trains without trains, Cassandre frames the very wheels of that train in a monumental close-up. L.M.S. Bestway (1929) again depends on the circle for its compositonal control; the wheels are drawn abstractly with a speed effect that was quite new at the time. The typography is no less unusual: it is created solely thanks to a fine outline flight. The picture is very minimal, and nearly overwhelming.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNord Express.

Nord Express is different in that the composition is for once triangular,t he circles reduced to ellipses because of the perspective. The abstracted shape of the train is presented in a fish-eye view as it speeds towards a vanishing point situated in a dramatic spot: the lower right corner of the picture. Notice the telegraphic lines that are exact reproductions of what we saw in L'Intransigeant. Cassandre puridied his motifs to the extent of reducing them to icons.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPivolo.

Poster design at the time usually left the lettering for last, placing it at random on the illustration or squeezing it in a convenient corner. Cassandre radically changed that approach: "the design should be based on the text and not inversely". In Cassandre's work it is the text that sets the creation process in motion. An example is the famed Pivolo poster: in French the product name, Pivolo, sounds like "Pie vole haut" ("magpie fly high"), and from this pun the image of the magpie was born. The type used is Bifur, designed by cassandre himself (more on that later). This was the first time he used letters for their visual impact, as a way of echoing the illustration, rather than for their semantic values or architectural qualities. By treating them as surfaces, gradating them from black to dark blue and filling them with shdes of grey, he transformed them into active plastic elements. Thus he turned the text into a rhythmical interplay of lines, surfaces and connecting spaces, as well as achieving an unexpected synthesis of upper and lowercase.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDubonnet Trio.

Cassandre would often resort to the kind of pun that created Pivolo's magpie, but the wittiest and most lauded of these examples is what he came up with for Dubonnet. The entire message of the campaign is conveyed by a simple play on the type, highlighting parts of the word in a progression leading to the brand name, while the image illustrates what the copy says. The first vignette reads DUBO, which read like "Du beau" ("something beautiful"). A man gazing at a glass of wine, highlighted only in the face and the arm carrying the glass, confirms that this is the way we are meant to read the text. In the second vignette, we read DUBON ("something good"), and our character is now tasting the drink, the colour reaching down to his stomach. Finally the full brand name, DUBONNET is revealed as the now-complete man helps himself to a second serving.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSensation.

For his typography, Cassandre used almost nothing but sanserif capitals, which owing to their simplicity were particularly well-suited to the modular construction method he favoured (he clearly aspired to be an architect as well as a painter). Another advantage they presented was that they could be deformed and remain legible. Cassandre was unfailingly loyal to the uppercase because he considered the lowercase to be a manual distortion of the monumental letter. He wanted the primitive letter, a product of T-square and compass, the only letter to be truly monumental, because he hoped to restore the large-scale monumental painting of the finest periods of art history. Such was his state of mind about type when he started designing fonts himself in 1927.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPeignot

A few years later, Cassandre took a new direction in the search for the calligraphic values of the written letter. This is particularly reflected in his study for Peignot, intended to be an all-purpose typeface with upper and lowercase (which are really small caps). Bifur had been a commercial failure, but Cassandre remained convinced that the only way to restore the dignity of the written word was to return to the Roman alphabet and remove the "decorations" that had accumulated on letterforms. Peignot was not born as a decorative variant on a theme: it was the creation of a new theme that would be the point of departure for decorative experiments. Cassandre thought of it as a new step in the natural evolution of the letter. He believed that lowercase letters came into existence because they were easier to write, but that now, in the printing era, there was no reason why typographers could not return to the noble classical shapes of the alphabet and discard the archaic lowercase. The problem raised by this choice would have been that of legibility: a text in capitals is less legible than a text in lowercase. This is caused by the fact an uppercase word tends to assume a monotonous rectangular appearance with no familiar distinguishing feature to assist the eye, so that the eye grasps only its outline and can't break it down into letters. To solve this, the Peignot small caps preserve ascenders and descenders, which are aids to rapid reading. The only letter to keep its lowercase form was the d. Cassandre conceded to this because he realized that we cannot change our reading habits. All the other letters are capitals, some of which are atrophied (B, L, F), turned into lances (H, K) or dropped from the baseline (P, Q, Y).

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usContainer Corporation of America, 1937

In 1937, after an extended stay in the United states, he turned to his original vocation again: painting. This practice would influence all his late posters and types. In 1958 Olivetti commissioned him several typefaces for typewriters. He then developed a style of letter in which the hand, influenced by painting, is now freed from the geometrical constraints of his pre-war work, and seems to flow with a rhythm inspired by the Roman proportions. The bold vertical strokes are balanced by ample curves, and there is an elegant slope to the letters -- yet they have also an incisive quality that recalls stone cutting. This font, used for the well-known Yves Saint-Laurent logo, was Cassandre's last typographic style.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usContainer Corporation of America. 1940.

A text of that period expresses his renewed view of letterforms and a new understanding of lowercase letters: "I now view the letter as being born of an expression of gesture, and its natural state is to be drawn rapidly. But it became with printing a sign slowly engraved in steel like the romans engraved on stone, and the temptation to imitate the Roman's monumental inscription, giving the page the severe orderly appearance of architecture, is great. It is a dangerous pitfall for it threatens to deprive the line of its essential movement, This is why we prefer Old Style characters -- they have succeeded in preserving the movement and rhythm of Roman and medieval cursives."

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usContainer Corporation of America. 1938.

Cassandre occupies an important position in the history of graphic design, as a pioneer of poster communication, typographic treatment and the translation of complex visual subjects into symbolic form. The visual themes he tackled became part of the program at the Bauhaus school, among other things. He used the organic techniques of the fine arts and without losing their dynamism, tamed them into the controlled precision of the machine age. By showing the way to a new visual vocabulary more adapted to mass communication, he had a hand in widening the rift between fine arts and graphic design.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNicolas.

posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS."
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