Terranova is a beautiful example of the German Plakatstil of the first decade of the twentieth century. In this 1909 poster, Ludwig Hohlwein, one of Germany’s most famous poster designers, combines industry and art for his creation of a company product advertisement. The artist makes use of a simplistic style with a flat color technique. He omits any embellishments or ornaments in the seagulls as they gracefully fly over the lonely landscape.
But what is the poster supposed to promote? The work appears to be a travel poster for a quiet coastal town, perhaps a perfect tourist destination. After all, several cities in Italy bear the name Terranova, Terranova da Sibari in Calabria, Terranova Bracciolini in Tuscany, or Terranova dei Passeirini in Lombardy to name a few. But the word can also be split into Terra and Nova, meaning “new land” or “new earth” in Latin. Several localities in Antarctica (TerraNovaBay), Brazil Bahia or Pernambuco)and Canada Newfoundland island) bear this name. Perhaps Terranova is supposed to be a less explored region far, far away? With some imagination, it has been suggested that Terranova might be a futuristic place – could the poster promote a new fiction novel?
We might never know why Hohlwein chose the seagulls and the idyllic coastal scenery in this work. But we do know that Terranova is less exotic that what Hohlwein’s poster imagery may suggest :it is an advertisement for plaster materials. Terranova was a colored building material used for mortar preparation for decorative plaster work and drawing. The natural color of the material eliminated the need for painting and was supposed to result in a more pleasant decorative effect than conventional mortars. A printed ad in the Blätter für Architektur und Kunsthandwerk from 1907 identifies Terranova as “a proven product for plaster facades” that has been used since 1893. An article in the Tonindustrie-Zeitung und Keramische Rundschau from 1894 discusses the testing and use of Terranova in the building industry. Ludwig Hohlwein even created another poster for Terranova during the 1930s that shows a seagull in front of a cityscape with a shiny tall building in the background (no doubt, beautified by Terranova materials). The poster text refers to “the most commonly used noble plaster for facades … introduced in 1894.”
Clearly, Terranovamust have been sufficiently well-known for the brand name to be recognized effectively in a poster advertisement. Regardless, the poster image is an early Ludwig Hohlwein at his best.
–Blätter für Architektur und Kunsthandwerk, Volume 20, J. Becker, 1907
–Tonindustrie-Zeitung und Keramische Rundschau: Zentralblatt für das Gesamtgebiete der Steinen und Erden, Volume 20, 1896