Bern Hill (1911 – 1977) was a free-lance graphic designer and painter from Toronto who spent most of his career and life in Connecticut. His artwork is characterized by clean, defined designs and boldly colored landscape settings that are often portrayed through unusual and innovative perspectives – a perfect combination for poster designs. While some of Hill’s biggest clients included General Motors, American Airlines, Reader’s Digest and Saturday Evening Post, the artist was perhaps best known for his modernist train illustrations that appeared on the covers of railroad magazines.
Between 1950 and 1956, Hill was hired by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division to produce 65 paintings for a new advertising campaign. GM used many of these designs to produce a series of posters, adding to each the railway line and a marketing theme for the particular railroad. In his paintings, Hill succeeded in capturing the essence (dominant landmarks or landscapes) and purpose (freight vs. passenger trains) of the individual railroad line and route. While Hill’s posters are arguably some of the most beautiful American rail “travel” designs from that time period, his work was not widely distributed and the GM advertising campaign was not very successful. Hill created beautiful, streamline poster designs that allow the observer to view and enjoy the sights or the landscape with the train service integrated into the image (rather than focusing on one overbearing locomotive). GM, it seems, would have preferred a dominant image of the actual train.
The images shown here are all part of a small collection of original Bern Hill posters that will be offered for sale at our poster auction on April 27, 2013. For more information, please visit posterconnection.com or view the catalog online via artfact.com.