We swear by Modiano

By Katalin Bakos

The Hungarian posters for “Modiano” have an obvious graphic quality. Towards the end of the twenties, Hungary’s most celebrated graphic artists were working for this company. Recent intensive interest in these posters was reason enough for us to invite an authority to tell us more about Modiano.

Aladar Richter, 1932

Aladar Richter, 1932

From the end of the 1920’s until the mid 1930’s, smokers in Hungary came to know exactly what “Modiano” stood for. This was the result of a carefully planned advertising campaign which was developed in logical stages over a number of years. The intellectual driving force behind this extraordinarily successful campaign was the energetic and perpetually cheerful Greek Sokrates Stavropulos. Art connoisseur and friend of all the leading Hungarian commercial artists, he was Head of Advertising for the Hungarian subsidiary of the Italian firm “Modiano,” based in Bologna. It was largely due to his campaign that between 1924 and 1930 (i.e. within just 6 years), “Modiano” acquired a market share of 80%.

Andreas Farkas, 1932

Andreas Farkas, 1932

CAMPAIGNS

This success was built not on the sale of exclusive tobacco products but rather basic smoking requirements such as cigarette papers and skins. Modiano reached a very broad consumer base, primarily drawn from the middle and lower social classes. The company sited its posters not just in the capital Budapest, but blanketed the entire country, which was something of a novelty in the comparatively poorly developed rural areas. The high point of the campaigns did not coincide with the economic boom years in Hungary (1924 – 1926), but with the subsequent period of economic crisis (1929/1930). The battle for a market and profit became more intense and cheap products therefore became most popular. Stavropulos came out on top in this battle thanks to his bold choice of the artistic form for his advertising campaigns. Modiano did not try to produce a uniform series of posters, but chose the opposite path, with a constant stream of original ideas and forms and new names.

Sandor Bortnyik, ca. 1928

Sandor Bortnyik, ca. 1928

QUALITY
Lengthy slogans were avoided. The simple mentioning of the brand name deemed sufficient. Talented young artists ensured time and time again that the power of attraction and persuasion emanated directly from the poster’s visual image. This could only be achieved by guaranteeing complete artistic freedom, which would be channeled – but not restricted – by some advertising facets.

TRANSFORMATION
Initially, Stavropulos was using the original logo produced by an artist from Trieste, which also adorned the packaging, namely a circle containing the homely figure of an old, bespectacled man reading a newspaper, with the handwritten word Modiano beneath. Soon, however, he turned to the modern artists, choosing in 1926 Sandor Bortnyik, who had just returned to the country from Weimar, where he had associated in the Bauhaus circles. Bortnyik brought into Hungary the constructivist and functionalistic principles of the Weimar school which his first posters for Modiano exemplify. Instead of the old handwritten logo, he now used geometrically constructed letters which he integrated into the composition.

Sandor Bortnyik, ca. 1926

Sandor Bortnyik, ca. 1926

REACTION
A large “M” towers up in his first poster; at the top two circles, representing the heads of smokers, pass each other a light. In the second poster – executed with brilliant irony – he varies the theme himself. His geometrically stylized figure is shown standing in front of the advertising pillar studying an old Modiano poster, which is actually Bortnyik’s own first Modiano poster. This poster (96 x 63 cm) can be considered prophetic since before long the new Modiano posters which appeared every month were a daily sensation in Budapest, anticipated with great excitement by the public and the press. They were the subject of fierce debate, lauded and criticized in equal measure. Constant reviews also meant free adverts for the company, all of which contributed to implanting the brand name in the public and individual consciousness. Stavropulos managed to transform the streets into an “exhibition” which had always been the dream of poster designers.

Robert Bereny, ca. 1928

Robert Bereny, ca. 1928

THE CITY
The next great presence in Hungarian art to be employed by Modiano was the painter Robert Bereny. His poster featuring the diagonal image of the smoker, the dandy sporting top hat and monocle, became a poster sensation not just in Hungary. Together with the Bortnyik series, it was even then among the most widely publicized Hungarian posters. Bortnyik and Bereny associated the Modiano brand with the image or the modern city gents and their works were joined by those of Gyözö Vasarhely (more widely known as Victor Vasarely), a pupil of Bortnyik’s at his private graphic design school “Mülhely” (Work-shop), Endre Farkas, Imre Lanyi and Pal Moinar Jr. Bortnyik and Bereny collaborated on a number of posters.

Zoltan Konya, 1928

Zoltan Konya, 1928

THE PROVINCES
For use in rural areas, Stavropulos commissioned posters by other outstanding designers and painters, who had earned a reputation for their language of form. Whether naturalistic or stylized, caricatured or narrative, they all drew their motifs from small town life. In their posters for Modiano, Tibor Polya, Arpad Bardocz, Istvan Pokary – to name but a few – partly emphasized the glamour of smoking, and partly used “exotic Hungary” or images borrowed from folk art to make smoking attractive to their countrymen. Istvan Irsai, a representative of the younger generation, very artfully combined the different interests for the city and the surrounding provinces. For a while, Stavropulos also employed the poster stars of the 1910’s, Mihaly Biro and Zoltan Konya.

Aladar Richter, ca. 1928

Aladar Richter, ca. 1928

PATRON OF THE ARTS
Modiano, with its demanding commissions, acted as an important patron of the arts. The progressive commercial artists saw it as their job from the start to use the poster to disseminate and popularize high-quality and above all modern art, and for this they found an excellent partner in Sokrates Stavropulos. The Head of Advertising ensured that technical production methods were of commensurate quality. Of the many Hungarian printing houses with excellent lithographic workshops, “Atheneurn Budapest” was selected as the best. The 125 x 95 cm format posters prove today that this was the right decision as the freshness and vitality of the colors are still evident over 80 years later.

Tibor Polya, ca. 1928

Tibor Polya, ca. 1928

Modiano was conscious of its role as patron of the arts, as evidenced by the four Modiano albums produced in Budapest as “adverts for the adverts.” They contain numerous reproductions of advertisements and posters as well as a complete profile of the commercial artists working for Modiano. These included, in addition to Hungarian artists, artists from Slovenia, Austria and, of course, Italy. The albums are a testimony to the extraordinary artistic diversity of Modiano’s commitment.

Franz Lenhart, 1935

Franz Lenhart, 1935

FINALE
A modernized version of the original Modiano logo – Irsai’s young, bespectacled newspaper reader, now with a much more knowing air, and the handwritten legend “Diadal” – was early evidence of the decline in the company’s activities in the mid 1930’s. The brand name Modiano could no longer be used due to a drop in quality. Its successor introduced the name Diadal/Triumph and maintained a good level of advertising for some time. The reputation of the Modiano advertising campaign rapidly spread far and wide: the December Issue of the “Gebrauchsgraphik” journal of 1933 (p. 60) depicts Japanese matchbox labels which feature Bereny’s “Dandy” and Polya’s “Billiardspieler”, carrying the name of Modiano even to these distant shores.

Aladar Richter, 1928

Aladar Richter, 1928

The article was originally published in PlakatJournal (Issue 1/1994, Wir schwören auf Modiano). We want to thank the author, Katalin Bakos, and the publishers of PlakatJournal, Rene Grohnert and Jörg Weigelt, for their permission to publish this article in our blog.

Poster Design on a Dime? Affordable and Authentic are not Mutually Exclusive

Poster Design on a Dime? Affordable and Authentic are not Mutually Exclusive

The poster has long evolved from a medium of advertising into a form of art. Vintage posters have gained immense popularity in the last decade which is in part evident in the ever growing number of businesses offering reproductions of vintage poster art in all sizes, mediums and in varying degrees of quality. The consumer can find small size photo-size prints for as little as $5, or poster-size reproductions that might cost less than $75. Why this trend? Well, posters are beautiful, they make wonderful decorations in home and office, and they are inexpensive. Originals, according to the average buyer of a reproduction, are too expensive. New admirers of poster art either know too little about the medium to consider the purchase of an original or they seem too intimidated by the prices in galleries or at auction. But is this really an accurate concern? Are original posters no longer affordable? We disagree. True, if you are looking for that hard-to-find Cappiello or a classic Cassandre, you will not find many true bargains under $2500 whereas smaller reproductions of poster classics are available at a fraction of this cost. But you generally get what you pay for. There are several reasons why you should look at originals before purchasing a modern replica.

Originals stand out because they are authentic, old, original, artistic, collectible and possibly even rare. They stem from a golden age of advertising that existed prior to color television, computer-age media and digital printing. Posters were generally printed on thin, fragile paper, meant to be discarded after use. They are special, often created by artists who used their talents and passion to create an artwork that would outlive its original advertising intention. Add to that the beauty and the immense work involved in some of the early printing processes (for instance, stone lithography) which in themselves can be called forms of art. 

Is buying a reproduction worth it? The replica that you buy to decorate that empty wall space will always be exactly that: a copy of an original, produced in an unlimited number. At the end of the day, these reproductions will never increase in value. Even 50 year-old copies remain copies. Originals on the other hand have the potential to increase in value over time. You might not always double your money in a short period of time but over the years, poster values appreciate and you might very well be able to sell your art for more than you paid.   

And what about the affordability of original posters? Yes, posters can be pricey but there are thousands of good, original posters out there at reasonable prices. Online and walk-in galleries as well as auctions offer beautiful poster art for under $1000. Still too high, you say? Well, there are plenty of great posters available for as little as $300, $200 and even $100. Next month, for instance, we are conducting our sixth “clearance sale” with over 400 posters and each lot has a starting price of only $100. While this sale always includes posters that are valued between $200 and $400, there are plenty of original posters that would retail for $600 and much more. You just need to look. They might not all be in flawless condition, but that is part of what makes them old, authentic and original. 

Below are some of our favorites from the upcoming auction. Enjoy and feel free to email us if you have any questions. Click here to view the posters in our March 3, 2015 clearance sale.

Winter Clearance Sale by Valley, ca. 1898/1900

The perfect British poster for this auction: Winter Clearance Sale by Valley, ca. 1898/1900

John Hopps & Sons by Mario Buzzi, 1923

John Hopps & Sons by Mario Buzzi, 1923

Balkamp by Donald Brun, 1955

Balkamp by Donald Brun, 1955

Write a Cheque Today for National War Bonds by Anonymous, ca. 1918

Write a Cheque Today for National War Bonds by Anonymous, ca. 1918

Join the Navy by Anonymous, ca. 1917

Join the Navy by Anonymous, ca. 1917

St. Valery en Caux - Tennis Casino Yachting by Camille Marchand, 1936

St. Valery en Caux – Tennis Casino Yachting by Camille Marchand, 1936

Winter Sports In France by André Giroux, 1935

Winter Sports In France by André Giroux, 1935

Pfingstrennen Frauenfeld by Iwan Edwin Hugentobler, 1938

Pfingstrennen Frauenfeld by Iwan Edwin Hugentobler, 1938

Furka-Oberalp by Herbert Leupin, 1944

Furka-Oberalp by Herbert Leupin, 1944

Visit Kashmir by Anonymous, 1949

Visit Kashmir by Anonymous, 1949

Song and Light in Central Park by Anonymous, 1918

Song and Light in Central Park by Anonymous, 1918

The Codonas

Codonas, Austrian poster by Berthold Richter, ca. 1935

Codonas, Austrian poster by Berthold Richter, ca. 1932

The poster above depicts Alfredo Codona (October 7, 1893 – July 30, 1937), the greatest flying trapeze artist of his time, bathed in the spotlights of the Big Top and preparing to take flight from the trapeze board. Codona was circus royalty during the golden age of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, where he performed in an act with his brother Lalo and other family members.

Alfredo Codona and Vera Bruce-Codona, from

Alfredo Codona and Vera Bruce-Codona, photo from “Flying High” was used for the above poster, ca. 1932 (1)

In 1928 Codona married Lillian Leitzel (January 2, 1892 – February 15, 1931), the diminutive aerialist whose fame perhaps exceeded that of Codona himself.  The two were Ringling circus headliners, and their wedding was an event equivalent to that of two rock stars today.  Although their marriage was tempestuous, Lillian was Codona’s only true love, as subsequent events made clear.

The Passing Leap

The Passing Leap (2)

While performing her aerial act in Copenhagen on February 13, 1931, Leitzel’s metal ring snapped and she fell to the ground, suffering fatal injuries. Alfredo rushed to Copenhagen from Berlin to be with her.  She died two days later on February 15, and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

Graves of two circus aerialists, Lillian Leitzel and Alfredo Codona

Graves of two circus aerialists, Lillian Leitzel and Alfredo Codona at the Inglewood Cemetery (3)

 

Codona married Vera Bruce, a member of the trapeze act, in 1932.  She is standing on the board behind Codona in the poster depicted here.  However, Codona’s performance declined after Leitzel’s death, and he suffered an injury in an accident in 1933 as well.  Unable to perform aerial acts, he retired from the trapeze in 1934, and his marriage to Vera deteriorated.  While involved in discussion of their property settlement during divorce proceedings, he shot Vera to death in her lawyer’s office, and then took his own life.  At his request he was buried beside Leitzel’s grave in Inglewood Park Cemetery, beneath a monumental memorial depicting her ascent to heaven on wings.

The poster “Codonas” is an Austrian three-sheet for the film “Flying High” from the early 1930s. The poster is part of our vintage poster sale on October 25, 2014.

 

We want to thank Victor R. for contributing this article to our blog. Victor is a friend and poster collector with an interest in trapeze poster art.

Photo credits:

(1) photo from www.circopedia.org and Circus World/Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center –circusworldmuseum.com

(2) (3) photos from cemeteryguide.com

October 22, 2014

California Dreaming: More Posters from the Golden State

Our 2014 fall poster sale once again features a small collection of California trade and tourism posters. They include works from the Golden Gate International Exposition from 1939 /1940 and airline, railroad and other travel memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoy.

Joseph Feher designed this beautiful poster for United Air Lines around 1950

Joseph Feher designed this beautiful poster for United Air Lines around 1950

This rare art for Yosemite Winter Sports stems form the 1930s. The designer is unknown.

This rare poster for Yosemite Winter Sports stems from the mid-1930s. The designer is unknown.

Austrian-born designer Joseph Binder created several posters for  United during the 1950s.

Austrian-born designer Joseph Binder created several posters for United during the 1950s.

Louis B. Siegrist is well known for his poster series for the Indian Court at the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939

Louis B. Siegrist is well known for his poster series for the Indian Court at the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939

Jo (Joseph Jacinto) Mora is famous for his detailed maps of California. This one dates back to 1945.

Jo (Joseph Jacinto) Mora is famous for his detailed maps of California. This one dates back to 1945.

Chesley Bonestell created this Treasure Island poster for the 18939 Golden Gate Expo.

Chesley Bonestell created this Treasure Island poster for the 1939 Golden Gate Expo.

This poster was published by Southern Pacific Rail in the early 1950s. The artist is unknown.

This poster was published by Southern Pacific Rail in the early 1950s. The artist is unknown.

Santa Fe Railroad brings us this fun 1959 poster for Southern California.

Santa Fe Railroad brings us this fun 1959 poster for Southern California.

This stunning design by Edward McKnight Kauffer for American Airlines was published in 1948.

This stunning design by Edward McKnight Kauffer for American Airlines was published in 1948.

One of the many attractive posters Stanley Walter Galli designed for United Air Lines during the 1960s.

One of the many attractive posters Stanley Walter Galli designed for United Air Lines during the 1960s.

San Francisco painter Dong Kingman created several poster designs for American Airlines during the 1960s.

San Francisco painter Dong Kingman created several poster designs for American Airlines during the 1960s.

 

All images shown here are part of a collection of 25 original California travel posters that will be offered for sale at our auction on October 25  (lots 304, 396 through 433). For more information, please visit posterconnection.com or view the catalog online via invaluable.com or Ebay Live.

Raymond Sullivan: A Daughter’s Memories and Posters for the San Francisco Bohemian Club

Ray (Raymond) Sullivan was born in the Chicago area at the beginning of the twentieth century. His parents were Mary and James Mark Sullivan. At the age of two, Ray’s father deserted his family and moved to Los Angeles. Mother and son soon followed in the hope of finding Ray’s father. During his years in Los Angeles, Ray decided to pursue a career in the arts where he initially found employment as a newspaper illustrator.

Shangri-Lulu (The Bohemian Club), 1946

Shangri-Lulu (The Bohemian Club), 1946

Ray and his mother eventually relocated to San Francisco where Ray attended the Mark Hopkins School of Art. After that, Ray went to Paris to study at Academie Jullienne. As a young man, Ray would spend part of the year in Paris and then in San Francisco.

Bohemian Nights, 1941

Bohemian Nights, 1941

Under the threat of persecution, Ray’s family left Paris at the outbreak of the war and settled in San Francisco where Ray resumed his career as an artist and illustrator. He had many successful shows at well-respected galleries such as the Maxwell Gallery and Gump’s in San Francisco. He won the New York Art Directors’ award. His designs were published in various design magazines.

Designs by Ray Syllivan

Designs by Ray Sullivan

Ray created many of the posters for Ladies’ Night at the Bohemian Grove for the San Francisco’s famous Bohemian Club. He illustrated several hand-crafted books and brochures for the printer William Grabhorn. Ray loved to paint landscapes. His favorite subjects were the London Ranch in the Valley of the Moon and Del Monte. He also loved to paint sailing scenes since he was an avid yacht racer.

San Francisco´s Chinatown, ca. 1955

San Francisco´s Chinatown, ca. 1955

The Bohemian Club - Spring Jinks, ca. 1950

The Bohemian Club – Spring Jinks, ca. 1950

Gussie the Goose Girl (The Bohemian Club), 1947

Gussie the Goose Girl (The Bohemian Club), 1947

 

We want to thank Diana E., daughter of Raymond Sullivan, for contributing this article to our blog. All posters shown are part of PosterConnection’s vintage poster sale on October 25, 2014.

October 2014

The Posters of Air France

Air France, celebrating its 81st birthday this week, is known for commissioning some of the most prolific poster artists of the 20th Century.   Lucien Boucher, Bernard Villemot, and Jean Carlu are among the most well-known. Many iconic images from the golden age of travel are Air France advertising pieces.

Roger de Valerio, 1935

Roger de Valerio, 1935

Founded in a 1933 merger, Air France has long flown to some of the most remote corners of the globe.  The company used stark images to lure travelers to exotic locations in Africa and Asia, among others.

Albert Brenet, 1952

Albert Brenet, 1952

Originally mail routes, the fledgling airlines of the early period of aviation used lavish ad campaigns to compete for the tourist dollar.

Bernhard Villemot, 1967

Bernhard Villemot, 1967

Many of the early posters include the Air France logo: the winged sea horse.  The image is often mixed in creatively with aviation imagery.  Air France posters are often labeled Perceval, the printer in Paris who executed some of the best lithography seen in travel posters of the era.

Plaquet, 1948

Plaquet, 1948

The collector market has placed a premium on pricing of Air France posters.  A rare, over-sized and heretofore unknown “Planisphere” map poster by Lucien Boucher recently sold for  $30,000.  PosterConnection is offering another iconic Boucher piece in its poster sale on October 25, 2014 in San Francisco. Here, Boucher captured the mystery of the Far East with a Lockheed Constellation flying into an incredible red field of eastern images and a dragon-like figure.

Lucien Boucher, 1946

Lucien Boucher, 1946

Air France poster designs often include hidden imagery such as the outline of France in the clouds or a dove holding a city while in flight. While many Air France posters feature foreign locales, the Eiffel Tower figures prominently in Air France ad campaigns and has been beautifully rendered in dozens of images. See The Eiffel Tower turns 125.

Regis Manset from 1952

Regis Manset, 1952

Air France posters, which feature unique images and rich lithography, have become a lasting and valued part of aviation art history.

Roger Excoffon, ca. 1960

Roger Excoffon, ca. 1960

Anonymous, ca. 1960

Anonymous, ca. 1960

Georges Mathieu, ca. 1968

Georges Mathieu, ca. 1968

We want to thank Matt L. for contributing this article to our blog. Matt is a poster friend and collector who is particularly interested in vintage travel posters.

October 7, 2014

 

 

Ski & Winter Sports Posters on Sale in San Francisco

Some 35 vintage ski and winter sports posters remembering the golden age of travel from the Twenties through the Fifties will go on sale at PosterConnection in San Francisco on October 25. The small collection features striking and stylish advertisements of ski resorts and destinations from around the globe. The ski posters are part of a larger collection of travel, advertising and propaganda posters that will be offered in PosterConnection’s bi-annual poster sale.

Below is a small selection of some of the vintage winter sports posters which are also available for viewing in a public exhibition on October 25. For more information, visit posterconnection.com.

 

This rare Yosemite poster shows a stylized downhill skier enjoying
the peace and tranquility of California’s Yosemite National Park with
the majestic natural vista of El Capitan’s half dome in the background.

Yosemite Winter Sports, ca. 1930/35

Yosemite Winter Sports, ca. 1930/35

Sun and fun for everyone on Austria’s ski runs

Austria, ca. 1936

Lot 292: Austria, ca. 1936

Victory seems proclaimed with the skis held high in the air
overlooking the Swiss Alps. Carigiet’s design was used both for the
1948 Winter Olympics and as a general travel poster for Switzerland.

St. Moritz Winter Olympica 1948

Lot 281: St. Moritz Winter Olympics 1948 by Alois Carigiet

The winter paradise of Mont-Revard was one of the first ski
resorts in France. Broders designed both a summer as well as a
winter poster for this beautiful vacation destination in the French Alps.

Lot 299: Les Sports d'Hiver au Mont-Revard by Roger Broders, ca. 1927

Lot 299: Les Sports d’Hiver au Mont-Revard by Roger Broders, ca. 1927

Founded in 1910, the Dartmouth Winter Carnival is the oldest
university winter festival in the United States. National Geographic
Magazine labeled it the “Mardi Gras of the North.”

Dartmouth Winter Carnival 1956 by Roger C. McAlister

Dartmouth Winter Carnival 1956 by Roger C. McAlister

Czechoslovakia can certainly brag about its beautiful mountain ranges and nice ski resorts.

This Winter to Czechoslovakia

This Winter to Czechoslovakia, ca. 1930

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September 30, 2104

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