Archive for March 2010

Advertising Through Art: The Golden Age of Posters

March 31, 2010
An advertisement for Gants Parfumerie, created by André Wilquin in 1934

An advertisment for Gants Parfumerie, created by André Wilquin in 1934

Many would say that ads usually have negative connotations. They flash annoyingly in pop-up windows, they cover up otherwise beautiful architecture with brandnames and slogans, or they interrupt our favorite televisions shows. Rarely would the regular person say that they like ads. But recently, the hit show Mad Man has opened up the world in a new way to viewers across the country that has been well-known to advertising agencies for a long time: advertisments are an artform. The writers and artists who work at the fictional Sterling Cooper discuss advertising as a way to capture the hearts and minds of consumers. Advertisements are intended to make viewers laugh or feel better about themselves, to comfort them and entertain them at the same time.

Some of most famous artworks began as advertisements for something. Movie and theater posters are key evidence of this — often the poster is more memorable than the film itself: I never saw Cloverfield, but I remember that the poster had a headless Statue of Liberty and Manhattan burning in the background, an image that drew in audiences for its release. The most well-known era in poster art, known as the Golden Age of Posters was from about 1865-1939. These posters didn’t just advertise, they inspired. With dramatic colors and lighting, they easily drew in audiences. Below are some of our favorite from this era, which have lasting influence even today.

Alphonse Mucha is considered one of the most successful poster artists of all time. His art was so elegant and beautiful that people would tear his posters down from the streets and keep them. The above advertisment is for JOB brand of cigarettes. Whether or not you condone smoking, you have to admit that this is a pretty classy ad.

This image of the poster by Theophile Alexandre Steinlein was remarkably famous in 1846. The Chat Noir was a theater-restaurant where there was often plays, poetry, readings and songs. The direct stare of the Cat is meant to convey the characteristics of the true Parisian cat, as well as the true Parisian: bold and elegant. This image is still famous today.

This advertisement for the world famous magician and escapologist, Harry Houdini, captured crowds with the dramatic images of hands captured in every increasingly complicated locks. In the center, Houdini stands looking brave and defiant. Who wouldn’t want to see this man triumph over death?

This poster depicting the French State (ETAT) Railways was so popular with collectors and institutions, that it became impossible for the artist to find one even for himself.  So to satisfy their requests, he kept redrawing his maquette, the original of which he had lost years earlier.  About 6 of these paintings are in museums including the Pompidou Center, the Musée de L’Affiche in Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (where it is currently on exhibit).  Even at the inaugural exhibition of the Musée de L’Affiche, it was a subsequent painting and not the original poster that was exhibited.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster, bold and colorful with flat forms and strong lines, were a familiar sight in Paris in the 1890s. They advertised luxury items such as clothing, theater, and food. His advertisements were very popular as they felt representative of the Belle Epoque.



Get some fresh air with the Easter Beagle!

March 26, 2010

Some of Charles Schulz most famous Peanuts’ comics include sports misshaps, which usually result in misery for the ever unsuccesful and morose Charlie Brown. He never seems to be able to catch the baseball, is always in the wrong place in the field, and is always somehow foiled (most often by Lucy) when he tries to punt a football. What you can say for Charlie Brown, though, is that he’s a good sport.

The importance of exercise in our lives, especially for kids growing up, cannot be emphasized enough, however. However bad the characters in Peanuts may be at sports, they are still constantly trying, behavior which should be encouraged to real children across the world. With help from the Peanuts, kids will be encouraged to do just that at multiple events across the country.

copyright UFS

“Peanuts at Bat” is an exhibit open now through May 1 at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Michigan. As part of the exhibit, the museum will host hands-on games and fun for youngsters from March 29 through April 2 from 1 to 4 pm. These games will focus on the fun and health aspects of all sports. Check out more information on their site.

Knott’s Theme Park will host “Snoopy Training” March 27 through April 11 for kids ages 3-11. Snoopy and his pals will be ready to get in shape by sharing their favorite sports activities, like baseball, soccer, basketball, and even some victory dancing. There will also be a live musical revue starring Charlie Brown and the Peanuts’ Gang at the Camp Snoopy Theater.

The Easter Beagle is also alive and well, and will be visiting the Texas state railroad as well as the Norwood Fire Company 30th Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead, NY this Sunday, March 28 at 1:30.

These are just a few of the fun events that kids and families can take part in in the coming week, so encourage the whole family to go outside and enjoy the fresh air! Remember that for 50 years during baseball season, Schulz sent his hapless gang out to lose game after game, but they always had a good time, and entertained readers across the country.


Homage to the Masters: Paintings on Silk

March 25, 2010

There is an oft-repeated cliché that nothing is original, and that artists, writers, and thinkers alike repurpose the work of previous generations, reproducing styles, themes, and trends. Many embrace the work of other artists and create wonderful works in homage to their influences.

The piece on the left by Lara Volkonskaya is titled "Star Rise" and is an homage the the famous painting by Van Gogh on the right, "Starry Night"

One such incredibly talented artist is Lara Volkonskaya. Born to a Soviet diplomat, Lara spent her childhood travelling around the world, becoming exposed to many cultures, and exploring museums and galleries all around the world. The work of some artists spoke so strongly to Lara that she went to study art at the Moscow Art Academy.

As she progressed as an artist, Lara mastered the incredibly demanding technique of silk painting, which requires extreme patience. Using this technique, Lara began painting wonderful homages to the artists that so deeply inspired her, including Jasper Johns, Monet, Klimt, and Picasso. Her work captures the spirit of the original work, imbuing it with her own energy. Her versatility with different styles is also amazing, as she manages to get at the heart of painting by completely different artists. Below is some of her work that left our jaws hanging.


"Mirror, Mirror on the Wall" - Homage to Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror

"Will You Come to My Parlor" - Homage to Klimt's Water Serpents

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - Homage to Matisse's La Chute d'Icare


The Art of the Movies: Classic Movie Posters

March 24, 2010

What makes a person decide to go see a film? These days, we have hundreds critics, tweets, youtube trailers, as well as dozens of other viral marketing forms that convince us to go see the newest blockbusters. But once upon a time, before the internet, mass marketing relied on a much simpler form to reach potential film goers: the classic movie poster. These posters have stood the test of time, and their influence can still be seen even today.

Here are some that have stood the test of time.

The Jazz Singer is famous as the world’s first “talkie,” the first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue. The storyline, about a Russian born Jewish man who tries to build a career with blackface, has been the cause of much intellectual debate. The poster is undeniably striking, relying solely on white and black, the shape of the hands, eyes, shirt and mouth of the man in the images are angular and harsh and they pop out at the viewer. The hands seem to be reaching out, pleading for help. The rest of the figure is completely shrouded, merging perfectly with the background. The poster perfectly captures the conflicts of identity dealt with in the film.

At a time when producers generally only had one image to sell their movie, they would often rely on the image of a beautiful woman to lure in audiences. This poster for The Sin of Nora Moran by Alberto Vargas is not just a picture of a nearly naked Zita Johann: the figure captures both the erotic nature and extreme desperation of the character who curls up in near fetal position, hiding behind her hair. The figure is also isolated against a black background, which conveys her isolation. This is considered one of the best posters of all time for its layers of intricacy.

Karoly  Grosz was one of the most influential illustrators of horror and science fiction films of his time. He was responsible for the simple, yet stark and creepy image of Frankenstein, lit in red from below in order to accent his monstrous features. The purple in the image is both subtle against the black, and such an unconventional color choice, that the entire composition is haunting.

Grosz is also responsible for the poster of The Murders of the Rue Morge, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, and more. His clashing color choices and dramatic lighting became a signature for horror images to this very day, and was often reproduced on pulp covers and comic books.


Matisse at the Art Institute: a Must See

March 19, 2010

This much talked about exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago opens Saturday, and it’s a must see if you have an art-loving bone in your body. The exhibit named “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” focuses its lens on the art produced within those dates, a four-and-a-half year period in which Matisse’s works of art are particularly noteworthy for being “strange and enigmactic.” Although of the 120 paintings present, some fall out of the timespan, the exhibit is a robust sample of a slice of this artist’s life.

Why is this moment in the artist’s development so provocative? Many critics believe that the World War greatly affected Matisse’s psyche, and that his contemplation of darker thoughts pervaded his work. Prior to and after this time, bright colors predominated Matisse’s paintings, like in such memorable works as La Raie verte (The Green Stripe) pictured below that was painted in 1905.  In comparison, a portrait done in this crucial time period (1916), Portrait de Sarah (Portrait of Sarah), is subdued with muted tones of greys and browns. While the work is clearly done by the same painter, the difference is obvious.

La Raie Verte (1905)

Portrait de Sarah (1916)

Matisse is considered one of the most influential painters of modern art, so for scholars of Matisse and casual art lovers alike, the exhibit is well worth your while to get a glimpse at this radical time in his work. The questions that arise about the meaning of war in the painter’s life are significant, and will undoubtedly lead to more dialogue in the future. The exhibit opens tomorrow to the public, and will be traveling to New York Museum of Modern art in July.


Famous Art Heists

March 18, 2010

Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the biggest of art heists of all time. On March 18, 1990 at 1:24am, two men disguised as Boston police officers enters the Gardner museum in Boston. They fooled the guards into believing that they were real policemen responding to an emergency call, managed to handcuff and bind them with duct tape, then threw them into the basement. In the next 80 minutes, the two men robbed the museum of over $500 million in masterpieces, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet. In total, thirteen pieces.

Vermeer's "The Concert", considered the most valuable stolen painting in the world

Vermeer's "The Concert", considered the most valuable stolen painting in the world

20 years later, the criminals still haven’t been caught, but the FBI has stepped up their efforts, both using new technology like digital billboards, as well as offering a $5 million dollar reward. So if you’ve seen any of these paintings

What are some other famous art thefts?

– The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 by an employee, who was caught after two years.

    The Mona Lisa now sits safely on the walls of the Louvre in Paris, France.

    – Stephane Breitwieser, AKA the “Art Collector”, confessed to stealing 238 works of art and other exhibits from museums touring Europe. He wanted to build a massive personal collection. Unfortunately for Breitwieser and the world, his mother, Mireille Stengal, took an axe to over 60 paintings in what was possibly an effort to remove incriminating evidence against her son. What a shame. She shredded the canvasses and tossed much of his collection into the Rhine-Rhone River. Antiques worth £6.5 million were retrieved from the river.

      The Princess of Cleves by Lucas Cranach, one of the dozens of artworks destroyed by Breitwieser's mother

      – Jacob de Gheyn III: Rembrandt’s painting, Jacob de Gheyn III has been stolen four times, making it the world’s most stolen painting.

        Jacob de Gheyn III by Rembrant, the world's most stolen painting


        Tiger Woods is Back!

        March 17, 2010

        Yesterday the golf star announced that he would be returning to golf for the Masters Tournament on April 8-April 11. Held every year in Augusta, Georgia, the Masters Tournament is the first of golf’s four annual major championships.

        By returning during this key championship, Woods is re-entering the golf world with a bang.

        Stephen Holland is known for his stunning portraits of sports celebrities, like Muhammed Ali, Brett Favre, as well as Tiger Woods. In these paintings, he captures both the fluid motion of Woods’ swings, as well as the determination and focus in his eyes. These realistic painting are full of emotion and drama.

        Tiger Woods’ name is once again all over the news and you can expect that Woods will be a focus of much media attention in the days leading up to the Masters over the next three and a half weeks. According to CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus, it could become one of the biggest media events of the last ten years.