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POSTER OF THE MONTH - January 2018

vintage sports poster Finland Winter Sports 1949
O.K. Oksanen
39 ¼” x 24”
A-,L
Although skiing dominates in this Poster of the Month, it seems to me that the delivery of this vintage lithograph looks elsewhere. Those cozy mittens on the bamboo poles reveal a double-duty revelling in the ordinary--in marked contrast to the genre's bids to blow your mind.
The year is 1949, and Finland had just emerged from horrors of World War II even more complicated than other European lands. Its nightmare began with, in 1939, the invasion of the Soviet Union (intent, as often, to swallow Finland--a drama having nothing to do [but distraction] about the core of the War). The Finns managed to block that opportunism; but for the long haul, regarding the Russian bear, they joined the German Axis enterprise, becoming dependent upon it for weaponry, manpower and food. After the War, Finland was nailed with heavy reparation costs, being one of the losing combatants.
In that light, the skiers do not purport to be Olympians, but rather ordinary folks able to be (somewhat) carefree again. In the distance, a far from Orient Express dazzlement of a train chugs along at an easy-going rate. Though the typography is at a register of unremarkable modernism, the color scheme--braced by first-rate lithography--shows a bit of excitement. The prominence of blue and white in this design reflects the Finnish flag and speaks to a population having had to shift allegiances in order to survive (a very different engagement from the neutrality of the Swedes [an option being savaged by the recent film, The Square]). The golden touches perhaps deal with that complicated survival. That the skiers have negotiated a dangerous precipice could be part of this move to the "ordinary."


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POSTER OF THE MONTH - February 2018

vintage deco French rail poster Route des Alpes c.1928
Dric (Roger Broders)
39 3/4" x 24 3/4"
A,L
Two forces collide in this rare and sterling French vintage poster from the Pre-Depression-Era. Spearheaded by that angry eagle, there is the harsh beauty of the high-Alpine region. Its nature would be decidedly about primordial and solitary coming-to-pass. On the other hand, affluent "pace-setters" twig on to (at that time) flashy technology in order to be among the first to the top.
Having, until recently, that domain all to itself, the big bird not only sniffs out aliens but also their unsuitableness to the pristine presence. And, with this, we have the question, "Did the eagle get it right?" (Of course the artistry--probably by the supernal, Roger Broders--is first-rate. The composition is ignited by the menacing and magnificent live-wire defending its stalk-still and perfect homeland--almost coming to bear as a chromatically-balanced coat-of-arms.)
The two Hummers with their jaunty pennants on the fenders suggest a military assault. But the prim customers are far from soldiers. Could at least a few of them be testing themselves for hard days ahead? Does the eagle see that, regardless of that, they aren't up to the long haul?


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POSTER OF THE MONTH - March 2018

vintage French movie poster Quartier Latin 1939
Roger Rojac
62 1/8" x 46 1/4"
A-, L
Let's forget about the goofy, black and white melodrama pertaining to those central characters in this dazzling vintage lithographic movie poster we have on tap as today's Poster of the Month! The graphic treasure, the locale and the date (1939), are all we need!
That venerable and endlessly important structure in the background is the Paris version of the Pantheon, an edifice for the sake of paying homage to invention in art and science, and the place where a number of august figures have been buried. Juxtaposed in front is a very lively scene. The area in central Paris being shown was, at the time of the poster's appearance, the main centre of university and bohemian life.
This ebullient scene has endowed to us the specifics of reflective expression on the eve of World War II. Everyone in sight is touched by the spirit of innovation in its various forms, pushing along a concomitant of chic. Thereby the positioning of the figures offers to us a pantheon in itself of up-to-the-minute Paris magic and depth. Self-confidence and joie de vivre is everywhere! The Latin, old-timey scholarship, of the district is seen here getting a bemusing face-lift. And, in a matter of months, the pride would have turned to fear and death.
What a dazzling design tracing ranges of headway (however deluded, in part) that perpetually find ways to regroup!


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POSTER OF THE MONTH - April 2018

vintage French sports poster Vichy 1948
Paul Colin
39” x 24 ½”
A-, L

The great Paul Colin's vintage poster for the convalescent spa, Vichy, in 1948 (very close, then, to its tenure as the headquarters of keeping the French populace in line during the days when the German military ruled the proverbial roost), is, first of all, a graphic design master's clinic in rich simplicity.
Let's start with that lyre, chording so well with the dark blue expanse. The vignettes seem to be entangled in it, as if they were functioning in prison playground. There is a rather urgent, red facsimile of the facility's race track. It could be showing someone breaking away from the entanglement.The imagery, though predominantly bent on fun, comes to us as rather joyless and tense. Just as the contrasting white tennis ball, in the nighttime range, appears to be beyond the woman's reach (or is it a flubbed drive by the golfer?), there is the other instance of the hand holding what appears to be far from a joyous beverage, seeming a French prerogative. The mineral springs of the Vichy region had been for many years prior to the War a place of restoring flagging sensibility. Is Colin betting on verve, or more of the wartime dispiritedness? That the restorative action only comprises the period May to October may alert us to a less than full-fledged drive to overcome doldrums.
It is unlikely that the average viewer of this work would find anything amiss here. The lyre would strike them as promising some fine classical concerts, some fun in the park and a shot of go-juice. Colin, the owner of a reflective design profit centre, seems to be speaking to a wide and diverse clientele.


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POSTER OF THE MONTH - May 2018

vintage art nouveau poster Chap Book 1896
Frank Hazenplug
20 1/2" x 14 1/4"
A-, L

The Chap Book was a fortnightly magazine devoted to ambitious literature. It had a brief moment in the sun, between 1894 and 1898. Based in Chicago, it placed a premium on subjects urban and urbane, and being too heavy for mass popularity.
The lithographic covers--also produced, as our example, here, as promotional posters for the publishers--bristle with a sense of avant-garde specialness. One of the most remarkable of the graphic artists was Frank Hazenplug (1873-1931), our Poster of the Month practitioner today. His exceptional evocation from 1896 not only takes a pulse that could have appeared in 1996, but follows through with chromatic and compositional fire to incisively convey a wild and sterling campaign.
First of all, the lady's apparel and her hair-style is out to eclipse "clowns," specifically, colorless men (here the travesty of men running the show in 1896). Her Nietzshean will-to-power radiates from that thunder-and-lightning gown. She swishes by, like the baddest badass en route to an Oscar. Her world, it is maintained, is new and triumphant. Lovely and heady stuff. And though the cliches of feminism and brave-new-world are part-and-parcel of the present day, that would in fact be the facile, nostalgic fairy tale of pace-setting, Victorian-era vision. These days, the complementary factor of will-to-power (namely, eternal-return-of-the-same) has its innings and its complication and its own--less flashy--highway of delight.


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POSTER OF THE MONTH - July 2018

 original vintage airline transportation poster Egypt Ramses II 1959
H. Hashem
39 ½" x 27 ½"
A-, P

In 1959, Egypt had just embarked on a territorial alliance with Syria, known as The United Arab Republic (UAR). The former's tourist poster campaign at that time could be said to be redolent of the sense that the world at large might want to check into how the innovation was going. (It was short-lived.)
Our vivid example allows us to consider the design factors sustaining this new, and hopefully lucrative, association. First of all, the very fine lithograph perhaps surprisingly features a death mask, replete with the standard forms of big eyes and a faint smile. No doubt, there has been, for a couple of centuries now, a steady clientele drawn to the many exotic spectacles of that hotbed of archaeological brilliance. One instance would have been the death mask of Romesses II (pictured here), known as "the greatest pharaoh." There he is, residing in an eternal night. But, with a new dynasty in the offing, he could be the poster boy for an awesome cultural ascendancy.
Thereby, the composition transcends the standby tourist range, and places the spotlight upon the life of the populace undergoing an upgrade. With only that rather solicitous visage to go by, an easy-going visitor might place hopes on the sanguine image of the symbolic ruler as implying a society of (newly?) generous hospitality. The extraordinary volatility and rancor of that region at that time might have led to such a subtly focused presentation.


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POSTER OF THE MONTH - August 2018

original vintage airline transportation poster Fly BEA Within Europe for Holidays c.1955
Anonymous
40” x 25”
A-, P
In an air travel marketing medium, from about the year 1955, where one destination tends to be quite enough, we've come across a quite singular angle. Europe, having already been seen to be fairly compact even before the advent of airplanes, seems, to the folks at British European Airways, to have been ideal for a Grand Tour facilitated by their marvellous machines.
We don't receive, in their vintage poster, covering the phenomenon, a hallowed, iconic dazzlement by which to while away a week or two, but a flurry of rather perfunctory suitcase decals shooting along in a bit of a mish-mash. The composition evokes a sort of bucket list for those perfectly happy with less than the earth-shattering. As such, we have to congratulate the brain-and-design trust of British European Airways for being more than half a century ahead of millennial travel ventures where the first night had become an objective less than 24 hours.
As to the graphic itself, the throw-away optics capture the priorities of the post-War premium on easy-does-it. Such candid production could be described as conceptual graphic art, daring to dispense with the fireworks of Golden Age vintage poster art.


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