Illustrative Posters of Switzerland

Otto Baumberger, “PKZ (Coat)”, 1923, Lithograph, 90 x 128 cm, Private Collection

Situated in the middle of Europe with a culture having three national languages, Switzerland’s graphic arts, particularly in the illustrative poster field, was highly influenced by its neighbors. Two of its most celebrated Art Nouveau poster illustrators started their careers in the 1890s during the Belle Époque in France: Eugène Samuel Grasset, teacher at the École d’Art Graphique and designer of the Grasset typeface, and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen who became known for his bohemian cabaret posters and advertisements, with their black cat image, for the notorious Le Chat Noir Club.

The new century brought forward a first generation of sophisticated Swiss-born and based poster artists who, without exception, had studied abroad in Paris, Munich, and other European cities. Important figures of this generation whose later works would form a major portion of Swiss illustrative posters include: Emil Cardinaux, a painter, who devoted to the poster medium, produced luxury hotel and travel images with the qualities of Japanese woodcuts; Robert Mangold whose work was inspired by Greek mythology and classical allegorical figures; Otto Baumberger whose realistically rendered work formed a synthesis between typeface and image: and Niklaus Stoecklin who brought a clean, precisely detailed, and realistic style to commercial advertising. All of these artist later became leading members of the Early Modernist movement in Switzerland.

The Swiss Werkbund, an association of artists, architects, designers and industrialists, was established in 1913 and provided a major momentum to the development of the Swiss graphic and printing industry, including its design quality and product marketing. In the 1920s, the association promoted functional industrial design and, coordinated with the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts, made contributions to the development of modern Swiss graphic design.

Ernst Keller, one of the co-founders of the Swiss Werkbund, was a professor at the Zurich University of the Arts from 1918 to 1956. He initiated a graphic design and typography course which used simple geometric forms, vibrant colors, and evocative imagery to explain the meaning behind each typographic design. Many of his students gained international acclaim in the design field, including typeface designer Hans Eduard Meier, who designed the Syntax typeface, and the graphic designers Hermann Eidenbenz, who designed the Graphique and Clarendon typefaces, Lora Lamm, a major innovator of graphic fashion advertising. and Richard Paul Lohse, a pioneer in book design and one of the leading members of the Constructive Art movement.

Both Zurich and the city of Basel were the home bases for design schools, printers, and publishers in the 1930s. Switzerland became an important focus for graphic designers from many countries, due to imposed artistic restrictions and political pressures of the rising National Socialist Party. In the 1930s, a major breakthrough in posters occurred with the work of Swiss photographer Herbert Matter, who had studied and worked with French painters Fernand Léger and Adolphe Mouron Cassandre in Paris. He pioneered the use of photomontage combined with typeface in commercial art. Photomontage was an effect where multiple photo images would be edited into a seamless image for poster use. In 1932 Matter’s  series of posters for Swiss resorts and the Swiss National Tourist Office achieved international acclaim.

The “PKZ (Coat)” , one of the most famous Swiss illustrative object posters, is a testament to the graphic skill of Otto Baumberger as well as to the lithographic and publishing skills of J. E. Wolfsenberger, Zurich’s renowned art graphics company. This advertising poster for the clothing line, Paul Kehl of Zurich, was the first object poster by Otto Baumberger in which he omitted all unnecessary text from its design. The advertiser is identified solely through the label on the coat. This poster was also an advertising first in the dramatic use of hyper-realism, as seen in the highly detailed rendering of the coat’s wool fibers.

Insert Top Image: Artist Unknown, “Lotschberg Tunnel, Loetschberg Railway”, 1912, Lithograph, Hubacher and Company Publisher, Bern, Private Collection

Insert Bottom Image:  Burkhard Mangold, “Fabbrica di Automobili”, 1907, Lithograph, 84 x114 cm,  J. E. Wolfsenberger Publishers, Zurich, Private Collection

Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours

Poster for Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours, City Auditorium, Salem, Missouri, December 11, 1957

Born on a cotton farm in Ellis County, Texas, in 1914, Ernest Tubb spent his youth working on farms throughout the state. He spent his spare time learning to play the guitar, yodel and sing. In 1936, with the aid of singer and musician Jimmy Rodger’s widow, Tubb was offered a recording contract with the RCA Corporation, recording two unsuccessful records.. He switched to Decca Records in 1940, recording six records with the company. It was his sixth Decca release, the single “Walking the Floor Over You”, that gave Tubb stardom and a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America late in 1965.

Ernest Tubb and his band, The Texas Troubadours, joined the Grand Ole Opry in February of 1943. His first band members were Chester Studdard, Ray “Kamo” Head, and Vernon “Toby” Reese. Tubb and his band were a regular on the radio show for four decades; and Tubb hosted his own radio show, the Midnite Jamboree, which followed the Grand Old Opry each Saturday evening.

Ernest Tubb surrounded himself with some of Nashville’s best musicians. Guitarist Jimmy Short added to the Tubb sound with his single-string guitar picking and clean, clear riffs. Steel guitarists Tommy “Butterball” Paige and Jerry Byrd, who eventually replaced Jimmy Short, added their sounds to Tubb’s recordings. Billy Byrd, who brought jazzy riffs to the instrumental interludes of the songs, joined The Troubadours in 1949 and added the four-note riff at the end of his guitar solos that became a recognizable part of Tubb’s songs. Billy Byrd would remain with Ernest Tubb until 1959, when he left to make several solo albums, later returning to play again with Tubb.

In 1949 Ernest Tubb teamed up with the famous Andrew Sisters to record a cover of Eddy Arnold’s “Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle” and the western-swing “I’m Bitin’ My Fingernails and Thinking of You”. This two-song record sold 750,000 copies. Later that year, he teamed up with singer and musician Red Foley, recording “You Don’t have to Be a Baby to Cry”. The duo of Tubb and Foley released seven albums together, maintaining a friendly ‘on-the-air” feud over the years. 

Known for having one of the best bands in country music history, Ernest Tubb was inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame in 1965. In 1970, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Tubb inspired some of the most devoted fans of any country artist; his fans loyally followed him though out his career, long after his songs stopped making the charts. He remained a fixture at the Grand Ole Opry and continued to host his Midnite Jamboree radio show. Tubb appeared as himself in Loretta Lynn’s 1980 autobiographical film “Coal Miner’s Daughter” along with fellow country stars Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl. 

Tubb’s singing voice remained intact until late in life, when emphysema developed. He still continued making over two hundred appearances, traveling with an oxygen tank, shaking hands and signing autographs with every fan who stayed after the show. His health problems eventually halted his performances in 1982. Ernest Tubb made his final appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on August 14, 1982. He died in 1984 and is buried in Nashville’s Hermitage Memorial Gardens.

Christian Schad

Christian Schad, “Sirius”, 1915, Swiss Stone Lithograph

Christian Schad was a painter and printmaker who was preoccupied with Futurism, Cubism, and later, Expressionism. In 1915, Schad, along with his friend Walter Serner, published “Sirius: A Monthly Magazine for Literature and Art,” in Zurich. The magazine was forced to close after only seven issues. Schad designed the advertising posters and a full page woodcut for each issue.

Schad’s works of 1915–1916 show the influence of Cubism and Futurism. During his stay in Italy in the years between 1920 and 1925, he developed a smooth, realistic style that recalls the clarity he admired in the paintings of Rapael. Upon returning to Berlin in 1927 he painted some of the most significant works of the New Objectivity movement.

In 1918 Schad began experimenting with cameraless photographic images inspired by Cubism. This process had been first used, in the years 1834 and 1835, by William Henry Talbot who made cameraless images, that is, prints made by placing objects onto photosensitive paper and then exposing the paper to sunlight. By 1919 Schad was creating photograms from random arrangements of discarded objects he had collected such as torn tickets, receipts and rags. He is probably the first to do so strictly as an art form, preceding Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagyby at least a year or two.

Parola di Dio

Movie Poster for “Parola di Dio”

“Parola di Dio” is a 2016 film by Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov. The story revolves around Veniamin, a high school student, in the middle of an adolescent crisis. His troubles are appeased by the manic and compulsive reading of the bible which he is convinced will put his confusion in perspective.

“Parola di Dio” was presented at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, winning the Francois Chalais prize. The film is distributed by Wonder Pictures and was released in Italy on October 27, 2016.

Ravi Zupa

Ravi Zupa, “Sineater”, Illustration, Poster

Ravi Zupa is an eclectic and self-taught American artist from Denver, Colorado that creates interesting pastiche prints, manufactured sculptures, music videos and big installations using a variety of styles and techniques. He finds his biggest inspiration in books, the bulk of different cultures, mythologies, and imagery from around the world and many different epochs.

His art is colored with contemporaneity and political awareness and treats issues like violence, struggle, anarchism, dystopia, pop culture, power, ideology, and political figures. His studio practice combines several art techniques: lithography, painting, assemblage sculpture, collage,, drawing, and ceramic.

“The Birds”

Artist Unknown, Minimalist Movie Poster: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”

The film premiered March 28, 1963 in New York City. The Museum of Modern Art hosted an invitation-only screening as part of a 50-film retrospective of Hitchcock’s film work. The MOMA series had a booklet with a monograph on the director written by Peter Bogdanovich. The film was screened out of competition in May at a prestigious invitational showing at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival with Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren in attendance.

Wrigley’s Gum

In 1892, Wrigley Jr. began packaging chewing gum with each can of baking powder. The chewing gum eventually became more popular than the baking powder and Wrigley’s reoriented the company to produce the gum.

Wrigley began using twins to market the classic Spearmint chewing gum in 1939, playing off the idea that you should “Double your pleasure, double your fun, with Doublemint Gum.” Since 1960, the commercials have featured twins (even some famous ones) chewing along to the upbeat Doublemint tune.

Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens: Deutsche Werkbund Ausstellung Art Exhibition Poster, 1914, Color Lithograph, Printed in Cologne

This poster advertises an exhibition held by the Deutsche Werkbund in Cologne in Germany in 1914. The artist Peter Behrens (1868-1940) was a pioneer of Modern design and was known for his work for AEG, the German electrical company. He was an admired designer at the time. He was asked to create this poster for the Deutsche Werkbund.

The organisation was founded by artists, manufacturers and designers who were committed to improving the standard of German product design. Unusually, Behrens chose to use a classical, though stylised, design for this impressive poster. The torch perhaps indicated that the group was lighting the way ahead for the collaboration between manufacturers and designers.