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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, August 11, 1907, Image 7

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1907-08-11/ed-1/seq-7/

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-"* -SaiLJSiaiicis£Q_ißiinaay. Call
Hanna Astrup Larsen
WE are used to thinking of the
poster as an outgrowth of our
American aggressiveness. The
poster is a thing that takes
hold of yoa trith brutal force; some
times It actually seems to pummel you
and knock you about with a violence
almost fistic; sometimes it entrances
,you with a beauty more vivid and clean
rut than that found in more finished
• forms of art; sometimes it disgusts you
\u25a0with Its ugliness; sometimes it merely
•hits you with the Inescapable quality of
fits lettering, but always arrests your
attention— that is. if it is a real poster.
This directness of purpose which
•doe* not shrink from any means to
overcome lethargy or prejudice in the
should be a peculiarly American
\u25a0quality, yet it Is a fact that the pos
;ter originated ia Europe and has
reached Its highest development there.
Better artists are employed In the ex
ecution of the advertising poster, and
there are many posters which are not
for advertising but for purely decora
tive purposes. The Involved symbol
ism employed is a quality that most
distinguishes the European from the
American poster and would seem to in
dicate that the European artist has
confidence in his ability not only to
catch his publlo but to keep It caught
Tir.tll he has told all he has to say.
The sls« and ugliness of the poster
are regulated by law in some coun
tries of Europe, but this clipping of
the more flamboyant growth has re
sulted In a finer development of the
poster art within the prescribed limits.
It is claimed by some that the poster
had Its origin among the ancients. The
nomaa actors knew the value of ad
vertising, and large showy notice
boards were employed by them. These
were called "albums." The oldest thing
In existence that can by any stretch
of the term bs called a poster is said
to bs a papyrus of ths year 149 B. C.
calling for the return of two fugitive
slaves. It Is cow In the Louvre. There
is another from the reign of Herod the
Great, which wu evidently posted In
the outer court of the temple la Jerusa
lem, forbidding visitors to enter the
Inner court of the sacred structure. It
night be said, however, that the strong
outlines and flat colors of the Egyptian
Trail paintings with a simple way of
telling their story have much of the
elements that go to make up the suc
cessful modern poster. The Greek vas«
paintings, too. copy In a small form the
two color scheme that is used noir with
so much effect.
Originated in France
It was reserved for the French peo
ple with their unerrinr Instinct for
form and color to originate the thing
we now call a poster. Picturesque,
fantastic, sometimes bizarre, though
not beyond the bounds of beauty, it
first flared into life on the boulevards
of Paris In the sixties. Earlier at
tempts had been in the way of an
nouncements and had not made any
pretense of & decorative effect. When
the time was ripe, through the perfec
tion of modern mechanical appliances
end the demands of modern advertising,
the best artists of Europe saw in the
poster a field for their finest work.
Cheret was the first Frenchman who
grasped its possibilities and mads it
I thing of beauty. Then came Josset
aad Stelnlen. England, America, Ger
many and the Scandinavian countries
took up the new fad. The Germans
went at It with their csual thorough
ness and their artists have produced
some of the finest posters la exist
ence They "2*7 not. hs?re -the verve
of the French nor. the flaunting beauty
that reminds one of showy flowers like
Se sunflowers or the hollyhock. , but
in their conscientious thoroughness and
the solidity of thslr artistic merit they
„« essentially Teuton.
One of the most Interesting eollec
«»««\u25a0 at European posters ever seen.
herVu that fathered by F/ H. Meyer
and Perham Nahl on their travels
fn Germany «« France, and now on
S±ib!SoTln» ths school of the. Guild
SatS end Crafts in California. .. A
tlwetih* most characteristic examples
.xT in The Sunday Call to
day on c - Pa«e «« «*• >*<* W *f
have b.sn
' wtelta Vmaoymr Stetalea to make a
, s£»? that should oonvey to all be
bSSrs the rerr twrte of the met
milk sipped by the little maid in the
picture and envied by three wistful kit
tens. The freshness and purity of the
vision created by the artist inevitably
suggest green fields and milk frothing
white and warm, fresh from the udder
of a sleek cow standing knee deep in
clover. The advertiser of preserved
foods, whether sterilized milk, canned
fruits, tinned butter or potted meat, has
made good when he has effectually con
nected the artificial product with the
natural food article in his customer's
imagination. No one who looks at the
little girl in the picture and' at her
dumb companions with, their speaking
looks will think of the fact that the
milk Ehe is sipping- from her pretty
little dish Is In the words of a little
maid of South Africa — the country of
many cattle and little milk— "from the
condensed cow."
The means which Stelnlen has em
ployed to reach the end are so simple
that no one but an artist of the first
caliber could have handled them suc
cessfully. To makouhe enormous flat
red surface of the child's dress Instinct
with life and to give that ' charm to
every one of the broad black lines that
bound the surface took- a first class
draftsman. The red is repeated' In
the bright color on the girl's lips and
touches over so lightly her. cheeks and
ears; it brightens the surface of the
dish and warms tho yellow in the cat's
fur. Next In strength Is the yellow
of the child's hair and the cat's fur.;
Softening the brilliance of the other
two colors and saving the general ef
fect from garlshness is. the warm
brown vlgneting of the figure by the
touches In the chair and the child's
dress. Lastly thero is the black in the
outlines, the child's belt and the fur of
one cat like a strong! note controlling
the exuberance of the rest and pinning
It down to definite shape. Tho local
atmosphere Is preserved In the. quality
of the dish, which is of a characteristic
French ware.
The sterilized milk poster, in spite of
the simplicity of Its effect, is really
quite elaborate, as it is printed In four
colors. Some of the most effective
posters have but two. \u25a0»'
Who but a genius*' with a severe
practical training could have produced
such a poster as that reproduced . In.
The Sunday Call today from an adver
tisement of Alexander Koch's publish
ing house in Darmstadt? In spite of
patriotism we are forced to admit it
shows a higher .grade of work than
Is seen outside of the good picture
galleries In this country, a finer- art
than that usually lavished on "the poor
man's picture gallery." as the billboards
have been called. The subject is "Life
Guiding Art." The plastic, unformed
body of the child stands out against a
dark background. The eagerness in the
«yes and parted lips Is carried out in
the tenseness of the outstretched, arm
emphasized by the straight shadows in
the arm apd under the collar bones.
Delighted at his -success, half afraid
of It. he reaches out to limn the tracery
on the wall. The mother's face over
his shoulder is tense with interest, the
light touch of her hand impelling yet
not interfering; . her arms are ready to
receive hltn when he flutters back from
the flight into the unaccustomed. The
shadows of her hair and dress bring
out the tender lines of the flesh forms
against the dark mass. So far •it is
just a picture and an extremely inter
esting and beautiful picture. The
decorative effect of the - manner '\u25a0 in
which the child's figure is placed and
tho tracery of red lines f ollowing the
lines of the arm and the carves of the
slender form make It a poster. The
name of the firm is placed unobtrusive
ly In a corner, but the individuality of
the picture Is such that It Is not for
gotten when once beheld with a seeing
eye. The delicacy and seriousness of
the ; composition I are such as make . It
peculiarly fitting for the advertise
ment of a business that is supposed to
concern Itself with the education of
the public
Another commercial ; poster Is that
of the united paper factories* of.Dres
den advertising the Schwerter photog
rapher's paper. The name of the paper
Is announced .by the gold glittering
sword held in the hand : of ;, the - figure
and is carried out in the crossed swords
on both sides of the lettering. The
figure : of the young ; man is of a kind
to compel attention and Is of » a mar
tial quality befitting the. paper with
the martial name. .
Art exhibitions have offered a .good
field, for the serious porter art of Get
many. That Issued for the industrial
art exhibit In Nurnberg last year is a
particularly interesting example of the
symbolism which . Is so characteristic
of German potters. : Three men stand
ing on the walls of . the old town of
Numbers hold aloft three banners, one
bearing:- the wheel device symbolizing;
Industry, one bearing: the three shields
with the three primary colors expres
sive of the crafts and one with ham
mer and tongs of the laborer. Thus
the threefold nature of the exhibit was
brought out. The men are evidently
prominent pillars of society, with
strong; hopeful Teuton faces and the
portly figures of prominent burghers.
The placing: of these men in modern
frock boats on the medieval walls of
the city is to signify that all modern
enterprise rests securely upon the
foundation laid by the fathers, a senti
ment, by the way, which would hardly
have occurred to an American artist,
even assuming that the language of
symbolism appealed to the American
nature, which it does not. The coloring
of this poster Is very striking, the sky
being a deep blue, the walls yellowish
brown and the figures of tho men
brought out In a strong contrast of
black and white.
The announcement of the exhibition
of the art society of Munich, Including
an exhibition of Bavarian art from the
early half of the nineteenth century, Is
a beautiful thing. The dignified classlo
figure of history, with the star over
her head. Is In strong contrast in Its
young maturity \u25a0- with the sweet child
ishness of the little figure symbolizing
the city of Munich leaning up
against her. This poster is . executed
entirely in brown tone*. ,;
The expensive i posters of the kind
included In the collection at the school
of. the -California Guild \u25a0of Arts and
Crafts mx» Issued In limited numbers,
Meyer and Nahl often bad , great diffi
culty In securing them, for the people
know their value and are quick to selz*
on •very one that "is printed. . The
waiters and janitors in buildings where
good posters are displayed are, wise in
their day and generation and frequent
ly preserve them with a view, to selling
them to collectors. ,' Meyer secured a
number by going directly to the fac
tory where they were issued and stat
ing that the collection was for school
purposes. * .-\u25a0\u25a0 \u25a0 \u25a0/ \u25a0 >. : •;; \v". \u25a0• >..\u25a0\u25a0
The old German posters were seme
times printed In as many tas six or
asven or •\u25a0 even - IS , colors. , Modern
poster . art : has : progressed more . and
more [ toward ' simplicity, ;. and three or
four colors ' are now .the usual number.
This is not ; only for the' sake of econ
omy, because every additional color, re
quires -" anothtr printing and . therefor
Increases ' the * price of production, . but
because the clearer. , perception :, of
the peculiar characteristics of this
form of art ; has taught : the ; artist the
value of simplicity. -, The \u25a0 poster 4 artist
, must see his work \u25a0in • masses i of color.
He I cannot I simply . draw , an | outline pic
tare and then- fill in^the^ spaces with
color as an afterthought, V.3 : must
make • them a part of the composition
as It - forms Itself in his mind- Tbsj
more he can eliminate details the bst
'ter,:wlir.be;the effect. ;,;;: v
- In France . the slse of posters Is lim
ited by s> law ;of 1781 regulating '\u25a0 ths
size of 1 billboards. % which y- Is >; still -A la
force. Posters 1 and • announcements are
subject to V tax.andi temporary an
nouncements or posters must have the
stamp 0$ the » government.' There is a
rigid .system $of inspection, and the
glaring ugliness that screams from* the
billboards tot] ouri cities | would | not b a
allowed In France. ' On ths \u25a0' other hand
the department stores rest * spaces for
permanent posters ; in < the Metropolitan
J subway i and it they vie \ with"? eaoh other
; In c ths ' beauty* of i their ; adv«rt!t«atats.

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