poet of the belle epoque
In 1897 with the help of Leopoldo Metlicovitz, painter, poster artist, illustrator and stage designer, Antonio Dudovich sends his son Marcello to the Officine Grafiche Ricordi (Ricordi Printing Works) in Milan, in order to learn the job of “colourist”.
Giulio Ricordi, director of the Works, doesn’t take long to notice the young Dudovich’s talent. From simple copier and colourist he is promoted to designer and regular collaborator. It is necessary to stress how important this compact and numerous group, which includes the best “signatures” of Italian poster art, is for Ricordi.
The inter- na- tion- al char- act- er of the Officine Grafiche Ricordi manifests itself also in the presence of artists coming from other countries (Adolfo Hohenstein, Leopoldo Metlicovitz, F. Laskoff, Aleardo Villa, Giovanni Mataloni): endowed with strong personalities, they create a fertile breeding ground in which the new European modernist developments can take root, and, even within the consolidated 19th century tradition of poster art, they succeed in elaborating innovative communication formulas in the field of visual advertising art.
The Officine Ricordi are in these years the best Italian lithographic printing works, with several branches both in Italy (Milan, Naples, Florence, Rome) and abroad (London, Paris, Leipzig, New York). The constant contact of the Officine Ricordi with foreign countries represents an inexhaustible source of information and visual stimulation for Dudovich, who can thus keep up-to-date with the new artistic and publishing developments, mixing the most disparate international artistic influences.
Dudovich settles down in Milan and works for the advertising campaigns of the Grandi Magazzini Mele, an important department store in Naples (1906-1914). These years are happy and characterised by an abundant and justly acclaimed output: he realizes some of the best posters of his long career. Milan will acknowledge Dudovich as “the poet of the Belle Epoque”, a refined illustrator of human life, and an acute portraitist.
The Officine Grafiche Ricordi become in Italy what the Imprimerie Chaix, created by Jules Chéret, is in France: a stimulating breeding ground for artists capable of following all the stages of their work step by step, from the sketching phase to chromolithographic reproduction on stone, zinc, or aluminium plate – collaborating with the printers, supervising directly the work in all its phases, refining and adding further touches. 1
(the mele stores, like paul poiret -- french clothing designer --, seized the opportunity this "golden age of posters" afforded them by hiring the best and the brightest of the up-and-coming new artists of this new field to promote their goods.
clearly, the influences of japonisme have become part of the language; the dark outlines and flat areas of pure color, and the often-appearing diagonal structure are hard to miss.)