japonisme: picture this

24 February 2008

picture this

without the middle class we'd have nothing to talk about. without the need for sources and sales potentials, we would never invaded, er..., engaged in trade practices with japan. the japanese artists themselves would not have created the prints since there would have been nobody to buy them.

and then as the prints
arrived to (accidentally) inspire all of europe and the world, shopkeepers with a savvy eye imported them to sell them to another middle-class population. and other shopkeepers saw the potential of these bright posters for wider commercial use, and contests were held to find talented young artists to create them for their goods. priester matches awarded their first prize to lucian bernhard and the rest is history.

off on the other side of the atlantic a new young art student arrived from italy, where he had been exposed to all of the new trends in arts and typo- graphy. it was the early 1920s and in upstate new york the photography magnate george eastman was about to open a theater. since the invention of threadable film, movies were booming and he thought he might even show them in his new space.

no poorly executed mass produced movie poster would satisfy him, however, and he too held a contest. yes, you guessed it; our new resident won.

batiste madalena was a genius. he did one of each pair here, and many many more. despite the fact that he is clearly utilizing styles and techniques the european (german, british) artists were, his creations were entirely distinct. with their brilliant and unique use of color, of contrasting out- lines, and of a truly rich flatness, his look was, and still is, entirely his own.

after four years of his creating on average one poster a day, the theater was sold to paramount; they thought differently about hand-done, painted posters. one rainy night, bicycling home for the day, madalena rode along the alley behind the theater and stopped in his tracks. overflowing in the large trash can he saw his posters, paint running and spattering to the ground.

how he must have felt as he gathered as many of them as he could; reports vary widely but approximately 25% of the originals were salvaged. he and his wife cleaned them, pressed them, restored them, and put them in the attic for the next 50 years.

when they were to be discovered, displayed, and given back, to some extent, to the middle class. there are two books, now playing, and movie posters, a hollywood library database, and tales told. i haven't seen this one, but find the other two limited in what they offer.

but not limited in the satisfaction they provide.

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Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Playing catch up with my fave blogs.

A wonderful selection of posters here. The Anna May Wong piece is stunning.

28 February, 2008 18:58  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks dominic--i am so behind myself i hope the overload doesn't break google reader.

yeah--isn't that a cool piece? don't you just feel like a kid in a candy store, all the new (old) stuff that pours into the internet every day?

28 February, 2008 19:19  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

That "zigarette" poster with the small red dot is absolutely brilliant. What a great design!

07 March, 2008 11:13  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks, david. yes, there were other versions of that one with the same figure who rather than being in silhouette is drawn in with outlines, and they're not close to as effective.

07 March, 2008 15:23  

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