♢ EDITORIAL by Sal McIntyre, New York ♢
The act of traveling to a foreign place has the unique ability to open the mind and expand the life experience of the traveller in a way that no other activity can quite replicate— leaving us with a wholly altered state of being and a complexified presence that works its way into our very identity. Such a wealth of evolution then follows us throughout our lives, influencing the ways in which we live, work, act and enjoy ourselves, that it is again awakened with fresh vigor on merely coming across an object or picture associated with the travel, prompting a memory that floods with a wave of nostalgia. Vintage travel posters hit precisely this mark, seemingly pulling at every heartstring available— and with more than just the referenced location as magnetic agent, the artistic style employed in this sector of design art inhabits a territory of powerful allure.
Pierre Fix-Masseau had a profound sensibility with poster design, his stark and simple shapes contrasting exquisitely with his choice color gradients and tones. Works like Venice, a first edition printing from 1981, with the iconic and effortless arrangement of forms, seem to be flying like the winged Lion of Venice it references. Orient - Express and Exactitude are no exceptions, acting almost as portals into the times and places of distant memory and inclination.
Standout French poster artist Géo Dorival’s signature specialty with color is evident in this work Venise, Train Rapide Quotidien, where he seamlessly describes the light, the atmosphere and a physicality steeped in history, translating the magic of a special topography with what appears to be every color in the palette.
This Marcel Gromaire work Paris commemorates La Fête Nationale, or Bastille Day, from July 14th, 1956 in Paris. Whether perhaps you may have been at this particular festival or not, the spirit of French celebration nonetheless pervades throughout this beautiful and romantic rendering. Sponsored by the L’Office du Tourisme de France, this first edition 1964 stone lithograph was printed by master lithographer Henri Deschamps at the famed Mourlot printing house.
And in Bay of Angels (SOLD), a signed and dated 1962 Mourlot stone lithograph work by Marc Chagall, promoting travel to the French southern city of Nice and the Cote d'Azur is as simple as calling forth the dreamlike apparitions inspired by the mystery of the place itself. Even if one has not been to Nice, the desire to visit has now certainly fledged.
Posters commissioned by Air France are equally compelling, this one revealing a tour of some of France’s best known architecture and landscape, as seen through the lens of the ever-popular poster artist Bernard Villemot, of Perrier, Orangina and Bally poster fame. This clever composition allows the Eiffel Tower to take a demure center stage, possibly one of the key features explaining the enigmatic appeal of the one in real life.
And one from Raymond Pages, Air France: Inde, has a delightful and captivating color scheme, nearly glimmering with secrets— ones that may align with misty memories of cultural ephemera at one time absorbed through the eyes. The Sanskrit symbol at the top is the very one that, thanks to travel, has become widely recognizable beyond India, and is for the term ‘namaste,’ a common greeting to communicate love and respect.
Roger Soubie created De Chamonix au Montenvers, one of the most oft-seen travel posters featuring a truly magnificent landscape— “Le Chemin de fer à crémaillère” was designed with an additional wheel that hooked into an added rail to maintain grip on the sloping and steep climb in the French Alps from the town of Chamonix to Montenvers, 1.2 kilometers. Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) is the largest glacier in France and a very big attraction year round— though a hundred years old, the train is still in operation, something that anyone recognizing the sun reflecting off those otherworldly peaks knows.
And for who is by far the outstanding member of the vintage travel poster family, A.M. Cassandre’s infamous art deco style and dynamic compositional prowess lend works that are time and again beacons of captivation— expertise never goes out of style. Italia and La Route Bleue communicate balanced perfection and the familiar spirit of wanderlust that seizes any traveller, and two different works for Nord-Express give strong geometry and the illusion of motion an irresistible appeal.