Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) is known as the “father of modern advertising” for his revolutionary vision of the promotional poster. Though he studied under the great Jules Chéret at the printing house Vercasson, he eventually broke away from the established aesthetic spawned by the Impressionists and developed his own style: flat backgrounds, bold and saturated hues, and animated scenes that nearly burst off the page.
“The mission of this orange-haired dancer was to attract visitors at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair to come to the Folies-Bergère… Cappiello chose a variant of the can-can dancer from his first Frou-Frou poster of the year before. Still rooted in his early caricature style, it is nevertheless an excellent poster, with its flat colors and eye-catching quality. The image was also issued in an edition of 100 copies, before letters, and an extremely limited silk edition of only 10 copies. Although all contemporary references make it clear that the Frou-Frou poster was Cappiello’s first, a black-and-white flyer was issued which proclaimed this to be ‘The First Poster of Cappiello.’ It is not clear if this was also issued in 1900” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 39).
“We are happy to tell you that we are very satisfied with both the design and the printing… We found it at once original and very personal,” wrote the owner of the company that created Amandines de Provence (Cappiello, p. 116). It’s the first poster Cappiello created for a product; you can almost taste the crisp almond crunch, and hear the lady insinuating, “Darling, isn’t this divine?” A variant of this poster has the bottom text “Biscuits Pernot,” but “Amandines de Provence” is the original branding—and this version has exceedingly fresh colors!
“Born Emilie Bouchaud… in Algiers, [Polaire] was from all accounts quite a brash character, breaking into show business as a singer at 15. At first, she relied primarily on her physical assets—which included an impossibly small waist and an improbably large bust that she refused to conceal with layers of garments as was the fashion of the day. This, of course, earned her a great deal of censure, but also enough notice to get some theatrical offers; and there, she surprised everyone by turning out to be an accomplished comedienne” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 68). This particular version of the poster features a single text line at bottom to announce the show.
Emphasizing the release of one’s inner daemons, Cappiello presents us with a male and female devil, peering eagerly into a box of Fournier Triple-Sec. Founded in 1865, Fournier-Demars’ original specialty was absinthe, a possible other explanation for the use of hell-bound creatures in this poster.
“This is Cappiello in excelsis—forcing you to associate the startling creature with the product whether you want to or not. The poster created a major stir in graphic design circles, and was unanimously praised by all writers on the subject. It was printed in various language versions and reissued a number of times” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 151). It’s just the kind of bold overstatement that Cappiello believed would most effectively deliver the message, even with regard to so humble a product as a heating pad.
“Cappiello showed the pleasure of smoking by projecting an image of a hedonistic Middle-Eastern potentate luxuriating with a self-rolled cigarette. In fact, the imperious pasha floats on his coach like a fat white cloud—an incongruous and therefore memorable image” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 156). This long-lasting design would see thirteen further printings; this is the original, rare larger format.
While it may be hard to believe that Cappiello strayed from the world of advertising posters (he was so prolific there!), he did create the occasional political drawings for journals. This work in particular was featured in the September 14, 1916 issue of the journal La Baionette (No. 63). It’s quite the grim graveyard scene, but the accompanying poem by Paul Deschanel sheds some light: “And now, o glorious dead of Magenta and Solferino, arise and ignite with your magnanimous breath the two immortal sisters, united forever in Justice.”
“As we have seen, Cappiello, steeped in theatrical tradition from his years as a stage caricaturist, often chose pierrots, harlequins or clowns to represent various products. Here, in one of his most inspired designs, the clown embodies the spirit of the orange peal, a zesty ingredient in the Bitter Campari. This image has become one of the classics of poster design, effortlessly combining the element of surprise with the essence of the product. The story of this world-famous brand name started in 1860 in the little Italian town of Novara, where Gaspar Campari opened his small wine shop. Within two years, he earned enough to open a cafe on a busy street corner in Milan. Annoyed that his competitors were able to sell everything that he did, he determined to produce his own distinctive liqueur in order to serve something unique; to this end, he developed a recipe for a type of bitters and made a sample batch. His timing was impeccable: bitters… were just coming into vogue at the time, and the Campari bitter was an instant success. The enterprise grew, and by the time of Gaspar’s death in 1882, the product was selling throughout the world. His son, Davide (1887-1936), expanded the family business even more, and in 1892, added a second successful beverage, Cordial Campari” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 214). This is the smaller format.
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