Born in Ukraine to French parents, Mouron came of age during the time of Bauhaus – and his “geometric and monumental” work is fused of all these influences. He wrote, “The poster is not a painting, it is a machine to announce… it is before anything else a word.” One little-known fact is that Cassandre created the Yves-Saint-Laurent logo. “He made us a single proposition, that of initials intertwined,” YSL’s co-founder recalled.
In this magnificent poster, Cassandre perfectly portrays the two most important factors in early rail travel: romance and speed. Our eyes are both focused on the geometric whirl of the wheels and the seemingly endless, far off horizon. The size and power of the engine is so brilliantly executed that one can almost feel that solid wall of hot air hitting you as it races by.
Cassandre’s most popular and enduring advertising idea was for Dubonnet, an odd aperitif created with fortified wine, herbs, spices and quinine. It’s basically the French version of the gin-&-tonic: a drink invented so French Foreign Legionnaires in North Africa could get the quinine down. For a commercial market, however, the libation was a little more dubious. Cassandre ran with it: “Dubo,” (a casual French word for ‘doubt’); “Dubon” (‘good’)… Dubonnet. The simplicity and wit of this idea meant that it would endure for decades, and translate almost anywhere – Vietnam, for example, as this version attests.
This is a grand portrait of the 2nd panel, and it is good – very, very good indeed. In 1932 Cassandre created individual, large-format versions of each image in the DUBO – DUBON – DUBONNET triptych; this one has the lovely blue coloration originally intended, and is exceptionally rare!
An undoubted masterpiece. Merely remove the lettering, and it would become a chef d’oeuvre of high Modernism, not advertising. But the lettering is where the magic occurs: Cassandre “creates a surreal effect of light…cleverly writing the slogan around the disc so that the word ‘electrique’ falls into the most luminous part” (Brown/Reinhold, 112). Indeed, the entire composition is designed to pull the eye down, through both curves and diagonals, to the illuminated word – and then outward, to action.