THE POSTER KING: LONDON CELEBRATES EDWARD MCKNIGHT KAUFFER’S VISUAL ART

 A fascinating exhibition taking place in London up to December 18, 2011, at The Estorick Collection of modern italian art.

 

My “Lacer/actions” art project is based on torn posters details. During my research I collected so far more than 30.000 images of ripped publicity posters. I work on them, making canvas, lithographs, textile designs, videoclip a.s.o; I explained my activity on a booklet-portfolio, published in 2009 (Lacer/actions – Pics of torn (publi)city). Yes, I like the world of posters, billboards and urban “signs” (this blog is here to demonstrate it). So, I must to dedicate a post to the interesting and fascinating exhibition taking place in London, at The Estorick Collection of modern italian art ( 39a Canonbury Square, entrance in Canonbury Road). The show – opened till December 18, 2011 – pays a tribute to Edward McKnight Kauffer, the “Poster King” (this is also the exhibition theme).

Focusing on Kauffer’s time in England , The Poster King is a celebration of the ways in which this remarkable artistic émigré enriched the visual culture. And all the design expressions of our times. In addition to the renowned graphic work it includes a fascinating nucleus of lesser-known paintings and prints as well as a selection of photographs, working drawings and original designs.

Edward Mcknight Kauffer produced some of the most iconic and influential commercial imagery of the early twentieth century. A remarkably versatile artist, his work drew inspiration from a wide variety of styles ranging from Japanese art to Fauvism, Vorticism and Constructivism, and encompassed painting, applied art, interior design and scenography. Yet it remains his celebrated posters created for clients such as London Underground and Shell during the inter-war years for which he remains most famous. Kauffer’s pioneering work in the field of graphic design ranks alongside the achievements of fellow avant-garde figures such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, all of whom – like Kauffer- had roots in the United States yet established their careers in London.

 Born in Montana in 1890, Kauffer’s precocious artistic talents were first employed painting stage scenery at his local opera house. They were also recognised by an acquaintance named Joseph E. Mcknight, a professor at the University of Utah, who in 1912 paid for Kauffer ton pursue his studies in Paris. As a mark of gratitude, Kauffer subsequently incorporated his benefactor’s surname into his own. Upon the outbreak of the First World War Kauffer fled to England where in 1915 he received a commission to design publicity posters for the Underground.

 

The originality and vibrancy of these images led Kauffer to receive commissions from a variety of companies and publishing houses over the following two decades,including Fortnum & Mason, Lund Humphries and Chrysler Motors. With a finger on the pulse of the latest artistic trends, Kauffer’s special genius lay in his ability to adapt the language of the avant-garde to the needs of advertising, creating works that were not simply visually striking but also rich in artistic merit. With commissions increasingly scarce following the declaration of war in 1939 Kauffer made the painful decision to return to America, where he continued to work for a number of years prior to his death in 1954.

Estorick Collection promoted meetings, education evenings and talks about Edward McKnight Kauffer; the next talk is planned for December 10, 2011 (“Kauffer’s England”, Dr. Jonathan Black, Kingston University).

 www.estorickcollection.com

 

 

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