It's time to present the most influential European graphic artist of the Diesel Era, a man who created scores of iconic images.
Cassandre is Dieselpunk. Just start to explore the Interbellum, and you'll be immediately welcomed by his travel posters. Just start to search an appropriate font for your latest Dieselpunk artwork, and you'll come across his typefaces. You may never heard of Adolphe Jean Marie Mouron aka Cassandre but you certainly recognize his style. And if his name doesn't seem familiar you'll be amazed to learn what a variety of 1920s and 1930s visual symbols is created by one (and only!) artist.
Here's some extract from Cassandre's biography, published in Art Directors Club Hall of Fame:
In 1923, a Parisian hurrying by the poster-appliquéd walls and hoardings of his city might have had his eye drawn to a large horizontal poster. The central image was dramatically simple: a starkly drawn, well-muscled black figure posed against a radiant yellow background holds a woodsman's axe upraised to the full length of his rippling arms. The spectator awaits the woodcutter's coup de grace to a tree held by its final fibre to a well-hewed stump.
Given its strongly allegorical tone, the poster might have been taken as an exhortation by one of the revolutionary organizations of the time urging the French proletariat to fell a symbolic class foe. In point of fact, the poster's message was considerably less inflammatory. For just below the Herculean woodsman, the angular, decorative lettering informed the viewing public that the blow to be struck was a no-nonsense advertisement for Au Bucheron (The Woodcutter), a prominent Parisian furniture store. Forthrightly—even clumsily—lettered at the lower left of the poster was the name of Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, a young artist-designer making his first appearance among a select and aesthetically tired community of poster designers.
The leap from the Bucheron poster in 1923 to the succeeding one for Pi Volo aperitif embraced a quantum jump. This poster, with its fusion of bird, glass, light and dark forms and its art deco lettering, demonstrates that Cassandre had assimilated the revolutionary ideas of shape and interpenetration of form developed in the cubist and abstract paintings of Gris, Braque, and Picasso.
Barely a year later came the immortal “L'lntransigeant” truck poster. The forceful head and radiating telephonic lines of its composition created an indestructible image, and who today would be daring enough to truncate the product's name as Cassandre did in 1924?
In each succeeding year, Cassandre's posters show an increasing innovation enhanced by breathtaking execution. Images so seemingly literal and so directly rendered took on a new dimension. A shipping poster (1927) depicted cargo being hoisted.
Railway posters conveyed the essence of locomotion and the rectilinear purity of tracks. The magic of these posters lay in their bigger-than-life imagery and Cassandre's extraordinary sense of the dramatic. Every poster bore an invention in letterforms, fashioned as an integral part yet providing a visual bonus—lyrical, playful, geometric or decorative, and above all never banal. Perhaps in the Cassandre “symbology” it was the fusion of puritan and thinker that was preeminent, and in the memorable railway documents, the engineer heightened the alchemy.
Who can forget the exquisite distillation of the “Étoile Du Nord” poster, in which the velocity of the northern express is vivified by the acute perspective of pristine tracks culminating in a white star—an image that leaves us listening for the haunting sound of the train's whistle.
Like Chaplin's “Little Tramp,” Cassandre's “Dubonnet Man,” for all its stripped down formalization, has given us one of the ever-ingratiating figures of modern poster iconography.
At the same time, while designing his posters, Cassandre had begun to design several avant-garde type faces. The first of these faces, Bifur (above), appeared in 1929, a shimmering combination of solid forms and fine parallel lines whose art deco quality fits much of the design spirit of our time.
Acier (above) followed in 1930, and seven years later his most prestigious typeface, Peignot, appeared, dedicated to Charles Peignot, his friend, colleague and patron. Its jaunty asymmetry and unorthodox ascenders bespoke a pre-war elegance that could only be French.
If there is a continuum in Cassandre's work, it lies in his command of the full spectrum of visual styles. Cassandre, from 1923 to 1939, was a bridge between the modern fine arts and their contemporary application. His pictorial approach embraced all styles, ever discriminating that it was the spirit he consumed and not the corpus. The filtering force was Cassandre's extraordinary intellect, the inordinate appropriateness and selectivity of his personal vision. ...
Enough with quotes. Hope you'll read the whole article. I just want to add a few notes - for instance, to mention Cassandre's designs for the Container Corporation of America, made after WWII. His pre-war American commissions are better known, like Surrealist Harper's Bazaar covers:
There are 68 images in the album. Browse it - or enjoy the slideshow.