Squisito al selz is a ‘quadro pubblicitario’ (‘advertising painting’) like Depero defined it, which was exhibited at the 15th Venice Biennial in 1926. It advertised Campari, the Italian alcoholic liqueur drunk as ‘aperitivo’, produced by the homonymous company since 1860. The painting represents two people in the form of Depero’s trademark puppet-like, robot-like figures drinking Campari in a bar. The second poster, also for Campari, is rather centred on the iconography of the modern city, with buildings and traffic lights assembled in a geometric composition with bottles of Campari at their centre.
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These artworks are part of the many advertising materials that Depero designed for Campari. Depero started collaborating with Campari in 1924-1925, when he was put in charge of the company’s advertising brand and campaigns. This relationship lasted a few years, until the early 1930s, and can be considered as an incredibly successful and exemplary case in the partnership between art, design and the industry in Italy, even in the context of Depero’s manifold collaborations with Italian companies. Depero seems to have found in the ‘theme’ of Campari an inextinguishable source for inspiration, as he produced a remarkable array of sketches, posters, pictures, and advertising ‘objects’ and Campari certainly benefited from its association with Depero’s modern, colourful and aggressive graphic style, which greatly contributed to the company’s success. At the end of the 1920s, when advertising languages were largely influenced by the Novecento style and the ‘return to order’ (see, for instance, Bianchi and Dudovich, Fiat, Depero’s style came across as innovative and striking, and Campari’s decision to adopt it as the company’s visual brand was a bold one. The collaboration culminated in the production and publication in 1931 of the Numero unico futurista Campari, in which Depero’s visuals were creatively associated with the ‘advertising poems’ written by Giovanni Gerbino. The volume also included Depero’s well-known manifesto ‘Il futurismo e l’arte pubblicitaria’.
The effectiveness and modernity of Depero’s graphic style were achieved chiefly through an extreme simplification of forms, which were reduced to a few geometric shapes, coupled with the use of bright colours, often primary colours, and the insertion of conspicuous writings, including company names and slogans, in big, sometimes multidimensional letters. In Squisito al selz, the humanoid figures and all the element in the scene are composed by geometric shapes painted in different, even contrasting vivid colours, in a display of Depero’s own brand of Futurism. Some elements, like the large arrow pointing to the glass of one of the two figures, make the advertised product stand out. The name of the company ‘Campari’ in tilted, large red characters also stands out against the green background. The second poster uses a limited range of colours, and does not feature any characters, but instead relies on a representation of the modern city. However, most trademark features of Depero’s aggressive graphic style are there: the rationalization of all elements, the cubic, tilted geometric shapes and lines which make up the city, the plain background, the emphasis around the product, and the slogan standing out against the background. The advertised product Campari here is also associated to a glamorous representation of the city and a celebration of urban modernity.
Depero’s advertising style was, of course, closely connected to the Futurist style he developed in painting (see, for instance, Grattacieli e tunnel, sculpture, and other art forms, although he always had a clear sense of the specificities of graphic design and advertising products, and in no way he conceived of his advertisements as a less elevated version of his paintings. On the contrary, by exhibiting an ‘advertising painting’ within one of the most prestigious art institutions, the Biennial, he contributed to state the artistic value of graphic design and validate it as a legitimate art form. We also recognize in most of his posters and billboards a fantastic, playful, colourful world very similar to the one created by his paintings, populated by robot-like, puppet-like, machine-like, humanoid figures represented through geometric shapes and bright colours, which for their simplicity, playfulness, clarity, and eye-catching nature lent themselves perfectly to advertising art (see, for instance, Guerra=festa).
Belli, Gabriella, and Beatrice Avanzi. 2007. Deperopubblicitario: dall’auto-réclame all’architettura pubblicitaria. Milan: Skira.
Mughini, Giampiero and Maurizio Scudiero. 1997. Il manifesto pubblicitario italiano. Da Dudovich a Depero (1890-1940). Milan: Nuova Arti Grafiche Ricordi.
Villari, Anna (ed.). 2008. L’arte della pubblicità: il manifesto italiano e le avanguardie 1920-1940. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.
Scudiero, Maurizio. 2009. Depero. L’uomo e l’artista. Rovereto: Egon.