Despite having been produced at different moments between 1924 and 1934, these four advertisements all display the visual typifying features of Depero’s advertising style. The first one, from 1924, was produced by Depero for the company Verzocchi & de Romano, specifically advertising fire-resistant bricks. It depicts two of Depero’s trademark puppet-like figures hammering bricks. The second and the third ones are the most well-known posters created for San Pellegrino, specifically advertising magnesia. They also represent two puppet-like, humanoid figures pushing San Pellegrino magnesia down a ‘tube’ to clean it. The fourth one was created for the National Gasometer Society in 1934, as the cover of an advertising leaflet. It represents a pan warming up on flames produced by gas hobs and some buildings, in a geometric and colourful composition typical of Depero’s style. Compared to most of his advertisements, the absence of his typical anthropoid figures is notable.
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These advertisements testify to the productive alliance of artists and graphic designers with the industry – not only the ‘light’ industry, but also the ‘heavy’ industry – of which Depero was one of the protagonists, as an advocate of the industrialized world and its partnership with arts. In 1924, Giuseppe Verzocchi, the company’s owner as well as an art lover, set out to produce a catalogue to illustrate the features of its fire-resistant bricks, which would also be an object of aesthetic value. It thus commissioned advertising artworks from eighteen artists including Depero. Depero’s contributions, visually and textually underscoring the resistance of the bricks, stood out for their innovative style, in comparison to the other ones. Verzocchi greatly appreciated them and asked Depero to also design the cover for the volume. His collaboration with Magnesia San Pellegrino dates from 1927-1928, while in 1934 he produced a set of sketches and advertisements for the Società Nazionale Gazometri, which develop the theme of gas, fire, and energy, mostly leaving out his typical humanoid subjects and focusing on the product.
This set of works clearly shows the pioneering insight of Depero’s advertising style. In line with the Futurist approach to art and the public, Depero proved to understand that rather than the refined and elegant atmospheres of the art-nouveau style, posters with a strong, almost shocking impact on viewers would be more effective. Billboards needed to catch the attention of viewers and passers-by and become imprinted on their memory, making them desire and buy the products. Ultra-sophisticated human figures disappear and make room for eye-catching figures standing out against plain backgrounds; bright colours; geometric shapes; big, multidimensional, often tilted writings and slogans. Depero’s advertisements are thus based on the principles of simplification, rationalization, clarity, and boldness, which will become the hallmark of contemporary advertising and graphic design.
It is significant that Depero’s style has been defined ‘lo stile d’acciaio’ (‘iron style’). Since the 1920s, his artistic style and imagination seem to be heavily affected by ideas of the robotization and mechanization of reality, expressed in the creation and recurring use of a repertoire of mechanized, machine-like figures: trains, iron horses, motorcycles, mechanized natural elements, and so on (Belli 2007, 17). It is no surprise, then, that this visual style should perfectly lend itself to advertising in general, and even more fittingly to the advertising of products related to heavy industries. It was a celebration of the new, enhanced role of industries and machines in modern society, by which Depero was fascinated (also for the aesthetic implications of this process), even though ‘softened’ and enriched by a fantastic and playful element, which is also a hallmark of Depero’s art.
Avanzi, Beatrice. 2007. ‘Fortunato Depero e la pubblicità: un’arte fatalmente moderna’. In Deperopubblicitario: dall’auto-réclame all’architettura pubblicitaria, edited by Gabriella Belli and Beatrice Avanzi, 23-39. Milan: Skira.
Belli, Gabriella. 2007. ‘DeperoPubblicitario’. In Deperopubblicitario: dall’auto-réclame all’architettura pubblicitaria, edited by Gabriella Belli and Beatrice Avanzi, 15-21. Milan: Skira.
Belli, Gabriella, and Beatrice Avanzi. 2007. Depero pubblicitario: 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.