These two posters by Munari and Fontana advertise shipping lines. The first one, designed by Fontana, advertises the four united Italian shipping lines (Italia Flotte Riunite, Cosulich, Lloyd Triestino, and Adria). The writing says ‘express services to the entire world’. The second one, designed by Fontana and Munari, advertises the company Lloyd Triestino. In line with the two authors’ respective styles, the two posters display rationalizing tendencies, more pronounced in the poster designed by Fontana on his own, as well as Futurist influence, visible mostly in the poster that Fontana and Munari designed together.
A New Theorization of the Relationship Between Subjectivity and Objectivity
The Rationalization of Aesthetics: the Straight Line
Because of its strong connections with reality, society, and the industry, and its nature of propagandist art par excellence, advertising art was heavily influenced by social, historical and political dynamics. In the 1930s, advertisements were generally more austere, rigorous and less playful than in the 1920s, as the regime tightened its control over the media, and increased its direct use of them. However, Italian advertising was also obviously influenced by developments in the artistic world, not only domestic but also international, especially by those movements who moved towards styles or languages which could be adapted to the necessities of advertising art and graphic design. Some of these were rationalism with its rationalization of forms, cubism with its geometrization of forms, and expressionism with its exaggerated colours, as well as Novecento and Futurism, belonging to the domestic scene (Villari 2008, 154).
These two posters exemplify the influence of futurist and rationalist tendencies on advertisement and graphic design, as well as being an expression of the personal style of the two artists and the artistic research they were carrying out at the time. Fontana’s poster is elegant, minimalistic, almost asbtract. The shape of the ship is extremely streamlined, almost a line, which cuts horizontally the compact black background, and the yellow and blue circle in which it is enclosed. The poster seems to anticipate the innovations which Fontana will explore in the post-war period, based on new conceptions and uses of space, lines and shapes, and the synthesis of physical elements.
The poster designed by Munari and Fontana also displays rationalizing tendencies, visible in the reduction of the ship to a few elements assembled in the image, and their streamlined representation: the ‘abstract’ shape of the ship itself, the funnel, and some ropes. However, the composition here is more colorfoul and dynamic, and this is achieved through the colour and layout of the figures, as well as the background. The background is not black but yellow, and displays a wavy pattern, perhaps to recall sea waves; the shape of the ship is repeated three times in different colours and different directions (horizontal and vertical); the shape of the funnel and its shade in foreground are sinuous and create movement; and the ropes cut the poster diagonally. Both posters responded to the need of advertising art for producing clear-cut forms, which would stand out and capture the viewers’ attention, and could be immediately apprehended.
The two posters also belong to a category of advertisments which thrived under Fascism, those advertising means of transport, in particular those means of transport that expanded common space and mobility boundaries, promising to bring people to the four corners of the world. The development of this category of ads was, of course, connected with Fascism self-celebration, the celebration of its industries ad their technological advancements, and of its projected imperialistic expansion. Ships, in particular, were the symbol of modern elegance, and a spectacular means of transport which, even though it was not as fast as airplanes, was potentially more luxurious and at the same time more accessible.
Antonelli, Pierpaolo, Matilde Nardelli and Margherita Zanoletti (eds). 2017. Bruno Munari: The Lightness of Art. Oxford: Peter Lang.
Miracco, Renato (ed.). 2006. Lucio Fontana: At the Roots of Spatialism. Rome: Gangemi.
Pellegrini, Sonia (ed.). 2009. L’officina del volo: futurismo, pubblicità e design. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.
Villari, Anna (ed.). 2008. L’arte della pubblicità: il manifesto italiano e le avanguardie 1920-1940. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.