These postcard and billboard were both designed by Futurist artist Enrico Prampolini to advertise theatrical performances in the late 1920s. The first one was created to publicize the performance of two Futurist plays by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, I prigionieri e l’amore and L’oceano del cuore. The second one was produced to advertise a cycle of Italian opera nights at the Théâtre Champs-Elysées in Paris. They both display an adaptation of Prampolini’s trademark style to advertisement, featuring rationalized, abstract or geometric figures, but with a more accessible and ‘aggressive’ graphic style, typical of Futurist advertisement.
A New Theorization of the Relationship Between Subjectivity and Objectivity
The Rationalization of Aesthetics: the Straight Line
The developments of advertisement and graphic design in the interwar period was shaped by the influence of the avant-gardes and other artistic movements. Among avant-garde movements, Futurism features prominently in its influence on these developments, for a set of reasons pertain to Futurist aesthetics as well as the very conception of art upheld by the Futurists. Futurist art had always had an ‘advertising’ side to it, expressed in the will to draw attention to the artworks and the artists themselves, and publicize their activities. Moreover, the Futurists considered advertisement as a new, powerful art form belonging to modern society, which had enormous potential in terms of democratizing art, taking it out of museums and making it accessible to everyone, changing the face of cities with it (Villari 2008, 18-19).
Futurist aesthetics influenced advertising styles broadly, but shaped especially the graphic style of those Futurists who experimented directly with this modern art form, like Prampolini. In the advertisements we are analysing here, several elements can be attributed to what we could call a ‘Futurist advertising aesthethics’, developed through the work of Futurist in the field of advertisement. While the Opéra Italien billboard has a more static and ‘conventional’ nature, possibly because of the type of performance it was advertising, the Futurist theatre postcard displays a higher dynamism, typical of Futurist aesthetics. This is emphasized by the tilted figures and the diagonal writings. Both posters feature bright colours, big three-dimensional letters, and a rationalization of figures into geometric shapes. The propensity for abstraction and the reduction of subjects and objects to lines and geometric shapes was a prominent feature of Prampolini’s personal aesthetics, which he explored throughout his career and through various art forms. The first poster features a mechanized and rationalized portrait of Marinetti, who is also reduced to lines and geometric shapes, visually connected to the writing ‘Marinetti’.
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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.