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clowns 2 and high hair gal-1

clowns 3 clowns phunny

Clowns tell us a lot about ourselves and our lives. The best of them reveal some sadness or strangeness or both while doing their best to amuse us.  The overall message is: you might as well laugh because, well, life isn’t always a piece of cake, sometimes it’s a pie in the face.

clown handstand   clown_gum_display

clown toy crawling

Clown figurines of tin or ceramic seem to carry an extra layer of sadness and oddness after a few years.  Maybe there is a contradiction between what we see now and the smiles the little joker was meant to induce.  Crawling clown toy, 1900, from here

clown rolly dollys

But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.

clowns mini rolly dollys

According to Tracey’s Toys:

“The Rolly Dollys first appeared in 1902 and were produced through the 1920s in over 70 different styles. Some were based on advertising or cartoon characters like Buster Brown and Foxy Grandpa, while others represented children, clowns, police officers, and more.”

Foxy Grandpa??

Is this him?

clown cookie jar

All in all, the clown whether he is a comic actor, a circus performer, a tin toy, or cookie jar (above) has a long history and a continuing important function in human society.  Is there sadness underneath it all?  Is there misery and madness?

clown group photo1916_clowns

Well…maybe.  But we all have a choice to see the soda spray bottle half empty or half full.  Is the whoopee cushion a cry for help?  Or just a perennial boyish prank.  We come down on the side of mirth.  Release the clowns!!!

Digital StillCamera

Play on fellas.  Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”

poster Dubonnet-550x275

poster dubonnet winter
Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him.  On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.

poster funny little man
As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.

You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.

It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.


The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work

Ads for the Italian herbal aperitif Campari have used a weird little jester/devil of a man in a body stocking wrapped in an orange peel.   Nothing about Campari is ordinary.

The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.



Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically

cointreau pierrot
and ceramically


If you, man or woman, drank aperitifs in European bars in the 1920’s, chances are you lit up a cigar at some point. This little German guy was the guy to call.


poster dutch radio
But if you wanted music with your beverage, at home, you’d ring up Little Mr Disquehead  shown in this Dutch design for record players, disques, and radios.


poster dolus
Yes, you can say this is not a little man at all, but I don’t think we should exclude the hard-working fella just because he is red and has a trunk.


For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin.  Salute.  Santéchaplin

We hope things have started on the up side for you so far this new year. Here are some posters to celebrate the fresh start and to cheer up your eyes.

Above is a fine celebration of celebrating by Michael Engelmann (1928 – 1966). Found here .  You’ll find a lot more of his work in a recent book, one of the International Poster Collection series published in Zurich, cover below.

Above is from Aqua Velvet, here. And there’s more Michael Engelmann at the MOMA,here.

After drinking and smoking sometimes there’s blushing.  This great blush was made by French artist Catherine Zask from here

Cathrine Zask is featured with her own volume in the International Poster Collection series (image above from that), see aqua velvet again and her own swell website.

The new year is the ideal time to make lists.  Let’s see, number 1….

Well let’s try number 2….

Above both by the acclaimed Paula Scher of Pentagram.  See  here and here

And if you don’t have a 2011 calendar to keep track of it all, you might want to get one of these:

There’s 11 more months too, a project by Marin Santic seen on the Behance Network here.

The best thing about 2011 is that it hasn’t happened yet.  It’s still a seed underground.

How cool is that?

For the biggest best selection of Czech posters, check Terry (Gilliam) posters here

You can find some of the above and more here

And also here.

And don’t miss this.

Czechs please.

Nicolaas Wijnberg, 1970

Dick Elffers, 1971

Eppo Doeve, 1948

Anthon Beeke, 1996.  All above NEDERLANDS HOOGTIJ, seen here

Wim Crouwel, Arlette Brouwers, Total Design, 1981   Here.

By Harry Sierman

Mr Sierman again, both above via grainedit, here.

Lies Ros en Rob Schröder , 1987 also from the dutch poster museum



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