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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.
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
The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.
Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically
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. Santé
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 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
But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.
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.”
Is this him?
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?
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!!!
Play on fellas. Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”
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.
After drinking and smoking sometimes there’s blushing. This great blush was made by French artist Catherine Zask from here
The new year is the ideal time to make lists. Let’s see, number 1….
Well let’s try number 2….
And if you don’t have a 2011 calendar to keep track of it all, you might want to get one of these:
The best thing about 2011 is that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s still a seed underground.
How cool is that?
Nicolaas Wijnberg, 1970
Dick Elffers, 1971
Eppo Doeve, 1948
Anthon Beeke, 1996. All above NEDERLANDS HOOGTIJ, seen here http://www.affichemuseum.nl/index.html
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