Friday, 16 December 2011

McKnight Kauffer - The Poster King

Finally managed to make it to the Edward McKnight Kauffer exhibition at the Estorick Collection in Canonbury Square. I'd been looking forward to it for ages but only today found the time - on the exhibition's final day. (It's a great place, and I can't believe I didn't know of it previously. It also has a decent-looking café serving simple Italian dishes and salads, so I'll definitely be going back).

The exhibition has a wide range of his ground-breaking poster work - both gouache preparatory paintings and final posters - for clients such as London Underground and Shell in the period 1915-1940, and showed clearly how his style was strongly influenced by the art movements of the early 20th century: Fauvism, Constructivism, Vorticism and Art Deco. There's so much strong work that it's hard to argue with the exhibition's title.

It ends on rather a poignant note though, with a single poster illustrating his later career. McKnight Kauffer and his wife returned to his native US during the Second World War, but by all accounts they were absolute Anglophiles and he spent the rest of his life bitterly regretting having left England.

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