Typography Masterpieces

Verwende Stets nur Gas

A recent auction of Modernist Posters features several examples of modernist typography from major innovators of the form, including Max Bill, Walter Dexel and Jan Tschichold, all associates of the Bauhaus. 

Neue Wege der Photographie
Versions of Walter Dexel’s posters Neue Wege der Photographie, 1928 and Verwende Stets nur Gas, 1924, (above), are part of MoMA’s permanent collection.

Walter Dexel eschewed pictorial imagery for “the use of ornament based entirely on precise geometric forms.” In this vein, Verwende Stets Nur Gas, 1924, features nothing more than type stating the benefits of gas framed in a large yellow rectangle, and grabs attention with a big red exclamation point. Using very simple elements, the poster elevates the otherwise mundane instruction to “Always use gas for cooking, baking, heating, lighting…”

Contrasting the simplicity of Dexel’s designs is a poster for a ballet performance designed by Max Bill. While Bill led the development of a grid-centric international typographic style, this composition is playful, chaotic and slightly abstract.

Tanzstudio Wulff Basel
Max Bill, Tanzstudio Wulff Basel, 1931.

Interesting typography is not limited to the type-only posters in this sale. Ib Andersen’s Bygge Og Bolig, 1929, which features type around the edges of the poster, is a fine example of typography integrated into an Art Deco cityscape. Typography plays a role in nearly every poster, from Porsche advertisements to René Magritte’s designs for sheet music covers and A.M. Cassandre’s maquette for Unic, recently written about on art blog Mondrian’s Room.

Ib Andersen, Bygge Og Bolig, 1929.