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The Epitome of Art Deco

Monday, November 19, 2012



The Nord Express was a poster designed by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre in 1927 promoting the railway line that ran between Paris and St Petersburg. Although the Nord Express rail line was already thirty years old by the time A.M.Cassandre’s poster was printed, the creation of this glamorous advertisement did not just re-promote the long existing rail line, but expressed and symbolised the excitement, glamor and extravaganse of the art-deco age in which the creator A.M.Cassandre was living.

Adolphe Marie Mouron Cassandre was born in the Ukraine on the 24th of January 1901. As a young man he traveled to Paris where he studied art at Beaux- art. He was extremely talented and shortly after graduating from Art school he was taken in by a printing company and set to work creating his first advertisements posters. Unsatisfied he, along with several other print makers, soon went on to create their own printing company Alliance Graphique. Here Cassandre really shone. He was accredited with creating innovative new graphic techniques, which drew inspiration from contemporary art movements including surrealism, cubism and above all Art Deco. 

"Sur la portes de la lumiere" text by Blaisse Cendras /Bifur typeface /Poster for "Chemin du Fer Nord"

The Nord Express, which hangs in the Stadelijk museum in Amsterdam, was a celebration of the age in which Cassandre was living. In its portrayal it brought style and glamour once again to rail travel. Passengers were not just stepping into any mode of transport, they were entering one that was new and thrilling. It was adventurous, a chance to escape to go to places never before dreamed of by the every day man and woman. The composition of the poster was vital to the impression, and Cassandre, influenced by the likes of Pablo Picaso and Max Ernst, handled and executed this very simply. The track is at eye level giving the impression of the train towering over the viewer, perhaps echoing the designs of groundbreaking high-rise buildings that belonged to the same art deco age. As a viewer you get the sense of the giant locomotive speeding towards you, it is frightening and yet thrilling at the same time, the vivid, vibrant. Colours jump out of the poster giving the image a somehow realistic and exciting feel, echoing the artists genius. Cassandra was well known for his inovative portrayal of moving vehicles and there is no better example of this than in the Nord Express. Sharply angled non-parallel lines disappearing into the distance gives the illusion of great speed, viewers could imagine them selves travelling across countries in only a matter of hours, journeys that may previously have taken weeks. Another version of the Nord Express also hangs in the Stadelijk, it is in my opinion no where near as emotive or as well laid out as the one I have focused on. Cassandre carried on producing posters until the world war two, during which he joined the French Army. Although he carried on producing posters after the war, even dabbling in theatre and costume design, his passion was never the same as it had been in the golden years of the 20’s and 30’s and after struggling with depression he committed suicide in 1968. His most famous works include amongst others the Yves-saint Laurent logo and the ingenious new typeface Peignot.

How ever much of a genius A M Cassandre is, much of the posters appeal for me is the style and the time it was done in makes this poster stand out. It was designed during a time of great hope and prosperity. After the great war people began once again to rebuild there lives which would become bigger and better, more accomplished. Art Deco is the embodiment of these ideals. It promotes the eclectic form associated with elegance, style and modernism. It takes its inspiration from mathematics and geometry, perhaps a representative of people trying to rebuild for a better future. It is this that is so evocative not just in the Nord express but also in many of A M Cassandre’s works, they demonstrate a great feeling of hope, excitement even glamour. People of the time really had a vision of how the future might look like, it was a time of huge invention of enterprise. Art Deco was representative of elegance, functionality and modernity all of which are embodied by A M Cassandre’s Nord Express.


Another version of the Nord Express poster which hangs opposite the original in the Stedelijk museum;


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