Saturday, 5 March 2011

A stencilled poster by Sonia Delaunay

A comment left today by Klaus provides me with the ideal opportunity to post this rather battered but beautiful poster designed I believe by the French artist Sonia Delaunay (1885 - 1979). Picked it for 5 new francs in Nancy 10 years after her exhibition at the Musee des Beaux Arts, it was intended as decoration for my little studio flat just up the road and I always assumed it was a silkscreen - untill I learned that Delaunay had adapted stencilling from French fashion magazines to make everything from book cover designs to fine art prints. (The designs appear to be applied using a stencil and the ink is thicker than screen prints I have seen). The photo is over-exposed but does give you a fair idea of the careless treatment it has received over the past 30 years. Stencilling itself goes back 1,000 years, to the Chinese, but it began to be used by the French fashion press from the late C19th to add colour cheaply to collotype designs in magazines. (The British artist Gwen John was so taken with them she sometimes used them as a basis for her paintings). Stencil or pochoir, as is it is usually called in relation to both Delaunay and the famous Gazette du Bon Ton (1912 - 1925), soon developped into silkscreen in the USA. Where Jungnickel's work fits in with all this, I'm not too sure. Having been a graphic artist at the Stollwerck chocolate factory immediately before his year at the Kunstgewerbeschule and his 1903 stencil 'Sunrays... ' he may have used or come across the use of stencil in his commercial work. It could also be that he was introduced to the technique by Alfred Roller. After all, for a short time the innovation of secessionist and Wiener Werkstaette designers was seminal. I do still think that Jungnickel's use of the technique was innovatory. I also think it would be before the German artists of Die Brucke took up the avant garde use of lino, which untill then had been a commercial technique. But I am sketchy about the history of pochoir in France and the role played by designers like Pierre Brissaud. I am sad that Klaus finds him more refined than Jungnickel but then Klaus is francophile - as, of course, we all are.


  1. Charles,
    the ending of this post really made me laugh!
    To tell you the truth, I am far from being francophile (although we enjoyed our holiday last summer in Brittany, where I discovered the art of Henri Riviere), and when a BRIT says "as of course, we all are", that means he can't be serious!
    But be that as it may, in any case I'm afraid I can't completely share your enthusiasm about LHJ. And as far as Brissaud is concerned, most of his works for the Gazette du Bon Ton I find rather boring. But he made some breathtaking book illustrations, and do you know his designs for the magazine called "House and Garden"? I think they are graphically brilliant and often full of wit and humour. Check out his designs for the front covers of the May 1926 (a parrot again, but unlike NBR's or LHJ's!) and October 1929 issues, for example - I'm sure you'll like them. too (although probaly not as much as Jungnickel:-)!

  2. Francophilia is part of the modern British make-up and I've been francophile since the age of 12. I remember a Frenchman once saying to me, 'Oh, the English and the neighbours!' They ARE the neighbours.

  3. Oh dear, Charles, have I said something wrong? I merely wanted to point out that I am not particularly interested in French art. I have nothing against the French people, of course. after all, they have invented Bordeaux-wines and the Tour de France! And it is probably a prejudice that the English have prejudices against the French...

  4. Definitely a pochoir stencil, and definitely an original design by Sonia Delaunay, in my view. She could say such a lot with so little. Actually, I think Sonia a better artist than Robert - especially her very early work is breathtaking. In her last years she began to create again (after a long time guarding his legacy) but without the spark of excitement that makes her early work sing.

  5. Yes, I think so, as well. It's like the work she did in the sixties and was obviously designed for the exhibition. I like it alot.