Saul Bass

Saul Bass might be the single most accomplished graphic designer in history. Working in the mid 20th century, when the importance of graphic design was just on the upswing, Bass branded a staggering array of major corporations with his iconic, minimal designs. For about 50 years, if you were looking for a clean, thoughtful design that was made to last, this was the man you called.

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Who is Saul Bass?

Bass was born in the largely Jewish New York borough of the Bronx in 1920 to working class Russian- Jewish immigrants, who encouraged his early interest in the arts. In preparation for a career in graphic design, he studied modernism at New York’s Art Students League under the direction of Howard Trafton. Bass worked also as a freelance designer during that time. Near the end of the Second World War, and still freelancing, he enrolled at Brooklyn College where he studied with Gyorgy Kepes in 1944-45. In 1946 he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he established and operated a more permanent business

venture, a design firm called Saul Bass and Associates.

Bass’ Style

Bass is famous for his use of simple, geometric shapes and their symbolism. Often, a single dominant image stands alone to deliver a powerful message. These shapes, as well as type, were often hand-drawn by Bass to create a casual appearance, always packed with a sophisticated message. His ability to create such a powerful message with basic shapes makes his work even more impressive.

From Print to Screen

Bass is best known for his work in film. He started out in the industry doing poster design, first hired by director and producer Otto Preminger. Bass had an uncanny ability to capture the mood of a film with simple shapes and images, much like his other work. He would go on to work with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorcese and design classic posters for movies such as The Man with the Golden Arm, West Side Story, The Shining, Exodus, and North by Northwest.

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From poster design, Bass would move on to creating impressive title sequences for many films, such as Psycho and Vertigo. These opening credits felt like animated graphic design, maintaining Bass’s print style for a consistent branding of a film. This work would continue late into Bass’s career, designing title sequences for Big, Goodfellas, Schindler’s List, and Casino. To top off his involvement in the film world,Bass won an Oscar in 1968 for his short film Why Man Creates.

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Corporate Branding

Along with his impressive film portfolio, Bass was responsible for creating memorable logos, many of which still exist today. Through his freelance work and with his firm Saul Bass & Associates, he would create identities for companies such as Quaker Oats, AT&T, The Girl Scouts, Minolta, United Airlines, Bell and Warner Communications. In addition, Bass designed the poster for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and several Academy Awards shows.

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Bass’ work can catch you by surprise at how deceivingly simple it is. His distinct talent for turning ideas into a kind of universal language pushed the boundaries of graphic design. He proved that simple design is timeless, and 20 years after his death Bass is still a recognized name in graphic design.

Futurism

In the ever-changing world of art; through the rejection and destruction of older forms of culture come new concepts, perspectives, ideals, and ideas that become formed. The Futuristic art movement is one of these formations. Futurism was a 20th-century movement that excluded the traditional styles and the desire for modernity. This movement was a celebration of technology, power, and modern life and was an attempt to demonstrate the beauty of the machine, speed, violence, and change.

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Futurism and Fascism

Futurism was closely related to the larger social and political crisis in Italy, both before and during the war. It played a significant role in the dissemination and support of the central values and ideology from which proto-fascist sentiments were constructed. Mussolini adopted many ideas and influences of Marinetti’s innovations in his performances and public speeches. Nationalism, militarism, irrational violence, and a general aestheticization of violence appeared in both the Futurists and Fascists propaganda. The narrative form of a Manifesto has been used before by the artists, but the members of Futurism used it as a political weapon. The founder of Futurism Marinetti was a political figure himself and before the end of the war Marinetti founded the Futurist Political Party. This placed the entire Futurism movement at the forefront of the support for Mussolini and the idea of a unified Italy.

Important Art and Artist of Futurism

The City Rises (1910)

Artist: Umberto Boccioni

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This painting depicts the construction of Milan’s new electrical power plant. In the center of the frame, a large red horse surges forward, as three men, their muscles straining, try to guide and control it. In the background other horses and workers can be seen. The blurred central figures of the men and horse, depicted in vibrant primary colors, become the focal point of the frenzied movement that surrounds them, suggesting change is born from chaos and that everyone, including the viewer, is caught up in the transformation.

Funeral of the Anarchist Galli (1910-11)

Artist: Carlo Carrà

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This painting commemorates the funeral of Galli, an anarchist killed during strike action. Hundreds, including women and children, attended his funeral procession, which was led by a cohort of anarchists. The painting captures the moment that police mounted on horseback attacked the procession.

Dancer at Pigalle (1912)

Artist: Gino Severini

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The dancer, depicted in the middle of the painting is composed of a dynamic intersection of lines and swirling fabric. Four beams of stage lighting focus inwards on her, highlighting her as the center of the image whilst, in contrast, her rapid, rotational movements radiate out in concentric circles to the edges of the pictorial plane. Each of these circular layers contains fragmentary images of musicians, instruments, viewers, and shapes evoking musical notes, capturing an essence of the space in which she performs.

Città Nuova (New City) (1914)

Artist: Antonio Sant’Elia

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This image is part of Sant’Elia’s design for a new city and this reflects the architect’s ideas of modernity.

He expressed these in The Manifesto of Futurist Architecture in 1914, writing that “We must invent and rebuild our Futurist city like an immense and tumultuous shipyard, active, mobile, and everywhere dynamic, and the Futurist house like a gigantic machine”.

Cubism

Cubism has been regarded as one of modern art‘s most famous and fascinating art movements. It was the first style of abstract art which evolved at the beginning of the 20th century in response to a world that was changing with unimaginable speed.

What is Cubism?

Cubism was one of the most influential visual art styles of the early twentieth century. It was created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris between 1907 and 1914. Cubism is seen as a revolutionary movement that rejected the concept that art should copy nature, or that artists should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective, modeling, and foreshortening, which had been used since the Renaissance. Cubist artists instead wanted to emphasize the two-dimensional flatness of the canvas by reducing and fracturing objects into geometric forms, and then reassembling them to evoke the same figures and show the subjects from multiple views. Cubist painters were not bound to copying form, texture, color, and space; instead, they presented a new reality in paintings that depicted radically fragmented objects, whose several sides were seen simultaneously.

The term Cubism was first used by French critic Louis Vauxcelles after seeing the landscapes Braque had painted in 1908 at L’Estaque in emulation of Cézanne. Vauxcelles called the geometric forms in the highly abstracted works “cubes.” The term wasn’t widely used until the press adopted it to describe the style in 1911.

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Left:Georges Braque     Right: Pablo Picasso

History of Cubism

At the turn of the century, Post-Impressionism and Fauvism movements inspired by the Impressionists experimental approach to painting dominated European art. French painter, sculptor, printmaker, and draughtsman Georges Braque contributed to the Fauvist movement with his polychromatic paintings of stylized landscapes and seascapes.

In 1907, Braque met Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, and designer Pablo Picasso. At this time, Picasso was in his “African Period,” producing primitive works influenced by African sculpture and masks. Just like Braque’s Post-Impressionist paintings, these pieces also played with form and sometimes color but remained figurative.

Phases of Cubism

The various phases in the development of the Cubist style which are based on the work of Picasso and Braque.

PROTO-CUBISM

Before the movement was underway, both Picasso and Braque applied elements of the
soon-to-be style to their respective genres. This fascinating transition into Cubism is especially seen in these two pieces:

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Pablo Picasso, ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (1907)
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Georges Braque, ‘Viaduct at L’Estaque’ (1908)

ANALYTIC CUBISM

The first official phase of the movement is known as Analytic Cubism. This period lasted from 1908 through 1912, and is characterized by chaotic paintings of fragmented subjects rendered in neutral tones. The fractured forms often overlap with one another, displaying the subject from multiple perspectives at once.

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Pablo Picasso, ‘Still Life with a Bottle of Rum’ (1911)

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Georges Braque, ‘Still Life with Metronome’ (1909)

SYNTHETIC CUBISM

Synthetic Cubism is the movement’s second phase, emerging in 1912 and lasting until 1914. During this time, Picasso, Braque, Gris, and other artists simplified their compositions and brightened their color palettes. Synthetic Cubism showcases an interest in still-life depictions, rendered as either paintings or collage art.

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Pablo Picasso, ‘Still-Life With Chair Caning’ (1912)

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Georges Braque, ‘Rum and Guitar’ (1918)

The ideas of the cubism movement fed into more popular phenomena, like Art Deco design and architecture. Later movements such as Minimalism were influenced by the Cubist use of the grid. It is difficult to imagine the development of non-representational art without the experiments of the Cubists. Cubism shook the foundations of traditional art making by turning the Renaissance tradition on its head and changing the course of art history with reverberations that continue into the postmodern era.