Influence people

Monday, November 20, 2017

Work of Art

You probably know that, for 25 years, Absolut used the commissioned work of renowned artists to sell vodka through "the best print campaign in the history of advertising."

But did you know many renowned artists first worked in advertising?


Rene Magritte left studies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1918 to work as a graphic artist in a wallpaper factory, and as a freelance designer of posters, ads, brochures and store catalogs. One day he spotted a painting by Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico and decided surrealistic painting was for him.


Charles Burchfield, after graduating from the Cleveland School of Art, worked as a wallpaper designer for M. H. Birge & Sons Company, in Buffalo. He married and raised five children on his salary. When he was discovered by Edward Hopper and picked up by a New York gallery in 1929, he resigned the job to paint full time.


Willem de Kooning quit school at age 12 to work in merchandising, studying at night at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. At 16, he became the assistant art director for a department store. He continued working in the field to help pay for painting classes at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. After stowing away on the SS Shelly, bound for the US, he found odd jobs around New York as a sign painter, carpenter and window dresser. In 1928, he began to paint figures in the style of  Picasso.


Andy Warhol graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1945 with a degree in fine arts. He moved to New York to work for Glamour and quickly became known for his "blotted line" drawings. He also produced over 300 ads for I. Miller Shoes that would run on Sundays in The New York TimesIn 1962, Warhol caused a national stir when he debuted his paintings of Campbell's soup cans.


Wayne Thiebaud became a cartoonist as a teenager, working briefly as a Disney animator and a freelance designer of posters and ads. He studied art at California State University in Sacramento, then moved to New York in 1956, where he fell under the spell of Abstract Expressionists like de Kooning. But he soon returned to California and begin to paint pictures of pies, cakes, sandwiches, ice cream sundaes and gumball machines.


Gene Davis worked as a journalist for 35 years (including 6 as editor of the American Automobile Association's monthly magazine), before turning to art full time in 1968. His paintings of brightly colored stripes made him the leader overnight of the Washington Color School; but it was never beneath Davis to take freelance commercial assignments. He created book and magazine covers for DC-area ad agencies until his death in 1985 (he did magazine illustrations for the agency where I worked during the 1980s).

“I hate the decorative arts and advertising,” Magritte said in 1946. 

But many first-rate artists besides Magritte and the others above have worked in them, including N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Salvador Dali, Helen Frankenthaler, Keith Haring and Damien Hirst.

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