During his 40-year career Leonetto Cappiello created over 1000 poster designs. His work was so influential that he became known as the ‘father’ of modern advertising. His revolutionary insight into the art, an insight that remains a staple of modern advertising today, was based on the phenomenon of image association. He was the first to deliberately unite a product with an instantly recognisable icon or image. Thus, when a viewer saw the icon they remembered the product.
Cappiello was also the first poster artist to realise that modern transport had fundamentally changed the way people perceived the visual world and that something seen fleetingly while in transit could be used in this associative way. Having registered an image close up – as a pedestrian might – the advertising message and product could be instantly re-invoked by the mere glimpse of the image from a moving bus or train, hence their bright and easily recognisable forms and colours.
Maurin Quina is Leonetto Cappiello’s most famous poster. It is one of the finest examples of his manipulation of brand identity, and of his adaptation of poster art to the demands of the new and modern era.
It is said that there’s a little devilry in any alcoholic beverage and Cappiello became known for using infernal imagery in a number of his liquor-advertising posters. In Maurin Quina, a French apéritif, a cheeky green sprite recalls the nickname and effects of that most infamous beverage of the Belle Époque, la fée verte – the green fairy, or absinthe.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra