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Compare and Contrast

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Edward McKnight Kauffer and 
A. M. Cassandre played major roles in defining Art Deco, the
most popular geometric works of the 1920s and 1930s. Although Kauffer got a head start
being 11 years older, Cassandre was a younger rival who was innovating at the same time in
France (Heller). These groundbreaking graphic designers both started out as painters. They
quickly realized their true calling as poster design geniuses.
The “Power, The Nerve Center of London’s Underground-1925,” is a 40 5/8 x 24 3/4″
lithograph poster by Edward McKnight Kauffer. Kauffer gave this poster to the Museum of
Modern Art in New York City as a gift. It is estimated a $15,000-$20,000. This installation
presents over twenty posters that show the experience of modern underground London
(Edward). This is one of Kauffer’s undeniable masterpieces, a powerful and commanding
Machine image (Edward). “The extraordinary power of the factory and its turbines is
transmitted not by sheer force of electricity but by the muscular arm and hand of the worker.
The poster’s text is realized in the fine blue veins that run through the worker’s arm and into
the spinning steel of the turbine, which simultaneously represents the wheels of the subway
trains with the Underground logo in the center (Heller).” Kauffer visually portrays the
combination of humans and machines, using the machine for its extraordinary powers yet
keeping alive the connection to humankind (Edward). “His use of color, streamlined forms
and dynamic impressions of speed pay reference to Futurism and Art Deco, while the
typography alludes to developments in Bauhaus design (Heller).” This poster has many
similarities to A.M. Cassandre’s poster, “Nord Express-1927.”

This poster by Cassandre is an advertisement for Nord Express. Cassandre did a wonderful
job of showing the stylish image of a train speeding towards the horizon with a cloud of
smoke and blue sky above it (Mouron). Cassandre creates this image that communicates the
glamour of travel in such simplistic lines. Both posters are influenced by cubism and futurism.
They are bold and full of color. In Cassandre’s poster, he incorporates the new modern hunk
of steel as a smooth and sleek train. The fact that both artists have a background in painting is
evident. The smooth muscular arm in Kauffers poster relates to the smooth train in
Cassandre’s. Both artists were faced with making a poster related to machinery. Cassandre
integrated type in a manner that allowed the text to flow into the picture while Kauffer placed
his boldly but still making it fit (Brown). He had an exceptional ability to integrate powerful
symbolic images wirh sans-serif lettering to achieve a unified composition and concise
message (Mouron). Overall, Kauffer and Cassandre are with out doubt brilliant poster
designers. Although they are mostly similar, they do have a few things that set them apart.
They both played a large role in the Art Deco movement, but were in completely different
places.
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