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Marcello Dudovich: from the Vienna Secession to Industrial Posters

The artistic career of Marcello Dudovich, a painter and illustrator who was active in the late nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth, was in many ways quite unconventional. Sixty years after he passed away, on 31 March 1962, he is still considered as one of the greatest exponents of Italian advertising poster design. His works are the finest expression of the historical and social development of art applied to industry, which is the area in which the true essence of art can be expressed in just a few simple strokes to convey multiple meanings.

Craftsmen, factories, and rapidly expanding industries. The early twentieth century was a time for speed on two and four wheels, for adrenaline and cars, track competitions and the first intercontinental races. These were the years of great industrial complexes, with FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Legnano and, of course, Pirelli, as well as of the artists who were called in to tell the story of their products, writing a new chapter in the history of corporate visual communication. It is no coincidence that Dudovich crossed paths with many of these companies in Milan.

For Pirelli, he made posters for tyres but also for raincoats, and he abandoned the influence of Art Nouveau in favour of a more linear approach, accentuating the company logo. Textual elements, such as the slogan and the name of the product and brand, came increasingly to the fore, while the product itself had less visual impact. This can be seen in a recent acquisition made by our Historical Archive: a 1920s poster advertising Pirelli tyres for Cicli Dei bicycles, printed by Litografia G. B. Virtuani & C., which shows the perfection of the frames built by Umberto Dei together with the performance guaranteed by the tyres – which had already had already made a name for themselves in terms of innovation and road holding on both two and four wheels. The message is accompanied by the cyclist, recalling the victories of Umberto Dei himself, who was famous for having beaten cycling champions on his bike, even without properly training for the races. Here we have a poster that brings together many stories, on multiple levels, all in just a few simple, clearly defined strokes. This is something that the great graphic designers of the 1950s, like the great agencies of the 1990s and 2000s, managed to capture and maintain in what was a unique form of graphic art. It became known as the “Pirelli Style”.

The artistic career of Marcello Dudovich, a painter and illustrator who was active in the late nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth, was in many ways quite unconventional. Sixty years after he passed away, on 31 March 1962, he is still considered as one of the greatest exponents of Italian advertising poster design. His works are the finest expression of the historical and social development of art applied to industry, which is the area in which the true essence of art can be expressed in just a few simple strokes to convey multiple meanings.

Craftsmen, factories, and rapidly expanding industries. The early twentieth century was a time for speed on two and four wheels, for adrenaline and cars, track competitions and the first intercontinental races. These were the years of great industrial complexes, with FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Legnano and, of course, Pirelli, as well as of the artists who were called in to tell the story of their products, writing a new chapter in the history of corporate visual communication. It is no coincidence that Dudovich crossed paths with many of these companies in Milan.

For Pirelli, he made posters for tyres but also for raincoats, and he abandoned the influence of Art Nouveau in favour of a more linear approach, accentuating the company logo. Textual elements, such as the slogan and the name of the product and brand, came increasingly to the fore, while the product itself had less visual impact. This can be seen in a recent acquisition made by our Historical Archive: a 1920s poster advertising Pirelli tyres for Cicli Dei bicycles, printed by Litografia G. B. Virtuani & C., which shows the perfection of the frames built by Umberto Dei together with the performance guaranteed by the tyres – which had already had already made a name for themselves in terms of innovation and road holding on both two and four wheels. The message is accompanied by the cyclist, recalling the victories of Umberto Dei himself, who was famous for having beaten cycling champions on his bike, even without properly training for the races. Here we have a poster that brings together many stories, on multiple levels, all in just a few simple, clearly defined strokes. This is something that the great graphic designers of the 1950s, like the great agencies of the 1990s and 2000s, managed to capture and maintain in what was a unique form of graphic art. It became known as the “Pirelli Style”.