The worlds of art and advertising have had a growing impact on each other over the past 150 years. Some artists see advertising as the antithesis of natural artistic expression. Others embraced the opportunity to showcase their visual talents on the commercial stage, and welcome the prospect of reaching potentially huge audiences – not to mention a chance to make some good money. Here, we’ll take a look at some renowned artists who turned their hand to commercial advertising to great effect.
The relationship between the artist and advert begins at the advent of advertising, in the late-19th century. Alphonse Mucha was a prolific Czech painter and decorative artist, and his distinctive Art Nouveau style was popularised by his posters for a range of products, from French biscuits to Moët & Chandon champagne. His break came when he was commissioned to produce a poster for a new play, Gismonda, starring the most famous actress of her time – Sarah Bernhardt. The public were captivated by his alluring style, and commissions came flooding in.
One of his most famous advertising posters was for Job Cigarette Papers in 1896, depicting a beautiful women tantalisingly holding her cigarette. In a time when smoking in public for women was still considered taboo, Mucha was ahead of his time.
Alphonse Mucha, Job Cigarettes, 1889
Alphonse Mucha, Chocolat Ideal, 1897
The great painter of American life, Norman Rockwell, was deeply committed to, in his own words, ‘’showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.’’ Thanks to his candid and patriotic illustrations, Rockwell was commissioned to design covers for many popular publications, including Harper’s Monthly, Life, Literary Digest, and most famously The Saturday Evening Post. He also illustrated many adverts featured inside these publications, such as an advertisement for Jello in Harper's Monthly in 1923, and a Listerine ad in 1931. In 1954, Rockwell was also commissioned by Kellogg’s to produce a piece for the cover of the corn flakes cereal box.
Norman Rockwell, Corn Flakes Boy, 1955
Norman Rockwell, Lambert Pharmacal Company’s Listerine, 1929
The master of controversy and showmanship. Given the nickname ‘Avida dollars’ (‘eager for dollars’) by Andre Breton thanks to his love of money, the surrealist titan was impressively adept at promoting himself to increase his wealth. Naturally it prompted leading marketing minds of the time to employ his visionary perspective in branding their own products for the commercial market.
The most famous example is the enduring and iconic logo for Chupa Chups lollipops, which he designed in 1969, and lives on today. He also did print adverts for the Datsun 610 wagon in his typically mind-altering style, as well as more obscure (yet probably very well paid) ventures such as Chen Yu nail polish. Dali also featured in television commercials – most notably for Alka Seltzer, in which the artist bellowed ‘’Alka Seltzer, one of a kind, like Dali!’’ Who would argue with that?
Salvador Dali, Datsun 610 Wagon, 1972
Salvador Dali, Chen Yu, 1945
Andy Warhol knew the value of making money and business, believing the process itself was an art form. However, unlike the aforementioned artists, Warhol actually studied commercial art at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Whereas artists such as Dali and Mucha utilised their artistic talents for commercial purpose, Warhol, inspired by his work and perspective on the industry, turned to art.
Andy Warhol, Vogue Magazine
In his early career, Warhol was a product marketer and commercial illustrator, mainly drawing shoes for adverts in Vogue, Harper’s Bazar, and Glamour magazine in the 1940s. In his art, he reimagined famous American brands in the pop art style, such as the famous Campbell’s soup can.
In 1985, Warhol produced ten screen prints entitled ‘ads’, blurring the lines between art and advertising. He reworked previously published magazine adverts for companies including Volkswagen, Paramount, Apple, and Channel, making a satirical comment on the commercial nature of American consumer society, although the brands he used would have hardly complained. Just before his death in 1986, Warhol had also been working on a commission of car portraits for Mercedes Benz.
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